I had a meeting at a familiar hotel last week.
We entered the parking lot in the same way, from the same angle that the unmarked minivan I was in had cornered the sex buyers so many years ago. My body flinched as it remembered the look in the buyers’ eyes, the slouched shoulders of the cops, the background chatter on the walkie talkies.
That day at that hotel changed everything for me, and I hadn’t been back. I had no idea then that my body’s visceral reaction was actually an awakening. The look in their eyes…it was so agonizing, so human, that the part of me long, long contained simultaneously collapsed and began to come alive. I had entered the realm of anti-human trafficking as a rebel holding a weight too heavy. To keep carrying it, I chose numbness. And it had served me well.
There is a woman in the Bible whose name means “rebellious.” She is the first one to be named a prophet: Miriam. She is only one of four prophetesses named in all of scripture (five more are mentioned but not by name). In Exodus, we see her leading the women in song, recalling what God did for them at the Red Sea.
Miriam’s role was vital. It makes me wonder how crucial it would have been to have a respected female leader rally the women in the desert for forty years! The fact that she is named rebellious seems prophetic. After all, as a young girl she stood against the empire, defying Pharaoh’s edict to kill all baby boys.
The role of a rebel—a prophetess—is holy: God appointed; God blessed; God sanctioned.
I think because of the silencing women have experienced throughout time, it is important that we know in the core of our being that this was not God’s intent.
But here’s what else I know. Miriam’s voice was of God until it wasn’t. When gossip (Moses married a Cushite woman!) and resentment (Come on, God speaks to us too!) leaked out of her mouth, his favor was removed. The next time we see her, she has been speaking behind Moses’ back with Aaron, and God is furious! In Numbers, he rebukes her and gives her leprosy: not just a skin disease, a nerve disease.
A disease that causes one to lose feeling.
But Miriam had already lost feeling, hadn’t she? Isn’t that the source of racism? Of envy? At some point on her long journey, her story caught up with her. And rather than process, she chose to not feel it.
The kryptonite of a rebel is numbness—becoming disconnected from oneself and, subsequently, the very ones we’re meant to care for.
I know this well. Numbness is a great survival strategy until it isn’t. But if we want to be a rebel-prophetess, we need to move through the pain. And sometimes that requires letting go of the very thing we rebelled against.
Beth Bruno lives in Colorado where she and her husband lead a team of ReStory™ experts at Restoration Counseling Center. Additionally, as a podcaster, author, and content strategist, Beth guides women to raise fierce and lovely teen girls. When she’s not creating something new, she and her family enjoy the mountains, traveling, and good food.