Heidi: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our podcast today. It’s very, very good to be with you. I hope you all are doing well in the midst of this fall season that will soon become winter, Jani. Life just keeps going on, doesn’t it? It always feels busy in different ways here and there.
Jani: It does! What is your family doing this fall?
Heidi: We love to do all sorts of different things in the fall, kind of we’re enjoying fires. In the morning, Mike will start a fire for me and we’ll read our Bibles as the weather gets colder and we’re having bonfires outside and cooking hot dogs with the kids over the bonfires on the weekends.
Jani: Oh, we’ll all be there. Tell us your address. We want to come!
Heidi: We’re trying to learn how to make apple cider donuts. We’re opening up the Christmas Tree Farm this year and one of the things we’d love to give our guests is apple cider donuts. So that’s kind of on our list of things to do as well.
Jani: Well, you know, Heidi, in our next few podcasts, let’s have some information for our listeners, in case those of us near you could come to the Christmas Tree Farm.
Heidi: Oh, we would love to see everyone on the Christmas Tree Farm. That sounds great.
Jani: Now wait a minute, before we get started on what we’re going to talk about today, did you say you’re learning how to make donuts?
Heidi: Yes, I didn’t know that you could make donuts without a fryer, but we learned how. We fill our skillet pan with oil and they turned out amazing. It kind of started in the middle of COVID season. We love to go get donuts as a family, and I was just more cautious. I wasn’t ready to go get donuts yet. And so I said, “Mike, can you make me donuts? Can we figure out how to do this?” And he said,. “Sure we can!” So we spent a Saturday morning learning how to make donuts together.
Jani: Oh, my mouth is just watering. Let’s just turn off this podcast and go have some donuts!
Heidi: That sounds great.
New Series: “Fearlessly Feminine”
Jani: Well, how about we’ll celebrate if we ever get this podcast done. What do you think?
Heidi: That sounds good.
Well, we are about to begin a new series today on—is this the first book that you ever wrote, Jani?
Heidi: Okay, so the first book that Jani wrote is called “Fearlessly Feminine“.
Jani: Yes, so we want to begin talking about what it means to be a fearless woman of God, and how that all works out. We’ll take some breaks for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and we’ll see how it goes. We really believe the Lord has called us to talk about this because the purpose of our podcast is to bring you to God and let him restore your soul, to refresh your walk with Him, to renew a right spirit within you. And that’s really hard if you’re overcome by fears.
Heidi: Especially in this day and age, Jani, there’s so many things to be fearful of.
Jani: Yes, such a tumultuous time we’re living in, Heidi. I mean, this worldwide pandemic that we’re trying to figure out how to be safe in and keep our family safe. I think of the racial injustice—oh, it’s so heartbreaking—and the cultural chaos. Or even the sexual identity confusion that we’re living in. Or the political wars as well. Oh, my goodness, so much heartache. We need God’s restoring power to fill us as women with hope and grace, so that he can be glorified in and through us. We want him to be seen and known no matter what our circumstances are.
So Heidi and I want to take some podcasts and help us fall in love again, or maybe for the first time, with our destiny as women.
God’s calling on us to be women
When God thought you up, he wanted you to be a woman, not a man. What does that mean?
Well, let’s start this way: we want to talk about God’s purpose for us as His daughters, his calling on us to be women. Your femininity, my femininity is not a problem to be solved! It’s a strategy to be employed. God is the one who created us male and female, and he uniquely designed each one of us for this specific time and place in history.
My prayer over these next few podcasts is that we will all gain a dignified confidence in who we are as daughters of the King of kings. As we think through together what it means to be a woman, not a man.
“What is biblical femininity?”
Since the late 1950s, when I was a little girl, our role as women has changed drastically and many of us are confused about what true biblical femininity is. I wonder if any of you have ever heard of Mary Kassian. Heidi, have you ever?
Heidi: I have. You mentioned her a few times when we walked through discipleship group.
Jani: Yes, she’s a speaker and an author, a distinguished professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary—I highly commend her writings to our listeners.
She has a wonderful talk I’ve heard a couple times because it’s recorded, and I need it every once in a while. The talk is called, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” and in it she chronicles the change since Betty Friedan first published her book, “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963. She chronicles this change in our feminine culture through TV series. Well, in the 50s and 60s, it was “Leave It To Beaver”—have you ever seen any of those episodes, Heidi?
Heidi: Yes! Our family really loves to watch “old TV” with the kids. We find it very wholesome. So we like “Leave It To Beaver”.
Jani: Well, that was safe, wasn’t it? “Leave It To Beaver”—just mom and dad and kids and their family.
Then the 70s, what came then? “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”—here was an independent career woman, she was conquering her world. That was in the 70s.
In the 80s, who did we have? Murphy Brown, who was a self absorbed divorcee: proud, an atheist, and she was happy to be that way, and her TV show made it look alluring to us as women.
Then we come to the 90s and we have the Ellen DeGeneres show defining her own sexuality and her own morality. You see the progress here?
In 2000, at the turn of the century, we have “Sex and the City”, where women are loyal, first of all to themselves and then to their female buddies. This is what Mary Kassian says,
“We live in a day where a woman makes her own rules and sets her own standards and as long as she is nice, it really doesn’t matter what she does. Who are you to judge? The epitome of empowered womanhood today is to live a self-serving, self-righteous, neurotic, superficial and adulterous life.”Mary Kassian, from the talk “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” (2008)
Oh, my dear. What are we teaching our daughters, our granddaughters, our students, our Sunday school class, our disciples?
A Working Definition of “Femininity”
As we begin to look at what it means to be fearlessly feminine, I want to set out for us a working definition of what true femininity is. Now this definition certainly is not exhaustive but it’s a good place for us to start and refer back to and to camp on as we go through this series. This is how I would define femininity.
“Femininity is being able to receive and affirm and nurture others in my life with the beauty and power of Christ by demonstrating grace, dignity, strength, love, and servanthood in ways that are distinctively feminine.”Jani Ortlund
You might be saying, “Jani, that’s a really long definition for me to listen to on this podcast!” So let me read it once more. And then we’re going to get into some of our things that we fear as women. So here’s our working definition: Femininity is being able to receive, affirm and nurture all the other people in my life with the beauty and power of Christ.” How do I do that? ”By demonstrating grace, dignity, strength, love, and servanthood in ways that are distinctively feminine.”
“Fears? What Fears?”
So let’s take a minute and talk about the full scope of some of our fears.
Many of us are confused about what it means to be a real woman. A few years ago, Lisa came to me asking for guidance and counsel. Her father had left her mother when Lisa was only two years old, and her mother remarried, but divorced Lisa’s stepfather when Lisa was 12. A few years later, her mother moved in with her female lover. Lisa came to faith in Christ when she was in college and was now planning to marry a man preparing to be a pastor. She came to me asking, “What does it mean, Jani, to be a Christian woman? I’m so confused.”
1. Fear can “fuel” us
We’re going to talk about some of my answers to Lisa in the next few podcasts, but I think this confusion, often springs from our fear. Fear is such a complex emotion, isn’t it? It can fuel us so that we strive harder to succeed. I sometimes fear sounding stupid or ignorant on this podcast that fuels me to work hard on it to prepare.
2. Fear can “freeze” us
Sometimes, fear can freeze us so that we stay home eating chocolate chip cookie dough safe behind our computer screen as we surf the internet for gossip and home-decorating tips and new recipes. Sometimes I feel like doing that instead of doing the podcast. That’s fear within me, we can have one of two responses: it can “fuel” us or it can “freeze” us.
Heidi: There’s so many things to be afraid of these days, Jani, isn’t there? Especially as women, I feel like we struggle with fear. We fear the embarrassment of failure. I know I feel that I don’t want to mess up my work. I don’t want to mess up things with my children. If somebody calls me out and says, “Heidi did this didn’t go well,” I just I fear that.
We fear the pressure of success. We fear the vulnerability, Jani, of giving ourselves to one another and what it means. We fear being honest about our sins or our struggles with our sisters in Christ. Or and we also fear the pain of loneliness, we want to be known and yet we fear being known. It’s both. We fear the stress of working outside our home and we fear the disrespect and possible boredom of being a full-time homemaker. We fear marriage and we fear being single. We fear pregnancy and we fear infertility. We fear the responsibility of raising children and we fear the void of not investing in the next generation. We fear appearing immature and we fear growing old. Jani, we fear the past and we fear the future.
Jani: Oh, Heidi. That’s so all-encompassing. What don’t we fear?
Heidi: It’s like we can’t get it right. Just as we were talking about: you fear one thing, but then if you don’t pursue that you fear that outcome of the other thing!
Jani: Yes, yes. Oh, my goodness.
What we want to see over the next several podcast episodes is that those fears are nowhere to camp because they will ultimately fail us. Every fear that we camp on will fail us.
Fear is a powerful Force
The problem with fear is that it works so well. At the least, fear distracts me at its worst fear paralyzes me.
Let me illustrate it this way. I don’t know if any of you can identify maybe you can, Heidi. If Ray is late home from work, and he doesn’t have a chance to let me know why, I go from a traffic jam (to being the reason) to his funeral in a split second! And then to which of our children would do what at the service, oh I just go on and on and on. And that can happen in about two seconds in my mind.
Since the Garden of Eden
Well, fear has been the part of our feminine heart since the Garden of Eden. I wonder if you can identify with some of these fears.
When Eve took the fruit and ate it, she was motivated by fear, I believe. Fear that she would miss out on something bigger and better. Fear that God didn’t really have her best interests in mind that he really didn’t care about her. And we have been consumed by fear ever since the Garden of Eden.
You see our natural instincts turn life inside out. When troubles come we start to doubt God and his care and before we know it, we give way to our fears we think, “How could a loving God let this happen to me?” rather than a reverent, awesome fear that humbly bows before her God. We feel a sickening, crushing fear that turns us away from him. Along with Eve, we hear Satan whispering in our ears, “Did God really say…?” That’s what he did in Genesis 3:1 and we listen to it as well.
And so we fret and we whine and we eat and we fantasize looking for security in all sorts of places as we take things into our own hands. But does it work? Not for me! Usually, when I try to take matters into my own hands I end up with rejections and regrets and remorse.
The “Picture Perfect” Lie We Believe
We only want to be happy, so why aren’t we? Because we believe a lie. What every woman believes at some point in her life is that happiness happens when everything is going her way. “I will really be happy when…I have a husband, or when I have a different husband, or when I have children, or when my children are finally on their own. When I have that beautiful home I’ve always wanted, when I can afford to have someone help me with my beautiful home, when I have the perfect relationship or successful job or financial security or good health…” or, you fill in the blank. You get what I’m saying, dear sister.
But this is the great deceiver’s lie. This is the lie we believe. He wants us to believe that what we really need is a perfect life with everything we crave, neatly assembled around us.
When our feminine hearts cling to that “picture perfect” existence, we begin to fear not attaining it. And if in some small way we do find ourselves beginning to attain it, we fear losing it. And fear is self-perpetuating. It grows as we feed it with time and attention.
I believe that fear is the chief enemy of our feminine souls. Do you hear that, dear sister? I really think this terrible emotion, I believe, is a sin at times. It’s the chief enemy of our feminine souls. It robs us.
Let me speak personally, from my own life. It robs me of my ability to nurture those around me when I’m fearful. It intercepts my love for others. It drains my faith. It debilitates me by erecting a barrier around my heart that keeps me ever looking inward and backward. I believe that fear is Satan’s trap, binding us all to self-absorption, which is anti-gospel.
God’s Answer to Our Fears
What fears are you dealing with today? God doesn’t want us living in fear. He wants to restore our souls. That’s why Heidi and I felt God calling us to begin this podcast. He wants to restore your soul, Heidi’s soul, my soul. He wants to renew our hearts and minds with fearless femininity. He wants to draw us to himself in the most secure relationship possible and cast out every fear from our hearts.
Heidi, could you read John 4:18 for us?
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”John 4:18
Jani: The perfect love of Christ can cast out every fear from our hearts.
I remember one time just not that long ago, about 10 years ago. I was in my 60s when I was crying with Mom Ortlund over a deep pain. And I was fussing and worrying with her and she said, “Jani, Jani! Listen to yourself! What good is your fussing and fear going to do?” And then she looked at me right in the eye and she said, “Do you know there are over 365 ‘fear nots’ in the Bible? That’s enough for one for every day. So let’s take that ‘fear’ not for today and go to God with this fear.” Oh, dear mom up in heaven today. I needed to hear that I so appreciated it.
You see, God has an answer to our fears. What is his answer to our fears? Not a different life, but a different relationship. What is God’s answer to our fears? Not trying to drum up more courage, that will only exhaust us and defeat us. His answer is more of himself. What is the only thing that can conquer our fears? Again, not more courage. Only faith can, real faith, real, authentic, fear-shrinking faith that comes from a personal, vibrant, ever-deepening and more satisfying relationship with the God who is more than a match for anything that would threaten to intimidate us.
The prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 41:10,
“Fear not, for I’m with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10
And think what Jesus said. Heidi, would you read those beautiful words to us?
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”John 14:27.
Jani: So both in the Old and the New Testament, we see the Lord speaking into our hearts, “Fear not.”
You see, dear friend, God’s answer to our fears is himself. Faith in a perfect, personal, peace-giving God is what drives out our fears and frees us to be fearlessly feminine. What does that faith look like? How can that kind of faith become your own heartfelt experience? Well, we’re going to be talking about that in our next few podcasts.
Ask Yourself This…
But for now, I want you to ask yourself,
“What fears are hindering your heart and relationships? In what ways do you seek refuge from your fears?”
And as you think this through and come to your father who says, “Fear not for I am with you.” May he begin to restore your soul. We love you.