Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Many women celebrated by participating in “A Day Without Women” and staying home from their jobs to make a statement, but many others went about life as normal, showing up and doing their work as usual. My own social media feeds were flooded with women sharing posts celebrating women who have shaped their lives or inspired them, reflecting on what it means to be a woman, or in some way acknowledging the holiday.
As the day went on, I found myself thinking about the youngest women in our society today. I thought about the friends of mine who are pregnant with baby girls who have yet to join our world, and I wondered what they’ll grow up to hear about what it means to be a woman.
When I look at the way the world treats women, I’m often saddened. I’m discouraged by the messages in the media, disheartened by the impossible physical standards that celebrities and advertising promote, and frustrated by the stereotypes.
Thankfully, when I look to the Bible, I find different messages about women. I’m encouraged by the way Jesus treated women in a society that rated them second at best. I’m inspired by the women who lived out their callings faithfully, even when it meant risking their reputations.
When I think about those baby girls yet to enter our world, and the young ones just discovering it, and the teenagers wrestling through it, there is so much I think they should know about what it truly means to be a woman.
“We are women who were dead in our sin, who have been resurrected by God’s power, who have become heirs of the crucified King,” Katie Laitkep writes for True Woman. “We are women God created in His image, designed with dignity and value, who cling to the work of the gospel. We are women who uphold the Creator-God’s design of humanity, who see God’s concept of ‘male and female’ as part of His magnificent, purposeful plan. We are women who have been born again, women who bend our knees on the Solid Rock, who humble ourselves in solidarity, “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
This is what it means to be a woman.
When the world says “free yourself,” the Bible says “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36).
When the world says “look this way to be beautiful,” the Bible says, “your beauty should not come from outward adornment… rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
When the world says “be strong, you can do it, you go, girl!” the Bible says “be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10).
The Lord’s ways are not the world’s ways. What it means to be a woman is about so much more than the world tells us, and as a woman, I’m grateful Jesus offers me a life that is so much more abundant and free (John 10:10) than anything society could give me.
Chelsea Stanley shared a great list in “The First Day Without a Woman” for Desiring God of ways we can stand up for women in the church, and I think it applies to women and girls of all ages. Christian women, let's use these thoughts as a roadmap for how to raise the next generation of women well, rooted and established in Christ's love.
Here’s her list, with my own thoughts added about how we can apply these ideas to the younger generation:
- “Give women God’s word.” From their earliest days, let’s share the Bible with our girls. There are great resources for teaching the Bible to young children (such as the well-known Jesus Storybook Bible) that will help them become familiar with who God is and how he loves them. Read Scripture over, to, and with young girls so they grow up knowing their identity is found in Christ alone as beloved daughters of the King.
- “Support women in their callings.” Some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories include women who encouraged my interests, no matter how childish they might have been. I remember my first grade teacher reading my short little handwritten and illustrated stories aloud to my class after lunch, and I remember how proud I felt to see her view my work as worth sharing. I’ve since grown up to be a writer full time, and I can’t thank her enough for supporting me in those foundational years. Let’s do this for all young women!
- “Protect women.” All women and girls should feel safe in their own bodies, homes, and communities. However we can, we all should protect their innocence and their freedom. Keep your eyes open and your heart sensitive to the young women in your life, and be a safe haven for anyone who needs refuge and protection.
- “Give women a place to belong.” Whether it’s in our homes, in our Sunday school classes, in our classrooms, or in our neighborhoods, let’s give girls places they feel safe to explore the world, ask questions about life and faith, discover who they are, and grow as women.
- “Give women a voice.” Growing up, my parents were great at this, and it shaped so much of how I view my own voice. They often asked me questions about things in my life that went beyond just how I was doing, they prayed with me and encouraged me to pray out loud myself, they encouraged my writing, they asked for my opinion, they gave me opportunities to make decisions, and they always supported my interests and how I wanted to express myself. Find ways to interact with the young women in your life that gives them opportunities to use their voice, whether it’s asking thoughtful questions to encourage them to share, or it’s giving them a chance to work alongside you in some way, or it’s building a platform for them to share their story however you can. Let’s teach our girls that their voices matter, that it isn’t just us that hears them, but the Lord that hears them, sees them, and loves them.
- “Praise grace at work in women.” From their youngest years, we can begin to affirm the fruits of the Spirit in our girls. We can praise them when they are kind to a friend, we can encourage them to be loving and gentle, we can reward their good behavior, and we can applaud them when they exhibit self-control. Our words and our actions toward young women will influence them greatly, and how beautiful would it be if we used them to edify, encourage, and equip them to live godly, fruitful lives?
Ann Voskamp sums it up well: “The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs more women who know how to do hard and holy things.”
Women of all ages, you are beloved. You are beautiful not just because of how you look, but because of your inner strength, your gifts and your talents, your heart, and your soul. You are called to do great things for the King and his Kingdom. You are surrounded by a body of believers, and we want to encourage you and spur you on as you run this great race of faith. We want to support you every step of the way, by God’s grace and through his mighty love and endless strength. We want you to know what it truly means to be a woman, and we want you to know we are always with you on the journey. You truly are beloved.
Photo credit: Unsplash
Publication date: March 9, 2017
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com.