Identity Crisis

Why do we as women try to morph ourselves for the love interests in our lives. For some it’s a different haircut or color. For others it’s a different body type, IQ or personality.

I admire the women who say, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” I’m not one of them. I tend to shift into a slightly different version of myself when in a relationship. In my past experience it started with something small like what clothes I wore and over time evolved into a complete violation of who God Himself created me to be! I started out thinking “I’m compromising or making myself more attractive to my significant other.” But eventually my significant other would make further demands and requirements of me. Or better yet, he’d be confused when the “real me” came bubbling to the surface.

I’ve finally [slowly] come to the realization that any time a man influences, persuades or demands a woman to change and twists the statement, “be submissive”, it is a form of abuse. Don’t get it turned around, I agree that wives should submit to their husbands, but in these situations that term is used as a weapon to force a woman to be or do something she’s not entirely comfortable with.

So let’s explore this definition of “submit.” We’ve always heard Ephesians 5:22 [Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord] used synonymously with “obey.” Meaning, “whatever your husband says is law and should be treated as a military order; obedience without question.” That whole philosophy opens the door for emotional and spiritual abuse. No one badgers those same husbands with the next verse that says they’re supposed to love their wives as Christ loves the church even to the point of death!

I heard the most profound lesson on this recently and it rocked my perception of what God means by that verse. The Greek word used by Paul in this letter was hupotasso which actually means to lift up or put in order. Moreover, the German translation of that can mean “an equal sharing of tasks.” Think about that for a second. That does not indicate servile obedience at all, but rather “to support and empower another.” Starting to sound more like a partnership than a dictatorship, isn’t it?

Furthermore, the traditional concept of submission would indicate that a woman can’t think or discern matters for herself. As though her relationships with God and others are solely dependent on her husband. Keep in mind that in the time and culture the letter was written, slavery was perfectly normal and wives were owned just like cattle. I am not saying “change the Bible to fit today’s culture and the world’s current compass.” I am simply encouraging a deeper look at the heart of the message.

I feel like I have a close, autonomous walk with God and sense His presence and will in my life. I can see Him all around me and hear His voice when He speaks to me. The philosophy that wives should blindly obey their husbands would indicate that as a single woman I need a man (my dad or a pastor) to tell me what God says and someday if/when I get married my husband will tell me what to do and where to go because I couldn’t possibly discern the Spirit myself.

Not only do I find that demeaning to my intelligence and gender, but also it grieves my spirit to think that there are women who can’t or aren’t allowed to trust their own heart and mind. God speaks to all of us, regardless of gender. He loves all of us for who He made us to be. Jesus showed us that in the many compassionate interactions He had with women who needed healing and love, too. He didn’t say, “I can’t speak to you because you are female. Go get your husband before I heal you.”

So if we lay the submission argument to rest, why then do we change ourselves a little bit in relationships? Even if you do not come from a churched background, you may relate to the identity crisis many women experience in relationships. A lot of times I think it stems from a background or history rooted in abuse. Through abuse we learn to become really good people pleasers. We somehow think that if we behave or conform well enough, we’ll be loved and accepted.

I can logically say that if a person loves who you are behaving out, it’s not real love because they don’t know the real you. But for those of us who have experienced abuse even in its mildest forms, it’s a difficult habit to break.

One last point is that our culture objectifies women. I would even contend that the feminist movement promoted the objectification. Sure, Braless Betty just wanted us to be paid equally for the same job. But in the process, sexual “freedom” became a focal point. The fashion industry, TV and pop culture would have us believe that the perfect body and sexual prowess is the only attribute that attracts men. And since we all want to be loved, we try to become desirable. Whether it’s hurting our bodies with eating disorders to be as skinny as a runway model or dumbing down our intelligence to appear cute. It all sends the message that women are only good for what we can offer in the bedroom. In that case, all women are nothing more than sex things. And we thought Harriet Nelson had it so bad as a homemaker!

I am a woman. I am a complex human being; a creation of God. I love many things and am many things. I am a mother, housekeeper, entrepreneur, friend, student, nature lover, grateful believer, abuse survivor, intellectual, overcomer, advocate, slight nerd, activist, writer, comedienne, daughter, world traveller and motorcycle enthusiast. And there are so many other things I’d like to be. Please, don’t reduce me or yourself to a single dimension sex- or baby-machine.

Most of all, love your daughters for who they are and teach them to value themselves beyond what the world defines them to be. Let’s teach the next generation of young women to see themselves as the Creator does: daughters of the Most High King, loved and accepted for who they are!

Oprah Turning Tricks

This morning I was at the doctor’s office sitting in the waiting room while my 23 month old little girl played with blocks a few feet away from me. Several seats away another mom said to her toddler son, “Look, Jonah, there’s a little girl! Are you gonna flirt with her? She’s even a cute blond! That’s your favorite.” Lucky for her, just then the nurse called us. I was about to give that mom an earful…

Seriously?! Flirting at 2 years old?! Don’t you think that’s just a little young? Your son is on a fast track to being a womanizer and you’re making it “cute.” At 2 you’re encouraging him to flirt (not that he has a clue what that means). At 12 he’ll be impregnating someone. And by 22 he’ll be a chauvinistic jerk that uses women for his own pleasure and gain or maybe even a rapist. Splendid parenting.

And for the love of everything good and holy, DO NOT reduce my daughter to another “cute blond!” She is a baby! Even so, she has a personality, intelligence, a sweet spirit and feelings. She is not a miniature sexual being in any way, shape or form! So don’t treat her like one.

I am not a prude. I’m not a fanatic. I just have a serious problem when someone is encouraging their child to make advances on my child.

I understand that the mom didn’t mean it offensively. She probably didn’t even realize the sexual implication she was making. But isn’t that how our world has become? We are bombarded constantly with sexual ideas from media, TV, radio and pop culture. From Victoria’s Secret ads to Pop music, we are indoctrinated to believe that sex is the most powerful tool on the planet. Not money or love or fame or even power. Just sex.

On the way to drop my kids off in the mornings, I have difficulty finding a radio station that isn’t singing, advertising or talking about sex! Even the “christian” stations have to run news reports or spew demeaning statistics. I only noticed it when my son started asking inappropriate questions. Nothing makes you sit up and pay attention like having your nine year old boy ask, “Mom, what’s a birthday suit?” or “Mom, what does ‘bluffin’ with my muffin’ mean?” or my favorite “Mom, what’s a one night stand?”

Moreover, I’m disgusted by the scanty toddler clothes. I’m all for trendy, modern clothes. I love certain aspects of fashion. But this business of dressing little girls in half shirts and booty shorts is sending the wrong message to our daughters. Not all of it is bad. I do find plenty of adorable, modest clothes for her. But I was appalled to see a string bikini in her size! Granted, I don’t have to buy it, but it’s saddening that there’s a market for that.

As if growing up isn’t awkward and uncomfortable enough, we send all these messages about sexuality and perfection to our youth. My little girl is healthy and average size and still has the remnants of her baby fat. She’s precious and adorable. I love her little belly. She is not obese. She is normal. But the world we live in would tell her something is wrong with her. It would say she needs to thin out as she gets older. It would say she should wear bikinis and high heels to be “cute.” It would say her best achievement will be to be desirable. Since when did it become culturally acceptable to train our daughters to aspire to be strippers?

In real estate we refer to a piece of property’s “highest and best use”. Meaning, what would be the most valuable use of a particular piece of land? In reference to our little girls, shouldn’t their “highest and best use” be curing diseases, raising families or solving the world’s humanitarian crises? We need doctors, teachers, counselors and politicians. Not more hookers. How different would our world be if Oprah had decided to turn tricks on the corner? Or if Mother Teresa had been a pregnant teen? That is how we are impacting our future by allowing our young girls and women to be treated like sexual objects.

So, to the woman at the doctor’s office: I’m sorry I didn’t speak up and lovingly educate you on what you are teaching your son.

My daughter will be raised to love her body, value herself and view herself as much, much more than a sexual being. I truly hope she won’t be the only one.

Jesus Groupies

There are several stories in the Bible that show Jesus’ interactions with women. He showed the same kindness, patience and love to even those who many would call undeserving: Samaritans, adulteresses and prostitutes. I can’t help but wonder how many of those women crushed on Him. What if Jesus was the object of ladies’ affections? Think about it. He was probably handsome, definitely gentle, patient and loving. He was a little mysterious, speaking in parables and very anti-religious terms. So He was a rebel or hippy in a way, bucking society norms. And He was great with kids. Seriously, what woman doesn’t swoon over that?! It would be like James Dean saying, “Let the kids come hang out with me.” I’m telling you, that’s Kryptonite for all women.

There are theories that Jesus may have been married. [watch or read The Da Vinci Code] It’s hard to say if that’s true or not. I know I’m ruffling some religious feathers, but think about it. The Gospels don’t give a day by day, minute by minute account of His life. It’s not a diary. It’s a highlight reel if you will. It’s His greatest hits album from His three year tour. Whether or not He was married or courted a woman is fairly irrelevant to His ministry and message as a whole. Also, He had every other type of relationship. Is it so hard to imagine that He loved a woman enough to have a marriage?

One might argue that Jesus being married would indicate favoritism, which God doesn’t do. To that I would say look at the relationships Jesus had that we do know about for certain. He had the multitude that showed up for his major teachings (like concerts). That’s the five thousand that got a free lunch and the crowd that heard the beatitudes sermon. Then there were the 12 disciples that he had hand selected to be His personal students and security detail. They got a little more in depth teachings like the vine and the branches. Within that group were Peter, James and John. Those three had special moments with Jesus that the others didn’t. They were His closest buddies that He allowed to see behind the curtain a bit like at the mount of transfiguration and the Garden of Gethsemane. But then there is John who refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” There are even moments and interactions that prove John was Jesus’ BFF. Who else would you ask to take care of your mother with your last moments of life?

Does this mean Jesus played favorites? No! John wasn’t loved any more than the others, but he understood the depths of Jesus’ love because they were that tight. Just like most of us, Jesus simply had people that were closer to Him. Then why is it so hard for us to imagine that a woman was intimately close to Him as well? I’m not saying that’s what I believe without fail, just posing a thought for the sake of argument.

Let’s assume though, as most religious scholars believe, Jesus was unmarried and celibate. Do you really think it impossible for a woman to be attracted to him? Jesus was Holy, perfect and blameless, but not the women. What if the crowd pressing in to Him also included women trying to get a closer look at this Man who embodied perfection?

This line of thought occurred to me out of personal experience. For the first time in nearly 3 years, I find myself attracted to someone. It’s in that grueling crush phase where I’m not sure if it’s mutual or if he’s just being a nice guy. I caught myself considering the things that are drawing me toward him. Of course he’s good looking. He’s compassionate, generous, kind, intelligent and patient. He also has the “cool” factor and is super funny. Be still, my beating heart. Even though the suspense of the situation is killing me, it’s giving me time to evaluate what it is I truly like about this guy. Why him? Why now? No one has even remotely caught my attention in so long, I was beginning to think I’d successfully flipped the switch to becoming a spinster.

As I sit here pondering these things, I realize I am attracted to the Jesus in him. Maybe he’s attracted to the Jesus in me, too. Or maybe he’s just being nice because that’s how he is. Please let it be door number 1! Sometimes I catch myself looking around to see if he has other admirers and if he treats any of them differently than me. Occasionally I will take note of his kindnesses, certain expressions or scents. I’m telling you his cologne is heavenly! Admittedly, I’m being a total girl about the entire situation! But I’m strangely comfortable with it. Being a girl about it. Not the situation itself. That’s just driving me nuts, in case you didn’t notice.

That made me wonder: was Mary Magdalene torturing herself with these same type of girlie thoughts? Was Martha really just jealous because she was trying to get Jesus to notice her, too? What if the Samaritan woman was noticing as Jesus talked with her that He smelled delicious? Maybe the crowd pressing in was like Beatle-mania that included fainting women. After all, Jesus was a bit of a rockstar.

Sex and The City

Have you ever been drawn to someone so much that you start making up excuses to see or talk to them? It could be a friend or romantic interest. I have a couple of those type of people in my life right now. Individuals that I absolutely love spending time with, whether it’s for a cup of coffee or just a phone call.

Every other week there’s a group of vibrant, intelligent and remarkable women that I have lunch with. Some weeks that lunch is my sanity. Most of the time, we simply gab about whatever is going on in life. And almost always, the conversation gets very deep and philosophical. We analyze human interactions through who we understand God to be. We overanalyze, we laugh, we eat and sometimes we stay for a few glasses of wine. I love the energy each of these ladies bring to the table (haha, literally). Now that I’m really thinking about it, we’re kinda like the ladies from Sex in the City. Except we’re not in NYC, our wardrobes are a little less fabulous and we’re not sleeping around. But otherwise, just like it!

My point is, I crave the time I get to spend with these women. I often feel like one hour every other week isn’t enough! In each of them I see a little of myself, but also something I’d like to have or be more like. I learn from them every time we meet. After lunch, I float away feeling mentally intrigued, spiritually challenged, and emotionally full! I catch myself looking for reasons to talk to them in between our scheduled lunches. I might even sneak in an extra lunch with one of them outside of our group luncheons.

I realize during this thought process that God created us to be relational beings… with each other and with Him. God craves that same kind of relationship with each of us. He sees a little of Himself in each of us. And He wants us to see Him in ourselves and to learn how to let more of Him shine through us. A five minute chat as our heads hit the pillow is not enough! He wants to have more time, more frequency. Not because He’s demanding, but because He likes hanging out with us. Did you know God loves spending time with you?!

I challenge you to do more of whatever connects you to your Creator. Whether that’s prayer and meditation, reading Scripture, or admiring creation. Take time to walk and talk with Him today. And remember, He’s pining for you, looking for excuses to be a part of your day!