I used to have nightmares about mannequins when I was a little girl.
Seriously. They creeped me out. No matter where the dream started, I always ended up running from an army of mannequins, gasping for air as I finally made it to Daddy’s office, tentatively calling out his name, my eyes pinned to the back of his office chair. He’d swivel around in my direction to reveal that he, too, had become one of them: a stick thin, ivory, plastic figure, expressionless in a really menacing way, stiff in a threatening fashion.
I laugh now when I walk through a mall, and Trey nudges my arm and teases me that -just like they used to in my dream -the mannequins are going to ease their heads in my direction, bending towards me in lockstep, ready to attack.
I’d like to see Freud dissect that one!
Okay, so you might be thinking that starting out an article with childhood terrors is a little bit awkward… especially when I’m confessing my irrational preschool fear of mannequins. But 1) you have to admit, when you think about me backing away from faceless dummies in department store windows, it’s pretty hilarious, and 2) it really lends itself well to the point of this post:
Have you ever heard a talk on biblical womanhood and felt utterly inadequate? In the face of conversation about anti-feminism, have you ever wondered just how anti feminism you should be (should you spurn education entirely because you don’t want to devote your time to a four-year university? Should you become incompetent and directionless because you don’t want to be aggressively independent? Should you only talk about crafts, babies, or Bible stories because you don’t want to pursue a profession, etc.)? If you decided to turn your heart towards home -to embrace biblical femininity where the culture is sometimes likely to scoff at it -did you, perhaps, over-correct your thinking, doffing one stereotype (the power-suit wearing, man-hating, married-to-her job success story) for another (the stereotypical Suzie homemaker, apron in one hand, sewing project in the other, and little interest in much else)?
How many of you think biblical womanhood is about becoming an expressionless dummy who is good for ornamental window-dressing, and little else?
I get so many emails during my break from young ladies who say that they have spent their whole lives in pursuit of the cultural ideal (college, then career), only to realize that they now desire something completely different: they want a godly husband who will lead them in the ways of the Lord -and they want children who they can raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord -they want to be wholly committed to their families, forsaking every other dream for the beautiful calling.
And I say a hearty, Amen! followed by a very sincere, Be careful.
Be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of becoming a stereotype of biblical womanhood that has nothing to do with using your specific gifts for God’s glory, and everything to do with developing gifts to please man: “All the really popular daughters do this, so this is what I need to learn to love, too” vs. “This is where my gifts and passions lie -how can I use them within the context of my home to bless my families and others?” Yes, there is an element of stretching ourselves to learn those things which would help our homes run smoothly, even if we are not necessarily inclined to them (for me, it was cooking; when I first stepped into the kitchen, I was a basket case); however, there are also those things which is does us little good to yearn after (Suzie is an accomplished harpist who has played for ten years -yes, that will bless her family, but you’re twenty-one, and can’t take harp lessons… what are you good at?) Psalm 139 tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made -what things has the Lord given us so that we can use for his purposes?
Be careful not to fall into the trap of becoming so artsy and craftsy that you aren’t developing useful skills. There is nothing wrong with learning how to knit pretty scarves; I did it myself one summer. However, learning how to knit a scarf, crochet a doily, or serve tea, English country style, should not overtake learning how to balance a checkbook. Teach a child to read. Dedicate your time to your own studies. Serve other women in the church. Help your mother with the practical, day to day responsibilities. Aid your father when you are able. I remember one of my friends once told me that he wasn’t looking for a girl who could crotchet, and had never met another man who was, but he really hoped she’d be able to engage him intellectually. Something to think about, definitely. The Proverbs 31 woman wasn’t merely ornamental: she had useful talents (Proverbs 31:10-31).
Be careful not to fall into the trap of becoming so “feminine” that you lose your joy in Christ. I put feminine in quotes because we tend to manufacture a stereotype of femininity that really has nothing to do with the biblical pattern of a helpmeet who is her husband’s aid and counterpart. I have seen some joyless girls pursuing “femininity,” plastering on false smiles and playing a part instead of truly loving and serving the brethren and sincerely seeking growth and heart-change in Christ. Study the Lord’s Word for his standard for his women (you will not find it written that we all have to enjoy teas, that each of us has to notice the others’ fashion sense, or that the only thing we can talk about is domesticity), and strive to display a genuine love for him and his people (Matthew 17:38-40), not that love which would garner the most attention. If you find yourself floundering, losing your joy in Christ… evaluate yourself: am I doing things just to please others? Am I trying to play a part just to fit in? Or am I truly being sanctified by the Lord, conformed to his image, not my own fantasy? Biblical womanhood, at its core, is merely embracing Eve’s purpose (Genesis 2:18): serving those around you with the gifts the Lord has given you; making a home, yes… or being willing to pull up your sleeves and build a wall like the women in Nehemiah’s day. Taking joy in the raising of children, you bet… and being able to get dirty chasing them in the backyard. Beautifying, you bet. But also possessing deeper traits than mere beauty: intelligence -competence -true joy (Nehemiah 8:10)
Be careful not to fall into an effort/rewards notion of biblical womanhood. Be careful that you’re not just embracing biblical womanhood for the husband. Because, if the only reason you want to embrace femininity is to find yourself in that perfect man’s embrace, you will, 1) find yourself doing extra-biblical gymnastics to get the attention of the young men the Lord puts in your path (whether you’re fluttering your eyelashes, using your mom to tell his mother just how amazing you’ll be as a wife, or cultivating a relationship with his sister in case he notices you), and 2) you will find yourself battling contentment and disillusionment the longer the Lord plans for you to be single. Remember the goal here, and in every season, is to glorify God. And so whether or not he places a husband in your path, you still have a purpose beyond matrimony, and your view in all that you do should not be to “rope a man” -it should be to please the Lord.
Be careful that you’re not just holding the line. Be careful that you aren’t just biding your time for a husband. Be careful that, instead of storing up your treasures in heaven, you aren’t storing up your treasures in your hopechest. Devote your times to the things that will serve others in the here and now. Devote your time to becoming a well-rounded woman so that you can be a good steward of the gifts and the time that the Lord has given you. Devote yourself wholly to God. I am not saying that you shouldn’t prepare for marriage -but do so within the context of keeping your eyes trained on the goal that always supersedes it: the glory of God (Psalm 37:4).
Be careful that your convictions are your own. I get emails about everything from tank tops to first kisses to alcohol consumption. I answer every email this way: “I don’t care what you think of me, so you shouldn’t care what I think of you.” And then I delete it and say it in a nicer way: ladies, I write for your encouragement, it’s true; and I love that you like reading what I have to say. But search the Scriptures and come to your own convictions. Don’t take everything I or anyone else says at face value -and don’t fall-back on my words or anyone else’s to ease your conscience when the Holy Spirit convicts you. And don’t double-check with me to make sure your convictions are fine. Move forward boldly and joyfully in Christ, submitting yourself to his Word and the authorities he has put in your life.
In short, sisters, welcome home. It is an exciting, challenging place to find yourself, is it not? Keep busy, will you? And embrace each new challenge with joy and vigor! Don’t lose yourself in a stereotype, okay? Look to Christ and use the gifts and traits he’s given you for his glory! And don’t crane your neck towards the future, all right? Live full-heartedly for Christ in the here and now. Be in genuine pursuit of his will. Earnestly seek to love and serve his people.
That’s my advice to you… in a nutshell. 😉