I’m sewing crystals on lace, in strings that catch the light of the lamp above my head. Alternating tiny beads, larger glass diamonds, and the occasional pearl. It’s my daughter’s wedding dress, and it must be just right.
These lace-and-bead concoctions are the sleeves, a kind of Roaring Twenties look that suits her tiny frame. But the skirt? Full-blown princess. She wants to feel like a princess on her big day, and to her, that means a full gathered skirt with petticoats. Adding an Elsa-style glittery cape as a train, some rather boho-chic silk, and a ’20s headpiece will finish off this creation of love.
It may sound like an unfortunate mash-up that wouldn’t work on any runway. But no, it’s coming together quite beautifully as the unique creation it is. I’m fusing styles, because this girl cannot be pinned down to one, and her styles are as variable and blowsy-beautiful as my cottage garden outside.
She will be stunning on her wedding day.
Lately, when I’m not sewing, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and studying about the church, and it occurs to me that she is like this dress in my lap.
. . . .
To continue reading, please join me today at The Glorious Table, a coming together of beautiful writing around the feast that is God’s life for us.
In honor of the Olympics (and futbol), and the current blog series on Lies We Tell Girls, a rerun. One of my favorites.
The only thing that bothers me more than bad grammar is bad theology.
I heard it again, one more time, on Christian talk radio. “Guys can’t help how they feel. Girls don’t realize what boys feel physically when exposed to their bodies. They need to take responsibility to keep their brothers from stumbling.”
It’s time for this idea to die. It’s been around, healthy and strong, for too long. It’s dangerous. It’s demeaning to both genders. And—it’s unbiblical.
I could approach this psychologically, sociologically, or logically. But let’s go at the question with the criteria that should always come first—biblically.
Four things the Bible does not teach about modesty—and one it does.
The Bible does not teach that the body is shameful.
Four years ago, we spent an afternoon on a beach in Barcelona. Aware that parts of the beach were “clothing optional,” we opted for the first crescent, the one deemed “safe for the whole family.” We learned, quickly, that apparently tops are optional everywhere. So our first exposure to cultural norms in Spain was a bit of a shock.
But you know what? I didn’t see a single man on that beach assaulting a woman because she was topless and therefore he couldn’t help himself. What I saw were families and friends enjoying a day at the beach together, completely oblivious to one another’s state of not-dress.
Genesis says that the creation of humans was very good. God rejoiced in the forms he had created. Shame entering the world didn’t change that. In fact, the Bible tends to celebrate beautiful women and strong men—as well as strong women and beautiful men.
This isn’t to say that we don’t dishonor our bodies when we treat them shamefully. It’s to give a starting point from which to have the discussion. That start is, and must be, that God created the human body fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139). It is never to be shamed for its mere appearance.
The Bible does not teach that we can “blame the victim.”
I can’t find a single instance in the Bible where a sexual assault is implied to be the woman’s fault. Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), Tamar (2 Sam 13), Dinah (Gen 34)–all recorded as sins of the men involved, not women who “had it coming” by the way they behaved or dressed.
No one said Bathsheba should not have been bathing naked on her roof. No one admonished Tamar for going into her half-brother’s bedroom without forethought. No one blamed Dinah for wandering into an area where “foreign” men might harm her.
Scripture solidly places the responsibility where it belongs—on the perpetrator. They do not get a pass because the women involved were beautiful and they couldn’t help themselves, and the opportunity was right in front of them.
The Bible does not teach that we can blame others for our sin.
The New Testament follows suit, with Jesus warning that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5.28). Jesus doesn’t add, “unless she’s dressed revealingly” or “except when you feel like you can’t control yourself.” It is what it is—you choose to look with lust, you can’t blame the person you’re looking at. To imply otherwise is to strip from men the power to look away, to make a moral choice, to obediently honor others.
For no other sin do we offer this excuse. Try these alternatives. “Hey, you parked your brand new sports car in the driveway. You were just asking to have it stolen.” “The company leaves its books open for anyone to embezzle. I couldn’t help myself—I wanted money.”
No one would make such ridiculous statements. Yet that is exactly what we say when we tell girls, “Men can’t help how you make them feel when you dress immodestly.” No other sin we catalog gets a pass on personal responsibility. Only male lust. Yet we continue to perpetuate the lie that our girls have to cover up to save their brothers from themselves.
That is offensive to guys of good character and enabling to those of bad.
(And anyone who says girls can’t be just as visual hasn’t heard women watching the World Cup lately, trust me.)
We have more in common with fundamentalist Islam than with Jesus when we demand that women cover up so that men don’t sin. Jesus simply told the men—it’s in your power to look away. Do it. Honor what I created.
The Bible does not teach a dress code.
Yes, I would agree that the general message of Scripture is to cloth oneself with dignity. But those verses we always use as proof texts when preaching to girls? Let’s look at them again.
“Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Timothy 2.9).
“But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3.4).
In context, Paul and Peter are addressing the same thing, and it is not lack of coverage. It’s excess. Women who appear in church flaunting their wealth on their heads and necks. Ladies who felt the need to show everyone else how much they could afford to look good. The sin was pride—not immodestly.
The word “modestly” in these verses carries the meaning of “downcast eyes”–in other words, Paul is advocating humility and self-control. Funny, I hear plenty of teaching on how girls must cover themselves up to obey the Scripture, but I have yet to hear about how they should ditch the gold and pearls. Lots of folks want to expound on how tight a dress can be, but no one I’ve listened to recently has commented on the expensive designer label inside.
Yes, scripture warns against “playing the harlot.” It warns against seductive behavior. But this behavior is clearly one of attitude and intent, not dress. It is a warning for women who do try to use their sexual power to get what they want, certainly a valid warning for our day.
The terrible trend of our girls mimicking stage idols who sell their bodies for fame and profit has a host of consequences those idols don’t have to live with but our girls do. But the behavior described in Proverbs is that of words, looks, and actions, not of a woman walking down the street in a low cut shirt.
So what does the Bible teach about women’s dress?
The Bible teaches self (and mutual) respect.
Am I saying women should be free to wear (or not wear) whatever they wish? Rather, I’m saying women (and men) should be taught the truth about why they dress with care.
Girls should learn that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, amazing creations of God, costly purchases bought by Christ for His purposes. They should learn to respect and love their bodies as the image of God.
And so should men. The treatment should be equal and no different.
When a girl understands and believes this, truly? She will dress in a way that self-respects. It’s a natural reaction. It’s the reaction of loving obedience, not shame. It’s the reaction God wants from us all.
I took another one of those personality tests yesterday. One of the things it told me was that my personality type cannot abide drama. It’s true. If you need attention or you’ll die, I am not your best bet for longevity.
If I watched reality TV shows, I would be the crazy woman screaming “Get a life!”at every single contestant who ever whined about all her UNBEARABLE EMOTIONAL STRESS while choosing to put all the things on national TV.
A good listener when life is legit hard? I’m there for you. Someone to help you figure a way out of your hurt? I’m your girl. A shoulder to cry on when heartbreak is real, no matter how small? I’ve got two.
But little darlin, if you’re the reason for your own issues and you have no intention of owning it but want everyone else to hear? Sorry, going to voicemail.
What does this have to do with the current blog topic, the lies we tell girls?
Drama Is a Big Fat Lie
Because one of the lies we tell girls is that Emotions R Us. We are free, no encouraged, to be ruled by the way we feel because we are women, and women feel.
Feelings are good. Necessary. Vital in a world that too often connects what is expedient to what is right. Bringing empathy into the game and tempering practicality with compassion is a specialty we dare not live without.
But girls, we are not created to be drama queens. I don’t care if The Bachelor and all the Kardashians on the planet told you so. Here’s a shocker–they lied.
Drama Is Tempting
I know how hard it is. I failed at this as a parent. Spectacularly. I ranted and raved and assured my offspring that the world was colossally unfair when bad things happened to them. I blamed heaven and earth and everything in between. I pitched reality-TV-worthy fits when the other girls laughed at my kid’s outfit or the teacher didn’t believe she had turned in her paper.
I probably did similar things for myself before becoming a parent, but not on that scale. Something about giving birth turns mild-mannered women into roller derby queens in our heads. We are ready to rumble.
You know what? All that drama didn’t make the world fair. It only made it way more confusing.
Standing against the lie of women as emotional train wrecks means teaching girls what they can let go, forgive, and learn from. It means forgiving and letting go ourselves. Yes, even when Katie McKateface tells our darling she’s not cool enough to sit with her on the field trip.
Let’s be honest–most of the things we get annoyed and offended over don’t matter. The sharp word in that email. The comment on Facebook we didn’t agree with. The guy who cut us off in the grocery line or the outfit you can’t believe that girl is wearing. Minor stuff when stacked up against, say, world hunger.
Other things are tougher. The coach who treats your daughter unfairly. The other girl who refuses to let her sit at the lunch table. The play director who picked her daughter to be Orphan Annie while yours gets the hard knock life of child #5 in the chorus.
These are harder, because they stir up the crusader for truth and justice in all of us. But pause a minute. Are they really things we want to teach our girls are worth the fight? Do we want to instill in them the belief that personal drama is their female forte? Do we want to cheapen their purpose so much that we refuse to point them toward the things that they should be getting their battle armor on for?
Here’s the thing. If we don’t let these things go—if we get hung up on the small injustices and the personal slights? We’re teaching girls that these are the battles that matter. Our culture already tells them that their emotions have to rule them. The media they see every day informs them that getting caught up in drama is what girls are all about.
Is it? Or can we give them a different narrative?
Girls have power. Let them unleash it on what matters.
What Does Matter?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6.8)
Girls are capable of caring about so much more. They don’t have to dwell on drama. No matter how much their culture assures them that they must be driven by their emotions, they should give vent to everything they feel, and their feelings are to be unquestioned, we can tell them a different story.
Courageous girls fight for what matters, not what gets them mad. Courageous girls seek justice for those who can’t, not for whatever makes them feel life is unfair.
Courageous girls know their feelings are powerful, and so they reserve them for the holy things of justice, mercy, and humility.
Let’s teach our girls the good side of emotion. Let’s show them how to use their passions for hope and not harm.
It starts with hugging our babies a little tighter when the mean girls strike. Then resisting the urge to call their moms and raise hades. Looking our girl in the eye and telling her she has the love in Jesus to forgive. She has the identity in Jesus to know a chosen, beloved, carefully-created child can never be the awful thingsthe other girls say she is. She has the power in Jesus to go back and hold her head up.
She has the strength in Jesus to choose something important to put her energies toward –and to batter the gates of hell until she succeeds.
In about five short minutes, I have legally and theoretically raised three daughters into adulthood. As Gretchen Rubin says, “The days are long, but the years are short.” They were toddlers with adorably intractable curls just a heartbeat ago.
Raising girls is something dear to my heart, both because its been my job for twenty-five years and because women and their lot in this world make me passionate. Sometimes passionately excited, sometimes passionately furious, but passionate.
You may be a parent of girls or not. You may be a parent of boys, or not a parent at all. Maybe a teacher or a youth leader or an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or neighbor. In any case, you almost certainly have an influence on girls and the way they see themselves in the world, or on the boys who see them and the way they do.
Raising Courageous Girls
So this summer series is going to focus on girls—how can we equip girls who are ready for what it takes to be a Christian woman in a messed up world? What messages are we sending them, intentionally or otherwise? What do they need to know and believe? How are we helping or hurting?
But—men and parents of boys/men—hang in there, please. There is a question for you. How can we raise boys who rightly value women in their lives?
Because we all kind of know from recent news that if men aren’t on the bandwagon of respect, we’ve got trouble my friends, right here in River City. (Are you too young for that reference? I hope not. Everyone should have a working knowledge of Broadway musicals.) Men knowing starts with boys being taught.
Girls are told there are a lot of things they are supposed to be.
Be . . . whatever we think you need to be. “We” being TV, church, school, family, friends, Facebook, etc. With these messages in their heads, girls get their motivation mixed up. A lot.
They become the commodities we teach them they are. Trying to please whoever has the most currency in their lives, they become products, packaged for the consumer with the highest value bid.
If we want to unravel the lies we tell our girls, we have to start here. How have we lied to them about what they should be?
To unravel the lies, let’s go back to the original lie. The one told in the garden of Eden.
You are not enough the way you are. The way God made you is deficient. You need to grasp for something else. Anything else.
And so Eve grasped. Not because she was hungry for fruit. Because she was hungry for being more.
Women, being made in the image of God is so enough. It’s beyond comprehension enough. Yet still, we look around us for someone else to validate that we are being something more.
If we don’t even know what we’re supposed to be, how on earth should we expect someone else to? Why are we asking other people to validate who we are when we don’t have a clue? It’s like asking a stranger along the road directions for where we’re going and then having to admit we don’t really have a destination. Just give me directions—any directions.
And so the strangers create the persona they want us to be, and we conform, because we have never believed that the imago dei is enough.
As if we could ever be more than that.
What is the image of God?
It is to be a co-creator, an imaginative force for goodness in the world.
It is to crave relationship—to know we can be more together than alone.
It is to know good when we see it and name it so.
It is to be a creator of order and light and hope.
It is to reconcile. Constantly. Everything. We have one job.
That’s the first lie. The lie that we have to be more than we already are—the image of God. Sometimes the image is marred, sometimes hidden, sometimes covered in layers of junk we wish we had never accumulated. But it is there—it cannot be taken away. And it is enough. Let’s start there.
It’s summer, so it’s time to read more, right? Well, it’s school for me, so it’s time to read more anyway. You know what’s funny? I got together with all my classmates in June, and we talked about the thousands of pages we’re going to have to read before this doctorate program is over. And my response?
Hey, the best part of this program is that it gives me an excuse to READ! With no guilt at all about doing it in the middle of the day! I LOVE school!
OK, so maybe I’m a little odd. But I wasn’t the only one.
Mrs. Disciple’s linkup topic today is Books. What are your favorites? Ones you come back to time and again? (I think my copies of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Lord of the Rings with their missing covers are way beyond resale. AS IF.) What are you dying to read? I want to know.
I’m mostly a nonfiction girl, so that’s what you’ll find on my list. So to start the summer reading ball rolling, here is my random list of “bests” in books this year.
Best Book I’ve Read This Year
Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, Sarah Bessey
Did I read this this year? Or late last year? Not sure, but whatever.
I felt like she was singing my song. Circling around church, figuring out church, loving church, despite its serious flaws. I loved every bit of this. I love her honest journey and her heart hunger for real Jesus. This woman has a way with words I covet. Also, she is a serious Dr. Who and Anne of Green Gables devotee, as well as a theological nerd. So what’s not to love?
I’ve heard all these amazing things about Dallas Willard, and, here’s the confession—I’ve never read him. So when this book came up as an option for my discipling groups, I ordered it. Not very far, but I’m loving it. There is real digging here, not surface devotional fluff. I can’t wait to dive into it with my people.
Ahh—he had me when he opened with a detailed analysis of the Lewis and Clark expedition as it applies to church. It continues from there, teaching and encouraging church leaders to explore, blaze new paths, listen to their team, and never give up the quest. We leaders have a new world to navigate. We need to lead people into it with trust that God goes before us and a refusal to return to the comfortable past. I love this book. He gets it. It’s a brave new world out there. But it doesn’t have to be scary.
Book on My Shelf I Can’t Wait To Get To
Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme, David Kinneman and Gabe Lyons.
I have read and loved everything these guys have written. They are in my heartbeat zone—coming alongside the next generation, listening to them, and learning to do faith together in a new way. The subtitle says it all. God knows we need to show society a different Christian than they typically see hitting the news. It’s next on the list.
Yesterday I did something I’ve been hoping to do for a while. I drove to the airport to welcome “home” a new immigrant. The international terminal was more crowded, and more diverse, than Epcot Center in summer. In fact, one of my first thoughts was how many people from how many places looked so joyful to be here. For a visit, for forever, or coming home after a long trip—whatever—they all looked happy.
I’m pretty sure none looked happier than the couple I was with. We were welcoming a husband whose wife had been here for three years. Three years of waiting. Waiting for the face she loved and lost to an ocean of violence. Waiting for the touch to accompany the voice she heard not often enough. Waiting for the wheels of the refugee system to move to allow her husband the same privilege she had been granted. A new life in a new country, away from the terror of their daily existence. I’ve since researched their home country, and daily terror barely seems to cover it.
By the time he got off the plane, he was so tired, he cold barely manage the long-longed-for hug. By the time he boarded the plane many hours before, he had been so tired for so long. I cannot fathom the ability to keep standing, to keep fighting, and to keep hoping. But these people are experts at relentless hope.
It’s Independence Day. There is no better day to have just celebrated someone receiving his independence. He has so much to learn, so far to go. But he is free. He is fortunate.
These people are experts at relentless hope.
How long will it be, I wonder, before he understands the American news well enough to know that not everyone will welcome him with the smiles and handshakes we did? He likely already does. Refugees are a smart lot, and he is far too used to being violently unwelcome not to have analyzed the environment. It’s life and death where he has come from to read the feeling in the room before you enter. He is no fool, I’m sure, when it comes to knowing the current American ethos of fear and distrust of the different among us.
Yet he comes. For a new chance. For his wife. For freedom. And I am humbled to simply haul suitcases and turn a steering wheel. I am the one who knows nothing in this situation.
On this, of all days, let’s revisit the lines on that statue I have yet to see, but I know that my great great grandfather saw it once, from a ship in the harbor.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I know he couldn’t read those lines if he saw them. Yet he knew their intent.
We will take what others discard. We choose the exiles. We welcome the unwelcome.
It sounds beautiful. It sounds biblical. It sounds like Jesus.
While we argue about making America great again and wrestle with the desire to return to a time when America was “Christian,” we would do well to remember these very, very Christian words. We would do even better to remember how many of our relatives saw those words for the first time from a ship, in a foreign language, and wondered at the welcome they would receive.
Leadership has been a hot topic for me lately. I just spent two weeks in classes for my doctorate degree discussing this very thing—what makes a good leader? Who am I as a leader? So when Mrs. Disciple announced this week’s topic—Leadership—I had to jump in.
I want to honor those who have been leaders for me. The people who have shaped me into the person I am. Particularly, those who have made me into the person of faith I am. I pray there are people in your life like this. So here they are:
My first pastor. Where would I be without this man? He raised the daughter who led me to the Lord. His family welcomed me in and then displayed love for one another in ways I had not imagined. What was this craziness I had walked into? It was Jesus, of course.
Pastor Robertson taught me through his kind candor that being honest with people was the kindest and most just thing we can do.
Then he still let me sing in church and record music for their cable show, and it was probably completely awful, but he kindly did not tell me so and just let me keep trying to figure out how to be me in this brave new world of Christianity. Sometimes, honesty takes a back seat to encouragement. He had that balance mastered.
When I said I wanted to be a pastor, he took me to lunch, told me I couldn’t be ordained in that denomination, and then told me that I could be a missionary and do the exact same job. He said he knew it was hypocritical and he was sorry. I never forgot his willingness to admit that, yet love his church devotedly despite any flaws. It has served me well while trying to navigate a Church in general that has its share of horrible blemishes and scars but is still beloved by Him. I had gentle greatness in a first pastor, and it has led me well.
Gerry and Sharie Chappeau
My InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff members. I came to a very not Christian college wet behind the ears in my faith. I had no idea what I had done when I (figuratively) walked that aisle a year before. That place could have torn me apart. So could the shattered family life I had left at home. But these two didn’t let that happen.
They had unspeakable faith through tough circumstances. They put countless hours and tears into college students, who didn’t always return that devotion well. They modeled sacrifice and mission before it was the hot new relevant thing. They adopted and fostered kids before it was cool, in their tiny home in a not-great neighborhood. They were Jesus with skin on.
I wanted to be like them when I grew up. I hope I am.
My theology professor in seminary. A man who taught us the intricacies of eschatology and ecclesiology and soteriology but still made it clear that if you didn’t want to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, it wasn’t worth the money we spent on books.
He told us that “You are as holy as you want to be.” It stuck. Just one sentence, but I have never been able to escape its truth. We choose.
We bonded as practically the only two Arminians in the place. We went to his house for a Bible study that did not take any prisoners. He chose a life of giving, even as his own life wavered because of a badly needed heart transplant. I learned what it means to truly devote yourself to ministry from Bob, and to find your greatest joy in it.
The first pastor I was an associate to. No one would have looked at Ken as a leader. He was quiet, mild, thoughtful, and he led a tiny church in the city. In point of fact, no one would peg most of these people as great leaders. That’s the secret of greatness—it doesn’t have to show, it just has to do. And Ken did.
He released me to do whatever I was gifted to do. He encouraged me to follow my passions in ministry. He never once got defensive or jealous of the things that were “his” as pastor of the church but offered it all as my place to grow. He saw my gifts and called them out. Ken had the humility I aspire to. Is it oxymoronic to aspire to humility? I don’t care. He was my leader.
Is this weird? I don’t think so. We should always be willing to be led by the next generation. I have learned some of my best lesson from these three. They have been my best cheerleaders as I tackle new things in life.
I have seen older people who refuse to learn new things, who hide behind, “Oh I couldn’t do that,” or “What use is that to me?” I don’t ever want to be that person.I never want to be that person who refuses to listen to new thoughts or give way to new ideas. I want to always learn, and my kids both lead the way and encourage me.
My kids have taught me how to treat people who hold worldviews different than mine with compassion and interest. They’ve shown me how to jump in and take chances. They’ve encouraged me in being unapologetically feminist, in the best sense of the word. They keep me guessing, and they keep me thinking.
Plus, they’ve taught me how not to wear mom jeans. And other embarrassing clothing. For this, I am grateful.
There are a great bunch of other ideas about leadership in the link up. Visit them here–especially Kelly’s fun take on moms as leaders!