I am terrible at writing tests.
I used to end up softballing every question for fear of overwhelming my students so that everyone got an A. Then, I started making every question so difficult that almost no one could get an A.
I’m probably not good at writing them because I hate taking them.
But, as a Christian woman trying to glorify God in my femininity, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m still being tested every day. And, softball question or impossible trick question, I often end up feeling like I’m failing.
Two Types Of Tests
I’ve noticed two types of biblical womanhood tests in my own life:
- I judged my faithfulness as a Christian woman by the degree to which I was feeling happy, rewarded, or flourishing.
- I judged my faithfulness as a Christian woman by the degree to which I was feeling shame.
There have been varying degrees and shades within those two categories, of course. But those two categories have informed my views on womanhood more than anything else.
It Makes Me Happy
Life would be so much easier if I only had to do the things that made me feel good. It would feel lovely if my satisfaction were the barometer for God’s glorification in my life and not the other way around.
But what makes one woman feel happy and at ease might make another woman feel angsty and unsettled. For instance, one mother might say, “I think every mom should have a 9-5 because it fulfills me.” Another might say, “Every woman should be a stay at home mom because there is no job more fulfilling.”
What if you’re like me and spend some days at work and some days at home? Your feelings of satisfaction may fluctuate throughout the week. Maybe Monday was a really hard day of potty-training, so I’m excited to go to work on Tuesday and get a little break. But then I miss my baby while I’m teaching, so maybe God is telling me that I’m not supposed to ever leave him because being with him makes me happiest.
Never do anything that doesn’t feel right. Model your ideas of biblical womanhood after your own strengths and weaknesses. Lean into that stagnation, homegirl: spiritual formation is overrated.
It Hurts So Good
The Bible tells us the heart is deceitful, right? So maybe the test we need to take isn’t about what makes us happy, but what makes us sad.
Or, more to the point, what makes us ashamed.
This test says, “This interpretation of womanhood makes me feel really uncomfortable or judged. I bet that must just be my flesh dying.”
If it makes a single woman feel like her singleness is her fault? It’s probably right, and she’s only upset because it’s hard to hear.
If it makes a drowning mother feel like she’s not doing enough? It’s probably right, and she’s just trying to take the broad road instead of the narrow one.
If it makes a capable woman feel like she needs to hack off her personality at the knees so that the men around her aren’t offended, and that offends her? Well, good: truth hurts.
Questions about any of the above are just the serpent whispering in your ear and asking did God really say? The devil wants you to feel good so that you erect idols, right? And the opposite of feeling good is feeling ashamed and hating yourself, yes? So dig into that darkness, girlfriend: you must be doing it right.
It Makes Me Holy
Both of these litmus tests are lacking, though. We can’t define our sense of worth by our happiness, or we’ll never want to do anything hard. We can’t define our sense of well-being by our sense of shame, or we’ll never get past self-flagellation long enough to delight in the Lord.
Perhaps the measure of our godly womanhood isn’t the ease in our season or the hardship, but, rather, the holiness it’s bringing about in our lives (Romans 12:1-2). And while I would love to give you ten easy questions to assess that holiness, it’s something that’s measured by the fruit we bear in community (Luke 6:43-44), not by our current emotional state or a rigid rulebook.
I’m consistently convicted by how tempting it is to dilute the entire Christian walk of half of humanity (womankind) into these little tests. Yes, the Spirit is at work in our lives, transforming us to the image of Jesus Christ Himself, but, by all means, let’s fixate on ten easy ways to tell if you’re a closet feminist (and then let’s argue about whether being a closest feminist is good or bad).
What Makes God Happy?
The decisions we make every day as women are important. It matters how I run my home and care for my children, that I’m faithful at my job, that I submit to my husband and the godly authorities laid forth in Scripture. But those things matter far too much to be decided by my own inclinations or my shame. We serve a God who asks us to do hard things (Matthew 10:38) and we serve a God who calls us to joy and peace, not shame and navel-gazing (Philippians 4:4-8).
I’m not saying it’s impossible to sin in your ideas about biblical womanhood. It absolutely is. But we have to be so careful not to draw extrabiblical lines to avoid sin or use our feelings to feel out sin… because that leads to… sin. We need to be informed by humbly diving into the Scriptures with the lens of the Holy Spirit.
It’s more work. It leads to more variation and freedom than we sometimes want to believe. It leads to more sacrifices than we’re comfortable making. But the road to holiness isn’t as easy as a multiple choice quiz I can write up for you.
And, goodness: aren’t you glad?
I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband. We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons. I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for Legacy about friendship. In it, I tried to be as honest as possible about the struggle of being a transplant in Mississippi’s foreign culture, and my own hang-ups with making new friends. I hit send. Weeks passed. A couple of months. Then the article went live. And I had more than one friend reach out to me and ask me if we were okay. “I thought we were friends!” Undercover Trust Issues I’m not a journaler, and I try not to use my articles as thinly veiled diary entries. However, there…