I Am Not a Good Christian Woman. Neither Was Jesus.

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!!


Comments

I Am Not a Good Christian Woman. Neither Was Jesus. — 39 Comments

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive Summer Reading

  2. Here is my reply
    I am not verry complicated but here goes nothing

    I hade my fare share of the good Christian woman stress wave. But I came to a good conclusion. I remember John 3:16 , John 6:32-40 and finely Romans 8:33-39. All I can do is get on my knees cry when I am sad, sing when I am happy, and stay on my knees and ask for forgiveness when my faith runs short. Christ said his burden is light, that He came to die for me and He loves and what more will I ever need if I bow before the King of Kings. I have had to many problems to try and doupt the word of God and it deals to bountiful. I will relax and know I am redeemed and God is good.

    I guess what I am getting at is you are not suposto be anything just love God and be happy with what He blessed you with. And no you are not to be forced to conforme to any stress or press. Even more so beacuse God didnt create robots.

    Anyways I did say I wasn’t complicated. I agree with the point you made. And I am happy this discussion is out there.

    Thanks Pam

  3. Wow I love this. I am struggling with this now. I am in a place where the GCW call their husband’s LORD. I am not comfortable with this whatsoever!

  4. This is awesome! I think the ideals we set up for ourselves under the name of Christianity are just mortal ideals. They have everything to deal with the human side of us and very little to do with the spirit side.

    I think that if you help people, live well, take time to enjoy god’s pleasures and work as hard as you can towards a better world…you’re living in the image of Christ And that’s what’s important.

    It reminds me of this video I recently came across– it’s a cute little song about how Jesus and his followers actually Occupy Jerusalem.

    Anyways, here it is: http://youtu.be/a6akkb_afqs

    • Hi Kristina, thanks so much for your comment. I am with you— lets treat other well and that will def make not only our small world a better place, butcher Entire World! This is the way of Jesus, to treat others as you want to be treated.

      And nobody wants to be treated in a subservient second class way.

      Appreciate you stopping by. Come see us again!

  5. Exactly what I need to read to keep myself from feeling crazy. I am noticing that the more I step into who God made me the less people want to be around me. Glad I know you and the other amazing women that have stepped into my life. Us youngish ladies really need that support in this changing world.

  6. 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.

    In other words, you were a Rainbow Dash and were told that “God Commands You to Be Fluttershy — Or Else!”

  7. First, I want to say that I was encouraged by the respectful responses to Rex. As for his statement, “we can pur­sue what our Cre­ator first deter­mined for us to be our pur­pose — being human, fully,” I think that is exactly the point you were making in the first place! The Creator determined that we would be human, fully, by dying to self and allowing Christ to live in and through us through the Holy Spirit.

    Here’s the rub: Christ is not a good Christian woman!

    We are all exhorted to be conformed to the image of Christ; this is not a gender-specific command. You cannot be conformed to the image of this so-called “GCW” and the image of Christ at the same time because the two are diametrically opposed.

    I will be the first to admit that my grammar is horrendous, but I will also say that I was able to follow your train of thought easily. I don’t think many people would get sidetracked with these kinds of Ad Hominem manipulation tactics. If a good counterargument can’t be made on the actual argument itself, then chances are your argument is solid. My guess is that this person is simply grasping at straws to try and discredit you.

    Keep up the good work. There are many of us out there who need Christian women like you to stand up and be a voice for us.

    • Hey Des,
      I suspect that Rex and I agree more than disagree on the points of this blog post. My writing style distracted him and the reality is that my writing voice is not for everyone. I am grateful, though, that my writing style does resonate with many other readers who enjoy how I communicate. Being a public writer always means allowing for room to be criticized and challenged. As long as it is respectful and not abusive, I welcome it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I will be blogging more around this theme as I ready myself for my next book project. Thoughtful comments from my readers will definitely be helpful as I go deeper into a new wilderness of my womanly soul. I know other women have gone far ahead of me in regard to authenticity and identity, but this is my story. I get to do the telling. And I want to tell it true and tell it strong. Blogging is where I first test the waters of what I want to tell.

      Stay tuned!

  8. Pam. Pam. Pam.
    I owe you my best fist pound or chest bump when we finally do meet. This is honest, provoking and powerful. Good for you for bravely stoking the conversation. I too have never seen the GCW in the mirror and quite frankly, I’m not sure how one breathes under all those layers of expectation. I have however seen myself distant from Christ as often as walking in step with Him and I much prefer the On-Christ me to the Off. His people, their methods, their places of worship and their burdens – well, He’s continually softening my heart to be less interested in what others are heaping ON me and more grateful for that which He has taken OFF me. I have long searched for like-minded women. Women who are more interested in a mirror that tells us what Jesus likes about us, what the enemy fears about us and how we are most effective in this moment than those tired looking glasses and jaded reflections that tell us we don’t measure up.
    Seriously awesome stuff you’re stirring up here. And a very ‘un-ladylike’ chest bump to you.

    • HI Leah,
      Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words! I am thinking that you and I can talk an afternoon away if we had the chance. Oh,wait….we get that chance this Saturday! Will be so great to meet you face to face and hear more of your story. I love hearing and learning from the experiences of others. These days I am especially curious about other Christ following women who are unlayering themselves from cultural and religious messaging in order to uncover their authentic selves. True identity has become my new quest.

      Let’s talk about that on Saturday. I look so forward to meeting you!!

  9. Pingback: a more honest theology. | kathy escobar.

  10. Is the “Good Xian Woman” also a great writer? Clearly, she must be because you seem to have eschewed grammer and proper syntax in favor of what, exactly, I cannot surmise. Thought fragments are friendly to no writer, whichever gender, and neither are misplaced clauses. In fact, the latter undermines your argument by literally placing the traits you wish to champion safely in the camp of ideals you wish to debase. And I quote, “…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.” Who’s side are these traits on, exactly? And what does, “Christ fol­low­ing women are meant to trans­form into the image of Jesus, but this image of bib­li­cal wom­an­hood has taken over,” even mean? The first two words should be hyphenated, for a start.
    These are just a few examples of how your terrible writing distracts from the message you wish to issue. This message, however, is weak in itself. On the one hand, you, “appre­ci­ate the Chris­t­ian dis­ci­pline of self-​​denial,” and yet make allusive honor to traits that are more fully, ‘human,’ then reneg. Your point is intellectually lacking the fullness necessary to indicate that you have actually thought the matter through and come to a proper conclusion. But, thanks for the effort.
    Meanwhile, perhaps some figurative writing could help to illuminate what perhaps ought to be the crux of a discussion weighing the respective merits of humanism and Christ’s salvation. Without Christ, we humans are ever so distracted by the consequence of our sin. Christ made his sacrifice to provide the assurance that we would not have to pay for the aforementioned sin, but that salvation has to be accepted in order to be effective. Once accepted, and not thereafter denied, being freed from this preoccupation, we can pursue what our Creator first determined for us to be our purpose – being human, fully.

    • Rex, I have a few comments in response to your comment:
      First of all, please note that the correct spelling is “grammar,” not “grammer.”
      A bit later, you ask, “Who’s side are these traits on, exactly?” I believe you meant, “WHOSE.” The word “who’s” is a contraction for “Who is,” which is obvously an incorrect usage of the word in this context. “Whose” is a possessive pronoun, which is the word you need to use in this sentence.
      Finally, I take issue with your sentence, “But, thanks for the effort.” Beginning a sentence with “But” makes it a fragment, according to every English class I have ever attended or taught, and writers are supposed to avoid fragments. Besides, placing a comma AFTER the word “but” is incorrect also. If that fragment had been made a part of a compound sentence, the comma would be placed correctly BEFORE the word “but.”
      If you are going to chastise someone for their grammatical errors, please be certain that your own response is flawless.

      • Thanks, Deb! I’m glad someone caught my intentional trap with who’s/whose. I couldn’t help laying it. I do admit, though, that I was relying too heavily on spellchecker for ‘grammar’. I also admit that I love the Oxford comma because it makes writing seem more like talking.
        How about that last paragraph, though? Can’t we just accept Jesus and move on with our lives?
        As for the name, Pam, it is my handle. Try this page for insight: http://www.spiritmythos.org/TM/solar-lunar/rexmundi.htm Maybe you have already.

        • Well played, Rex. :) I am a bit of a Grammar Nazi (that’s what my last group of students affectionately–at least I hope it was affectionately–dubbed me), but I’m trying to cut back. I was hoping I didn’t sound nasty; I was having one of “those” mornings with my strong-willed non-GCW-like children (see my other post on here, lol) and probably should have waited till I calmed down to post.
          As for just accepting Jesus and getting on with our lives, I wish it were that easy. Some of us just have trouble letting go of our baggage and have to process what we’ve experienced before we can move on. Maybe that’s a sign that my faith isn’t as strong as someone else’s, but then I figure that Jesus can handle that, and he will allow me to process what I need to along the way. That’s what is so wonderful about our Savior; He knows what we need and wants nothing more than to help us work through our issues to become whole.

        • Love it when folks talk about the craft of the English language!

          Yes, that was one of the top hits that came up when I googled Rex Mundi. Great handle to use on the net, though I was not quite comprehending the explanation. Lotta words in there outside of my humble vocabulary matrix. I still think it’s a cool name though. Rex Mundi. Sounds like a spy. Or an artist. Or a rockstar.

    • Hi Rex,

      Let me first thank you for taking time to pause and not only read my blog but take the time to give your opinion. It is clear that my writing style and perspective on being a “good Christian woman” is not a good fit for you.

      I’ve been a blogger a long time. Public discourse will naturally invite public criticism from time to time. I try to learn from my critics. I learned alot from the name you are commenting under (see below).

      So. Thanks again for taking time to offer your thoughts. I appreciate that you remained civil with your opinion. Respectful disagreement is always welcome at this blog.

      ps: interesting choice for your internet name. i googled Rex Mundi. Wow.There’s a whole lot going on with that name, and the Dark Horse comic series looks intriguing…which on a side note, Dark Horse comics is located right here in Oregon. I know one of the guys over there. Just a bit of trivia to toss out for fun… though please let me know if this is your real name!

  11. Thank you thank you thank you. I am way into middle age and I just wrote a blog about something similar. You have said what my heart has been crying for years.

    • Hi Peggy,
      Thanks for reading and adding your comment. There seems to be a growing collective consciousness about these things. I like to think that the Holy Spirit is stirring and agitating women towards freedom to be strong and true in who we are. The winds of change are blowing!

  12. Pam, this “confession” will obvious resonate with many women, but I hope also it serves as a cue for the men who are feeling they don’t measure up when in church circles. We need so much more authenticity and so much less “Ozzie and Harriet”.

    • AL!! One of my favorite unladylike men!

      Yes, definitely there is a “good Christian man” ghost that haunts after our brothers. Maybe we need to start a new resistance movement against religious idealism and instead pursue being kind and good Human Beings. Now there’s a thought…..!

  13. Thank you Pam. I think you nailed not only the essence of it but the magnitude also. Your blog is enlightening, inspiring, cleansing, reassuring, and even motivating. There is such a simple but immense energy that comes from claiming one’s truth, without making excuses. This is what I see you do.

    xoxo Wendy

    • Hi Wendy,
      Thanks for taking to read AND to comment. (I love comments!!) Yes, this is a HUGE topic. My friend Kathy Escobar has written on it quite a bit. Poke around her blog following the link I have in this post. I sometimes think about starting a chapter for Ex-Good Christian Women….or better yet, The Secret Society of No Good Christian Women !! What do you think ? :)

  14. This is really awesome and is true. Its amazing how we go on about how we should be and how we should act instead of striving to know more about Jesus and follow him. We have made christianity a model.
    Wow!

    • Hi Rebonwe,
      Good to see you!! Thanks for adding your comment to this post. It is true how much we allow our identities to be hijacked for ideals that cannot be reached. It is true in all realms of life. I like to address it in the area of faith and spirituality for this is where my own identity has been informed and shaped the most. I am now spending a great deal of time relearning Who I Really Am in all of my uniqueness. I may explore this more fully in my next book project. Stay tuned!!

      • Okay, I stayed up late last night jotting down some thoughts on this one. I hope I don’t start rambling, getting too far off course, or completely take over the comments section.

        I have never been accused of being a Good Christian Woman (GCW), or a Proverbs 31 woman, for that matter. Honestly, I cringe whenever I see Proverbs 31 listed as the sermon text at church, and I find it quite ironic that so many churches choose to use that particular passage on Mothers’ Day, a day meant to honor and uplift women. I don’t know about anyone else, but every time I hear a Proverbs 31 sermon, I come away feeling not uplifted and encouraged, but rather guilt-ridden and discouraged because I do not resemble that woman at all. I do not even feel challenged to strive towards an attainable goal, but rather I feel defeated and like a failure, and I don’t even want to try anymore. I never realized that the goal in question is not really a goal, but an ideal, a bar set so high that I can hardly even hope to touch it, let alone clear it.

        I did have to laugh at some of the ladylike qualities you listed–being able to pray, bake, teach Sunday school and decorate a home, to name a few. I can bake from a box, but I’m sure that’s not acceptable or GCW-like. Now teaching Sunday school, that I am good at, but I am unladylike and inappropriate in the fact that I am not content to limit myself to teachng women and children; I aspire to teach couples’ classes or general interest classes attended by both men and women. I don’t feel that is looked upon with favor in our particular denomination.

        Honestly, I even have a hard time forming friendships with the GCWs in our denomination because I do feel so inappropriate and inferior next to them. I was raised to value education, and I have always loved an intellectual challenge. While our church has nothing against women seeking to be educated, I don’t think it was deemed appropriate that I was attending seminary with the hopes of becoming a pastor someday. While other women were pursuing the ability to stencil their living room walls or to create a scrapbook of each invdividual child, I was studying hermeneutics and sermon preparation. Then when my children came along, I felt even more out of the GCW loop. Many of the women I knew breastfed their infants (something I was physically unable to do) and homeschooled their older children. Their homes were pristine and spotless, with nary a toy or book out of place. Their furniture was always clean and unworn. All their meals were made from scratch with produce picked from their own gardens. Their children’s hours were filled with crafts, wholesome games and play dates with children of other GCWs. Let’s not forget that the children were always compliant, well-behaved, helpful and godly. They spoke of Jesus without being prompted and sang only worship choruses. On more than one occasion, I was chastised for my children’s strong-willed behavior and was even blamed for it because I committed the sin of allowing them to watch SpongeBob and Scooby Doo, something a true GCW would never do.

        I tried and tried over the years to live up to this ideal, and like you, I just couldn’t do it. I never realized that what was truly missing in all my striving was the desire to be like Christ, instead of like Ms. Proverbs 31. So thank you for your thoughts, and thank you for allowing me to babble in response.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>