Continuing our interview with John Ensor, one reader inquired (on behalf of many, no doubt!): “I’m unsure what Mr. Ensor means exactly by the rustling leaves and snapping twigs illustration (‘It is for men to strike out into the forest and look. It is for women to crack the twigs and stir the leaves so we know where to find them.’ p. 92). Obviously God’s calling for a woman (or a man) is to avoid flirtatious behavior, so how does he see single women behaving in a way that rustles leaves and snaps twigs?”
In context, I meant to stress the need for men to take initiative. The metaphor was my way to burn it into the brothers’ minds that they need to be the initial risk takers; to be pursuers, like a hunter in the woods. The metaphorical corollary was for women to crack twigs and rustle leaves so we know where to find them. When CJ read this quote at the Na Conference, it launched a thousand discussions.
I mostly meant, “Show up in the places where godly men can interact with you and just be yourself. Be natural.” Most metaphors break down when you ask them to carry more than the initial point. But the readers were right, it does raise the practical question, “What is appropriate behavior for attracting male attention?”
According to one’s maturity, sensitivity, good judgment, confidence and personality, every woman eventually comes up with a specific list of dos and don’ts. Such things should be much talked about in homes and with friends and in various women’s groups and blogs. A little iron sharpening iron here is good. My contribution would be to remember the following three points when deciding.
1. A godly spirit is twig-crackingly attractive.
This seems to me the first and heaviest emphasis of Scripture and the point I was trying to make in chapter 12 “He displays integrity…She, an inner beauty.” Trust God on this! Physical beauty is the most relied upon, sure-fire, quick-work approach to attracting male attention. It does catch his eye and arouse his passions. But what works initially and works out well over the long haul is not the same. So we read in Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Here is a warning to reject the worldly approach and remember that godly men are attracted to holy women.
1 Peter 3:3 calls women out plainly: Reject the trendy, sultry hair styles, attention-grabbing jewelry and clothes designed to arouse male passion. Adorn yourself with a strong faith and hope in God and you will be clothed with a quiet and gentle spirit that is winsomely attractive to men. In context the point is that this is powerfully attractive to even unbelieving husbands. But I can assure all young women that godly men find this twig-crackingly attractive.
2. A neighbor-loving outlook on life is twig-crackingly attractive.
This is in contrast to women who are self-centered, self-focused, self-absorbed. Such women do tend to put a lot of effort into appearances. But they are like manna; initially satisfying; but try to hold on to them and soon the relationship spoils. Men find it powerfully attractive when a woman’s general orientation toward life is outward and rooted in serving others. As Proverbs 31 points such women are healthy, dignified, hard-working, challenged, fulfilled, less prone to insecurities and depression, (see the book page 153). They are generally more enjoyable to be around; because loving our neighbors is the Great Work of the Gospel that God designed us for and along these paths of service, powerful friendships are born that naturally lead to more romantic interests.
Among the attractive traits of the woman in Proverbs 31, we read, “she opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (31:20). This is her orientation; serving the needs of others in this fallen and painful world. In 1 Timothy 5:10 it is called “Having a reputation for good works.” In 6:18, this outlook, along with the inherent vibrancy it creates is described as “ being rich in goodworks…so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” See that? Here is what the book, The Secret, should have been about; Here is the pathway to life that is really life! Yesterday I was reading in Romans and came across another hint of this general outlook. Paul says those who are “patient in well-doing…will inherit eternal life” (2:7). Why? Because steady and unwavering well-doing in this fallen world, flowing from gospel love, is the very fragrance of life. And my point is that this fragrance is twig-crackingly attractive to men.
My daughter is 24, single, godly and would love to be found by a soul mate and get married. In the meantime, I know she is active in the body-life of her Church, pursues a strong interest in missions, tutors some struggling kids on Saturdays, helps occasionally with the pregnancy help clinic in her area, and co-teaches a class of young girls on Sundays. If there is a husband in her future, I think she has resolved to be spotted by him along the pathways of living out a fulfilled single life of kingdom expanding, neighbor-loving service.
3. A healthy body is twig-crackingly attractive.
I have chosen to use the prism of health rather than beauty because it seems to me to be more in line with what the Bible would permit (rather than oppose) in terms of physical beauty and adornment. It appears to me that women should strive to be healthy in body and form and to highlight their natural beauty by their fashion and stop there. Looking our best is not the same as looking sexy.
The thing to remember is that how we dress and present ourselves in public is a form of communication. So discerning what is fitting and proper in terms of magnifying your natural beauty comes down to what message you are trying to give when you go out among male company. “I am modest” is not a message sent with words, but with clothing. Cleavage on parade is, “I am sexy.” A butch haircut on a woman and a pony tail on a man usually are by design and to make a statement. The culture defines these things and so they change all the time; but we generally know what means what, though sometimes we are not sure. For women in Paul’s day, wearing a hair-covering in worship sent one message, not wearing one sent another. Basically the Bible teaches us to honor the cultural cues in our dress and make-up and presentation and stick with those things that convey our life’s priorities and purposes (point 1 and 2 above).
If I show up to speak in a church unshaven or with a big gold chain around my neck, or wearing a blouse, it would provoke intense reaction as people tried to figure out who I was and what message I was sending. When our son, Elliot, was a teenager, he once came home with a ring in his eyebrow! Kristen was shocked and deeply upset. Honestly, I was scared for him. We took it as a cue that it was time to probe, what does this mean? What’s the message? Who are you? What is going on inside you that you want to say on the outside? At first he tried to say it was nothing. But fashion is always a statement of something.
On the other hand, several years ago, I had my teeth worked on by an aesthetic dentist. My teeth were cracked and crooked and I felt it was time to fix them. This was purely physical. But I felt liberty of spirit to do it. So by good health and natural beauty, I mean to acknowledge the reasonableness of presenting ourselves in public at our best, staying in good shape as best we can, and dressing and presenting ourselves appropriately as fits the cultural expectations, and that which is consistent with godliness.
My grandmother had scoliosis as a child, which resulted in a curved spine and hump back. Not too attractive. My grandfather was very tall, rugged and clearly had no regard for dentists. Yet he found in this shrunken little woman a beauty, a fire-cracker wife that he loved dearly till her passing, one month short of their 50th anniversary. So I go back to the beginning. Trust God and be yourself. Don’t worry too much about how to crack the twigs. God will snap his fingers at the right moment.
Girls—this is an answer to re-read and apply! More conversation with John Ensor tomorrow…
Once again, we welcome back John Ensor, author of Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart to answer more questions on the topic of relationships…
What should a single man do to get to a place where he can pursue marriage? How does he know he’s ready, and how does the woman know he’s ready?
I must admit that this question is an enigma to me. I know of no place that men get to that makes them ready to pursue marriage (Minnesota worked well for me though). A particular man might have a specific goal to accomplish before starting any relationship with a woman, but it would not be transferable. For me, when I could no longer envision my life without Kristen being a part of it, I figured I was ready for marriage. Then all the practical hindrances simply lined up as things to get done so that I could get married. That included things like a formal proposal, meeting her parents, finishing college, getting a job, reading some books on marriage, getting some counseling etc. I think this works for both sexes.
How prepared to support a family do you recommend that a young man be before pursuing a young woman in marriage? (job, school loans paid off, etc.)?
Economics is a real and practical matter, but not the only consideration. Delaying marriage for too long creates its own temptations and problems. And remember, all those preparations (finish school, get a job, save some money) are fleeting preparations. Jobs are lost. Accidents occur. Twins may appear! Savings can disappear. Marriage is a covenant to take on life together, come what may from a wise and sovereign God.
The key is to come up with a plan for supporting yourselves and to be united in it. If possible, it seems best for marriage to be delayed until at least one of the partners can be in the work place. And I strongly recommend living small (used car, small apartment, old sofa, etc.) and paying down school debts as quickly as possible. After all, babies happen! And when they do, the economic dynamics change considerably. In our case, waiting for us both to finish school before getting married was not going to work (the reasons being recorded in the book). We decided to get married after college but before I went to seminary. So for three years, my wife was the main bread winner. But we were united in this arrangement. We agreed that living on pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches together was better than being alone with more monetary comforts. Besides, unless you are living with parents, marriage, with pooled resources, is often cheaper than living separately.
What should a single woman do to prepare for marriage?
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. This will be quite fulfilling and wonderfully challenging. Living to Great Purpose is God’s plan for us all and prepares us for everything, including marriage, should God provide it. But singles, men and women alike, do well to prepare for it best, to use the words of James 1:27, “by keeping oneself unstained from the world” while finding a place of service in the Great Work of the Gospel, like “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction” (1:27).
My daughter, Megan, is 25, single, and would love to get married, I am sure. But she is engaged in her church, involved in tutoring kids, praying and planning for a variety of missions projects, acquiring job skills, etc. She is well prepared to be a great wife, because she is well devoted to living for Great Purpose, period.
Are there dangers/disadvantages to long “courtships” or long engagements? What do you consider long? What length do you recommend?
Unless two people were in the 8th grade together, long courtships make no sense to me. Really long courtships are usually really doomed relationships. If you meet as freshman in college and you both want to finish school first, you might be courting for 4 years. But that is a relationship that is pursuing a clear plan, and with self-discipline, makes sense. But if you are simply dating a man for 3-5 years, without an engagement and a date certain, that is a relationship that is in a comfortable place and going no where. Like an old chair, it needs to be set out to the curb.
As for engagements, my advice is when you know you want to get married, get to it as soon as possible. I recommend 3-6 months. Given the cultural expectations that families have, 6 months is often the minimum requirement for planning a traditional wedding. I’ve met couples who get engaged and plan for a wedding one year, even two years later. Generally that is hard on virtue and horribly stressful on the relationship. Most of the time the reasons are very material and worldly in nature—also a bad sign. As I wrote in my book, engagements, like the yellow light between the red and green, should be brief. Once you are determined to “Go” step on the gas and go!
Tomorrow, the answer you’ve all been waiting for…
Our most recent book club selection is Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart. This week, we’re so pleased to welcome the author, John Ensor, for a girltalk interview.
John Ensor and his wife Kristen recently moved from Boston to Miami where he is the Director of Urban Initiatives for Heartbeat International, an organization for Christian communities establishing pregnancy help centers worldwide. In addition to raising three children—all of whom are now grown—John previously served as a pastor and has also authored several other books including The Great Work of the Gospel (Crossway, 2006) and Answering the Call (Focus on the Family, 2003).
Thank you, John, for being willing to appear on girltalk and answer our questions!
To begin with, we’d love to know how you came to write this book on the topic of relationships?
Thank you for the opportunity to join the club. Let me say upfront that most of the questions you’ve raised are substantive. My answers, being brief, are incomplete or unbalanced in some cases. Nonetheless…
There were two compelling reasons why I wanted to take up this subject. First, the culture (and our Adversary the devil, working behind it) appear to me increasingly and relentlessly aimed at staining the consciences and spiritually disabling our young adults before their faith can grow strong and their sense of God’s calling on their life becomes clear. They are being taken out before they can be equipped for Great Purpose. And the spot where that full assault is aimed is our sexuality and intimate relationships. This book is my effort to send a shot across the bow in defense of young adults and the Great Work that lies before them.
The second reason is very personal. I received some clear and challenging biblical teaching on sexual purity, manhood and the joy of marriage within the first few weeks after my conversion when I was 17- back in 1972. Remember, my generation was going to Pot (which along with the alcohol led to unrestrained sexual activity). I was on the precipice; about to plunge into all of it. In the nick of time, because of the first teachings I received from the Church as a baby believer, I was saved from a multitude of sins and a bucketful of tears. I have enjoyed a sweet marriage. So I feel a debt of love that can only be paid forward. And thus, the book.
What is your greatest concern for single men today—what do you think they “don’t get”?
They don’t get what it means to be a man and not a woman. They lack a behavior-guiding, confidence-boosting, soul-satisfying, wife-pleasing definition of manhood. This of course is why the book is laid out the way it is; starting with theology and going to practice.
How about single women?
They don’t get what it means to be distinctively created female and to delight in the pursuit of mature womanhood.
How can a young woman discern whether or not a guy will be a strong spiritual leader?
I honestly don’t think it takes too much discernment; and if it does, you are probably imagining it. If he has a visible conviction about God and an evident hunger for the Word, he has the stuff of spiritual leadership in him, even if he is young and untested. By observing a man in the context of a local church or Christian group, or while engaged in a mission together, they will see either that hunger on display or not. Where young women go wrong is that they give their heart to a man too early in a relationship and then panic and attempt to see in him what is not there. But by watching a man in a variety of settings other than the “date” setting, they will see him more clearly for what he is.
How, practically, can single women encourage godly leadership in men?
The best way I think is for a woman to simply communicate to a young man that she welcomes and appreciates male leadership. Men usually have it within them. But they are not confident. They are unsure. They are not practiced. Strong, natural leaders will always take initiative. But the rest need encouragement, even permission at first. Since whole bunches of churches and even Christian schools have muted all teaching on the subject, precisely when megaphones are in order, not many young men are being trained and equipped by men to be strong, servant leaders. So if the man in your life has not had the benefit of a church that provides such teaching and models, then he may be a very good man, but need some encouragement and suggestions at first. Ask him to read the book with you. He will adapt quickly.
More on relationships with John Ensor tomorrow, including several answers the single guys may be curious to read about…
Our final installment from last weeks Family Room makes for a perfect Friday Funny. Fred Cunningham (who you may remember from last month) gave us some of his thoughts on femininity. Take a look.
Back on Monday!
Janelle on behalf of the girltalkers
Back again with more great stuff from the Family Room! At the conclusion of my mom’s message, we were all treated to a musical parody written by Kathy Spiro. Kathy brilliantly weaved the points of the message throughout the performance and had us laughing and crying. Check it out here.
Girl’s night at thefamilyroom not only featured an outstanding message by my mom, but it was an entire evening devoted to encouraging us to honor God through biblical femininity (and helping us laugh a little in the process!). Over the next two days, we’re excited to share with you video footage of several program elements from our time together. We suggest you begin by listening to Mom’s message to set the stage.
Today, we offer a video file of two powerful testimonies by Shannon Harris and Carol Bladen—women I love and respect. They each share how God transformed their lives and gave them a biblical perspective on what it means to be a woman.
Oh, and the lady introducing them with a pink curler in her hair is none other than our beloved Clara Boisvert, who brought her trademark humor to her role as emcee!
Of the many emails we received in response to foodtalk, we thought you all would be especially encouraged by these two:
I just wanted to share with you how timely your interview with the author’s of the new book “Eat and Be Content” came!
I’ve always struggled with my weight, more recently with three
pregnancies (one being a miscarriage and all the emotional eating I did
because of that.)
I read your interview with anticipation of the next day! I have gone
back and re-read it and as I type think, “I should read it again.”
What struck me was the fact that I eat and am not content…so I
overeat. Looking to food and not to God to satisfy me. This is a heart
issue in my life! It’s an idol in my life!
One thing that stuck out to me was the 30 grams of fiber and fat
rule. I did some research on line as to what is high in fiber (to be
honest I was quite clueless!) After doing some research, last Monday I
headed to the grocery store to stock up on some high fiber/ low fat
This week I focused on be content with my daily portion of food! No
matter how small! And when I did eat, I ate foods that were high in
fiber and low in fat.
I prayed that God would allow me to not be controlled by food,
looking to food for satisfaction and really allowing my heart towards
food to change.
I have felt that freedom! I have tasted this God given freedom this week!
I got on the scale this morning…I have lost 8 pounds! Praise the Lord. My husband lost 7…just following my lead!
Thank you for that interview!
just thought I would write to you and tell you that my personal story
matches up with Elyse’s theory on bulimia/anorexia as a chosen
behavior, not a disease. I struggled with this sin for many years
through my high school and early college days. I was finally able to
overcome this destructive behavior through God’s help (Phil. 4:13). I
am 32 years old now able to enjoy food without the temptation or desire
to go back to those days. I agree, wholeheartedly, that I chose that
behavior and also chose to stop. Thank you for your encouraging posts
each day pointing me to God. God bless you all.
A reader from Sacramento!
It was “girls only” night at the Covenant Life Church familyroom last Friday. What a blast!
My mom shared a message on the topic of femininity, and she opened by asking this all-important question:
“What does it mean to be a woman?”
She noted that, “There are many conflicting voices in our culture— Each demanding we agree with their definition of womanhood, subscribe to their brand of femininity.”
But we must, in the words of Jeremiah 6:16: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”
In her message, Mom spent time looking at the ancient paths—found only in Scripture—to discover what it means to be a woman and what it looks like in the daily life of the teenager, single woman, and married woman.
Wanna know what she said? Listen here.
For the past few weeks Mom’s been busy preparing a message for the Covenant Life familyroom which she shared with the women on Friday evening. We’ll link to it as soon as it becomes available.
As a result, this is our first girl’s lunch in quite a while. We’re still sitting outside at Starbucks as a matter of fact—enjoying the beautiful October weather (yes, it really is in the 70’s today!). So instead of writing a post, we’re going to point you to a funny little post at Al Mohler’s blog. You may want your husband, or father or boss to read this one.
We’ll be back tomorrow…
Nicole may be done talking about food, but like she said, I still have plenty to share on the topic. Our friend Marie, who is also the senior pastor’s wife of a new church, sent me this friday funny which is the perfect conclusion to “food talk” here on “girl talk.” Enjoy!
Janelle for the girltalkers
I have been going to Weight Watchers with about 5 other ladies from our church. I joined mainly because I saw it as a unique opportunity to get to know some of the women in the church and was hopeful that it would help me persevere in trying to lose weight when it is always so very slow for me.
Last Friday night my husband and I were hosting a dinner for the 45 people that recently joined our church. We were having lots of appetizers and desserts instead of an actual dinner. Because I wanted to bless the women who were coming and are participating in Weight Watchers, I decided to put the Weight Watchers points on the little cards identifying the appetizers.
For instance, the scallops wrapped in bacon had a little sign that said ‘Scallops wrapped in Bacon’ and than at the bottom ‘1 point each,’ the Spanikopita, ‘Spanikopita’ and at the bottom 2 points each, etc. I did this for about 8-10 of the different appetizers.
Part way through the evening, as I was replenishing some of the platters, one of the men asked me where I had gotten the scallops wrapped in bacon. Then he proceeded to tell me, “I can understand why you said we could only have one each, because they are really really good”.
After my initial shock, I promptly told him that I was so sorry—he had misunderstood my little labels and he was more than welcome to have as many as he wanted. Later in the evening, I found out that a number of the other men there thought the same thing and that one man who had two of something on his plate had been told: “Didn’t you know you are only allowed to have one of those?”
I have no idea how many people really thought that the first hospitality they went to at the senior pastor’s house was a lot of fun—but a little strange too, in that they limit you to a certain number of appetizers!