As I mentioned in Monday's book post, I just re-read Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge. It impacted me when I first read it several years ago, but this time I experienced it in a new way. This book isn't theologically heavy - as many have noted, it borrows as much from epic books and movies as from the Bible. But I think it strikes at essential things in the hearts of most women, whether they're "traditionally" feminine or not. One of my passions/personal themes over the past year or so has been how empowering and life-giving it is to become the people God made us to be. Captivating is about recognizing, and seizing, all that God made women to be - and don't presume that that only involves bare feet and kitchens.
Anyway, I just want to touch on a couple of things. The following passage has haunted me for a long time. I feel the way she describes every day of my life, but I never could have said it so concisely:
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 than just the sense of failing at what she does. 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.Too Much and Not Enough. We get this message from ourselves, from our society, and even from those closest to us. So how do we de-program? How do we know what's true about ourselves as women, and not forget it? That's largely what the book is about. Here's another passage from the last chapter:
The life of the friends of God is a life of profound risk. The risk of loving others. The risk of stepping out and offering, speaking up and following our God-given dreams. The risk of playing the irreplaceable role that is ours to play. Of course it is hard. If it were easy, you'd see lots of women living this way.I struggle every day not to let my own wounds keep me from taking risks, not to let my "negative verdicts" define me. This is an excellent reminder that God's verdict is the only one that matters. I don't have to hold back because of fear. And neither do you!
So let's come back to what Peter said when he urged women to offer their beauty to others in love. This is the secret of femininity unleashed:
Do not give way to fear. (I Peter 3:6)
The reason we fear to step out is because we know that it might not go well (is that an understatement?). We have a history of wounds screaming at us to play it safe. We feel so deeply that if it doesn't go well, if we are not received well, their reaction becomes the verdict on our lives, on our very beings, on our hearts. We fear that our deepest doubts about ourselves as women will be confirmed. Again. That we will hear yet again the message of our wounds, the piercing negative answers to our Question. That is why we can only risk stepping out when we are resting in the love of God. When we have received His verdict on our lives – that we are chosen and dearly loved. That He finds us captivating. Then we are free to offer.