Here’s To Ordinary Women
It’s not that I mind having a day to celebrate women, exactly. I know that women have often felt overlooked and undervalued, and if seeing Facebook flooded with people saying how great women are once every 365 days helps combat that, fair enough. It is also often used as an opportunity to raise awareness of issues affecting women around the world, and what we can do to make a difference. And that is a very good thing.
We must be alert, though, to our tendency to praise the wrong things.
I finally snapped last night, after scrolling through tweet after tweet praising women’s strength, their might, their ability to succeed. Praising the pioneers, the power-houses, the champions.
These things are great. It’s good to celebrate people who have achieved incredible things, especially if they have overcome significant odds to do so.
But then on Facebook I saw a friend had written ‘Sometimes i sit and wonder why anyone has anything to do with me when i hate myself so much’.
Imagine her reading all those posts celebrating success, power, strength, achievement, beauty. Even in her womanhood, she would feel she had failed.
Women are great. They are amazing. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. And that is true from the moment each woman is conceived to the moment she dies. She doesn’t have to achieve anything. She doesn’t have to overcome the odds, or face adversity with courage, or be resilient, or go above and beyond day after day. She doesn’t have to be the world’s best mother, wife, sister or friend. She doesn’t have to be creative or generous or full of joy or capable of anything.
She is worthy of celebration simply because she is. God saw fit to bring her into existence, and that is enough to give her inherent, eternal, inestimable value. It is enough to make Jesus willing to suffer and die in order to bring her into his kingdom.
Yes, there are things we should be striving to grow in, but we must force ourselves to remember that the things God prizes are not the things the world prizes. Obedience, fruitfulness, worship, humility. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Godliness. Christlikeness.
Yes, Proverbs 31 has a long list of great accomplishments in praise of the kind of woman who is greatly admired and brings honour to her husband, but the culmination of the list says,
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
1 Corinthians tells us:
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
It’s not that God graciously accepts the weak, the foolish, the despised, and somehow manages to use them anyway. He chooses them. He wants them. He loves them.
Paul, who was strong, powerful and hugely successful, identified that God had to give him a ‘thorn in the flesh’, a hindrance to force him to set aside his worldly strength and rest in Christ’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
It’s hard. It’s completely contrary to everything we see and hear and read around us. It’s contrary to our instincts. We want to succeed. We want to earn our place in this world. We want to shine, to stand out. I’m very conscious that I’m writing this post because it has been a while since I’ve blogged here, and I don’t want to be forgotten. I check the stats each month to see whether my post made it into the top 10…or at least the top 25. I check my follower count and my Facebook likes and Twitter retweets. I want to do well. I want to be praised. But I also know that that is a hollow, bottomless pit. I can be encouraged by the positives, but if I rest my value in them, I will be forever striving and never satisfied.
Because ultimately it is not about me. I am not the main character in my story. Jesus is. He is the one who should be praised and exalted and worshipped and celebrated. He must become greater; I must become less.
So here’s to ordinary women. To women who are weak and foolish and lowly and despised in the world’s eyes and their own, but who are loved by the God who made them and whose opinion matters more than that of all he has made.