Welcome to a part one of a two part series dealing with masculinity and femininity. This post was written by my dear friend Mary Barba, and she hit it out of the park. Enjoy! – Tim Whitaker.
The air was buzzing with sound waves and our friends were all hysterically laughing. A large group of my friends and I were on a winter retreat and one of the weekend’s sessions had just ended. We all enjoyed each others cheerfulness and exuberance while talking, playing games, and relaxing in each other’s presence. While everyone was involved in their own thing, a good friend of mine caught me floating between various groups of people and said, out of the blue, “Oh hey Mary, how are you doing with that thing you told me about at Starbuck’s a little while ago?” I was thrown off, but nonetheless happy, that someone had remembered and cared about a short conversation from a month prior. I began to explain what had happened in the past month with the two situations I had mentioned, being open enough to show I was not fake and cold-shouldered, but not vulnerable enough to express what was actually in my heart.
Originally, I thought this would be just another casual discourse I could easily glide through. Because, let’s get real, as a woman fending for her heart in a world gladly willing to pummel women with rejection (sadly–Christians and non Christians alike at times), I have become skilled in sharing about my heart, but not actually opening it. As the conversation progressed, he, without knowing it, prodded into what I was going through to a depth I am not usually secure going to with men because of wounds from my childhood. He showed me over the next half hour with body language and eye contact that he was not afraid of me, but was there to help. He probed, listened, and gave two pieces of advice, and then… I completely broke down. Water was gushing out of my eyes, and my whole frame shook… literally. I know it seems sudden, it was, but I couldn’t even help myself. The advice, I believe, was God-inspired and spoke to my insecurities with reassurance that I should be me and no one else, that I should not be afraid of releasing who I truly am, that my family and friends want the real Mary Barba, that I am not too much, nor too little. I had nothing to say in response. He prayed for me, and as he did, he began to cry for me. He could barely speak. We both sobbed as he fought and prayed for me.
I went back to the room I was staying in that evening, locked myself in the bathroom for about an hour, and just cried my heart out to God. I was in shock and felt exposed before God. But, yet again in my life, I realized, with God present, the depth of how lonely I truly felt, even though I was on a weekend retreat with most of the people I dearly cherish in life.
I have realized that that conversation has nothing to do with who I was talking to that evening. In fact, when I think back to that evening, I only really think of how God and I connected that evening and how much he showed me he knew my heart and had been listening to me. I was nonetheless frightened at how quickly the Lord was able to touch a tender part of my heart that evening. The roots of why I could not contain myself after I had gotten that advice have made themselves evident:
Woman are wired with an unending hunger to be beautiful, positively impact others with beauty, and relate deeply with others.
I know, this is nothing new. I’m sure if you’re reading this post right now, you’ve been around long enough to realize the generationally consistent desire that women have to be and do what I just wrote above. I’ve realized this, too; however, I’ve recently read the book Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge, which is for women and about women. Below is a vital passage from the book that has made this truth about women hit home:
Think about it: God created you as a woman. ‘God created man in his own image…male and female he created them’ (Gen. 1:27). Whatever it means to bear God’s image, you do so as a woman. Female. That’s how and where you bear his image. Your feminine heart has been created with the greatest of all possible dignities–as a reflection of God’s own heart. You are a woman to your soul, to the very core of your being. And so the journey to discover what God meant when he crated woman in his image–when he created you as his woman–that journey begins with desire. The desires that God has placed into our hearts are clues as to who we really are and the role that we are meant to play. Many of us have come to despise our desires or at least try to bury them. They have become a source of pain or shame. We are embarrassed of them. But we don’t need to be. The desires of our heart bear a great glory because… they are precisely where we bear the image of God. We long for certain things because he does!” (8)
I’ve been questioning what about my feminine heart reflects God’s image as told in Genesis 1:27. After much questioning, researching, and pondering, I came to Revelations 4 and 5 <http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Rev&c=4&v=1&t=ESV#1> (This is the part where you go read those two chapters and then continue reading!).
God, even in light of all his immeasurably fierce brawn and B.A.-ness (see Psalm 18 <http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Psa&c=18&v=1&t=ESV#conc/17>), is absolutely, drop dead gorgeous. God has the appearance of jasper and carnelian (Jasper <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301531/jasper> & Carnelian <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/96329/carnelian>). A rainbow resembling emerald circumvallates his throne. Now, I don’t know what exactly that would look like, but all I know is that rainbows, emeralds, and thrones are all pretty amazing! God created elders clothed in pure white (not rags), adorned with golden crowns, to worship him. He also created unique and captivating creatures to worship him (see Rev. 4:6-8). They weren’t mundane little nothings, atypical of God’s creative nature. God is entrancing; he surrounds himself with such unmatchable beauty that John, the writer of Revelations, had to use similes to say what God is like… nothing can quite describe him! Prior to reading Captivating, I looked at this desire to be beautiful, entrancing, and undeniably inviting as something which originates in the minds and hearts of women themselves. Clearly I was wrong. Women desire to be beautiful, dress and adorn themselves with beautiful attire and/or objects, and, most importantly, express the essence of undiluted beauty, because God himself does. We reflect his desire to be beautiful and radiate beauty, not the other way around.
As we all know, this world many times offers beauty that is empty. Men: Instead of the appearance of beauty offering you the fullness of what it promises–rest, empathy, and empowerment, you are many times given a mere, unsubstantial appearance of it and not much more. That must be really hard for you to decipher between what is real and what is fake in regards to women. Women, instead of beauty that attracts all of those around you like a magnet, giving them hope for a better tomorrow and being an authentic and uncontaminated source of bliss, joy, and life, we strive to take the appearance of beauty in light of what we think others are looking for, because we feel like this “true beauty” could “certainly not be found in me,” leaving us feeling ashamedly alone, “maybe” pretty looking at imes, but “surely” not enough to be needed and hungered for by others (ohhhh how I know this feeling…).
What blows me away, though, is that God’s beauty is not just in appearance, but in a presence that immediately puts one’s mind and heart to rest. The beauty itself is a radically compassionate and soothing power. We must unbrainwash our brains. “Beauty” nowadays is so hard to find because we see the appearance of beauty, hoping that it has to offer what it should, but often returns void. God created women with a body fully unique from all other life forms that we know of thus far as a sign of the almost indescribable, inner expression of the intoxicating beauty that we have. I remember at one point while reading Captivating, I thought that maybe I had been the one “mutant” God had missed while busy creating everything else… that I somehow did not reflect that “beauty” he somehow instilled in women, because, common… it’s me. But then it hit me: I can not escape the fact that I was made in God’s image. I am not here to explain to you why I am convinced God is real (do feel free to ask me though), but I say what I say here based on the fact that I know that God is real: I can not erase nor alter the image of God reflected in me. I did make myself this way; he did. So, I AM a life-giving, life-altering, beauty no matter what anyone says of me.. INCLUDING MYSELF. Even as I type this, I find my mind being like, “What? Mary you don’t really believe that.” But what I’ve found is that sometimes I don’t feel like truth is truth, even when it is. Sometimes, I emotionally fall for the trick that “old truth, is not truth at all.” SO FALSE! Rationale and emotions don’t always mix how I would like them to. But the fact still stands, regardless of how I feel and act– We are beautiful and captivating, Ladies; it’s inevitable.
Women: When the desire to be unmatchably beautiful and deeply loved while also giving love seems overpowering and almost disabling (trust me, I know WELL how that is), remember that these desires were given to you; they are not inherently your own. So, feel free to talk to God about them openly; he’ll help you understand the desires more! Question him on it, thank him for what he’s done thus far, hold him to what he says. He’s not afraid of you :).
Men: When you see women who’s desires to be beautiful, to relate, and to be inspiring are coming out through their emotions (or even are being “emotional” to any extent), offer your incredible and awe-inspiring strength to them by being compassionate towards them, offering a hand either directly or indirectly, knowing these desires they have are from God. As fascinating and wonderful as these desires are, they can be immensely difficult to grapple. The emotions of God that he has shared with women can be so strong that they can feel crippling at times. You are being compassionate towards God when you do so, because he loves women.