I have found myself over the year’s shunning women’s ministry. I hope no one in women’s ministry takes offense to that statement, especially those who run the women’s ministry events at my church, or the ones I have gone to. It’s not you, it’s me. I know that sounds like a bad break-up line, that really means the opposite, but it’s not. I know many wonderful women involved in women’s ministry, many that I respect, and wish to emulate, and who I enjoy sitting down to chat with or who have guided me in my walk with Christ. I have almost entirely female friends and after 13 years in youth ministry, there is nothing I enjoy more than a middle school girl coming to me to help sort out some drama in life. I love chick flicks, Jane Austen novels and chocolate. Yet, the idea of women’s events kind of makes my skin crawl a little. The thought of a weekend away with hundreds of women, or even a afternoon with 30 women, really makes me uneasy. I find myself listening to speakers who have accessorized themselves divinely to match their buisness suits or fancy clothes, wearing their perfect make-up, and having each hair in the proper place. They speak in soft tones and use the word beloved and an array of words that I never use in my vocabulary. They speak about their lives and use vague stories of their struggles and failures so that they can connect with their audience, and then share how God has moved them to this deeper place. They talk about their prayer closets or their early morning devotion time before their children wake up, stealing that “precious” time with God. After the speaker concludes all the ladies, and I mean ladies, not women or female persons but “ladies” sit down for their elegant lunch of salads and quiches with beautiful
centerpieces that some woman in the church made from the flowers that she grew in her yard, coordinated with the ribbons that were left over after she made her children matching Easter dresses. I sit there wondering, “What is the matter with me?” Or worse, I act myself, talk a little too loud, tell a joke, and I get the “looks”. I have found myself relieved when I can not make an event, or I have forced myself to attend events and come home feeling deflated rather than inspired.
I am every bit a woman, and a solid, Bible believing Christian woman at that. I don’t wear make up or spend much time on my hair. My wardrobe is mostly hand me downs or blue light specials. I wear jeans, and if I’m not in flip flops I’m barefoot, even right through the winter in Jersey. I don’t use the word beloved and the only time I say “precious” is in reference to The Lord of the Rings. I eat burgers and ribs and never count calories, fat or carbs. My house is a mess. I can’t keep up with the dishes, the laundry has been known to sit in the washing machine for days until it’s molded, and there are boxes that have moved from house to house during the 14 years of our marriage without being unpacked. I’m not much for interior deocrating, I hate shopping, and my flower beds are more weeds than flowers. I’m not saying this to berate myself, I’m saying it to free myself. I have many good traits. In fact, I’m really a jack of all trades, master of
none. I am creative, smart, and I can cook. I am loyal, honest, and funny. What I am not, is the image of the Christian woman that our society has created. There is nothing wrong with this image, just like there is nothing wrong with the women’s events that I have attended. It’s just that it doesn’t encompass the vast and beautiful variety of Godly women that our world has to offer. It’s a soft, pastel, wonderfully soothing imagine, and I am a bold, bright, and loud kind of person. I love my pastel friends, but I don’t want to be them. And more importantly, I don’t think God want’s me to be them either. God seems to love variety a whole lot. Not that God doesn’t want me to change and grow, He does, but he wants me to grow into a more perfect image of Him, not of some idealized Christian woman. I am sitting here on the computer writing this blog having texted my husband to stop for fast food on the way home for dinner. What is the more Godly thing: to stop what I am doing and cook a nice, healthy, less expensive dinner for my husband and children, or to stay where I am and meet with God in this way? I choose the later. Now, I don’t think that God would have me do that often, and I am certainly not saying that God told me to order fast food, I’m just saying that sometimes I need to be Mary and not Martha and that means take-out and paper plates. God has called me to hospitality, and that means having a welcoming home, not necessarily a clean one.
Not that I don’t want it to be clean or that I think messy is better, but you would not believe the number of people who say that they love coming to our house because, “It’s lived in.” I get frustrated, and angry, loose my temper and my keys. I am sometimes petty and bitter, and far from the image of Chirst. This is not good, but it is real. I am trying to grow in those areas, but I am not there. A common joke among my friends is that if you’ve done something you think is really awful like dropped your baby just call me up, because I have undoubtedly done something worse and I will make you feel better. Is it true? I don’t think so. I just think as women, especially women imersed in a Christian community, we feel so ashamed of our failings that we feel this need to put on an image of perfection that is not real, to emulate this image of the Christian woman that just might not be who God made us to be. And in the process of hiding our flaws, sins, and imperfections we have actually held hostage the hearts of Christian women all over who see this airbrushed reality and feel inferior, because they cannot meet this impossible standard. There is nothing wrong with the Christian woman with the spotless house, the manucured nails, and the soft spoken ways, but there is nothing wrong with freeing yourself from that image if it isn’t who God made you to be. Deborah went to war, Abigail and Esther both confronted Kings, Ruth worked in the fields, and Mary sat at the feet of Jesus amongst all the men just listening to Jesus. So what is a woman of God? She can be many things; she does not need to fit in the mold society has cast. She can be single or married, divorced or widowed. She can have children; many, few or none at all. She can stay at home or have a career. She can be a beauty queen, a solider, or both. She can sew and bake or she can make reservations and go shopping. She can be neat or messy, loud or quiet, funny or serious, or something else completely. What makes a woman of God is her heart for becoming more like God and living a life devoted to serving God and others.