Sunday, January 9, 2011

Feminine Toughness

Because I think of this often, and am inspired to live it out by the example set for me by my own mother, who taught me much of what it means to be a true woman, I am reposting Feminine Toughness from the days of my Serendipitous Reveries as a teenage girl trying to discover life.
The quest for true femininity is difficult in a culture full of emasculate men and chauvinistic women, who hardly understand their gender, let alone that consequent role. There are a lot of characteristics Christian women strive for that are certainly important: modesty, gentleness, hospitality, submission, contentment, graciousness, &etc. But during a family meeting this evening something my father said struck me in a new way.

Our family discussion this evening led to the responsibility of older children to encourage, correct and especially to lead younger children by example. The respect and privileges that you naturally gain with age are also accompanied by responsibility. Taking up that responsibility, having the courage to lead, and the discipline to resist the temptations and allurements of the world takes what my dad referred to as toughness. And he was not just talking to his sons!

Think of Rahab, hiding those spies in the basket, while soldiers from the king demand she hand over the men they knew had come to her. I do not imagine she stood in her kitchen anxiously wringing her hands behind a dish towel, and biting her bottom lip while she lied to those men. I do not imagine that Abigail wasted time nervously fretting about how to approach David and his men when the Bible tells us “Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs…”. And somehow, I do not really believe that the Veggie Tale version of Ester accurately displays the young queen’s emotions, as if she was nervous and shaky, and terrified. Could a faltering woman put the kind of fear into Haman that we’re told she does in Ester 7:6 when just after revealing his plot Haman “was terrified before the king and the queen.” (emphasis added)

Boldness. Courage. Strength.

Totally, completely, entirely feminine toughness.

So here’s a news flash: Tough is not Angelina Jolie as Mrs. Smith (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), or Franky (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), it is not Kurtz’s African Mistress in Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, or Agent 99’s stubbornness. Tough is not found in enduring a 10-hour workday. You don’t need a gun, a sword, success, power, or even army greens to be tough. You don’t even need bulging biceps or thighs of steel. Toughness is not only physical.

Webster says it is: “demonstrating a strict and uncompromising attitude or approach.”

It’s a characteristic that every Christian needs. Even women.

Or perhaps, especially women, because we’re emotional, and fragile and need to be protected; because we are divinely deigned the weaker vessels; and because there is something in us that is more easily swayed in the midst of adversity of any kind. Because God created us feminine, beautiful, gentle, sweet, and lovely.

In so many ways toughness seems to be a contrast to what we would expect biblical femininity to be, but in so many more ways I think it beautifies true femininity.

Think for a moment of what would happen to our families, our churches, and our culture if we had truly beautiful women demonstrate a strong, yet gentle and uncompromising attitude toward godliness? What would happen to our families if we had godly, beautiful wives demonstrate an uncompromising approach to loving service? To not eating the bread of idleness? To contentment? What would happen to our churches if the young girls took an uncompromising approach to purity and modesty?

Toughness is not masculine. It’s not rough. It’s not dirty. Toughness is a firmness of mind, conviction and spirit that every Christian needs. Perhaps the apostle Paul is admonishing us to be a little tougher when he tells us in Ephesians 6 to stand firm.

We live in a postmodern world swayed by a relativistic philosophy that has caused even good Christians to lower their standards of godliness and Christian living. Perhaps we’ve not completely lost our sense of good and evil, but so many things have been lost in a hazy fog of “grey.” We’re no longer tough. We’re weak and flimsy, and easily swayed back and forth by every contemporary fad that catches our eye, or pulls our heart strings.

And where’s the beauty in that, I’d like to know? Dad hit it home with a brief touch on personal responsibility and Christian toughness. Girls, we can’t be truly feminine if we aren’t able to stand firm.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)

1 comment:

  1. Well said by a woman who exhibits the very "toughness" that she refers to!