Essence Ministry all started with the gazelle. At a women’s retreat in August 2016, the founder of Essence was led to search the Bible for verses that mention 'gazelle' and to delve into what the animal symbolizes. Here’s what she discovered:
A tiny, incredibly fast and agile animal belonging to the deer family, the gazelle is often a symbol of feminine grace and beauty. They are known for their soft and expressive eyes, and in many cultures, it is often said of a woman with beautiful eyes, “She has the eyes of a gazelle!” Think of how we call some people doe-eyed, like a deer. The gazelle is also a representation of compassion and mercy, and a sort of selfless altruism.
Furthermore, the gazelle is known for its ability to escape the pursuit of its pray: the cheetah. The cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, yet the gazelle can escape it somehow. And how? It is smart: it zigzags, runs in circles, and does not quit or look back. It runs until the cheetah tires out and gives up. Usually, when the gazelle is caught, it is because it has looked back to see if the cheetah was still on its tail.
The story of Dorcas in the Bible, whose name also means gazelle, is a story of one of the only females to be called a disciple in the New Testament, who was known for her compassion, generosity, and ministry to the poor. She was raised from the dead and her life and testimony led to the salvation of many people.
- In Proverbs 6:5, we read the verse: “Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.”
In 1 Chronicles 12:8, we see David and his mighty warriors being likened with the gazelle: “They were expert handlers of both shield and spear, with hardened looks and as agile as a gazelle on a mountain slope.”
All throughout the Song of Solomon, the lovers use the gazelle to describe one another, whether the husband and his agility and majesty, or the wife and her beauty and form.
What she loved about this is that, yes, she saw confirmation of this animal representing feminine beauty. But she also saw the gazelle portraying men and their physical swiftness and ability. As we read the following verse we just imagine the grand, valiant, and stunning beauty that a man of God can carry: “Before the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn to me, my love, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the divided mountains.” (Song of Solomon 2:17).
Now, to see how this all ties in...
Here at Essence, we believe that women have great power in their femininity: power to influence and lead, power to give compassion and mercy, power to offer kindness and gentleness and bring forth life. Women are life-bearers and nurturers. Women are soft and beautiful in ways that men just simply aren’t. And women are smart. We can escape our enemy if we run without looking back, without giving up. We believe that women are called to carry majestic dignity, powerful meekness, and swift grace. And we believe that the gazelle is a strikingly beautiful metaphor for the wonder that is a woman.
But, we also believe that, while men and women are different, we are intimately and deeply wrapped up in one another. We were made for each other. The fact that the Bible refers to both men and women in comparison to the gazelle is beautiful because we feel it represents us on an equal playing field. We are called to continuously be submitting to one another in strength and humility, not dominating each other out of misplaced desires or undealt with rage. We believe that men and women are equal in value, but different in nature – and so incredibly complementing to each other. We were made to work together, to live together, to accomplish and go farther together than we ever could alone, and to fit together in the most beautiful of ways. Two image bearers of God in two unique ways, but together, representing God in a more whole and complete way than anything else in this world could ever do. How AMAZING is that?!?
So, in conclusion, you will see the gazelle as a symbol of this ministry throughout everything we do. We will use this metaphor and imagery as a way to represent our nature and essence, as well as the beauty of our uniqueness. We believe that it offers such a dignified and powerful message about who we are called to be.