“That’s not what a good woman does”. Joy Williams’ haunting words have led me to contemplate my voice. Recently, attention has allocated regarding the topic of women’s roles within the Church, a conversation that should always encompass myriad viewpoints and be ventured with discretion. The following is a conviction that has surfaced within my own heart that I thought I might share. While a “Proverbs 31” woman has been the quintessential model for Christian women throughout time, it saddens me to know that many women quite literally understand a Godly woman to be a perfect woman. An inaccuracy that often leads to our hearts demise. Further, a fault that translates into the ways we as women view ourselves as well as our relationship with Christ.
We have become consumed with harnessing these feminine virtues to the extent where we lose the Reason for these virtues. We search for His love in a multitude of ways. Whether our seeming effectiveness in staying busy because a “good woman” arises while it is still night 15, or our laundry lists for the day that hijacks the majority of our devotion because a “good woman” provides for her family 17, or the self-invoked anxiety that accumulates after years and years of stifling the truth because a “good woman” has no fear 21. Were we to ever reveal that truth, we would be “too much”.
There is an unspoken misunderstanding that women must hide these “overly sensitive” facets of their hearts, which has convoluted the way we as women present ourselves to others and to God. We have led self-tormented lives. Lives where we choose our words carefully, where we have crafted and repainted our outward personality so that others will not see our brokenness…. Civil war in our hearts between who we want to become and who we want to leave behind. Contrasting sentiments: to speak or not to speak, to cry or not to cry, to feel or not to feel… have further led us to quiet ourselves. We have betrayed ourselves, constructing lies that will keep our hearts “safe”, or so it seems… What we deem to be “safe” morphs into our own retreat. Instead of the strong feminine women we were meant to be, we safeguard our life in a way where we try to escape life’s trials and avoid obstacles. After all, a good God couldn’t possibly desire for us to hurt? We become timid, meek, afraid to laugh too loud, afraid to relax, afraid to fall in love; because the minute we let those walls down, our heart is vulnerable. Vulnerable to the trials of life that so ravenously tear at our will.
Our honest thoughts and desires are held hostage, and our voice is stifled.
One line in Joy’s composition especially struck a chord with me: “that’s not what a good woman does”…. While this song elicits deeper understanding surrounding the split of the Civil Wars, Joy poignantly details how she has concealed her emotions and quieted herself in the face of betrayal. Her song begs the question: What does it truly mean to be a “good woman”? Within my own life, I have known what it has meant to lose my voice. Throughout highschool I was ridiculed for my faith which had left me hesitant to voice my true thoughts. I understood that in order to be accepted, I needed to stick to the status quo; I needed to blend in. Speeches and conversations were crafted in a way where I didn’t have to reveal myself…. fortunately I became a great listener! But still, I desired to be known by my peers for who I really was, Christ’s disciple.
Similarly, after a serious relationship in highschool crumbled, I had felt betrayed and cheated of time. My partner’s unfaithfulness had stripped me of my value and I had lost a best friend. Even worse, I couldn’t voice to those closest, the reason for our split. I had cared for him too much, and could never speak ill of him, no matter how much I resented all the wrong. I have known what it has meant to stifle words that should have been spoken. I have known what it has meant to shut out every feeling, every ounce of anger, regret, resentment, disgust, and remorse for fear of embarrassment. To put on a front that I have it all together, that I am strong…all the while my heart is torn in two. We as women have deceived ourselves. We’ve bought into the lie; that we can’t hurt or express anger, resentment, fear, failure. That we aren’t allowed to show or even feel weakness. We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that our worth is found in outward appearances, in the approval and affection of others, and the amount of love that we receive from earthly relationships.
We’ve taken for granted a Love so pure and effortless, and have searched in vain for satisfaction when it has been at arm’s length throughout time. We as women have deceived ourselves. We’ve defined ourselves in terms of our relationships with others. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, friends and so we carry ourselves as society teaches us is appropriate for these designated roles. And if you find that you don’t fit into any of these roles, you are broken…. When in reality, the only way that we must define ourselves is as His Beloved.
This is not to say that we must voice every thought that comes to mind (if that were the case, we would all be mad!). God desires us to carry ourselves in a way pleasing to Him which point blank means not lying to ourselves, not hiding who we are or what we are feeling.
As a speaker for a Pepperdine worship event put it: to share what your heart is really feeling is the only way to truly effect someone else. Honesty and disclosure lead to growth in both your own heart and those you are in community with.
Throughout my time at Pepperdine, I have found my voice again. It was only when I sought His Love with all that I had, did I find it. There is no “good woman” in the sense of earthly determination and a “good woman” is certainly not fabricated by any striving or effortful action. We as women are “good” simply because He has declared we are good, in fact very good! (Gen. 1:31).
We need not chase after His love for capture; for His love has already captured us. And once we let His love take hold of every ounce of our heart, then we will truly know freedom. Once we know freedom, we find our voice.