“Will you be marching today?” The abrupt question from my well-meaning friend stunned me. It was January 21st, the day so many women were taking a stand for what they thought was important to being a woman. My friend knew that I have a heart for trafficked victims and wanted to know if I was standing up for them by marching that day.
Standing in the winter air, phone to ear and poised to answer her question, I thought about femininity as defined by our culture. That was January, and it’s little wonder that as the calendar pages have turned, I’ve had opportunity to see other definitions of womanhood from varying sources. In early spring, I worked with the author of an Esther musical based on the Biblical narrative and through the production, saw with fresh eyes another stand taken by a woman. Then, as spring developed into summer, I saw the cinematic production of Wonder Woman. With her clear, determined eyes filling the screen as she relentlessly pursued her mission in spite of the battle around her, I pondered anew this idea of womanhood. What is it? What should it be? And as a woman, what should I stand for (what march should I participate in)?
The movie Wonder Woman showed a strong, capable woman who had a defined purpose for her life—to defeat the god of war. She let little get in the way of her purpose, leaving her idyllic home and family, giving up personal safety and comforts, for the sake of rescuing others. She was naive to many of the evils around her, yet with each encounter of sinful humanity, took the lesson it afforded and let it propel her forward rather than succumbing to the weight of the pain of stripped ideals. Wonder Woman allowed a man to accompany her on her journey but reinforced to him that she was not dependent on him for anything: whether through her words on their initial boat ride, through her actions of repeatedly ignoring his insight, or through flat-out besting him with her combat skills. I found myself drawn to her autonomy—being single myself, I liked that she was able to excel on her own.
But my point in this undertaking of understanding womanhood isn’t to find what makes me feel good, but to pursue the truth. So let’s look at Esther from the fresh vantage point of the musical adaptation. Here too, I find a woman who leaves home and family, but her purpose isn’t as clear at the beginning as Wonder Woman’s was. Instead, the song Esther sings with Mordecai gives a glimpse of the raw humanity in her acceptance of going to the palace. As she trades her Jewish name, Hadesseh, for the Persian name of Esther, she asks, “Who is this girl? I’ve never met her. You call her, Esther. And how can I learn—when I don’t know her—how to be her?” Esther too, exchanges naivety for reality as she experiences life in the palace, but it doesn’t diminish who she is or effect the choices she makes. And as time passes, when her purpose becomes clear, we see another example of a resolute woman, ready to take a stand for what she believes in. As the Bible records, Esther risks her life again by heeding the wisdom of Mordecai to go before the king in order to plead for the life of her people.
So how do these portrayals of two women—one fictional, one biographical—stand up to what Scripture says about womanhood? For that answer, I’d like to look at Titus 2:1-5,10. “Teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”
In this passage, the older women are commanded to teach and train those who are younger than they. Just like the examples of Wonder Woman and Esther, we are to take our life experiences and use them to the benefit of others. I don’t know what you may have been through, but chances are, life isn’t as rosy as it seemed when you were younger. You may have encountered many evil circumstances that have robbed you of your innocence, but please don’t let Satan rob you of your purpose. Take the knowledge that you have about marriage, children, homemaking, and character-building and train the next generation.
The next principle of womanhood I see is here is the beauty of shared relationships. Women intentionally interacting with other women: whether you are young and are being teachable through the influence of an older, godly woman, or whether you are living your life to set an example to those who are following after you in the faith. Also, notice that men are addressed in this passage and that the older women are to behave likewise. So unlike Wonder Woman’s subtle behavior of not needing a man, follow the example of Esther instead, who humbly listened to the wisdom of those around her and submitted to the authority of those over her.
Finally, live into the purpose of adorning the doctrine of God our Savior. I like how Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth explains that when she says, “You see, God has placed us here on earth as ambassadors of the gospel of Christ. Our calling as His followers is to make His love and His truth visible and believable—and beautiful—to skeptical observers.”
The march earlier this year in Washington was not in pursuit of the gospel. Nor did it promote beauty or truth. And as I told my friend on the phone, I couldn’t stand up for that portrayal of womanhood. Instead, I want to relentlessly run, walk, and stand as a woman who would use her gender, her strength, her humility to promote Jesus. That’s our calling—to display the gospel through word and action and to be so passionate in our pursuit that we would be willing to leave comforts of family, of home’s security, and even to risk our lives for the sake of the One who gave us everything.
The main thing I want you to know about me is I want to have more to do with Jesus in every area of my life. He—the Word made flesh— is my first and greatest obsession. Reading and gaining understanding in His word is a close second.
Outside of that, I have an obsession with words that once resulted in my being grounded for reading too much. As I got older, this obsession served me well as I worked for many years at a bookstore and as a literature and grammar instructor. Currently, as a graphic designer by day, my love of language and words goes by the fancy name of typography.
Oddly enough, when I began writing novels and blog posts, this love of words failed me. I’ve just published my second novel in a trilogy about Noah, and during the process of writing, I’d find myself staring at the paragraphs that needed to be there and couldn’t find adequate words to express what I wanted to convey. After contemplating pounding my head against the wall, I regrouped and pounded fingertips to the keyboard instead. With each attempt, it got easier. Although I still have days where I struggle to find the right turn of phrase, I love the times when my fingers can’t keep up with the ready stream of words.
Lastly, I have an obsession for getting the word out about the evils of human trafficking. I love volunteering for several ministries dedicated to rescuing young girls from modern-day slavery. Whether I get to design a piece that helps to fundraise or to create awareness, I want to do whatever I can to help.
Thanks for reading!