Peter dubbed women as the “weaker vessel” (See 1 Peter 3:7). I think he meant it to be a deferential, honoring term. I’m all for knights in shining armor, but the women I’ve encountered lately are certainly not weak. In fact, I have drawn such strength from their courageous reservoirs that I attribute much of my wellness to their influence.
My sister, Suzanne, left this morning after seeing me through the first round of chemotherapy. Walking into the nicest of such facilities reduces the stoutest of hearts to feeling like a lab rat. When she scanned the sterile environment with its bags, tubes, and needles full of dread, her eyes began to well. I thought, “Uh oh, she’s going to start boo hooing big time. If she starts, I won’t be able to stop.” But no, she straightened her spine and with heroic resolve cracked a joke, “The scariest thing in this room is the scale hiding in the corner; dare me to get on it?” she asked. From that moment on, I knew we would persevere with laughter and love.
Seeing others who had joined the chemotherapy club long before me, smiling with shining heads, strong hearts, and Sudoku puzzles, made me realize that I’m following a legacy of fighters and survivors. I would take a seat beside them, Bible in hand, and show the world that another “weaker vessel” could do it.
Recently, I wrote about the unique ability women possess that men do not. Friendship between women shape who we are, soothe our troubled hearts, and support emotional gaps in our marriages. Scientists in a landmark UCLA study now believe that spending time with our friends actually relieves stress which manifests in upset stomachs. Previous to the study conducted by coauthor, Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Heal at Penn State University, scientist supposed that stress caused a rush of hormonal reactions in the body triggering the flight or fight instinct in humans.
But the new data reveals that women have a greater repertoire than men due to the hormone oxytocin released during stress that causes us to make and maintain friendships with other women. Instead of running or raging, oxytocin encourages us to tend to children and gather other women for support, which counters the stress and produces a calming effect. Drs. Klein and Taylor describe this female response to stress the “tend and befriend” syndrome.
“This calming response does not occur in men,” says Dr. Klein, “because testosterone — which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress — seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.” As a result men tend to isolate their feelings, which has significant negative health repercussions.
The old adage is true “united we stand, divided we fall.” Maybe the key is that we are the weaker vessel, but when we come together we make one strong stand. So what about you? Maybe you don’t have close family or friends, but you can find sisters in Christ in the Women at Calvary. We all need someone else to stand with in our hard times; I hope that you will step out in faith and engage in a small group. Maybe you will be the strength that someone else needs to persevere in laughter and love.