I am learning that we as women are the representation of God’s "feminine" qualities to the world…a revelation of God’s "mercy, mystery, beauty, and His desire for intimate relationship." Perhaps we want to be desired so badly because God Himself wants us to desire Him. As much as He pursues us, He wants a response from us. It’s amazing to me that Christ fills both the masculine and feminine roles, and that is why it was "very good" when he fulfilled creation by designing both man and woman.
But as soon as we enter this world, we begin to be attacked by the arrows of life, our sin rears its ugly head (thanks, Eve), and what we were truly made to be gets shifted around, fought against, wrongly translated and abused. And so we end up with each of our individual stories, with some adventurous chapters and some chapters we’d rather just tear out of the book altogether. What I'm realizing though, is that underneath the details, our stories as women are really all the same. The friend I am doing this study with - well, we couldn’t be more different. Our answers for practically every question in the book so far have been opposite, yet we "get" each other. At the core of it, we are doing this study for the same reason. To recapture - or perhaps capture for the first time - who we are as women.
In Chapter 1, I loved the story of John & Stasi canoeing at Oxbow Bend and the picture of beauty as Stasi helped canoe her family to safety. Even in a moment when she was using all her strength, she was uniquely feminine. It reminded me that the picture of a "godly woman" that I grew up with - the perfectly coiffed, manicured lady with creased slacks always working in the church kitchen - isn't necessarily what a Godly woman has to be. In Stasi's example, she fulfilled her uniquely feminine role, and John fulfilled his uniquely masculine one, but they worked together as a team. Love that. The fact that Steven and I are a team is probably my favorite thing about our marriage.
I look at this favorite photo of me with my dad at Virginia Beach, circa 1983. 5 years old. Little did I know about beauty; I was just free to be a little girl. I loved my daddy, and I especially loved being at the beach with him. He made me feel special and like a little lady. Today, when I look at it daily (since it's in our bathroom), I'm reminded of what I want to keep about myself. I mean, my hands can barely fit around his waist but I'm hugging tight. I want to embrace life like that. I want to embrace my Heavenly Father like that.
"Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough. But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy. The result is shame, the universal companion of women." (p. 7)
Yet, somewhere along the way from 5 years old to 29 years old today, I've experienced that shame. Because now when I look at this photograph, with all the good things, I also notice that my thighs have always been quite thick! It makes me want to barf to admit a thought so ridiculous, but it's true. Not just appearance-wise, but somehow between age 5 and now, I've let the world (and the church!) dictate who I should be. Gag.
"Aware of our deep failings, we pour contempt on our own hearts for wanting more. Oh, we long for intimacy and for adventure; we long to be the Beauty of some great story. But the desires set deep in our hearts seem like a luxury, granted only to those women who get their acts together. The message to the rest of us – whether from a driven culture or a driven church – is try harder." (p. 7)
In the workbook, the question is then posed, "Do you resonate with that? Do you ever feel that way? How have you – how are you now – 'trying harder'"?
My answer: "Sometimes I feel there’s not a big place in the world for introverts like me. So I try harder to be something I’m not and I just end up totally drained. It’s such a lie that you have to be a bubbly personality to fit into the Kingdom of God."
I've been thinking a lot about this - my unique personality and how it fits into things. Sometimes I wish I were like those charismatic young women in the church, leading the youth group in skits and cheers and trust falls. Somehow, I was always the girl in the back, dreading my turn. The thing is, one-on-one with people, or in small groups, that's when my true self was free to shine. I can more easily embrace this fact now, but honestly, it's not frequently celebrated.
What do you ladies think? How do you distinguish between what the "church" says we should be, and what God says we are?
Now, let's talk about this whole "adventure" thing.
"A woman is a warrior too. But she is meant to be a warrior in a uniquely feminine way. Sometime before the sorrows of life did their best to kill it in us, most young women wanted to be a part of something grand, something important." (p. 11)
Ideally, yes, I do want to go an adventure. I love that idea. When I think of adventure, I think of hiking from village to village in the Cinque Terre in Italy...or driving through the European countryside stopping whenever I want to take photos of flowers in all their raw, unspoiled beauty, or hiking an unexplored trail in New Mexico with my husband. I think of being accompanied by one special person, or a few people I love. I do want to be a part of a shared adventure.
But how the heck do I embark on adventure here in Dallas, TX? Yes, you can go with the whole cliché, "Life itself is an adventure!" But really? With little money, little freedom to leave Dallas right now, and many of my closest friends so far away, how do I find this adventure?
Probably one of my favorite parts of the entire chapter was at the very end - last paragraph.
We are being invited into "a journey toward the restoration and release of the woman you always longed to be… It’s about discovering who you already are as a woman." (p. 19) We're not re-creating the wheel, here. "Restoration" and "release" imply that it’s already in here. Somewhere deep down, there is a confident woman waiting to (re)surface. Thank God.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ANGE! Happy 30th, my friend. Here's an oldie but goodie for you :).
All excerpts from Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John & Stasi Eldredge.