i used to be a really good christian woman. like one of the best. i said the right things, did the right things, played nice. the only problem was that what was on the outside & what was on the inside were two different things.i believe evangelical christianity has created a lot of divided women.
women who are cut off from their desires. who are pulling it together on the outside but crumbling on the inside. who are constantly feeling like losers, always missing the good-christian-woman-wife-or-mother-mark. who are afraid to dream. or take care of ourselves. or want something more because it can be perceived as selfish. who love God but aren’t sure God really loves us just-as-we-are because we’ve been bombarded with teaching about our depravity & eve-nature & how we need to be more like proverbs 31.
from Kathy Escobar’s, Ex-Good Christian Women
I am an ex-good Christian woman. Actually. Scratch that. I don’t think I was EVER a good Christian woman. But I sure tried, and I tried hard for a long, long time. The Good Christian Woman was that elusive standard that I never could quite measure up to. I know a lot of other women who are the same. We abandon our authentic selves as we strive to be Proverbs 31 head to toe, inside and out. We give ourselves away to a fault. I appreciate the Christian discipline of self-denial, yet when it comes to being a follower of Jesus, women tweak it to a different ideal of losing our self for the sake of who we imagine God wants us to be—the Good Christian Woman. She’s a ghost of an ideal who haunts us to be just like her. Instead of pressing forward in the quest for Christ likeness, women like me get off course in hot pursuit of becoming the good Christian woman. She is our saint, our matron of all that is holy and approved of by God. She is the vision of true Christian womanhood: submissive, self-sacrificing, humble and quiet. She is who I aspired to become.
But the good Christian woman is a semblance of a human being who does not entirely exhibit her humanity or otherwise we would imagine her with a host of other human characteristics such as leadership, strength, intellectual prowess, and so on. But instead, the good Christian woman is idealized with a few “feminine” qualities that are supposedly more sacred than other human qualities such as a submissiveness and a meek, quiet spirit. Throw in creativity and a flair for home décor and baking and she is downright the most magical woman in the kingdom of God. She can pray, bake and teach Sunday school. All at the same time. With a good, compliant attitude.
Feminine attributes have become Christianized and personalized into a myth, a kind of Proverbs 31 mannequin whom women are challenged to emulate. This does not honor a woman’s personhood. Christ following women are meant to transform into the image of Jesus, but this image of biblical womanhood has taken over.
Cultural conditioning, including church culture, shapes and informs who we think we are meant to be. Women mix up feminine characteristics with Christ’s characteristics. My femininity has always felt a challenge from cultural messaging about whether or not I am girly enough. A tomboy at heart and play, I have just never quite taken a shine to pink fingernail polish or flowy, lacy skirts. When I became a Christ follower at age eighteen, that tender threshold of transition from girl to woman, I suddenly found myself plunged into a new culture with a new vision of what it is to be a woman.
I lean into the rough and tumble of grit rather than glam to this day in my middle-aged years.
Throughout my journey as a Christ follower, I have internalized this image to be a good Christian woman instead of internalizing the Person of Christ. This ideal of a good Christian woman is not a human being—but an invented being. Who invented her? I’m not sure, though I suspect she was born from a combination of the perfectionistic floggings that drive many women to become who we are not as well as the conditioning from the spirit of patriarchy that always seeks to keep it’s women under control.
Being less than girly my entire life has not just been a cultural affront, but a challenge to reflecting the image of the good Christian woman into my life. She is not who I can ever be. I am no good at being demure. I am neither soft-spoken nor gentle-mannered. I do not restrain my words very well and I lack the propriety to just be silent. I am headstrong and willful and enjoy rigorous debate. I lean into the rough and tumble of grit rather than glam to this day in my middle-aged years.
I have tried hard to follow Jesus. I’ve prayed the prayers for him to transform me into a better person, into a good Christian woman. I’ve chased after her and entreated heaven to help me catch her. But I never have and I never will. So I have had to let her go, to dismantle the boards of the altar that I built for her within. In letting go of her, I discovered not only more of who I really am, the authentic me, but I readjusted my path to finding more of Christ. He is who I follow.
I am not a good Christian woman. I am a human being, a unique individual with customized features that are all my own. I have been made in the image of God, my singular life a sliver of the grandness of who God is and what God is like. My femaleness is a part of me, but it is not all of me. I do not have to conform to the image of a good Christian woman; I want to instead, conform to the image of Jesus. He was not a good Christian woman either.
***Are you familiar with the good Christian woman? If you’ve met her, hook me up. I want to interview her!!