…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18
When you see this painting, what do you see?
A busy mom?
A hard life with purpose?
Or, perhaps a silly woman who took on too much?
This painting hung in my home since the 1990’s when it was handed down to me from my uncle’s collection. It always seemed to bring me thoughts of my grandmother, or of life’s sometimes difficult journey.
Until I lost my husband.
Then suddenly I only saw a widow. That lonely woman among the tall trees burdened with that pile of sticks on her back. I saw her bent over, no longer upright and proud like she must have been in her marriage.
Funny how I never thought of the woman as a widow until I became one. And then the painting became “the widow painting” in my mind. I found it more beautiful than ever because I identified with her quite more robustly than ever before.
It’s been years since I lost Tom, and I still find myself seeing “widow” in the painting. It’s like the illusionist sketch of the old lady and the young woman—once you see it one way, your brain wants to return to that image.
So I got curious. What if I asked four married women what they see in this painting? Their reactions helped me to begin seeing the woman without automatically thinking loss.
Reaction 1: The Beautiful Heart of a Mother
I LOVE this picture. What clever imagery it offers! God doesn’t want us to carry our burdens alone. She looks like a Russian woman going home through the beautiful birch woods after gathering the fuel needed to make her home warm and fix the meals to provide for her family. God never promised it would be easy, but He does promise to share the load and walk beside us!
Reaction 2: The Overly Busy Mother
She’s alone. I think of all the times women are faced with so much to do—kids, carpools, teenagers gone prodigal, bills that can’t get paid, stressful jobs, husbands we love but let us down. Where are the other women in the picture? Why aren’t they stepping in to help her? Did she push them away? Did they never help? Funny thing, I don’t imagine men coming in to help her, but sisters.
Reaction 3: The Hard Life is Worth it
Oh, that is so me!!! I work grueling hours, and I’m tired all the time! After putting everything into raising kids, we have no retirement savings and even share one car! This painting reminds me we aren’t promised ease, but we are promised joy. I wouldn’t trade my life nor the decisions I’ve made when they honored God, for anything! Thank you, Jesus!
Reaction 4: Silly Woman Works too Hard!
I see the woman and wonder why she would take so much on by herself. I simply don’t do that. I remarried after being widowed, and maybe I just recognized I needed a partner in life. I was fortunate enough to meet a godly Christian guy who does well with me. But if I hadn’t married, I would make sure I didn’t take on more than I could. This woman is taking on too much.
Why are their responses of interest to us? Because I want readers here to remember there is a whole world beyond widowhood, and while grief is a journey we must fully experience, eventually we must see ourselves outside the lens of widowhood.
These women aren’t widows, but they have their own life challenges like job loss, marital tension, a grown child who has completely gone prodigal, waning health or physical exhaustion.
Can you begin to imagine that woman in the woods representing these burdens rather than widowhood? When I began to look around me at so many burdens that so many carry, my heart went out to others. I felt a community of fellow Christians carrying each other’s burdens. And that’s a community that grows us all stronger!
You ask us to see our lives through Your eyes, not through the lens of our own limitations. Help us walk this journey honorably, knowing that others walk equally difficult journeys. Encourage us to hold our heads up with our gazes upon Christ and no longer feel the shame of our widowhood. Amen.
Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was an original writer of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a mother to two high school boys, two boys in college, and a grown son and daughter whom she helped her husband raise before he passed away. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab. She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.
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