God calls all his people – both women and men – to live their lives faithfully. As children of God, it’s important for us to reflect on his Word and ask ourselves what it means to follow Jesus and live our lives in a godly way.
As parents, we are teachers and role models in raising our children to follow Jesus. Using God’s Word as our foundation, both mothers and fathers should be intentional in raising their daughters to be godly women.
A godly woman is one whose life is built on the grace that’s found in relationship with Jesus. This means her foundation is secure, allowing her to live a life that honours God and is aligned with his mission for the world.
While the list of attributes you would like to see in a godly woman could be almost never ending, I’ve found it helpful to reflect on Philippians 4, particularly verses 4 to 7.
I love that we are told to rejoice. We are called to lead lives that are marked by joy, gratitude and thankfulness, even though that can sometimes be so hard in this world. Then verse 5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” In our culture that is very subversive, because gentleness is not seen as a strength or a valuable characteristic in a world that tends to look for power and might. But gentleness, caring for others and putting others first involves modelling our lives on our Saviour. That’s such a great strength. It’s a characteristic I need to develop more in my own life and would look for in a godly woman.
Next, verse 6 commands us not to be anxious. What a hard task that is in a world that’s getting busier and keeps throwing more at us. If you were asked to create a world that was anxious, 2020 could be what that looked like. Our call is to rest in God – in his grace, his mercy and in knowing his character – so we don’t need to be anxious. But it’s such a difficult command to live out, which is why it needs to go together with prayer. To be able to do it, we must be continually relying on God and taking everything to him.
In our contemporary world, girls get messages from all over the place, many of which aren’t aligned with what the Bible teaches. I have a beautiful 13-year-old daughter and I’m continually amazed at how different the world she has to navigate is to the one I grew up in. She is being asked such different questions and finds herself in such different situations. The moments I love most are seeing her being joyful, a little bit crazy, and having some fun – when she forgets all the pressures our world puts upon a 13-year-old girl these days.
As James K.A. Smith explains in his book You are What You Love, the world is working hard to form us. For example, if you go to a shopping centre, it has bright lights, signs and music all designed to make you want things and buy things. He argues that as parents, ministers, pastors and educators, we need to be working out how to form our children in the right ways.
Philippians 4 is helpful here, too. Verse 8 tells us: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
For me, this verse is really important in raising my daughter because it talks about what she is taking in to shape her thinking. What is she pondering on? What is her world being built on? Is it those pure, lovely and noble thoughts?
Making sure our daughters are being formed on the right things is a very difficult thing to do as a parent now. We need to be intentional about creating patterns and habits for them, so their thoughts are aligned with these things.
In a recent Facebook live session, I was asked what I would write to my 13-year-old self if I could look back from now. I went away and thought about what I’d like to tell her and what I’d want my life to show her. I came up with three things.
Each of us has been made in the image of God and we’re told he created us purposely. I wish I’d been more ‘me’ in so many moments of my life – the ‘me’ God wants me to be. As Psalm 139 verse 13 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God knows everything about us. Not only did he create us, but he also then redeemed us through his son. The person God made you to be – and the Spirit is transforming you to be – is beautiful, so just be you!
I admit to struggling with this one because I love certainty and feeling like I can control my world. But what I’ve learnt through hard times in my life is that if I rely on God and Jesus, I know the end of my story. I know Jesus is going to come back and that we’re going to have a new Heaven and a new Earth. Knowing this means we can take risks with our lives. In fact, I think Christians should be the people who take the most risks.
One thing I’ve loved in my work with Compassion is traveling to the field and getting to see women and girls living in situations where they have to take risks every day, but have a hope for the future that is so secure. They live joyfully because they know Jesus is going to come back.
For example, I travelled to Cebu in the Philippines, which is a place of great poverty. We walked through streets where overhead wires hung down really low, where children were washing clothes in dirty water in the gutters, and people were asleep on the streets. It had such an oppressive feeling.
The Compassion project is right in the middle of this and, when we went in, the welcome we received was amazing. There was much joy and laughter. Then, we went into a hall where five women stood up on a stage. Everything was quiet. These women held up signs saying things like, ‘Unwanted’, ‘Unloved’, ‘Hopeless’, and ‘Worthless’.
That was really confronting for me, because I don’t want women to think these things about themselves. The auditorium was silent. Then, gradually, the women turned over their signs. On the back, they said new words, like ‘Redeemed’, ‘Loved’, ‘Worthy’ and ‘Special’. That was because they’d come into a Compassion program for mums and bubs. These women had come into a community and come to know Jesus through the relationships they formed there.
One mum in particular stood out for me. Before the project, she had decided she was going to give her child away because it’s a lot easier not to care for a child. She didn’t know how she was going to find food every day or educate this child. But coming into a relationship with Jesus meant knowing her hope was secure. Not only did she keep the child she was about to have, but she also got reunited with her first child who she’d had to give away.
Through the program, she learned to sew and started making clothes to sell. She was only earning enough for each day, but she really had hope that the life she could offer her children was now worthwhile. It was a beautiful, transformational moment for me. In projects like this, I get to see the power of the gospel at work in a much more powerful way than I see it in my own suburb or in my own life. It can be easy for me to hope on other things, but women in situations like these can only hope on Jesus coming back and the world being made right then.
In our society, I think girls and women can get worried about being rejected or not being liked or feeling foolish. There might even be big risks we’d prefer not to take. But knowing that Jesus is coming back means we know the end of our story. I would tell my 13-year-old self and my daughter to take more risks.
It’s very easy to see that our world is not how God made it to be. This is sad and disappointing and can feel overwhelming. When I’ve gone to the field with Compassion and seen the poverty, it can crush you because it feels too big and like you can’t solve anything. But the Bible holds out an ideal of a different world – a world marked by Shalom or peace in which people are in right relationship with God, one another and creation. I wish I’d dreamed more about how I could be part of God’s mission for the world. I’d encourage girls to dream about how they can be a part of it.
In summing up, there’s real beauty in women and we bring a distinctiveness to the world. I don’t think women should work alone, but working in collaboration with men, we have this ability to see things in different ways. Having both males and females work on problems and conversations and questions gives a greater depth and insight. I really want our women and girls to grow up to be able to share their opinions and ideas, so that together we can create greater beauty then we could on our own.