Jani: Hello, everyone. Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund and Heidi Howerton, although Heidi can’t be with me today. We miss her when she’s not here, and I can’t wait till the next time we can record together.
Finishing up our “Fearlessly Feminine” Series
We wanted to finish up our series on being Fearlessly Feminine today. And I’ve decided to do it by answering a question that one of you has sent in. By the way, thanks for sending in your questions. You’re always welcome to do that. We don’t get to everyone, but we do try. So thank you for doing that.
…WIth a Question (It’s a good one!)
I want to end this series, by helping us to rejoice in our calling from God as women—specifically as women. Here’s a question that one of you sent in.
“My question, Jani, has to do with godly womanhood. I often find that in Christian circles, godly womanhood is associated with marriage and raising children. As a single woman, I have been thinking about my need for a Christian view of biblical womanhood within the context of more than only marriage. What is unique about being a godly woman, rather than a godly man, even outside the context of marriage? What unique design and calling does God have for women?”
Oh, that’s such a good question! I know that many of you who listen are single, either you’re divorced or widowed or you’ve never married, and we do not want this podcast to only be for married women. God has a call for each one of us to be fearlessly feminine. We’ve talked about our faith and our fears. We’ve talked about facing the feminist agenda as we live missionally. Today, let’s center in on what is our call as women, whether we’re married or not.
God’s Unique Plan for a Woman
What is God’s plan for us? Why did he choose to make us women and not men?
Well, I want to tell you, I love being a woman. I’m so glad God gave me the privilege of being a woman. And I would like to offer a few descriptions of what a godly woman is, whether she’s married or not. And then at the end of this podcast, I want us to think very carefully about a verse from Proverbs 31.
The three words that come to my mind when I think about God’s unique plan for a woman are: helper, life-giver, and servant. Now let’s talk about those for just a minute.
1. As a “Helper”
From the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 2:18, we learn that God created woman as a helper. Adam needed a helper, others around you need your help. God could have given Adam another man to be his friend to walk and talk with him, to debate with him, to compete with him. But God didn’t. God created a woman. A helper “fit” for him. Adam didn’t need a fixer, he needed a helper.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I first came to think about that term, I resisted it a little bit. Helper feels almost like a slave. You know, “Oh I have to help them.” But don’t resist this. Helping is a very godlike quality. Think of Psalm 118:6-7,
“The Lord is on my side, on my side as my helper.”Psalm 118:6-7
Hmm. God is a helper.
Or Isaiah 41:13,
“Fear not. I am the one who helps you.”Isaiah 41:13
God calls himself a helper. You are very godlike when you help other people.
Another way we can look at this is from Psalm 144:12 where the psalmist says this,
“May our daughters be like corner pillars, cut for the structure of a palace.”Psalm 144:12
Now think about that. I don’t think the psalmist is referring to the “place” of the pillar (the corner) but rather the “purpose” of a corner pillar. Pillars uphold and support others. That takes strength and steadiness and stability. I want to be a pillar of help wherever I go.
2. As a “Life-Giver”
Another term that I like to think of when I think of our unique call to be in women, is that of a life-giver. Life-givers are gentle, and warm and receptive. Life-givers affirm others with tenderness and sensitivity. Life-givers nurture others. I believe that every woman, whether she’s single or married, has a unique ability to be a life-giver. We can all be maternal as we offer love and comfort to the young and vulnerable in our lives. Let’s be life-givers as women.
3. As a “Servant“
I also believe that God calls us as women to serve, to be his servants. Think of Mary the mother of Christ. She was unmarried when the angel Gabriel appeared to her, and the Bible says in Luke 1:29, that she was “greatly troubled” and she tried to discern what sort of greeting this was from the angel. Mary asks a valid question of the angel: “How can this be what you’re saying to me? How can I conceive since I am a virgin?”
But what I sense in Mary was a sweet openness to God’s plan for her. What is her response as she interacts with the angel of God?
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”Luke 1:38
Whether single or married, we can all respond that way to the Lord: “Behold, Lord, I am your servant. Be it done to me according to your word, not mine.” As women we are all called to serve.
Biblical femininity has no marital boundaries
You see, biblical femininity has no marital boundaries. Biblical womanhood is equally relevant for all women at all stages in our lives. We can help, we can be life-givers, and we can serve.
Suggestions To Help you Follow God’s Call as A Women
Let’s learn to rejoice in our call to be women of God. Let’s affirm our calling as his daughters. Let’s rejoice in our call as women.
How do we do this? Well, let me offer a couple of suggestions that I found helpful from my own life, my own experience over the last 70 years.
1. Match the Moment with Strength & Dignity
First of all, let’s try to match the moment in which we live with fearless femininity.
Illustration from Jani’s life: “Tested in the hard moments”
I know some of you have had bad days. Oh, I have. I remember one particularly very bad day. It started early in the morning as I was making french toast for the six of us for our breakfast. We were all getting ready for school and the kids were making their lunches. One of our children accidentally placed a fresh loaf of bread that was wrapped in its plastic wrapper on a hot burner of the stove while he was making sandwiches for lunch. Oh, soon the smell of burning plastic filled or downstairs. What a gooey, smoky mess.
And this bad day ended late at night after I had worked teaching school and fixed dinner and cleaned up, and help the kids with their homework and piano practicing, and also went to a middle school band concert, and exerted lots of elbow grease on that stovetop. Well, I had a load of laundry to put into the dryer. So I was down in our basement there in Libertyville, Illinois.
A couple of our kids were coming downstairs as well into the basement for some ping pong before bed. One of them brushed up against a huge glass container of apple juice, which I have to admit in one of my more brain-dead moments, I had put on the lower shelf next to the stairway coming down the basement. I looked up from my dryer to see the kids chasing the bouncing glass jug all the way down our wooden stairs. In almost dream like slow motion—can you see me?—I started running for it as well, but all to no avail. Before anyone could reach it that jar had crashed onto the cement floor, sending sticky apple juice and shattered glass in all directions.
At this point, I was more of a mess than the floor was.
I was not clothed with strength as Proverbs 31:25 says,
Strength and dignity are her clothing,Proverbs 31:25
and she laughs at the time to come.
Boy, that wasn’t me. I wasn’t clothed with strength. I certainly was not clothed with dignity. And I definitely was not laughing. I was tired and cranky and in tears.
You see fearless femininity is usually tested in the hard moments of life in our day-to-day living. Let’s be women who match the moment that we are finding ourselves in with fearless femininity. This involves a daily choice to trust God completely, to clothe ourselves with his strength and dignity.
This means that whether we’re mopping up apple juice and glass shards from our basement floor, or choosing which outfit to wear or repairing a damaged relationship or surfing the web or struggling to comprehend those devastating test results in our doctor’s office, this means that God calls us to respond with strength and dignity, and a settled trust in God for all the days ahead.
2. Focus on proper (vs. improper) “fear” (daily)
Let’s be women who will live for Christ. This won’t be a one-time action, but it’s going to be lived out again in those daily moment by moment decisions we make. It won’t be recognized on the six o’clock news, oh but dear sister it will be applauded in heaven. Why not set a new tone for the world today marked by fearless tranquility, a devotion to holiness and a glad surrender to the loving purposes of God?
In your deepest intentions, isn’t this what you long to do?
The only way to leave our fears and follow God’s call to trust and obey and rejoice in him, is to embrace God’s truth to us. That there’s only one proper fear. And that is the fear of the Lord.
Psalm 112:1,7-8 says,
“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord…His offspring will be mighty in the land…He’s not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid.”Psalm 112:1,7-8
You see, fearing the Lord rather than our circumstances is the only bulwark between our hearts and the improper fears that come knocking. Then storms can blow all around us without ever ruffling the serene core of our feminine souls.
Why do you think some women are able to bear up with grace and dignity and strength in all of life’s sudden and furious storms? Well, because their hearts are secure. They’re steadfast, they’re protected against all that would overwhelm them.
Illustration from Jani’s life: “My soul is like…my wedding dress”
Let me illustrate it this way.
One spring when we were living in Illinois, we had some flooding in our basement; two to three feet of water just filled up in our basement. Ray and I went down there tried to lift things out of the water. I was just so sad to see the box that held my wedding dress floating on top of all the muck there. I pulled it up, put it on the ping pong table and determine to look at it later.
When I did, I started unwrapping it. The first layer had muck and grunge and water in it. But underneath that there was another layer which was a little bit less mucky. And then the third layer with a little bit less dirt and dust and a fourth layer. I just kept unwrapping it and unwrapping it. There must have been 10 to 12 layers of protection around my wedding dress. Oh, I was so grateful. When I finally took it out, my wedding dress was pure white without a speck of dust or dirt or water from that flood that it had been floating in.
Well, our souls need to be layered as well against the storms of life. Let’s keep coming to him for that layering. Let’s keep reading and praying and meditating and entering into Christian community so that our souls can be layered against the storms of life.
The enemies of God want to destroy the power of a Christian woman to use her femininity for Christ. You see, the devil wants us to doubt God and to let our fears rule our hearts. Satan hates fearless femininity, but God loves it, and he is committed to supporting it.
Clothed with Strength
To be fearlessly feminine means to be clothed with strength, as we’ve been talking about from Proverbs 31:25. This kind of woman is strong to nurture and love and care for others. She’s happy to help. She has the strength to be a life giver and a servant. She has no time for pity parties.
When we’re clothed with strength, we become women of great influence. We’re true, mature, we’re powerful, we’re winsome, we’re tender-hearted, we’re pure and modest, and beautiful and strong. Oh, let’s be women of strength who trust God enough to fulfill his mission for us. The world tells us to close in to preserve and protect ourselves. But let’s not listen to the world. Let’s follow Christ and His call to be strong.
Christ also calls us to be dignified as women. The fearlessly feminine woman is “clothed with dignity” (Proverbs 31:25). She’s poised. She’s serene. She lives above the hassles of the daily grind. She continues to cast her cares on Christ because she really believes that he cares for her. As I said before, she doesn’t have time for pity parties. She conserves her energy, she realizes that she only has so much emotional and physical energy. So she conserves that energy for life’s most important efforts and relationships.
The fearlessly feminine woman is dignified because she knows she serves the God who remembers. I love Hebrews 6:10. Do you know that verse?
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work.”Hebrews 6:10
You see, the writer there in Hebrews 6:10 is telling us, God would be unjust not to recognize your work. He sees you.
The fearlessly feminine woman lets God be God. She lives in dignified peace, because she believes 2 Thessalonians 3:16, that the Lord of peace himself is with her, giving her peace at all times and in every way.
She is joyfully confident and dignified in who she is as a woman before God, that strength and confidence and spirit of contentment make her dignified in her fearless femininity.
Christ’s Noble Call to us as Women
Let me close this series by saying this. God made you a woman. He made me a woman. He delights in our womanhood. Let’s bask in the delight that your femininity is to God. That which makes you different from the men in this world is a God-given gift. It’s precious in His sight. It’s beautiful to God.
Where is it that God is calling you to be fearlessly feminine? What is it that God created you for in all your delightful femininity? What is he asking of you as a woman? What is he asking of me as a woman? Where does he want our feminine touch to bring strength and dignity and beauty and peace into this crazy world where we find ourselves?
To clothe ourselves with strength and dignity is God’s call into fearlessness. It means a deep personal fellowship with the one who created us as women. We honor him as we rejoice in his work. Our physical strength as we serve Him will set an example that it affirms life as we work hard at all the challenges we’re facing. And we will enrich those around us with emotional stability as we love and teach and nurture them.
As Christian women—as Christian wives as Christian mothers, as Christian aunts and grandmothers, as Christian employees and employers—we have the responsibility to show others a clear picture of what it means to be fearlessly feminine. The image has almost faded. For those who need a visual model for those who feel confused or might be lost. For those who need that model of boldly living God’s plan for womanhood, let’s decide that we will be fearlessly feminine.
A Final Illustration
I want to close with this final illustration. Many of you know that Ray and I and our family lived in the northeast corner of Scotland for four years while Ray got his PhD. Up in that corner of Scotland, there’s a beautiful river running from the mountains in the west to the sea in the east. It’s called the River Dee and it’s a beautiful river. My favorite spot along this river is the Linn of Dee. Here the river narrows and winds its way through a cramped rocky gorge before it goes on toward the sea.
Over the years, the water of the river has smoothed those craggy rocks of the linn. Fluid and flexible, yet strong and constant, that water has been shaping each rock that it touches on its path to the sea, persistently rounding off the rough edges. Those rocks in the Linn of Dee are rounded now.
We women can be like that water flowing through the Linn of Dee as we press on with strength and dignity. As we go, let’s shape our generation with a gentle but enduring touch of fearless femininity. Let’s lift high Christ’s noble call to us as His women. Let’s trust God out beyond what seems possible to us.
Will you join me?
Despite what the world is telling you and sometimes even your own fears, will you bless the world with your God-blessed gift to femininity? Will you be fearlessly feminine? As you think through these things, may the Lord restore your soul with his loving word and ways to us his daughters. God bless you.