Colleen C. Mitchell knows firsthand what life is like when death and loss become indelible imprints who does he say you areon the heart of a mother.  Within months, she and her husband lost their son, Bryce and miscarried another baby.  In the midst of that darkness, they discovered a call from God – a call that, at first, Mitchell was reticent to accept and embrace.  But, as her heart softened to the mission work her husband discussed with her, she found herself longing to retreat into the jungles of Costa Rica – reconnecting with nature, God, and herself.

Her book, Who Does He Say You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels, was birthed from the time she spent by the riverbank in Costa Rica, pondering and praying, desperately clinging to her faith when her personal pain could not be assuaged.

Mitchell writes from the deepest recesses of her heart, and you feel as if you are listening to a beloved friend, one who truly knows you, as you read her book.  Her style is heartwarming, encouraging, honest, and full of mercy.  As she explores twelve different women in the Bible, she asks the reader important questions pertaining to each Scripture passage.  They are questions that matter, ones that reach the core of who we are as women, wives, and mothers.  They reach the lost and lonely, hurting and helpless.

This is a must-read book for this beautiful Year of Mercy.  All of the brokenness, uncertainty, guilt, and shame that we, as women, carry in onerous weights upon our hearts are the places Mitchell speaks to.  She invites us – gently, lovingly – to be challenged by the woman at the well, Martha and her sister Mary, the hemorrhaging woman, Mary the Mother of God, and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfumed oil.  These are but samplings of the women you will meet – and who will meet you – with their stories of suffering.  Even more, it is how they are changed after encountering Jesus that will speak profoundly to you.

Consider this excerpt that will challenge you to become more:

What is the heartbreak that leaks out in your tears, and what sacred gift do you hold in your alabaster jar?  How deep will you lean in to Jesus to make them a holy offering of love to him?  What if you risked going all the way?  What if you offered him all the tears and pain, leaning all the way in to him, pouring out all the goodness you carry in your alabaster heart?  You give him honor when you give him all. (p. 82)

The feminine heart is delicate, but strong.  Women are often afflicted with a particular martyrdom of the heart that happens as we encounter others who are deeply suffering and afflicted.  We suffer with them.  Though we are tempted to flee when we find ourselves in the midst of extreme agony, Mitchell encourages us to remain.  The gift of ourselves is gift enough:

We wonder how to be Christ, how to be love, to so much pain and loss.  We stand in the tension between wanting to be able to do something, anything, to fix the brokenness of the world in which we live and needing to be present…We can’t fix it, and there are more hurting places than we could ever reach.  So what do we have to offer in the face of such sadness, such darkness?  Presence, friends. (p. 111)

Only when we choose our cross and journey through the messiness of suffering can we discover who we truly are and what we are called to do with our lives.  Even more, we rediscover who we are called to be.  Suffering bears the fruit of mission, and Mitchell knew this after her own journey of love and loss led to authentic joy.  We, too, are called to enter the mission fields of our communities or cloisters and reach the broken hearts in most need of Jesus’ healing balm.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of People, met with Mitchell and her husband to discuss their mission work in Costa Rica.  What he spoke to them was a universal message, for you and me, to always carry with us as we journey our own Calvarys and meet others along the way:

When you were sitting there in your pain and suffering, God stopped and he saw you.  He looked at you.  And in that moment, he chose you. (p. 115)

We are each given a gift in this life – the gift of the Cross.  Accept it, embrace it, and love it, and you will find yourself reflected in the loving gaze of our Savior and in the broken and sorrowful heart of His Mother.

Text Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.