Finish this sentence: I’ve never felt more like a woman than when I…
What memory comes to mind?
It was prom night, May 2008. I slipped on the sparkly pink gown, not in the least bothered by the fact that I had borrowed it from a friend who wore it last year. My hair, set in perfect ringlets, brushed against my rosy cheeks. On my wrist dangled the diamond bracelet that used to belong to my great-grandmother. I walked (floated?) downstairs and tried not to trip in my heels.
I felt beautiful.
At that time in my B.C. life, feeling the most like a woman meant looking like a princess. But as with Cinderella, the charm faded, and by midnight the dress was rehung and tears ruined my make-up. It didn’t satisfy.
Fast-forward to today. No more proms for me, but I am still tempted to find my identity as a woman in things that, compared with Christ, are temporary and unsubstantial. We looked at some of those false forms of femininity last time.
But now, here are six things femininity is:
1. A TREASURY OF TRUTH
I listened to a great sermon series on womanhood a few weeks ago, and the pastor’s central text was, unsurprisingly, Proverbs 31. But what did surprise me was when he pointed out that that passage is actually passed down from a mother to a son!
How had I never noticed this before?!
The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. -Proverbs 31:1
I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly helpful to know the origins of the advice in this chapter. King Lemuel’s mother has a lasting legacy recorded here in Scripture, and it’s not because she baked the best apple pies.
Or had a great figure.
Or managed to keep her children spotless all day long.
It’s simply this: she was a treasury of God’s truth.
When we read the warnings and instructions she gives to her son, this lady’s deep knowledge of Scripture becomes evident. Not only that, but her experience in obeying God and following His ways have clearly shaped the words she speaks. The wisdom she possesses, granted to her through the Holy Spirit, is wisdom to live by and pass on to future generations. And don’t forget who has benefited from it–kings like Lemuel, and ordinary Christians like us!
So in the midst of pressure to be, and do, a million things at once, we women must be unwavering in our pursuit to fill ourselves with God’s Word, to renew our minds so that we can do His will, and to pour out these teachings on those we influence day by day. Not only for ours and their sake, but for Christ and His kingdom.
2. A POSTURE OF PIETY
I remember the first time I saw the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. More specifically, I recall watching Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn of course), and experiencing a rush of conflicting feelings. Part of me envied her classic beauty and style; another part of me was frustrated with her; and yet another part pitied her for the emptiness of her life.
She is a socialite, a rich party girl. Her days are filled with hook-ups, drinking, and money-making schemes. I know that by the end, she has “learned her lesson” and realizes she needs real love and meaning in her life…. but unfortunately, she finds it in a man, and not in Christ.
Holly is the perfect example of womanhood-gone-wrong. She may look feminine on the outside, but we see by her lifestyle that she lacks the qualities that would make her truly feminine on the inside. Quite the opposite: her behavior is unwomanly.
The Word gives us a portrait of the kind of women we shouldn’t be:
- Charming and beautiful BUT lacking fear of the Lord (Prov. 31:30)
- Slanderers and slaves to wine (Titus 2:3)
- Quarrelsome and foolish (Prov. 21:9; 14:1)
- Promiscuous and lacking discretion (Prov. 11:22)
- Shamers of their husbands (Prov. 12:4)
- Idle women and busybodies (Prov. 31:27; 1 Timothy 5:13)
These are not random points, but areas where God knows that we as women are tempted to sin. May we be constantly evaluating our hearts, keeping ourselves from evil and even the appearance of evil.
So, if Holly had found her salvation in Christ at the end of the movie instead of Paul… how would she have changed?
“Piety” is treated like a bad word these days. To some, all they think of when they hear it is false piety–being a holier-than-thou, hypocritical Pharisee. Which is unfortunate, because the virtue of true piety is upheld in God’s Word.
One of the most frequent commands for women in Scripture is to be holy, sober-minded, and pure. This is what being pious means: godly attitudes and godly behaviors. We avoid the corruption of the society around us by resolving in our minds that Christ is better than the riches of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26). We refuse to back down on our biblical convictions. We choose to focus on things above, looking beyond the enjoyments and entertainments of this world. Rather than partaking in revelry and drunkenness, we partake in fellowship with God and His people.
By God’s grace we will “continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (1 Timothy 2:15). No unholy words of gossip or slander or unkindness will leave our lips, because in our hearts we’ve resolved to love our neighbor as ourself. Instead, we’ll deny ourselves and follow Christ as He leads us into serving our churches, our husbands, our children, our communities.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I’m still so sinful, though. I fail at being a woman. I’m not nearly as holy as I want to be. Be encouraged, dear sister. We all feel that way, because we see how much we still fall short of God’s glory. Yet our growth isn’t ultimately up to us. It’s according to His mercies, which are new each day (praise God!). Sanctification is a process. Piety won’t grow overnight. But it will grow, because the Holy Spirit is in the business of making us holy.
3. A FIERCE FAITHFULNESS
“What can we learn from the ant?”
David (my husband) and I have been playing a game. We think of something–an object, an animal, a plant–and ask one another, “What can we learn from ____?” The answer is meant to point out a spiritual lesson we can derive from it. After all, God created everything around us, and all of it reflects His truth.
So what does the ant show us?
Well, ants are strong, hard workers. They can carry many times their weight. When they have a task to complete, they are diligent. Have you ever seen an ant doing nothing? I don’t think I have.
Since I’ve moved down to Florida, I’ve been bitten three times by fire ants–all on the same foot. And man, do their bites sting! I’ve seen that when they feel like their homes are in danger of a predator (such as my giant foot), ants don’t wait long to decide what to do. They protect.
The spiritual lesson is clear: like ants, we are called to be fiercely faithful. We need to know what we are called to do, and do it with all of our heart–even if it means making ourselves vulnerable.
In the last post we saw that the roles of mother and wife are opportunities to reveal our femininity. There are many other ways to do this, including as a daughter, employee, church member, and citizen. But no matter what roles we fill, we must remember to be faithful to the Lord in everything we do. Like ants, we sometimes must carry heavy loads, but we look to Christ for strength.
One of our greatest responsibilities is taking care of our households. The Word tells us to be keepers of our homes, to direct how they function, to adorn them and make sure they are prospering. Of course, this is more complicated for single women who also have to work full time to provide for themselves, but as long as we are diligent to do the best we can, we will please the Lord and glorify Him.
One way mothers and wives show their faithfulness is by caring for their families. Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t mess with Mama Bear”? I’ve heard it more than once from women who deeply love their children. Like a bear and her cubs, a mother is protective and totally committed to caring for her little ones, ensuring that they are raised rightly in the Lord. Though she does not do this perfectly, God enables her to stay the course till the end. She endures sleepless nights, harrowing accidents, frustrating behavior, and countless other hardships, but remains faithful to Him and her family.
Similarly, wives are called to be loyal to their husbands. That means more than cooking and cleaning (but it doesn’t mean less!). Being a helper entails supporting our husbands in their goals and doing everything we can to encourage them to be godly men.
Helping means comforting, assisting, bolstering, alleviating, lending a hand, and siding with them.
It also means avoiding the opposite: hindering, harming, damaging, and undermining our husbands and our households. Remember what Proverbs 14:1 says: “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”
But most of all, our femininity is displayed in our faithfulness to God. This is true for every woman, single or married, old or young. We fulfill our vows to Christ–regularly worshipping Him at home and at church, obeying His Word, and putting our sin to death. 1 Peter 1 tells us what our motivation should be: “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (v. 19). The Lord made the ultimate sacrifice for us: the giving of His Son for our sins. Remembering His great faithfulness to us spurs us on to be more and more faithful to Him.
If something–anything–in our lives is a threat to the well-being of our families, or our relationship with God, then we must fight against it. Christ looked resolutely to Jerusalem where He would be crucified. Nothing could stop Him. And nothing should stop us from being faithful.
4. A BOUNTY OF BEAUTY
Sometimes David leaves a note on my mirror. A few months ago, during a rough time facing the daily temptation to obsess over my appearance, he gently encouraged me to remember what true beauty is. “You are beautiful!!!” he wrote, with a small disclaimer: 1 Peter 3:1-6.
After I read the note, I ran to embrace him. He held me and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking. Who is the most beautiful Person in the universe?”
“God,” I replied.
“Right. And… God is invisible, right?”
“Think of how beautiful God is,” he went on. “He is so loving, faithful, just, holy… you see that, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I whispered. My heart stirred inside me as I remembered the goodness of my Lord. My heart had been so full of vanity and discontent, that I’d forgotten where my true satisfaction lies. The warmth of His friendship and comfort overwhelmed me. He loved me, despite my sin!
“So the greatest beauty… Christlike beauty, is invisible, too,” David finished. He gave me a squeeze. “I see His beauty in you.”
It’s not wrong to want to adorn ourselves as women. In fact, Scripture shows that that’s exactly what we’re meant to do. But how we adorn is what matters. 1 Peter 3:1-6 says,
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
I don’t think Peter is saying not to do your hair or wear jewelry and nice clothes. If it were merely an external command like that, anyone could keep it. In reality, he is asking: where is your true adorning? When you beautify yourself every day, is it merely on the outside, in what grows old and perishes, or is it within?
Like most things in the Christian life, adorning our hearts can be so difficult! I’ve learned that it means seeing the ugliness of my thoughts and emotions–my anger, jealousy, selfishness–and confronting them when they rise up within me. It means praying and asking God to beautify them, making them Christ-glorifying instead of Christ-dishonoring:
“Father, I feel frustrated about what David did earlier. I want to bring it up with him, but I don’t want to be so filled with resentment. I know my tongue might lash out against him if I’m not careful. Please help me to be humble and keep a watch over my mouth. Let the law of kindness be on my lips.”
This isn’t easy. Our flesh opposes our attempts to live by the Spirit. And even when we do obey, no one may ever acknowledge it or praise us for it. But God sees. He sees not just good behavior, but His own nature reflected in us. When it seems like we’re failing, He’s not afraid of the ugliness that remains. He dwells in us to perfect us and beautify us. It’s ultimately in His hands. And He always finishes what He begins.
5. A HUMBLE HEART
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. -Matthew 5:5
For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation. -Psalm 149:4
As women, our femininity is only as great as our humility.
It was pride that led Eve to seize the forbidden fruit, to break away from God and go her own way. Every woman after her has inherited the same pride. But when the Lord saves us, He humbles our hearts. The Spirit reigns and rules. The flesh becomes a usurper, trying to regain control.
As long as we are alive, we will struggle with pride. The key is to keep fighting it. If we allow pride to fester, it will only lead to the Lord’s opposition (James 4:6). And like cancer, it will spread and infect every part of our lives.
- Fault-finding: Overemphasizing the evil in others while neglecting our own.
- A harsh spirit: Being impatient and irritated at others when they sin.
- Superficiality: Caring more about what people think of us than ensuring that we possess true holiness.
- Defensiveness: Being easily offended and responded sinfully to every provocation.
- Presumption before God: Approaching God irreverently and not worshipping Him as He commands; neglecting to fear Him.
- Desperation for attention: Idolizing things and people in our lives that make us feel happier or better about ourselves.
- Neglecting others: Refusing to love the unlovely; looking down on others, and forgetting that we’re unlovely, too.
Convicting, right? The good news is, humility is possible. And it begins with reminding ourselves of our unworthiness and Christ’s worthiness.
6. A DEEP DEPENDENCE
I moved out of my grandparents’ house when I was 18, before the end of my senior year. It didn’t take long for me to find out that life was a lot harder as a full-fledged adult. Before that point, I had been completely dependent on someone else. But now I felt like I could become an independent woman–you know, the kind the feminists brag about.
No one had told me the “independent woman” was a myth.
The next eight years of living on my own, paying bills and taking care of school and work, did nothing but teach me that I needed other people. No matter how “independent” I thought I could be, the reality was that I relied on the help and relationships other people offered to me.
Most of all, I became a Christian and saw my greatest dependence was on Christ. I couldn’t live a single day without His sustaining grace!
Embracing our dependence on God is a beautiful act of worship. Psalm 116 says,
What shall I render unto the Lord
for all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation,
and call upon the name of the Lord. (vv. 12-13)
Now this is interesting! The only way we can really “repay” the Lord for all He has done for us is by… receiving what He has done and praying to Him for more mercy!
God doesn’t need anything from us. Ultimately He desires that we offer Him our thanks and praises, and keep relying on Christ to give us what we need–which, above all, is Himself. This is how we glorify Him! Not through prideful ambition or anxious attempts to get what we need on our own. Israel tried to do that by relying on Egypt, and God punished them for their disobedience. They needed only to trust Him, and so do we.
As we depend on God–for wisdom, for provision, for satisfaction–He makes deep rivers of peace run through us. Our rested contentment will displace worry and fear. It will be like a glow from our faces. Our friends, family, and even strangers might notice, too. Joy will overflow in our hearts as we lean on Him.
In that moment, it won’t matter if our hair is messy or our clothes have a stain or the dinner is burnt. No one else will care, either. What they’ll see is a woman to be praised. Not because of her, but because of Christ in her. The hope of glory.