Saturday, October 11, 2008

Caution: Images are not always what they may seem at first glance

Yesterday I clicked a link, then another, then another and ended up reading this document then this list of articles. On that list I read maybe half of them, they're not very long.

I wasn't entirely happy with myself after reading there. It's not the material, it's me.

I wish I could remember where it is and who wrote it, but a few years ago I read something by another Christian woman that said something I'd never heard before, and was so glad to hear someone say. Hugely paraphrasing she wrote about how there are two kinds of perceptions Christian women in the world:

a.) The Betty Crocker/tea party, always seems to have it together, fashionable yet modest, puctual, always hospitable, never says a harsh word, home neat and orderly and lovingly decorated, with well-mannered children.

b.) the rest of us.

The author of the article that I can't locate, went on to say that this is only what it looks like on the surface, and that while the ladies in category A may certainly seem to fit that description on the outside, they generally don't see themselves that way at all. The article also said that the ladies in category B often struggle with trying to measure up to the image of cat. A and almost never feel like they achieve that, and are often left with a sense of disappointment, and discouragement.

I remember reading that with tears in my eyes. I was so relieved to see that someone else gets it. I am officially a cat. B Christian woman, and I too struggle sometimes with feeling like I have to measure up to cat. A, regardless of whether it's a realistic depiction or not.

I think in some ways this is a good thing, because the descriptions of a cat.A Christian woman are all GOOD things. Noble and God honoring character traits, these are things that Christian women should be striving to attain. On the other hand (there's always another hand, isn't there?) it can be a bad thing, if us cat. B girls somehow turn this into a "I must be like THAT lady" thought. That's a hard one to battle against since that's the way most of us think, regardless of whether we want to or not. We do compare ourselves and our lives to other people, no matter how much we don't want to.

That article that I once read went on to give a more realistic description of cat. B women and it was something along the lines of this:

The cat. B woman doesn't host tea parties but she does open her kitchen and her heart to anyone that needs a shoulder to cry on or someone to share good news with. She doesn't have it all together, and likely never will, but she can find it if you give her a few minutes. She isn't exactly fashionable because she puts the needs of others first (and does the best she can with what she's got - the budget only stretches so far). Sometimes she vents and speaks a harsh word and the longer she walks with the Lord, the more this convicts her and the less she does it. She's learning to tame her tongue, because it matters to her. Her home is often a mess, but it's a place of love and a refuge. Her kids aren't always as kind as they could be, but they need grace as much as she does, and they're all growing together.

The original article was SO good, and I didn't save it. I really wish I would have. It warned against the dangers of "image" and comparing ourselves to others, and how that's just a recipe for failure. It spoke about being content in the place you're in and being assured that the work He's doing in you is right on track according to His timing. It mentioned that those women who seem to fit into cat. A are sometimes women who are struggling to maintain an image, while hurting desperately on the inside - and still others actually are like this, and we should be thankful that they are such beautiful and godly examples. It mentioned how the body is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts, talents, personalities, shapes, colors, etc. While we are not Stepford Christian Women, we all do have character examples set out for us in Scripture (Titus 2, Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5) and how that manifests in the lives of Christian women will vary in many ways.

I don't know if this will benefit anyone today, but I do know the kitchen floor needs to be swept, stuffing needs to be made and a bird needs to be stuffed if it's going to be done by 3. All my kids and my grand-daughter will be here today, and we'll laugh, we'll eat pumpkin pie with freshly whipped real cream, and it's a gorgeous, sunny, warm day. There will be a ton of dirty dishes, someone's going to spill something, somewhere, and there will be too many people in the kitchen at once. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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