2005 at 4:30 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
A mother wrote to us with the following question:
“I have a 15 year old daughter who is a young woman trying to live by biblical principles. Do you have some advice for us regarding this stage of her life where she is very aware of young men and noticing their biblical qualities and character but also being in the season of still growing up, maturing, finishing school… that season of ‘marriage is in the future’? How can we help her guard her heart? Keep her emotions in check?”
As my mom always reminded my sisters and me: liking boys is normal! God made us to be attracted to the opposite sex. And as a young girl grows into womanhood, these desires will certainly become more pronounced.
And how wonderful that your daughter is attracted to godly character in young men and not simply enamored with outward appearance or personality. That is a sign that she has been trained by her parents to discern what is truly admirable in a man.
However, we also have the poetic and yet solemn warning from the Song of Solomon: “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (S of S 3:5, NIV), followed by the holy assumption in 1 Corinthians 7 that “the unmarried…woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit” (1 Cor. 7:34).
In the teenage years, the fact that God has created us as women to be attracted to men, and the biblical admonition to guard our hearts until the appropriate time, must remain in constant, healthy, tension. And your daughter will need your help to do this!
For starters, my mom initiated an ongoing conversation with my sisters and me about guys; consistently asking who we were attracted to and why. “Being attracted isn’t a sin,” she told us. “But indulging in thoughts about them, going out of your way to be around them, allowing them to distract from your pursuit of God and service of others is wrong.”
Purity was to be our constant pursuit; for Scripture exhorts us to “flee youthful passions” (2 Tim. 2:22). Through constant conversations about our hearts, helping us to avoid situations that would tempt us to impure thought or deed, and a steady diet of God’s Word on this topic, Mom and Dad were our greatest help in our quest for purity.
However, it wasn’t only about “fleeing passions.” Mom helped us to see that in addition to fighting for purity we must also be busy pursuing the things of God. Sitting around trying not to think about a guy will only have limited effectiveness; but a young girl who is busy serving Christ won’t have much time left to indulge her emotions. So let me encourage you to help your daughter find ways she can use her spiritual gifts, serving in the home and in the church.
Finally, until a young man had expressed an interest in us, Mom helped keep our feet firmly planted on the ground: “Think of him as someone else’s husband,” she would say. “You wouldn’t consider it appropriate to daydream or fantasize about a married man. And most likely, this guy you like will be married to another woman someday. Assume he is not going to be your husband unless he makes his intentions known.” And for your fifteen year old daughter, that time will probably be some years away.
There is so much more that could be said on this topic. I’ve barely even started, and this is already a long post. We cover purity and courtship in some detail in our book, Girl Talk. But in case you haven’t heard of them, I want to highly recommend Joshua Harris’ three books: I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, and Not Even a Hint.
I pray these few thoughts, but more importantly, these helpful resources, will serve you in helping your daughter walk the path of purity throughout her teenage years!
2005 at 2:10 pm | by Admin
Q: I had a query in relation to the concept of biblical womanhood. I am a doctor (graduated from medical school just over a year ago) and work fairly long hours in an ER. I find that I have to be fairly assertive at work and was wondering how does someone who is not married
and in a career be a biblical woman?
A: It’s interesting that you’ve just asked this because I was with a group of single women meeting with Janelle on Sunday at Covenant Life Church and discussing this very topic. Janelle has responsibility for developing the single women’s discipleship course at Covenant Life, and
this is a common question from the women who’ve completed the course in the past.
First, I think we all need to acknowledge that on the job we may be more easily influenced by the world’s values than initially we may be aware. Our mainstream culture assumes that career is the priority and that advancement is everyone’s goal. And some around us assume that single adults are going to be more devoted to the Siren call of success than even their married colleagues would be. But if we look at Scripture, we see a different definition of success. The most concise portrait is the Proverbs 31 epilogue. You may object, because that’s about a married woman. Yes, it is. But it has everything to do with a single woman because it is the wisdom of King Lemuel, based upon what his mother taught him—presumably as a young boy. What’s not clear to us in the English translation is that these 22 verses are a Hebrew acrostic (“a” is for apple, “b” is for boy—that kind of thing). So while this mother was teaching her son his Hebrew alphabet, she was also teaching him the virtues of an excellent wife, or a wife of noble character (depending on your translation). The Hebrew word that is translated there as “wife” actually means “woman,” but it can be understood in terms of a role, too. When his mother was teaching him, King Lemuel was obviously not married. But he was learning by heart the qualities he should be looking for in a godly single woman.
I find this so refreshing because it means that there is not a separate path for single women in the Kingdom. The Proverbs 31 woman shows us a seamless portrait of biblical womanhood that is applicable for every season of life. The Proverbs 31 woman is a savvy investor, a charming hostess, a loving wife, a hard worker, an entrepreneur, a gracious speaker, and a fruitful mother. We see that she is not lopsided. She is capable of making a profit, but she has a purpose in it: to be a blessing in her many relationships. We see that she has in mind her
family, her household, the poor and needy around her, and most importantly, her Lord.
As single women, we have the same reasons for working hard, too. We want to be able to provide for ourselves and our household—including the household of faith, our church—as well as the poor and needy. While we’re not married, the Lord has given us many relationships in which to invest, including the various children in our lives. It’s tempting to work long hours and not maintain our homes or make time to serve others, but that’s not the well-rounded portrait we find in Proverbs 31. Her model helps us to evaluate our career decisions and
the stewardship of our time through the lens of biblical wisdom and what will really matter most in light of eternity.
There’s one particular verse, however, that I think is immediately helpful on the job and addresses one of your specific questions. It is verse 26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” This is where I’m most challenged at work.
Under the pressure of deadlines and other expectations, I can so easily forget the impact of women’s words on men. Whether they are our bosses, peers, or subordinates, we still want to model godliness and Christian womanhood to all men, not just in the the pecking order of the world. Working in an emergency room, you have the added pressure of REAL life-or-death decisions. You are being paid to be assertive about triage care. But wouldn’t you say that those truly dramatic moments don’t make up the bulk of your speech at work? I’m just guessing. Though I’ve spent some time in the emergency room myself, I’ve never observed it to be like television dramas portray. It doesn’t appear that people are barking life-or-death orders to each other every minute.
So for all of us, we have to consider where we are making room on the job for the natural leadership of the men around us. I’ve learned the hard way that sentences that start with, “No, I think…” are probably not helpful or signaling respect to them. It’s not that having a differing opinion is wrong. It’s just that if we speak graciously and offer input in the form of questions, it models the overarching role of women to be counselors and helpers and leaves room for the men to consider our advice and make a decision. This is especially important in relating to men who aren’t our superiors at work: “That’s a good idea. I see where you are going with it. But what would you think if we approached it in such-and-such a way?” Going back to the Proverbs 31 woman, I realize that this is a collection of virtues and not a real woman, but if we put her into the context of her times, she would have traded widely and no doubt interacted with men of varying stations in life. Yet she is characterized by godly wisdom and kind speech. By God’s grace, we can all strive to grow in her example.
2005 at 10:34 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
I’m so excited because once again we will have the opportunity to hear from Carolyn McCulley today. If you missed yesterday’s post, be sure to read it, as well as my intro to Carolyn so you can get to know her a little better. And enjoy part two of our special Q & A guest post today!
2005 at 2:19 pm | by Admin
Q: I am a single girl of 23, and I am happy and busy and having lots of fun in my first “real” job after college. Here is my problem: I want SO BADLY to get married. I have always known that I was made to be a wife and a mother. I couldn’t have more faith in this truth if God had stood in front of me in human form and told me in plain English. But I go through periods where I want to get married so badly that it makes me miserable. This ache distracts me from what I should be doing at this season, which I think is growing closer to God, concentrating on my job, and maybe growing up a little more. So what can a single girl do when the ache of wanting to get married drowns out the joys of being single? I completely trust God’s plan, and I know that He gets to decide when and how I meet a man that may become my husband. Truthfully, I want Him to be in charge as He is, because I believe that He is planning something far more wonderful for me than I could have planned for myself. But how do I develop patience and make these miserable feelings go away?
A: As a fortysomething single woman, let me assure you that I am well acquainted with living with a deferred strong desire. I can greatly empathize with you and your reactions. But as I read your comments, I have to say I had a comical image pop in my head. It was of a young woman, with all your passion and capped letters and yearning-turned-misery, bursting forth these emotions on a young man—and him, in alarm, with wide eyes and flushed cheeks, turning tail and fleeing from the weight of these expectations. I know you don’t know my sense of humor, so pardon me for thinking like a cartoon strip. But perhaps that word-picture can help us get started putting those emotions in check. Just in the human sense, that’s a lot to put on one man’s shoulders, no matter how wonderfully wide and strong they are!
Seriously, I think there are two perspectives we should consider here. The first is what I alluded to above. With all our yearnings to be married, we have to keep in mind that if the Lord has marriage for us we’re not going to marry Prince Charming. He doesn’t exist. We’re going to be marrying another weak, sinful being, though—assuming we follow the clear biblical teaching to marry only in the Lord—this man will also be a co-heir in Christ and a clay vessel containing amazing eternal treasures. Like ourselves, he will no doubt want to do good, but find himself falling short on a daily basis. He may be an answer to prayer, but he will not be all-satisfying. It’s not possible, period. To walk into marriage with all these expectations and emotional fantasies is to put a tremendous burden on such a relationship.
Second, I want to be a kind sister to you and gently show you that to want something so badly that you feel miserable is a warning sign. It is an “idolatry alarm.” What it means is that you’ve pinned all your hopes for happiness and fulfillment on something other than the only source for this: God. If you’re not familiar with the idea of modern idolatry, you may think I’m over-the-top here. But let’s stop and consider it. When we look at any created thing (a shrine, a “divine” figurine, another human being) and lavish upon it all kinds of emotions and expectations for our happiness and fulfillment, this is what the Bible calls idolatry. It doesn’t honor God and it always backfires on us.
But God is the one who created the institution of marriage and He did it before the Fall. So obviously marriage is a good idea, even though Scripture also tells us it is a temporary institution (Matt. 22:30). So it’s not wrong to desire a good and godly gift like marriage. In fact, in a modern culture that thinks so lowly of marriage, it’s commendable that you and I desire it! But we have to guard ourselves from falling down the slippery slope where desire morphs into a demand, because when a demand is not met on our timetable or our terms, we become disappointed and lash out in punishment. (I’m grateful to biblical counselor Paul Tripp for this insight.) The key is to hold our desires in open, worshiping hands before the Lord. He can then take our desires and place His provision in them—which sometimes is different than we expected. But if we have already begun to make a desire a demand, our open hands will close around our demands in clenched fists. And thus we are no longer in a worshipful posture.
So how do we live in the tension of desire and trust? One key is found in Romans 12:12. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” The hope that is referred to here is for far more than earthly blessings. It is the hope of future glory that the apostle Paul refers to earlier in this book (Romans 8:18). It’s not that hope for marriage is wrong, it’s just not the highest aim. So aim for the greater thing, and you will find patience in the trial of unwanted singleness. (Yes, I do believe there is a bit of trial or suffering in unwanted singleness, but we have to view it in proportion to what we’ve already received in our salvation.) Then be constant in prayer—about marriage, about everything. Just this morning I was reviewing a prayer journal from 2001 and I was marveling at all the prayers, large and small, that God had already answered in these past few years. Though the various entries about a husband for me have so far gone unanswered, I couldn’t be discouraged when I saw how many other requests the Lord had answered for both myself and others.
I’d like to close with a quote from Charles Spurgeon about Ephesians 3:20-21. This verse says: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21). Spurgeon’s comment is:
“People often misquote Ephesians 3:20. They say, ‘God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think.’ The truth is that we could ask for the very greatest of things, if we were only more alert and had more faith. Ephesians 3:20 really says that God ‘is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we do ask or think.’ God is willing to give us infinitely more than we actually do ask.”
Isn’t that great news? I rejoice in it, because I know I never would have thought to ask Him to sacrifice His Son for my own sins and thus display the lavishness of His grace and the riches of His mercy before all of creation. A husband, by comparison, is a FAR lesser need and one we can restfully trust in Him to provide, if it is His will to do so.
2005 at 12:48 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
We have been waiting for just the right opportunity to introduce to you one of our favorite people…Her name is Carolyn McCulley. Carolyn has quite the resume. She currently works for Sovereign Grace Ministries coordinating church and media relations. But she is also an extremely wise and gifted writer. She has written dozens of freelance magazine and newspaper articles, and most recently a wonderful book entitled Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred.
Carolyn is a personal friend of mine. I have the privilege of watching this lady up close. Her example of humble service to the Lord and the church is one worthy of following. She exudes joy and kindness to all who interact with her and few will make you laugh like Carolyn. If you ever get to meet her, just ask her to tell you one of her “Carolyn stories”!
We have been receiving a number of questions from single ladies regarding biblical womanhood and we have asked Carolyn to answer some of them for us. She will post for us today and tomorrow in a special two-part “Q & A.” I can’t wait for each of you to benefit from Carolyn’s wisdom just as I have. Be sure to check out Carolyn’s blog at www.solofemininity.blogs.com. And if you haven’t already, order a copy of her book here.
Carolyn, I’m turning it over to you…
2005 at 10:36 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
This week’s question comes to us from Tatiana in Chicago:
Q. Is biblical femininity applicable to single women, because I most often hear it spoken of in the context of marriage and motherhood?
A. This question deserves a much longer and more thorough answer than I can give in a brief post. But let me say, emphatically, “YES!” Biblical womanhood is just as important for single women as for married women. Here are some excerpts from our book, Girl Talk, to more fully explain my answer.
“The important point here is that God created us. We are the planned and foreordained determination of an all-wise, all powerful, and all-loving God. It is not mere chance that we are female; our gender is not accidental. We were intentionally and purposefully created.
When God created the first woman and every woman thereafter, He made fully feminine creatures. You and I did not become feminine because our moms gave us dolls and put pink dresses on us. We were born feminine because we were created feminine.”
“[When] God created the first woman, Eve, [He] assigned her the honorable task of helper. As a fully feminine creature, she was stamped with a helper design. She was created both complementary to and yet distinctly different from man. She was created equal in worth and yet different in function…And your helper design isn’t something you cash in come marriage. For you were born feminine…Your helper role is called for today.”
So then, you may ask, what does it look like for a single woman (or teenage girl for that matter) to display biblical femininity? Jeff Purswell, the Dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College provides us with a definition for all women:
“Biblical femininity suggests an inner disposition that is supportive, responsive, and nurturing in its various roles, responsibilities, and relationships.”
Supportive — (Gen. 2:18) “an inclination towards giving help and assistance.”
“As women, we have been specially equipped to provide strategic, effective, and valuable help to those around us….So consider, whom God would have you assist and support in this season of your life.”
Responsive — (Eph. 5:23) “an inclination to cooperate with and respond to appropriate leadership structures”
“God has set up authority figures in our lives for our good….Spend a moment in self-evaluation. How well do you cooperate with and respond to the authority God has placed over you?”
Nurturing — (Prov. 31:27-28, Titus 2:3-5) “an inclination to provide care and strength to others.
“God has created us with a heightened sensitivity to the needs and pain of others and a large capacity to express compassion.”
The bottom line is this: “Although femininity may look a little different for a teenage girl or a single woman than for a married woman, we are called to fully express our helper design, no matter what our age or marital status is.”
All quotes taken from Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre, Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood (Crossway Books: Wheaton, IL, 2005) pp. 105-111.
On this note, I want to highly recommend an outstanding book on this topic by our good friend Carolyn McCulley, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred . Carolyn’s life and example backs up the message of her book which provides a pattern of biblical femininity for single women to follow.