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Women's Day, Nancy Reagan and the Power of Grace

"We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly." So said acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood back in 1939. But is this true today?


Today is International Women's Day. On this day, we collectively look back on the contributions of women in the past. We also set our hopes on creating a brighter and more equitable tomorrow. For me, I would not be half the man I am today were it not for the women in my life. 


Looking back, it is quite clear: we are better today because of their contributions from yesterday and their visions for tomorrow. Whitney Houston may have sung she is every woman, but it took a variety of women—young and old, single and married—to bring us to this point.


Rosa Parks courageously refused to move to the back of the bus and in turn moved the civil rights movement forward. Two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie laid the groundwork for the development of the X-ray, among many other contributions. Nancy Reagan redefined the role of First Lady because of her advocacy work (for more, see my article Nancy Reagan: President's Wife, King's Daughter). And Mary Magdalene was first entrusted with the greatest message of all: He is risen.


This list could go on, but it would never be complete. Much like saying thank you to your mother, there can be no end. The contributions of women are endless, but society remains ripe for opportunity.


Today, women comprise only 4.6 percent of S&P 500 CEO positions. They hold only 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. Though 34.3 percent of all physicians and surgeons are women, only 15.9 percent are medical school deans. And women of color hold only 3.2 percent of Fortune 500 company board seats.  


All this despite the fact that the Harvard Business Review found that organizations with women in leadership generate greater profits. Though we have come a far way, work still needs to be done.


C.S. Lewis warned about judging someone where they are because you don't know how far they have come. We as a society are not where we ought to be, but we are better than we were.


Such can be said about us individually. Much like society, there are opportunities for growth. We are not where we need to be, but we are better than we used to be. The late Jerry Bridges noted: "Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace."


A simple motto: better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today.  


In the biblical narrative, we encounter a God whose patience is perfect and mercies are new every morning. Generous with his grace and extravagant with his love, he is in the business of using imperfect people to accomplish his perfect and good purposes. He is looking throughout the Earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (2 Chronicles 16:9).


The work may be great, but our God is greater. Where do you need to work today? Your work may need to start in your heart, or perhaps in your home. But take comfort in what Elizabeth Wilberforce said, "If it is a work of grace, it cannot fail."


As the old Quaker saying goes: "You've chosen to be the last one to do the right; I've a mind to be the first and set the rest an example."


Thanks, Mom, for the example you set.



Publication date: March 8, 2016


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