I was another girl born into the middle of a heap of sisters. As I grew older, I worked hard to create an identity that was distinct from the collective name people used to refer to my sisters or me: “the Will girls”. That started a lifelong quest for independence and worth that was half learned, half innate. I learned from my mother, my personal experiences, and my surroundings. But this desire is also innately a part of who I am because I am sinful to the bone.
My mother is a tough woman with a big laugh who likes to keep to herself. For seventeen years I lived with her and saw that you don’t cry in front of anyone, that you can rarely depend on anyone but yourself, and that if you’re creative and you work hard you’ll do alright. I learned from other kids in school what gave a person value. These kids only hung out with those who got brand new clothes, and could put “lesser” people down over and over again without cringing. I identified with the songs and movies that talked about being strong and independent. And as I matured, I became increasingly aware of popular culture and what it said I should be like. Much of how it portrayed the ideal woman was seductive to me. The girls winning full ride scholarships to college were praised by professional women and their mothers. On the other hand, the model in the big Abercrombie & Fitch window at the mall weighed only as much as my eight year old daughter now weighs, and she always had a hot guy draped over her. I was taller and unfashionably curvier than those girls, and was disappointed to discover that even if I spent my hard earned money to buy a clearance shirt or a pair of socks there, hot guys didn’t trail after me out of the store like the perfume did.
So I learned to be independent because it is preferable to putting others down or being the one on the bottom. I observed that I would have more worth if I had some paper and a ceremony, proving to all the people I wanted to impress that I was certifiably smart. And I believed that I would have more worth if I had an Abercrombie guy proving to whomever “mattered” that I actually was beautiful. But my upbringing isn’t entirely responsible for the things I still struggle with admiring and pursuing. I suspect that my quest for independence and worth started even before I was born to my mother, went to school, and grew into adulthood.
Psalm 51 says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me….. I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.“
I was conceived in sin. Science can tell me that a sperm and an egg unite to form a zygote, and that goes on to develop into a fully formed human being, physically speaking. But God tells me that the essence of who I am has been tainted by sin from the moment I was conceived. I have an innate, pre-genetically ingrained craving to do and be something besides what I was created to do. From the womb! God is most glorified when I am joyfully fulfilling the purpose that He has established for me, and a big part of that purpose is growing into a “complete” woman, my specific identity in God’s kingdom.
But how do I grow into my womanhood, and teach my daughters to grow into theirs, in a world that is spewing out contradictory and ever-changing messages from every angle? Messages that often sound good to me. How do I do this when sin got woven into my DNA before I even had a brain capable of making choices? The only place to look is to my Creator. Why did He create me? What specific role does He have for me, as a woman?
Genesis 2: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable to him'”. Then He created Eve, and she was there to fill a void that Adam had. I was created to be a helper.
1 Corinthians 11: “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man”, and, “the woman is the glory of the man”. I was created for my husband, but he was not created for me, and I am his glory, he is not mine.
1 Timothy 2: “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety….” This is opposite from what popular culture says, which is to get noticed, whatever it takes. And, “A woman should learn quietness and full submission”. Quietness and full submission where I sometimes madly want to be noticed and in charge.
1 Peter 3: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…” True beauty is the kind that comes from the Holy Spirit’s work, not the work of my own hands.
1 Timothy 5: The church should give practical help in cases where a widow is “…well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds” Washing feet, bringing up children, and helping those in trouble are polar opposites to shattering glass ceilings and being wanted by attractive men.
Titus 2: “Train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” Self-controlled where my favorite country music singers say to let loose, and I find that appealing? Busy at home when I could be making a name for myself in the workplace? Kind, subject to my husband when my impulses say to look out for myself first and be subject to no one?
I could go on and on. Proverbs 31 and many other verses here and there describe a woman who nurtures her family well, supports her husband in what God has called him to do, works hard with her hands, and even extends them to the poor as being what God wants. And every single one of those verses go hard against what I was born and raised to think and behave like as a woman.
In fact, it is impossible for me to be that woman that God describes. I’m sinful through and through, and am bombarded and excused daily by my culture and my own personality and habits.
Hebrews 4 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” I used to think that God threw down these crazy high ideals then looked at us with scorn as we squirmed and stumbled our way through life. But He doesn’t. He provided a high priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses as a woman, gives mercy, and leads me to grace. I am learning to believe that what God says is true, then to act on that truth. Hebrews calls that “faith”. Hebrews 11 is a list of people who heard what God said, chose to believe it, acted on it, and for the most part died before receiving accolades or the thing God had promised them.
The more I get to know God, the more I see and experience how good He is. The more I experience Him, the more I love Him and want to do things the way He says is best, because I trust Him. Experiencing some of His goodness firsthand makes the expectations and wants of this world look like cheap candy—tempting when I’m hungry, but frustratingly unsatisfying when I partake. Only in reveling in and acting on God’s role for me, as His creation and His adopted daughter, will I be truly satisfied.
Julia Price, March 2014