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…