About Our Guest Host:
Dr. Kate specializes in Soul Care Retreats, Christian Life Coaching, Counseling with single mothers, and ministering to women in the middle of a life transition. She will walk beside you every step of the way!
Dr. Kate is a second wife to Jack Bohannon and a mother to Elijah, Jana, Rebekah, Ella, and Jude Butler. She spends her extra time traveling or planning her next adventure. Dr. Kate believes you can never have too many trips planned on your calendar!
Dr. Kate’s book Metamorphosis will be released Spring of 2023.
You can learn more about Dr. Kate, grab one of her free resources from her website.
When we met for a lunch counseling session, she was tired, overwhelmed, and on the verge of burnout. I asked the typical counselor intake questions covering the spectrum from depression to anxiety to get a small glimpse into her troubled world. The client had requested our session because of my knowledge of soul care. From the first word of our conversation, I became bluntly aware that this poor dear woman was weary; she was soul weary.
I asked how often she found rest and explained that it was more than sleeping eight hours a night. She said, “never,” with a sly laugh. For some unknown reason, I asked, “how often do you stop when you have a period?” To which she replied, “Oh! I have not had one of those for years. I have one of those things…you know, the ones that stop your cycle for birth control purposes.” And my spirit sank. I do not know why her answer hit me so hard.
I sat there staring at our chicken salad plates in silence. In school, we are taught about client and counselor transference which is usually triggered by our past experiences. That was not the silence I was experiencing. It was as if I began grieving for her. This beautiful Christian woman in her early 40s had planned to end her cycles years ago for the benefit of birth control. I wholeheartedly believe that one decision then robbed, no actually stole from her, times of much-needed rest for her weary body, mind, and soul. She needed a period, and she required Sabbath Rest.
The Medical Side
Menstruation, in all its female glory, provides women with dedicated times of rest every passing of 28 days or lunar month. The process, without going into medical terminology, removes the lining of the woman’s uterus to replace it with a new one, except during pregnancy. This beautiful cycle separates women from men, and it typically occurs from the age of puberty to menopause. During her lifetime, a woman with a normal menstruation cycle will experience around 456 periods averaging two to seven days in length, with the next beginning every 21 to 35 days.
Women between the ages of 12 to 50 are typically aware of their menstruating condition, meaning they can give a recent account to medical personnel of their previous cycle or the next expected arrival date. Numerous medical conditions can cause problems with a woman’s menstrual cycle. A hysterectomy, or surgery to remove the womb (uterus), is commonly performed to prevent cancer and treat fibroids, heavy periods, endometriosis, and other pregnancy complications. As with my client, there are numerous ways to avoid pregnancies that stop or permanently eliminate a period or cycle.
I am not writing this article to shame or pass judgment on anyone who has elected or had no choice but to stop their cycles through surgery or procedure. I am honestly writing to ask; can we start having open conversations about menstruation within the church?
The Spiritual Side
Why do we need to talk about periods? Because the conversation within the church concerning menstruation has continued to be the same for centuries – none. When was the last time your small group discussed having a period, birth control, or the significance of a woman’s journey through menopause? Once again, it is not a topic of open conversation among women of varied ages.
There are a couple of references to periods or female-related bleeding in scripture. Many believe our menstruation cycles started with the curse of Eve in Genesis 3:16. The documentation in Leviticus provides us with insight into how a woman with a “menstrual impurity” was separated from a civilization based on the concept of “uncleanness” (15:20; 15:26). During their periods or other times of blood discharge including after pregnancy, women were determined to be ceremonial unclean throughout scripture. Most notable is the woman in the New Testament with the “issue of blood for twelve years” (Matthew 9:20). This woman went to find Jesus among the crowds and touched His garments, believing for healing (Mark 5).
I love how Mark writes, “Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction” (5:29). Jesus also knew that someone had been healed (Mark 5:30). He addresses her, amongst the crowd as “Daughter” and celebrates her for her faith (Mark 5:34). Imagine! A ceremonially unclean woman touches Jesus, and He immediately heals her and then addresses her as “Daughter” (Mark 5:34). The woman never made Jesus unclean as the law described; Jesus came to make her clean with a touch of His garment!
Your Period and Sabbath Rest Connected
After my session with the lady missing her period for several years, I surprisingly started paying closer attention to mine. I am at the age where menopause is approaching, and I have delivered five babies with full-term pregnancies. My cycles range from normal one month to heavy the second month. A recent medical test has revealed a cyst on my right ovary, which explains the more serious months. Overall, my symptoms are usually textbook. Three days to a week before my period, I will experience mood changes; just ask my husband, Jack! The day before my period, I will have increased swelling, and the pain will begin to develop. On the day my period starts, fatigue will take over. I will bleed for a normal three to five days. My energy returns around day two, and everything seems to be back to normal by day five. A week after my period, I am more like myself than ever during the 28-day cycle. It must be when I am close to ovulation because I feel my absolute best during that week.
I have also started associating the time of my period with a purposeful Sabbath Rest. What if “the way of the woman” is a time to celebrate being a woman (Genesis 31)?
Here is what I am learning…
Your period and Sabbath Rest are times for you to cease and rest. It is a time when decreased energy levels take over your body. You experience pain and fatigue, so why not stop or cease working, cleaning, cooking, and all the other female duties for your body to rest and recover? If it is only for one day at the start of your period, praise God and take the day to Sabbath Rest! The book of Leviticus also instructs us that the tenth day of the seventh month of each year is to be a Day of Atonement and Sabbath Rest. That day is to be “a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute” (Leviticus 16:31). What if our time for being a woman becomes a permanent statute as a day of Sabbath Rest for our bodies and our souls, once a month?
Your period and Sabbath Rest are times to connect with your emotions. My husband and children can testify…I get emotional when my period is happening. They would probably use the word “dramatic!” And, it is true. As humans, we are emotional beings. Our emotions spring forth from our thought processes and then influence our behaviors. These emotions also play a part in us being spiritual beings! Your period connects you spiritually and emotionally with what your body was created to do. It also connects you spiritually and emotionally with your mom, her mom, and your female ancestors back to Eve. In the same way, when we take Sabbath Rest, we seek an emotional and spiritual connection with God, our creator. What if we started embracing our heightened times of emotions during our periods and let everything connect us spiritually with God?
Your period and Sabbath Rest allow you to create or begin again. I have often thought that it is funny how our uncomfortable, messy, and unclean periods are cleansing us and preparing our wombs for whatever is next. Sabbath Rest is the same way! Sabbath Rest is not a reward for a well-done job; it is a preparation for the time ahead. It is a time for spiritual and physical cleansing.
Sabbath Rest is not a reward for a well-done job; it is a preparation for the time ahead. It is a time for spiritual and physical cleansing.
Leviticus reads, “for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (16:30). It was in this way that the Sabbath gave the people a fresh start to begin again and yes, eventually sin again. Your period cleanses your womb and prepares it for new life if a pregnancy occurs. Sabbath Rest, like the day of Atonement, cleanses us spiritually and prepares us for everyday life again. What if we changed our perspectives on our periods and Sabbath Rest to times of cleansing so we can create life again?
My prayer for you moving forward after reading this menstruation-to-Sabbath Rest comparison is that you will be able to see the blessing instead of the curse during your next period. May we all find a time to cease, connect, and create every 28 days! And then again, the next time…and again…and again…
“It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute” (Leviticus 16:30).