Anthropologically speaking, women are the primary agents of enculturation in most societies. Enculturation is the process whereby culture is transmitted from one generation to the next and individuals become members of their society. Because the mother is the primary caregiver of a child, she is the child’s main influencer and educator. The basic tenets in a child’s life, in other words how to be a human being in a system of other human beings, are inculcated to the child by the mother. It is therefore, the mother’s primary responsibility to enable, equip and empower her children to become functioning members of the community and good citizens of the country. One can therefore conclude, that women shape societies and carve out the future of nations. Indeed, the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that changes the world.
While the culturally prescribed roles of women make them major influencers, evidences in biblical accounts point to the fact that women are designed by God to be influencers. From the first woman, Eve, we learn that God pronounced upon her both an earthy and an unearthly role in pregnancy. And every single woman who came after her has inherited this divine design of childbearing and childbirth. While woman was to labor in pregnancy until baby delivery, Eve’s remark (Genesis 4:1) at the birth of her eldest son Cain tells us that it is only God who has designed and enabled women to bring forth another human being into the world, which bears His image. Along with the giving birth to another human is the responsibility of raising and training him/her. This is where the primal gift of influencing is initially unraveled, and as I said above, even the field of anthropology has recognized it. All other forms of human influencing emanates from motherly nurturing.
Throughout Scriptures, we read of many women who have changed the people’s lives and the course of history. In the Old Testament, we read that Sarah’s influence on Abraham’s decision-making led to the birth of Ishmael. Ishmael is the ancestor of the Arab nations, a people that has grown to be wealthy and powerful even to this day. Rebekah’s influence on Jacob somehow encouraged his deceitfulness and when he had the opportunity, he outwitted his older brother and stole his birthright and blessing. As Jacob fled from the rage of Esau, he met God and wrestled with Him and became a changed man, the father of the nation of Israel. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, was successful in instilling the Hebrew value system in her son in a short time. His Hebrew foundation was so strong that Moses eventually turned his back on Egypt and liberated the Israelites from slavery. Hannah’s son Samuel became one of the greatest prophets Israel has ever had. Esther saved the entire Jewish nation from genocide through her influence on the king. Naomi set the course for one of the greatest love stories of all time, which led to the birth of the Messiah.
In the New Testament, we read of Elizabeth’s faith that encouraged Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the time of their miraculous pregnancies. The Samaritan woman’s transformed life made her a very effective evangelist. The hospitality of Martha and Mary of Bethany made their home a pit stop for Jesus and his band of weary disciples. Mary Magdalene’s devotion to Jesus made her the first witness and news bearer of Christ’s resurrection. Dorcas’ tremendous impact on the lives of the widows in Joppa moved Peter to pray her back to life. Priscilla’s influence spanned three cities: Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. It is most evident in her marriage to Aquila and their awesome husband-wife teamwork, in her home that was the venue of a house church, in her tent-making business where she partnered with the Apostle Paul, and in her teaching ministry as evidenced by her mentoring the dynamic preacher Apollos.
However, not all women in Scriptures had a positive influence. Lot’s wife must have been so prosperous in the land of Sodom that she could not leave the good life behind and refused God’s offer of salvation. Jezebel was a dreadful woman who managed to poison the mind of King Ahab, bring idolatry into Israel, and persecute all of God’s prophets. Herodias prompted her daughter to get the king’s favor by dancing in front of his court and then ask for the head of John the Baptist who spoke openly against her adulterous relationship with King Herod. Thus, we can see that a woman’s influence can either be for good or for evil. Either way, a woman’s impact on those around her can be powerful.
One of Satan’s lies to many women today is that they cannot make any difference in their world. Many get stuck with issues of self-esteem, lack of education, inexperience, poverty, and absence of opportunity. However, as a woman carefully and wonderfully created by God, each of us is designed for a purpose. Each of us has been gifted with the privilege to be an influencer. What then must we do to see ourselves the way God does?
First, we must embrace our womanhood. At the end of the creation narrative in Genesis chapter one, we read that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (verse 31a, ESV). The psalmist sang, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14, ESV). If God sees us as a wonderful creation, then there is no reason why we should not see ourselves as such!
Second, we should engage those within our sphere of influence. Start small, but dig deep. Some women were called to be on a huge stage and impact crowds. But I am certain that before God placed them there, He led them to take small steps first. To start influencing others, it’s helpful to ask these questions:
- Who are the people in my immediate surroundings? Is it my spouse and children? My parents and siblings? My boss? My employees? My churchmates or gym buddies? My high school college friends?
- What can I intentionally do to bring godly influence into their lives? Will choosing to have a happy disposition at home be a good start? Will a weekly visit or a phone call to my elderly parents bring them joy? Will an appreciation card without any occasion rekindle friendships made dormant by time and distance?
Whatever it may be, we need to be intentional in relating with the people around us.
Third, we have to allow God to enlarge our territory as He leads and enables. We should not shy away when God opens doors towards bigger ministry, business, work, or serving opportunities. If God is the one calling us to a task, He will certainly empower us to accomplish it. As He enlarges our territory we should be mindful that He intends to bring people our way to influence for His glory.
Fourth, we must enroll in a mentoring relationship. Believers are not meant to be lone rangers. We are meant to be a caravan in the journey of life. We need to pray for mature women who can be our co-sojourners. We need to intentionally seek out ladies who are willing to pass on their legacy of faith to us. When we have found these women, we should make sure we hold ourselves accountable to them and bless them by living out our God-given purpose and passion.
Fifth, we have to enlist mentees. As Christians we are a conduit of blessing, not a reservoir. As we are being mentored, we should pray and ask God to allow younger women to cross our paths whom we can influence towards godliness. I say “cross our paths” because some women may not necessarily linger and may just be passing by for a season. This means we must not be too attached to the ladies as we mentor them. Rather, we should aim to be a signpost pointing them to Christ in their life’s pilgrimage, not a waiting shed.
Becoming an influencer is a gift God gave to every woman. The encouragement is to live out our divine design as females. The challenge is to bring glory to God in pursuing our purpose and passion as women. The blessing is that God himself, our designer and maker, is also our strength and enabler.