Peeking into her room you can see her. A pig-tailed little girl is holding her baby doll and giving her a bottle. Putting her sleeping baby down she moves to cooking dinner. Lovingly and painstakingly she makes sure everything is mixed just right and all the dishes are set on the miniature kitchen table. Setting the food on the table she excitedly looks for someone to try her vivid, yet imaginary, home cooked meal.
In this little girl’s fairy tale dreams, Prince Charming will one day ride in on his white horse and sweep her away to exciting places unknown. She will be a mommy, have a home, maybe a job, or, this little girl’s idyllic role, the best home room mother ever!
Fast-forward twenty or thirty years. This same little girl may now find herself far from the fairy tale world she imagined. She may still be single or single again. She may be married with children or without. She may be living in a sprawling suburban home or she may simply be grateful for the efficiency apartment she has managed to afford. She is definitely tired!
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]I am an incurable dreamer, always dreaming of the ideal and then running right into reality. I have found myself desperately holding on to pre-conceived fairy tale dreams only to give up that I would ever truly be the woman whom God would favor. [/pullquote] Women are continuing to search for contentment and happiness, especially when life today looks nothing like what she had imagined. Many women will read Proverbs 31 and silently laugh that there is no way to measure up to THAT woman. After all, the Proverbs 31 woman is merely a mother-in-law’s description of the type of woman her son should marry and who can measure up to that? Add to it the challenge when real life just does not look like the fairy tale.
We have all been there. We find ourselves hanging on to what we wished it would be or giving up any hope of being the woman God wants us to be. I am an incurable dreamer, always dreaming of the ideal and then running right into reality. I have found myself desperately holding on to pre-conceived fairy tale dreams only to give up that I would ever truly be the woman whom God would favor. When I finally let go of the fairy tale and fully grasped God’s tale for my life, I realized there were lessons to be learned for this incurable dreamer that lead to living a life of biblical femininity in a world of mixed messages for women.
It’s not about a certain look but about the principles.
The number of reality shows on television today is staggering. From The Real Housewives of you fill in the blank, to glimpses into the marriage and family relationships of celebrities, unconventional families and families we admire, to body and home makeovers, the popularity of these shows begs the question. Is the real reason we are watching these shows is to have a point of comparison that affirms that we are doing okay?
Biblical femininity is not about a certain look but it is about being a woman who lives by the principles set in Scripture in whatever circumstance she finds herself.
In some circles, there is a sense that if you are not married by a certain age, something must be wrong. Or they pity the woman who doesn’t have children and then secretly wonder why she didn’t adopt. In other circles it is the issue of educating children. If a woman doesn’t homeschool, she simply must not be as good a mother as the other. Even in our churches, there is often the sense that the life and family of a woman must look a certain way for her to be “okay.”
The world and feminism has its own message. You can have it all and do it all. A woman can have a family, a career, be fit and find happiness all at once. And if a woman chooses to do otherwise, something must be wrong with her.
These mixed messages leave women scrambling to work overtime to orchestrate their lives to appear to be a certain way. The result is women who do not feel like they measure up and begin to look at their own lives, questioning their femininity simply because they don’t look like everyone else.
[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]Letting go of the fairy tale and grasping God’s tale means that He knows what He is doing in your life and you have to trust Him. [/pullquote] I must admit, while I have come to accept that biological and even adopted children are not part of God’s plan for my life and our family, I have struggled with feeling like a lesser woman because of that loss. I have felt the eyes of pity and have even asked God what I did wrong. But, at the end of the day, I realize my life is exactly where God intended it to be and my life is rich with more than a quiver full of spiritual daughters.
Letting go of the fairy tale and grasping God’s tale means that He knows what He is doing in your life and you have to trust Him. He has you where you are for a purpose, even if you are not quite sure what that purpose is for today. Your responsibility is to live the life God has called you to live, in the way He has called you to live it, and leave what it looks like to Him.
It’s not about confinement but about freedom.
Feminism has convinced women that any limit of choice or opportunity leads to confinement or even oppression. The God ordained and God created roles for men and women are not about confinement or oppression but about the freedom to be all that God intended.
The roles God designed for women are for our safety, benefit, and freedom. They are not about oppression.
A loving parent provides boundaries, guidelines and direction for her child, not in order to oppress or hold the child back, but to provide safety and the best opportunity to grow into the young man or woman that child was intended to be. This is exactly what God has done for us, His daughters, when He set clear boundaries for us.
Do I have to like all the boundaries in place? Not necessarily. I do need to trust that God has my best and trust that it just works better if I live my life as close to the model God gave in Scripture.
In day to day life this means that we work to affirm the leadership of our husbands and not usurp that authority. We work to submit our strong-wills to God while developing a “gentle and quiet” spirit. It means that when scripture gives a command or direction that we don’t rationalize it away.
It’s not about submission to all men but to one man.
Have you noticed that the definition of modesty has changed? Honestly, there is just too much skin being shown. It is my soapbox. I have even developed a saying, “No shadows or cracks in the front or the back!” The reality is, however, that the modesty issue is a symptom of a greater problem.
Is the lack of modesty reflecting that the world today, impacted by feminism, is teaching women to be submissive to all men? Is the lack of modesty giving men what women perceive they want in order to be acceptable? Is the lack of modesty one more way to manipulate men? Is it, in reality, pushing women to submit to all men?
Scripture commands wives are to submit to their own husbands. Women are not commanded to submit to all men.
It is clear that women are to submit to and respect their own husbands. I know, it is that dreaded “s” word . . . submission. But, the biblical concept of submission is not a forced subordination but when one willingly places oneself under the leadership of another.
I married when I was twenty-six. Before then, I had been on my own for quite some time. I was raised to be a strong, resourceful, independent, woman. I just could never imagine what submitting to a husband would look like. Over my twenty-years of marriage it has been and continues to be a daily lesson of letting my husband lead. It means holding my tongue when I want to be critical. It means consciously deferring to him and seeking his wisdom and advice. It is showing him respect. It is even recognizing when I don’t think he may be “leading right,” I still have the responsibility to submit to his leadership.
It’s not about what I can do but about what I should do.
In the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun there is a duet with one male singer and one female singer attempting to outdo each other in increasingly complex tasks. The memorable lyric of the song is, “Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.”
This could almost be the national anthem of feminism and the worldview of women today. The message is being so tightly woven in the fabric of our culture today that women will almost gasp with indignation if someone suggests that a woman “can’t do that.” The issue is not whether a woman CAN do certain things but whether a woman SHOULD do certain things.
Women may be capable doing something and, in some circumstances, even do it better, but that doesn’t mean they should.
As a woman in ministry, I face these issues often. What should a woman do in a church and what should she not. I teach women who have the gift of communication and they are very good at being able to open God’s word and clearly teach the truths that are there. Do they have the ability to teach the Bible to men and women? Yes. Should they teach the Bible to men and women? No. Scripture is clear that women are not to teach or have authority over men. The question then becomes not can I use my gifts, talents and abilities but how should they best be used?
A wife in a marriage should ask herself the same question. I can do this, but should I? God in His wisdom has given me a husband that is a little easier going and laid back. He is wiser than I am but he also takes a little more time to process situations than I do. I have more “book smarts” but am at times lacking on the wisdom side. I am an administrator at heart and a quick decision maker. When my husband and I are faced with a decision, I at times want to jump to the solution quickly. I can do that but should I? Wouldn’t it be better to give my husband the time he needs and let him take the lead? It is not whether I can but whether I should.
It’s not about the fairy tale but about God’s tale.
As little girls we all have dreamed of fairy tales and placed ourselves in the role of princess with her Prince Charming. Maybe you are still dreaming of a fairy tale and you are a damsel in distress waiting for the hero to run in and save you.
Fairy tales are fun but seldom come true. Life is still full of dragons and villains. There are some Prince Charmings in this world and heroes do swoop in to save damsels in distress. But, only if it is part of God’s tale for your life.
Real life begins when you embrace God’s tale for your life.
I am an incurable dreamer. I don’t think I will stop being one. Now, though, I dream of the future God has for me. I look at my past and see God’s hand every step of the way. And for today, I will walk the path He has for me . . . no one else’s . . . and I will strive to take each step in the manner He demands.
It’s okay to dream. Are you dreaming fairy tale dreams or God’s tale dreams?
A wife and published author, Terri Stovall serves as the Dean of Women’s Programs and Associate Professor of Women’s Ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Her book, ‘Women Leading Women,’ outlines a biblical paradigm for women’s ministry in the local church. Photo credit: Mia Coelho Photography | www.miacoelho.com.