Gently Abused Faith

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Even the mention of a “godly woman” sends my stomach on a sickly spin deep inside. I had learned, over the years, how to freeze a neutral smile on my face as those words advanced on me during the course of a conversation. It would usually begin innocently enough: good friends, good advice, good words of God. But somewhere in the middle, I suddenly sensed an invisible presence. Something was coming for me. And I didn’t know how to escape. It was only 10 in the morning, but I was already pretty tired. Luckily, there was an unoccupied park bench within running distance of the slide. Because, they always seemed to get hurt on the slide. As I unpacked the double stroller with a toddler step releasing kids of all sizes, I quickly surveyed the playground for potential small-talk conversations to avoid. Ok, tired mama at the swings. She looked safe: committed to pushing a baby, occasionally nodding at the “watch me, watch me” kid. She was not able to run over here without a considerable amount of warning. Mom and Dad together. They were both one hundred percent focused on the unsteady steps of a little blonde boy. Perfect. I collapsed on a warm plastic bench. Not-so-quiet semi-relax time in my little four foot transparent bubble. Finally.

I could see my kids while they climbed and jumped. They were good kids. They shared most of the time and played well with others (except for that biting phase…). There were just times that it was a long morning. Lots of unimportant daily tasks seemed to chip away at my enthusiasm. Sometimes I even wondered if it was all worth it. But everything was better for a moment: I had a beautiful quiet little park bench all to myself this morning. I must have soaked in the warm southern sun a little too long, because I didn’t even see it coming. All of a sudden I just heard a loud squeal from behind, “HI! I’m so glad you are here with your kids!”

I knew this gal. Homeschooling in a small town in Georgia, you quickly meet all the other crazy families like you. Parks, libraries, mid-day classes, we seem to keep showing up in the same places. So here, the small talk had begun. The plastic smiles ensued. But I knew where this conversation was going. I’ve been here before.

After the obligatory weather, weekend plans, and how-are-the-kids-doing chat, we get to my least favorite part. This is where we have to talk about what a good wife we’ve been to our husbands and what an awesome enlightened mother we are for our children. Again, it usually started innocently enough. Too much laundry, fight with Mr. Right last night, kids are throwing tempter-tantrums… what to do, what to do. But here is where they start pulling back the arrows of that ideal “godly woman”. Do this, solve this, this is how the “godly woman” does it right. And you know, this gal hasn’t been the only one.

That image of the “godly woman” haunted me from examples in the Bible of honorable women. She hid behind words like good, and happy, and blessed. She stalked my every move, but I generally tried to ignore her judging eyes. Because I fear I will never ever be as good as her. So why did this gal at the playground keep shoving this “godly woman” in my face? Why did she choke me out with this “godly woman’s” actions? Why did she continue to beat me down with godly words that should help? Years and tears later, the answer finally slapped me on the cheek—this poor gal had also been gently abused in this way. And today she passed that misunderstood godly woman to me.

by unsplash.com/@benwhitephotography | License - Public Domain
by unsplash.com/@benwhitephotography | License - Public Domain

My well-meaning Christian mom friends were on a never-ending quest: they searched for safety and assurance in trying to walk the path of the “godly woman”. They studied to discover her way, and then made every effort to imitate it. Sure, it was hard. Maybe you took a few steps backward, but there was always more to do. There was a way to improve. You could advance in the way of becoming this “godly woman”. It just took practice, dedication, and prayer. We are all responsible for assuming the identity and responsibilities of the “godly woman”. I should strive to be her.

But there was a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. There is no (and never was) comfort and assurance in my own walk. In fact, the more I learn about this godly woman, the more I see how terrible I am. She shows me that I am truly a poor and miserable sinner.  As hard as I try, something is always left unfinished. I cannot by my own reason or strength be the godly woman. I keep screwing up this godly woman thing, and this is why the Son of God sacrificed His godly life for mine.

Our Christian faith hinges on the actions of Another: the perfect sinless life of Jesus, Who pleased God the Father in everything He did. But Jesus did not live the perfect life just to tell others how to be like Him. Jesus lived the perfect life to exchange it for something else: to exchange it with the bloody rags of an un-godly woman. Our faith is not invested in what we do or what we have done, good or bad. Jesus alone did every good work—perfectly and completely. Period. He then marks us with blood and water and Word as the godly ones—sinless and victorious.

I am sick to my stomach of a “godly woman” apart from Christ. This crafty imposter has hurt me so many times, and continues to abuse my friends. Too many conversations about her ended with ropes of resolution tightened around my neck. Too many Bible studies about her lead me down the stairs to personal despair. Advice for becoming the “godly woman” snuck tiny stabs at my already failing heart. Gently, of course. With a poisonous taste of possibility.

A word, a hope, a faith in Christ soothes your struggle to be that godly woman. Since He has finished every requirement, every Law, every righteous path, it is already done. You are free from the nasty lies of the abusive Deceiver that has you look to yourself. You no longer need to fear the unattainable woman to whom you can’t measure up. You have been graciously given the identity of a godly woman by Christ.