Written by Sarah Parker Rubio
Sarah Parker Rubio is the author of the newly released book Her Story, Her Strength: 50 God-Empowered Women of the Bible.
One Christmas, when I was eight or nine, I was thrilled to find not just a lovely curly-haired doll under the tree, but an entire wardrobe of dresses for her to wear, plus a little doll bed with a red pillow sham and duvet.
I got another gift that day, also with a red cover (though not nearly as cute)–a paperback NIV One Year Bible. My dad read it to me every night before bed, starting that New Year’s Day, until the night before I left home after high school graduation. If we missed a day because one of us was away from home (or I fell asleep while he was reading), we caught up later. We read the entire Bible together nearly ten times.
The curly-haired doll may have been my favorite gift that Christmas, but that paperback Bible symbolized the greatest gift of my childhood–my human father making sure I became familiar with the words of our Father. Those words have followed and upheld me all my life.
When you hear the Bible every single day during your formative years, stuff sinks in. (I was really, really good at Bible trivia contests. My sixth-grade teacher thought he would stump me by asking me to name all four of the high priest Aaron’s sons. He did not.) One of the Scripture passages that lodged in my brain at an early age tells how the prophet Samuel set up a monument to commemorate God giving victory to his people. Samuel called the monument Ebenezer, which means “stone of help,” saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (see 1 Samuel 7:12).
Many years later, I discovered that God uses the same word, ezer, when he speaks of his intention to make a “helper” for the man he created–woman (see Genesis 2:18). Not just any helper–a strong and mighty helper, a helper like God. I loved the idea that women were created to image God in that way. That’s some next-level girl power! I wished the Bible storybooks I’d had growing up had given more attention to that idea. (I also wished they’d included a lot more of the women my dad had read about–I love the story of Queen Esther as much as the next girl, but what about Princess Jehosheba, who snatched her infant nephew from the jaws of death? Ruth is a great daughter, but what about Shallum’s daughters, who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem?)
I started to list all the biblical women I could think of. I started to reflect on how they reflected God’s strength–and on how God upheld them and empowered them. How God gave them courage to face down tyrants, protest unjust laws, and speak truth to power. How God saw the unseen and loved the unloved among them. How God became a baby, carried in and born from a woman’s body, and spent his life on earth honoring, calling, and recognizing the women around him. He wrote their stories, and he was their strength.