The Crippling Standard of the Proverbs 31 Women

officer praying 2This message may not be for every woman, I want to say that right away. It’s not an attack on a Biblical description or a discredit – simply a shared struggle.  I hope you can read this with your guard down. That’s what this message below is for. Coming to terms with the failures and shame that we, and others, put on us. Dropping our tired, heavy arms down to our side and breathing a sigh or relief that we’re not alone. We’re not perfect. And it’s OK.*

“There seems to be a growing number of books on the masculine journey – rites of passage, initiations, and the like – many of them helpful. But there has been precious little wisdom offered on the path to becoming a woman. Oh, we know the expectations that that have been laid upon us by our families, our churches, and our cultures. There are reams of material on what you ought to do to be a good woman. But that is not the same thing as knowing what the journey toward becoming a woman involves, or even what the goal really should be.
The church has not been a big help here. No, that’s not quite honest enough. The church has been part of the problem. Its message to women has been primarily, “You are here to serve. That’s why God created you: to serve. in the nursery, in the kitchen, on the various committees, in your home, in your community.” Seriously now – picture the women we hold up as models of femininity in the church. They are sweet, they are helpful, and their hair is coiffed; they are busy, they are disciplined, they are composed, and they are tired.
proverbs 31
Think about the women you meet at church. They’re trying to live up to some model of femininity. What do they “teach” you about being a woman? What are they saying to us through their lives? Like we said, you’d have to conclude that a godly woman is …tired. And guilty. We’re all living in the shadow of that infamous icon, “The Proverbs 31 Woman,” whose life is so busy I wonder when does she have time for friendships, for taking walks, or reading good books? Her light never goes out at night? When does she have sex? Somehow she has sanctified the shame most women live under, biblical proof that yet again we don’t measure up. Is that  supposed to be godly – that sense that you are a failure as a woman?
I know I am not alone in this nagging sense of failing to measure up a feeling of not being good enough as a woman. Every woman I’ve ever met feels it – something deeper that just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is. I am not enough, and I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough. But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy. The result is Shame, the universal companion of women. It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.
After all, if we were better women – whatever that means – life wouldn’t be so hard. Right? We wouldn’t have so many struggles; there would be less sorrow in our hearts. Why is it so hard to create meaningful friendships and sustain them? Why do our days seem so unimportant, filled not with romance and adventure but with duties and demands? We feel unseen, even by those who are closet to us. We feel unsought – that no one has the passion or the courage to pursue us, to get past our messiness to find the woman deep inside. And we feel uncertain – uncertain what it even means to be a woman; uncertain what it truly means to be feminine; uncertain if we are or even will be. 
Aware of our deep failings, we pour contempt on our won hearts for wanting more. Oh, we long for intimacy and for adventure; we long to be the Beauty of some great story. But the desires set deep in our hearts seem like a luxury, granted only to those women who get their acts together. The message to the rest of us – whether from a driven culture or a driven church – is “try harder.”
Taken from Chapter One of Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery Of A Women’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge
*thank you to my friend that shared this with me. xo



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