How did a “demon possessed” woman heal and become the first person who saw Jesus? Mary of Magdala is one of my favorite Biblical women in Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back (but let’s be honest, I love them all! Except for Naomi. I had a hard time with her, as I mention in Uprooting Your Life With Naomi).
After Jesus cured Mary Magdalene, her self-perception must have changed. She had to let go of her old ways of thinking so she could blossom into a new woman. This couldn’t have been easy for our Biblical sister—especially if Jesus instantly healed her. You know how hard it is to let go of old habits, ways of thinking, ways of being! How did Mary grow forward and become the woman God created her to be?
This article—Growing Forward with Mary Magdalene—is a companion to the ninth chapter in my book Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. In that chapter I share how I was affected by growing up with a single schizophrenic mother. My foster homes were great, but it was really hard to be away from my mom even though she was unhealthy and abusive.
A Bit of Mary Magdalene’s Story
Mary of Magdala was a faithful disciple who helped support Jesus’ ministry with her own financial resources. Bible scholars believe she was an older, wealthy widow who was Jesus’ companion and confidant. She also struggled with a serious mental or emotional illness before Jesus healed her. Some religious professors say Mary of Magdala wasn’t literally possessed by evil spirits or the devil; she may have been suffering from a seizure disorder such as schizophrenia or epilepsy.
By the way, one of my favorite resources for information like this is professor T.J. Wray’s Good Girls, Bad Girls of the New Testament: Their Enduring Lessons; I read her book three times while writing Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back.
I often wonder how Mary’s illness affected the townspeople in her fishing village of Magdala. Maybe they avoided or ostracized her because of her affliction or resulting behavior. Sick people are treated differently, especially if they struggle with a mental health issue like schizophrenia. Perhaps people pitied Mary, or felt uncomfortable or frightened if she behaved unpredictably. Maybe they saw her as unclean.
After Jesus healed her by casting away the demons, Mary Magdalene’s mind and emotions needed time to catch up. Similarly, the people who knew the “old Mary” had to adjust their perspective of her. She had to grow into her new self, trusting who Jesus said she was and allowing her life to move forward in a new direction.
Jesus planted new seeds in Mary Magdalene’s life, but she needed to nurture them. He does the same for us today. He works in our lives in different ways—sometimes changing us instantly, other times growing us slowly.
Growing Up in Foster Homes – Laurie’s Story
One drawback of moving in and out of foster homes is the loss of stuff. I didn’t have much to begin with: I remember a white bunny with floppy satin ears, a small pink purse containing fifty cents, a few tangle-haired blonde Barbie dolls.
When the social worker came to move me in or out, I’d throw my belongings in a black plastic garbage bag. My mom never took me back to the place we lived before the foster home. She just left the apartment with everything in it. Today, my only childhood possessions are a few photos and small diaries.
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On the bright side, I have no attachment to stuff! This doesn’t thrill my husband; he’s a “save it for a rainy day” kind of guy. We’re definitely not kindred spirits on the stuff issue. “You never know when it might come in handy,” Bruce says, carefully packing away the TV set he bought at a thrift store in 1984. “Someday we’ll be glad we have it.”
I don’t usually enjoy receiving birthday or Christmas gifts, especially if they’re material possessions. Kitchen and garden gadgets aren’t my thing, either—I’ll cheerfully use a soup spoon to dig up potatoes in the garden (making gift giving a dilemma for Bruce, not to mention finding clean soup spoons at lunch!).
I do, however, struggle with money. I always thought if I had enough money, I’d feel secure. The more I have in the bank, the safer I think I am. This isn’t how I’m called to live as a Christian, and Jesus is growing me forward! But it’s taking time.
What about you—how are you growing forward in your life? Maybe you’re struggling with a serious illness, like Mary of Magdala. Maybe you had a tough childhood, like me.
Share your big or little thoughts in the comments section below. Writing is healthy, especially if you feel confused, sad, scared or lost. It can help you make sense of your experiences and untangle your emotions.
Questions From Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back
At the end of every chapter are Questions for Journaling and Discussion that are directly related to that chapter’s Blossom Tips. Readers are invited to come here and share their thoughts.
The questions in Sarah’s chapter:
- Seeds: What good and bad seeds were planted in your life or heart long ago? How did they affect your perspective, choices, and self-identity?
- Kindred Spirits: Who have you loved, and lost? Describe two or three people you’re currently close to. What makes them kindred spirits?
- Open Hands: Where are you on a Stuff Scale of 1 to 10 (1 = Minimalist and 10 = Hoarder)? How do you feel about decluttering your closets, drawers, garage or basement?
- Manna: How would you describe your relationship with food, cooking, and eating? How often do you eat mindlessly, using food to soothe your fears or anxieties?
- Regoaling: What three steps could you take toward a new goal in your life? What financial, emotional, social, or spiritual resources do you need?
Feel free to answer these questions in the comments section below. Or share anything that’s on your mind, about anything you’d like.
About Growing Forward…
Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back offers a fresh, practical perspective on moving through loss. I share stories of contemporary and biblical women who transcended extraordinary pain and grief. I weave in my own experiences of growing up with a single schizophrenic mother, living in foster care, and then coping with infertility.
- Accept—and even embrace—a new season of life.
- Take small steps forward in practical, creative, delightful ways.
- Weave faith, trust, and hope into your heart, thoughts, and daily lives.
At the end you’ll have 50 Blossom Tips for moving forward after a loss. Each activity highlights a different aspect of who we are: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain. This holistic approach ensures the whole self is addressed by incorporating spiritual, emotional, creative, physical, and intellectual growth.
Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back is a comforting, encouraging book for women walking into a new season of life…which also makes it a great gift for women coping with death, divorce, or a difficult diagnosis.
In peace and passion,
P.S. Here’s the full list of Growing Forward articles here on “She Blossoms.” These aren’t the actual chapters of the book, they’re just our meeting places.
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- Recreating and Replanting With Eve
- Sprouting With Sarah
- Digging Deeper With Hagar
- Uprooting With Naomi
- Starting Fresh With Ruth
- Growing Roots With Martha and Mary
- Reviving Your Heart With Hannah
- Renewing Your Purpose With Esther
- Growing Forward With Mary Magdalene
- Blossoming Into Life With Mary