Looking for Joy On International Women's Day

BY LOIS SHAW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


I love International Women’s Day.

It energizes me to think about the significance and possibilities of womanhood. When those first announcements appear that International Women’s Day is approaching, I begin casting about through the news to find who the influential and successful women are this year. That’s just after I’ve watched the Oscars and felt particularly insignificant. I usually google to see who has been named among Africa’s wealthiest and most influential women or who Africa’s entrepreneurs are. I love the “rags to riches,” Cinderella-esque stories most. (Don’t we all?)

Sometimes I even send notes to women who’ve influenced my life in myriad ways. And then I have those introspective days when I wonder what the gold standard is for being the “total package”—the über woman. Talk about intimidating and impossible!

Many of us have faced down that superwoman in the wisdom literature of Proverbs. Chapter 31:10–31 just leaves me flattened. The bar is so high. I’ve been consoled that the description is of a composite woman—since none of us can do everything well on virtually no sleep! But even if the bar is lowered for us mere mortals, really—who can measure up?

But the other day I noticed a rescuing verse for me, verse 25: “she is clothed with strength and dignity and she can laugh at the days to come.” Or as a paraphrase puts it, “she can face tomorrow with a smile.” To me, that idea translates to the word JOY.

I love being around women who have inner, gut-level, systemic joy. We all have messiness in our lives, whether its source is external or internal. Life can be hard work and sometimes just plain hard. But amazingly, those struggles and disappointments can actually produce JOY.

So about the joy…

Joy, like grace and peace, is something you can’t manufacture or earn. Like patience, it’s a scary thing to ask for because it comes with practice lessons. Joy, like early spring, is more glorious after the gloom of winter. But we wouldn’t even see spring if we hadn’t experienced winter. Joy is a straight up gift.

Where are you on your Joy Journey? Whatever you’re looking for, I hope you find JOY instead.