This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I better not hear from any women’s ministries telling me how I’ve set back womankind thousands of years. As we used to say when I was a teenager, “If we stepped on your toes, come up for prayer for your toes to be healed.” All names have been changed to protect the innocent from harm and the guilty from embarrassment. PLEASE NOTE: I am in no way referring to women’s leadership or activities at my home church.
I stopped attending women’s retreats years’ ago. First of all, they’re usually really expensive. Secondly, I always found the men’s retreats much more appealing. For instance, the men usually go someplace outdoors where they commune with nature, whereas the women go to some overpriced hotel located next to an even more overpriced shopping mall. The food on the men’s menu consists of pancakes and sausage and steak and mashed potatoes, while the women eat sandwiches consisting of the following: cardboard (for bread), chicken mixed with grapes, berries, and twigs, then slathered in yogurt. I’m sorry, but the only time chicken and fruit should go together in the same dish is if it’s sweet and sour chicken at P.F. Chang’s.
Okay, there are other reasons that I don’t go. More important ones. I guess it could be said that I’m not the average Christian female, and more often than not, attending these meetings not only serve to NOT encourage me to get in touch with my feminine side, but by the time they’re over, I feel the urge to get genetic testing to see if one set of my X chromosomes has had single leg amputations.
What I’m trying to say is, no matter how much we Christian woman shout “special just as we are,” subconsciously, we all revert to judging one’s Christian femaleness by a certain passage of Scripture. And we all KNOW which passage to which I’m referring: Proverbs 31 (New International Version, commentary by me)…
A wife of noble character who can find? (You can’t, unless you’re the retreat speaker. But this weekend only, you, too, can gain from her wisdom, and for the incredibly low price of $19.95, you’ll get a pink leather-bound Women’s Devotional Bible, zillionth edition, deluxe makeup kit, super spa hair care sampler, and an autographed copy of “You Can Be It All: My Secrets to Become Bible Barbie in 30 Minutes a Day”) She is worth far more than rubies. (Her jewelry collection has a retail value equivalent to the US National Deficit.) Her husband has full confidence in her (Did you hear that, ladies? So singleness is NOT an option.) and lacks nothing of value. (So, shopping at thrift stores and garage sales is a big no-no.) She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (She never, ever says the wrong thing around a member of the opposite sex.) She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. (Must be proficient in knitting, crocheting, and needlepoint. Ugh!) She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. (Must have worked through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”) She gets up while it is still dark (must be a morning person.); she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. (Must be Casanova in the kitchen.) She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. (Must be master gardener and landscaper.) She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. (Must work out every day at the gym but never sweat.) She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. (So, she must be a morning person AND a night person. Double ugh!) In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. (She uses all the time she saves from not sleeping to make her own clothes.) She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. (She cooks for all her single male friends who would otherwise be forced to subsist on a diet consisting entirely of Hardee’s.) When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (She and her family must wear all the designer labels, unless of course it’s something she’s sewn.) She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. (Oh crap, she’s gotta make her own sheets and blankets, too!) Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. (She must snag husband who is politician, movie star, doctor, lawyer, CEO, or some combination thereof. How many of these men actually roam the earth?) She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. (So, not only must she be domestic goddess and beauty pageant winner, but barracuda in the business world, too. Triple ugh!) She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (She has IQ in the quadruple digits.) She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (She must have ESP, and God forbid she ever have downtime!) Her children arise and call her blessed (as if her plate wasn’t full enough, she must also be perfect mother in manner of Ma Ingalls.); her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” (And to top it all off, in case it wasn’t mentioned earlier, all women are in competition with one another.) Charm is deceptive (but necessary), and beauty is fleeting (but you must spend inordinate amounts of time and money to hold on to every shred possible, anyway); but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (And everyone must like you, or you’re doing something terribly, terribly wrong!)
So, is it now clear why I can’t handle any more of this “encouragement?” Maybe it’s just the frustration talking, because in all the years I’ve been a Christian woman, I’ve never felt like the bar was anywhere close to me reaching it. I’ve been told more often where I’ve fallen short in these things than where I’ve succeeded.
I mean, I’m not totally undomesticated. I love to cook, and I cook well, but I’m not a housekeeper. When I’ve said in the past that I’m not good at it and have to have someone do my cleaning for me, I get a reaction akin to if I said to a lady with kids, “Do you really need that third child? Because I could really use the extra tax deduction.” And my meal plans revolve solely around what food I have coupons for, not what happens to be trendy at the moment. I like getting dolled up, too, but not always. It would be nice, also, if there were concrete definitions of what “girly” and “modest” were. I can think of many times I’ve worn things that were cute and feminine in one woman’s eyes, only to be found flashy and immodest in another’s. Nor does it help that clothing styles and trends change so quickly that by the time I can afford the latest style, it’s already outdated and being declared a “fashion don’t” in Cosmo. We Christian ladies say it’s only what’s on the inside that counts, but let me show up to church one Sunday wearing pigtails, ripped jeans, and a John Deere tee shirt, and before the service is over, some well-meaning sister in Christ will declare, “Oh Sharon, you’ve really let yourself go!”
So, I decided recently that life is too short to spend trying to live up to impossible expectations. And besides, it takes enough of my time to deflect discouragement from the world, Satan, HGTV, and E! about my womanhood to have to deal with it when I go to church, too. Therefore, can we all agree that we’re all unique and have our place and focus on what God is REALLY calling us to as Christian woman?
Uh-oh! If it’s not all the external stuff like cooking, cleaning, fashion, then what is it? (Please, don’t think less of me because I have a cleaning lady! So does my pastor’s wife, and isn’t it more important that I make my mashed potatoes from scratch?) I mean, even though we are all different, there are certain things that apply to all women across the board. So, what are they? I’m so glad someone finally asked!
CHARACTER! More importantly, character that reflects our Savior. The world will remember our love and compassion long after they’ve forgotten our kick-butt-awesome chicken tetrazzini! In light of this revelation, I was able to read the dreaded aforementioned Bible passage with new eyes…
A wife of noble character who can find? (I can be one, and God will show me how.) She is worth far more than rubies. (My value is apparent to those who are looking through the right lenses.) Her husband has full confidence in her (The men in my life know they can trust me.) and lacks nothing of value. (I let God supply what I need, not what I think I need. In other words, I let Him bless me abundantly with the things that matter most.) She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (I am a blessing to those I love.) She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. (I do whatever God sets before me with joy. And if joy’s not already there, I go humbly before God to receive joy for the task.) She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. (I am resourceful.) She gets up while it is still dark (I make the most of my time, however long or short it may be); she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. (I put others above myself.) She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. (I don’t do things on neurotic impulse and I minister out of my fullness with God, not out of lack.) She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. (I let God fill me and prepare me each day for the tasks He sets before me.) She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. (I am productive and fruitful in the things that God has called me to and ONLY those things.) In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. (Okay, this one I’m still not sure about.) She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. (I am generous and have God’s heart for those in need.) When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (I prepare out of wisdom, not out of fear, not to make myself look good, but to make sure my loved ones have what they need.) She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. (I’m not sure about this one, either.) Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. (I will keep the company and identify myself with those whose character is worthy of respect.) She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. (I will spend wisely so that with the money I save, I can be as much of a blessing to others as possible.) She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (I will fill my heart with God’s Word, not the word of others, so that when I open my mouth, that which I’ve stored up comes out naturally.) She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (I’ll have genuine concern and affection for those God has placed in my sphere and always make the most of my time.) Her children arise and call her blessed (I will live in a way that those who I invest in spiritually will say they’re better, not worse, for knowing me.); her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” (Like the parable of the talents, I will be praised not because of what I did in comparison to others, but because I did the best with what God has given me.) Charm is deceptive (Amen!), and beauty is fleeting (besides, doesn’t it say somewhere in Proverbs that gray hair and a little baby fat around the midsection is sexy?); but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (When my character is on track and I am fruitful as God defines fruitfulness, the people of God won’t be able to help but notice.)
See, when I look at it that way now, not only does it seem not so bad, but it actually seems doable! I don’t wanna go through life being like Martha, who was so overwhelmed with the incidentals that she almost missed out where life’s greatest accomplishments are achieved and greatest fulfillment found; namely, in the company of Jesus!
In closing, I want to touch on part of Proverbs 31 and another passage in 1st Peter 3:6 as they relate to the character of Christian women.
Proverbs 31:25b-She can laugh at the days to come.
1st Peter 3:6 [The Amplified Bible]- And you are now (Sarah’s) true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you [not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve you].
In my vast experience with men, and it is vast, do you know what their number one complaint about women is, whether the men complaining are Christian or not? It’s not a woman’s cooking ability, fashion sense, cosmetic expertise or lack thereof, spending prowess, or even her intelligence. It’s fear! One thing a guy can’t stand is neediness, clinginess, moodiness, co-dependency, and neurotic impulsiveness (there’s a charming impulsiveness, mind you, and for those that disagree, DON’T JUDGE ME!). What are all these things based on? Fear! (or, in Guy-ese, the female state known as “psycho.”) Fear, on our parts as women, which can result only when we seek our identity as women in ungodly ways. Trust me, Ladies. Nothing will send a godly man screaming and running into the witness protection program faster!
I desire to be a thing of beauty in God’s eyes and in a godly man’s eyes. I know because of my identity in Christ that He sees me that way already. However, I still have a mind that needs to be renewed, and behavior that must be aligned to God’s Word on a daily basis. My prayer is that as I go to Him every moment of every day, that my walk will one day be as beautiful as my recreated spirit, and when I face undeserved criticism and an uncertain future, both will find me holding the Hand of my Savior for dear life and grinning from ear to ear.