When I was seventeen I sat in a crowded auditorium full of teenagers and listened to a well known preacher (at the time) speak on love, sex, and marriage. Surely he made some good points, but the one that still, to this day, sticks with me is the don't gain weight so you'll still be attractive to your husband rule. No joke - this man bragged that his wife weighed within ten pounds of what she did when they were married 20 years earlier...and that's what he really appreciated. Because, you know, if you're just as pretty as you were when he chose you then he won't have to look elsewhere.
I remember feeling indicted somehow. Scared even. What will happen to me, I wondered, if I can't do that? And deep inside...really deep....I just knew there was something else. This was Christian womanhood? Watching the scale to make sure you didn't gain more than ten pounds during your lifetime?
Now, as an adult woman, I look back at that and cringe. And then I think of all the sermons and classes I've taken - the same lessons that young men have learned - about what a Godly Woman is. Most of them are about service. They are about how to serve our families, our churches, communities, and therefore God. They are about the parameters of service, the whys and wherefores of our service.
And while young men are off learning how to lead a prayer or give a lesson, young women are learning that being pretty matters and you should really learn how to cook.
So we're teaching young Christian men how to lead a church service, but not their homes and families. And we're reinforcing for young women that love is about their weight and their talent with a crock-pot. This isn't a Godly message. It's one that reinforces what the world has to say about womanhood. It's one that leaves the young mother wondering if she's done enough when there's still dirty dishes in the sink, or if she's given enough to her family and the elderly and the homeless and the church and that neighborhood dog...when she's exhausted and teary eyed at the end of the day. It's a message that leaves her feeling unloved and never good enough.
It is not ALL of the church, but it is enough of them to cause great confusion and hurt in our younger generations. In our teens - and in our young families. Because it is incredibly difficult to figure out how to implement the Bible knowledge into actual living when the messages are like the ones above. How do we instruct our young? How do older women mentor? How do men lead? And where is the heart of the matter? Because teaching women to serve is not a BAD message. It is simply insufficient.
Because the truth is this: my worth to God is not in my face or my crock-pot. I am saved by the Grace of God, and His Spirit dwells within my heart. His Spirit which takes all that I am - all that God made me - and uses it for good...for His Glory. But only if I hear Him. Only if I hear that whisper over the cacophony of noise that is the media, the world, and sometimes the church.
I search my heart for the answers. Because here I am, an adult with children of my own, and I struggle to shut out the bad and only listen to the good. Listen to Him. How do I teach a new generation of women about love, and loss, and struggle, and faith without making the same mistakes?
And who will help me? Because the church sometimes likes to skate on the surface of things. This world is a hard place. It is no easier or smoother because of our Faith. We should not fear talking about the hard things. Some topics are messy. Or scary. Some we like to think someone else will take care of.
But if we do not speak truth to our young people - if they do not see the heart of God in what we tell them - then we have failed them.
"Oh, we know the expectations that have been laid upon us by our families, our churches, and our cultures. There are reams of materials on what you ought to do to be a good woman. But that is not the same thing as knowing what the journey toward becoming a woman involves, or even what the goal really should be." Captivating, Stasi Eldredge