Sometimes it’s hard to be woman. At least, where being woman is scorned.
When I was younger, I was as girly and feminine as every other little girl. I remember going to grandma’s house and wearing oversized sparkly dresses and necklaces, and walking around in high heels that were much too big for me and didn’t match. Back then, I would twirl in the grass on sun-filled days and catch frogs and kiss them and try to turn them into a prince. (They never did, by the way. Who knew?)
I was the only girl in 1st grade who wore dresses to school every day. I had notebooks filled with pictures I would draw of myself turning into a princess or my brave knight saving me from a pit of crocodiles (or … cows? …).
But one day that all changed.
I don’t remember when or how, really. But one day I just decided that being feminine was bad. It meant you were weak, and stupid. So I took on masculine ways. I refused to wear pink. Or sparkles. I pretended to hate love stories, and romantic movies. If anyone ever told me I was “becoming a nice young lady”, I was appalled and insulted. I became Miss Independent-No-I-Don’t-Need-Anyone’s-Help, thankyouverymuch. Strange how an 8-yr-old can come up with that, yes? I’m honestly not sure what happened. But whatever it was, it impacted me for years.
Things never changed until I was about 14. And it really hit me — hard. My perspective of femininity, of the world, of life … was so skewed. I bought into the feministic rants, the belief that I should be able to do whatever (and more than) a boy could do, and that femininity is something to be ashamed of. I did a lot of things that probably resulted in losing my woman card. (Yes, men, we have those too.)
What was I thinking?
And that marked a huge change in my life. All of a sudden I wanted to know how to cook, how to sew, how to weave. I began reading books and articles in praise of biblical femininity and grace. I started wearing skirts again — almost every day. I developed a love for all those Jane Austen movies, and Audrey Hepburn, and trying to mimic their elegance and poise. I let go of my pride and let young men come to my aide.
I think as women, we’ve been confused. We think we need to be someone we’re not. We’re told that feminine isn’t enough. We should be this or that. Suck it up. Tough it out. That we have to “man up” to be a better woman.
But we’ve clearly missed the point.
The beauty of being a woman is embracing womanhood’s design, with resilience and valor and strength while preserving the softness and vulnerability of a gentle and quiet spirit. To willingness and courage when God calls us to hard and holy things. To shine with the stunning beauty of Christ in every dimension of our day-to-day lives.
Being feminine is not weak. It is strength.
Oftentimes I sit next to sun-lit windows, reading books or sipping tea or listening to music to fill the empty spaces — and these are the moments I contemplate the great complexities of life.
You know one of the things I love about romance movies?
Gets me every time. The girl is just doing something not particularly special, or trying to be beautiful, but the guy is captivated nonetheless.
Have you ever met one of those people, who just had no idea how incredible and breathtaking they really are, and that just made them that much more beautiful? And usually it’s in those moments that are usually considered mundane, or seemingly insignificant, and they just look … beautiful? What’s more, this person is perfectly content with being unnoticed. And it makes you wonder why the world hasn’t shined its light upon them to highlight them in this moment. Being around them, watching them, soaking in their quiet presence of greatness, leaves you in a daze of wonderment and awe for a few seconds, and yet they have no idea they’re doing it. Is it because they are so confident in their being that they don’t need attention? It’s like part of what makes them beautiful is that they don’t need recognition, or even want recognition, they just simply are.
One of my favorite quotes is from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:
The anchor of the movie is really photographer Sean O’Connell’s scene where he tells Walter that, when there’s a moment he loves, he doesn’t take the picture. Sometimes the camera just gets in the way. It’s more important to live and breathe in the moment for yourself, without the distraction of the camera. He tells Walter that “beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”
It’s this scene that distills what the whole movie is about. This is “the quintessence of Life,” as Sean says to Walter — and it puts everything that Walter’s done into perspective. This is revealed at the very end, when he finally finds the missing negative, the incentive of this entire journey, and he doesn’t bother to look at it. It’s irrelevant. Walter has found the beauty of truly living life and it can’t be captured in a single frame.
I’m starting to think that beauty attracts attention, but the same beauty doesn’t seek it out. And yet, true beauty doesn’t stay hidden forever. Like the snow leopard, or Walter Mitty, or Mother Teresa, or many other beautiful souls. Good things don’t demand attention. Nor necessarily do they want to.
Could a beautiful life be, at least in part, one that doesn’t demand attention? Jesus seemed to think so. He warned of the dangers of doing things to be noticed, doing things to secure the praise of others, doing things for the attention it would garner. He pointed to the beauty of goodness done in secret, far from the greedy eyes of others, insulated even from our own voracious appetites for praise. Another thing that comes to mind is this verse:
“. . . He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.”
I think this verse is proof of the fact — or idea — that beautiful things don’t ask for attention. We are told Christ came as a humble servant to His people. He came in humility. Everything — His birth, His position, and even in His appearance. In some sense, He wasn’t seeking attention. He was truly beautiful. The attention came to Him, sought Him out. By outward appearance, He was average. But, really, He was anything but.
Also, look at 1 Peter:
“Let not your adornment be merely outward,
but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart
with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is very precious in the sight of God.“
This amazes me. Does this mean that part of beauty, in essence, encompasses humility? What we see in this quote is that the truly beautiful seek not fame or notoriety. They are content. They’re content in living their lives. Beautiful things don’t beg for attention, they draw attention because they’re beautiful. Does that make sense?
We live in a society where everyone wants to get noticed. Everything is broadcasted. When an event or a very simple moment is not captured on camera and documented on social media, it’s as if it didn’t happen at all. Beauty makes a booming entrance, with a pop and a BANG! It grabs attention. It struts down the aisle, forcing everyone to take notice. Our culture does a fabulous job of telling us that the ordinary is just not enough. And beauty is found in what sparkles, catches the eye at first sight — and some beauty certainly is! That isn’t to say things like the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas aren’t beautiful because they demand our attention. But let’s not forget that sometimes where the quiet things are … there’s beauty too? Yes? And oftentimes we live by the rule, “If you have it, flaunt it.” The more attraction you get, means the more beautiful you are, so do whatever it takes to get attention.
But what if I told you, that you don’t have to get attention to be beautiful. You already are. And I know it may seem at times that the things you do are small and unnoticed by others. But God notices them and they are not small to Him.
So maybe we should remember … the ordinary can be extraordinary if we let it, and we are all most beautiful, most attractive when we don’t try to be. We shouldn’t need anyone to notice our appearance, because God will and that is more than enough. Perhaps we should stop fretting about how we appear, and just enjoy life as it comes, and leave it up to that someone, somewhere, admiring us from afar, to find us in those few, fleeting moments of beauty.
(*update: read this post :) )
I had goals. For today, this week, this summer — I knew what I was going to do, and I was going to do it. People asked me, “So what are you going to do this summer?”, and I could easily list off several things. I was going to learn this and do that and read this and get that done. I was going to go on adventures, tackle big projects at home, become stronger and fitter.
But what I didn’t have on the list was … a fractured foot.
That put a skew in things.
And now my job is to sit around and do pretty much absolutely NOTHING. Nothing.
Yes, it could be worse, but I have so much to do I have this and that piling up everywhere that need to get done and I don’t have time to just do whatever and be a lazy bum and I need to accomplish enough things and climb mountains and perform miracles and actually do something with my life and I know I’m whining but please I just really, really, really need to get this stuff done and ….
But I’m slowly realizing, as hard as it is to admit, that maybe this is good for me. Maybe this is just God’s way of telling me to s l o w i t d o w n and just rest. I have a tendency to place my value and my worth in my usefulness, my accomplishments, how much I get done in a given day. I have a mental checklist where I *have* to get a certain number of things done in order to … be worth anything. Over the school year, I have gotten so caught up in the to-do lists, the daily grind, the pushing, the semester grades, the 2 a.m. studying, the getting everything done, I’m losing sight of what’s important: finding my rest and worth in Christ, not in my works. Not in what I can do, or how much I can do, or how hard I can push myself to the breaking point. He is my strength when I am weak. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t need anyone, or depend on another person at the cost of inconveniencing them. But I do. I do need someone. I do need people. And I need Christ.
I see now my mistake. And I need no longer to rely on my own strength. Because from where does my help come?