-a lesser-known crazy character

When I was around 10, a girl I knew spread the rumor that I was a witch, and I had dozens of lit candles around my room. She’d supposedly seen them one day when she had come over.

She was out for revenge because I had divulged her secret and told the girls from her class that she didn’t go to our school anymore because she had failed. I knew I shouldn’t have snitched, but I played the victim too. I once had a coworker who spread a rumor about me. That was tough. Rumors are genderless and selfish. Rumors have existed since snakes, and people first started to lie.

On the other hand, isn’t it frustrating when something incredible happens to you, and you wish to share your story, but people assume you are lying? Women, specifically, have often not been recognized as credible. Sometimes, this has been for valid reasons. But too frequently, we’ve been labeled as too dramatic, over-emotional, weak, and unfit.

Rhoda is a lesser-known character in the Bible. I thought I knew the names of all of the women mentioned in the Bible, but I just learned about her today. Her story is in Acts 12:12-17, (I’m citing from the NLT version of the Bible). Part of what I learned about her story, I read from “The Women’s Bible Dictionary” (a compilation edited by Carol Newsom and Sharon Ringe). The first thing I noted, is that her time in the Bible is short, 6 verses long. Rhoda was a servant girl who happily shared the good news of the church community’s leader Peter being freed from prison, so we know she had deep faith. The previous verses explain his imprisonment, and how the church community had prayed earnestly for his liberation. Peter’s release was an answered prayer for many people.

Here’s why she’s important: she’s the one who was at the door when Peter initially knocked on the door of Mary (John’s mother’s home). “When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”. No one knew he was rescued from prison, she had to be crazy, “You’re out of your mind!”, they’d told her. “When she insisted, they decided, it must be his angel.”

In the commentary, Rhoda’s story is comparable to the women in the book of Luke 24, who ran with joy from Jesus’s tomb to tell of His resurrection. In both stories, these women have urgent news to communicate to their community and friends. In both cases their words are dismissed and rejected; the women were delusional. “Their attempts to convey the good news were thwarted by the resistance of their listeners.” (Newsome, and Ringe pp. 310). And Rhoda was met with an accusation of mental instability: most likely because of her gender and her social status as a servant.

Here, God’s unconditional love shows up by proving a girl right, by answering a prayer his community was reaching out to Him for, and by increasing people’s faith through Peter’s story.

But my favorite part of this story starts with a girl who was out of her mind.

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