This past week, prepping for our Personal Appearance discussion in my girls' group and having subsequent conversations afterward, I've spent a lot of time mulling over how God really feels about women and our appearance. How does what Jesus said fit in with the message the church so often sends girls and women? Do the women of the Bible fit the mold we've been told God made for us? Are we all supposed to strive to be the perfect Proverbs 31 wife and fight back shame and guilt when we realize we can't but the rest of the women in our church must already be because no one ever talks about anything dark and horrible in their lives? I'm digressing, but I'll circle back.
Once again, the curriculum I have is mostly LAME. And for the first time this past week, I read a phrase in my leader's guide that screamed nothing else but 'rape culture'. I seriously shook the page and yelled, "Are you SERIOUS?!" I've fought the urge to write letters to the publisher about this for quite a few years, and I never have... but I think I've met my straw. When we as delicate, modest Christians continually tell girls that showing too much skin or overly defining their curves is sinful because it will cause a boy to have lustful thoughts, we are furthering a rape culture mindset. Do I think girls or women should dress seductively? No. I definitely don't choose to. *Side note: curves aren't an issue for me, so I don't honestly know what it would be like if I had to try to cover them up. But some girls do. And those girls shouldn't feel like their inability to always hide their curves means they are the ones at fault when a boy looks at them with lust in his heart and sins.
Here's the thing. Here's what I told my girls on Wednesday, and what I will continue to tell them, and what I will continue to tell my daughter and her friends and any other girl who will listen. If a boy looks at you and has lustful thoughts... no matter what you are wearing, that. is. his. sin. Not yours. If he can't control his mind, control his heart, avert his eyes, control his actions. That. Is. His. Sin. And you are not guilty for his thoughts or actions. EVER.
We talked about clothing choices and modesty and intention. And we all agreed. It's a heart thing. It's a vanity thing. If a girl intentionally wears something to attraction attention, to appear sexy, to seduce a boy, whatever you want to call it... then that is her sin. And that is where her sin and her guilt and her part in this stops.
It should never be implied that a woman who can't effectively hide her curves is asking to be harassed. A girl should never be made to feel it was her fault she was raped because she chose to wear a short skirt at a party. The church should NEVER tell a girl that she is guilty for the lustful thoughts a boy thinks when he sees her in a tank top. Because once we do, that girl will never speak up when she is violated. She will blame herself for being molested. She will cry herself to sleep every night for years because if she hadn't worn that dress and had too much to drink that night she never would have been raped. And it must have been her fault because of her skin and her curves and her body. And it must have been her fault because that's what everyone, including the church, has told her all her life. We have to wake up. We all have skin. And women have breasts (which usually create curves). God made us that way.
The way a woman is dressed does not give everyone around her license to decide her intent. If a girl didn't effectively cover her curves, we shouldn't assume she is looking for attention. The way we treat someone shouldn't be based on their attire.
True to form, I'm going to end up back on my favorite Biblical topic: prostitutes. harlots. colorful, scandalous women. I love them so much. And I love that God loved them. And redeemed them. And I can't find a single passage in the Bible where He gave the okay for anyone to hurt or violate them.
There are few stories in the Bible that bring me to tears faster than the story of the adulterous woman (John 8). Every time I envision Jesus writing in the sand, facing off the Pharisees, and then turning to a woman who must have been a hot, sobbing mess, I just wanna bawl my eyes out. He NEVER condemned her. He offered her forgiveness and the chance to change her life and leave her sin.
Joshua's men didn't violate Rahab even though she was a prostitute and was probably "asking for it". They treated her with respect and kept their promise when she gave her word to help them in return for the safety of her family (Joshua 2).
Tamar intentionally tricked Judah by posing as a prostitute (Genesis 38). But he acknowledged her righteousness despite the deception, and he never touched her again... even though she must have "wanted it".
The woman at the well was a Samaritan (John 4). She had been married five times and was shacking up with someone else. Obviously a hussy. Jesus shared with her the He was the Messiah, and she believed him. When the disciples returned and saw Jesus talking with "that kind" of woman, none of them treated her with disrespect or disdain.
I could probably go on and on. But I'm going to circle back around instead...
We didn't just talk about those stories. We digressed to the messed up world of the Old Testament, with the incest and prostitutes and horribly straight family trees. And we concluded that today's world isn't any different.
We had a candid, awkward, somewhat disgusting conversation, and I hope they all left feeling as giddy and free as I did. This world is dark and ugly and terrifying, but we have a Hope and a Redeemer who has defeated it all.
And He loves us for us, as we are now.
Hot, sobbing messes. Nutella-eating insomniacs. He created us in His image, and any wrongs done to us by others are not our sin, not our fault and not our burden. He can take that from us and free us from the weight.
I had a second conversation this week with someone struggling to identify with Proverbs 31 at all. Struggling to fit a mold and be a part of the picture we sometimes want to paint of Christian women, Christian families. I would so love to have a clean house and ships with cloth, woven by yours truly, headed to the merchants, but it just isn't going to happen. I'm a hot mess. I stay up too late and sneak chocolate. I struggle with shame for what has happened in my life. I've spent years trying to nail my guilt to the cross and leave it there. And I wish more of us would be unafraid to speak it out. To yell our redemption loud and clear. There is nothing too dark for God's light to bring out of the shadows.
The Bible is full of those examples too.
King David was a man after God's own heart. He loved God more than his own life... but he was also a hot mess. He sent a man to his death because he coveted that man's wife. David's children were messed up too. David's son raped his own sister. The royal family of Israel had some major problems.
Samuel was a prophet of God, a leader in Israel, and his sons were complete idiots, struck down by God for their evil.
Jacob loved God, but he also tricked his dad and his brother. Karma is real, because Jacob's kids tricked him and sold one of their brothers to slave traders. And Judah (one of Jacob's sons) was tricked by Tamar (see above)... it's so awesome!
The list of skeletons in Old Testament closets goes on forever.
Humanity has been a hot mess from the beginning. And I truly believe the Bible tells us these things because God desperately wants us to understand that there is nothing too dark, too horrible, too shameful for Him to redeem. Jesus' sacrifice covered it all. His Grace covers it ALL. Even the horrific things we are afraid to talk about in church. The horrible things we don't even want to admit to ourselves. The twisted questions we want to ask but will never find the right Bible study for.
We are listening to Lauren Daigle's "How Can It Be" every Sunday at church this fall, and I can't listen to more than three lines of that song without completely losing my cool. It's my sobbing song.
This song says everything I feel in my darkest moments and everything I know to be true even when it's hard to believe. We struggle to comprehend the grace of God.It's almost impossible to understand, even with so many Biblical illustrations. The last thing I ever want to do is add legalism or contribute to someone's shame or guilt by what I say or how I treat them.
More than anything, I want to be able to walk in my freedom and show others how great it is when the guilt is gone. We don't have to be ashamed of what God's light might find in the shadows because it's already gone. Covered. Forgiven.