Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Through a Dark Mirror, Dimly


My husband will tell you that I am my gender’s biggest critic.  I cringe at the thought of being swallowed into women’s events: at being surrounded by mindless prattle. Don’t get me wrong: I often enjoy myself once there, and am guilty of “loving her shoes”, but in general, the thought of entering into it is painful. Lots of...fluff.  The longer I am on this planet, the more I realize that I share my father’s loathe of small talk.  And, I realize that while some of my rough edges have gotten shaved off by life, in many ways I have become sharper. Not in the intellectual sense.

Because of this sharpening, there is a quality that escapes me that I genuinely admire.  The sine qua non that makes a woman someone I revere; the spirit for which I do not believe there is a word in English. The closest we get is “sweetness”, and this totally lacks the je ne sais quoi about which I am speaking. “She is the sweetest woman I know” just has no stopping power. It doesn’t mean what it means. She is the !!!!!!! woman I know. Seriously, the !!!!!!!

Synonyms: delightful, grounded, kind, thoughtful, satisfying, considerate, amiable, admirable, pure… beloved.

Sweetness is an incredibly rare quality.  While considering the women I am thankful for, and really, specifically, why, it struck me: I think we love most in others what we ourselves lack. I am not sweet per se.  You see, the qualities I gravitate towards often get expressed in a much harsher way: discernment gets expressed as judgement. Intentionality as pride.  Willfulness as stubbornness. I am honest but pointed. Grounded, but unemotional. Yes, yes. I am happy and funny, and sometimes fun to be with but… sweet I am not. I know that the qualities I lean toward are not mutually exclusive with sweetness, yet it eludes me.

I think, at the heart of sweetness is that dirty word that most women of our generation hate: submission.

In college, I had a pretty rough season. I dated a guy who ‘believed in biblical womanhood’. To him, this meant that I had better line up, and if I didn’t--- . Lost on him was the fact that God does not call women to submit to every man, but to Himself, to their husbands, and their leaders (church and political).  This dude did not validate my personal relationship with Christ, but requested that I take his (bf not God’s) perspective on what God was really telling me. He, in fact, quoted 1 Corinthians 14:35 to me, “If they (women) want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” 

I was pretty angry at God for letting that be in the Bible. It’s still among my least favorite passages. I poke at it like a carcass with a 20 foot pole when I’m feeling particularly adventurous.

During that same period, I had a college teacher who had walked away from faith for some very well articulated reasons (this was one of them). She raised a giant middle finger to the church for their treatment of gender, sexuality, etc. While I considered my time in her class wildly uncomfortable, I am thankful for her. I’m thankful that I was in her class, uncomfortable. It forced me to thinkIs the whole Bible true? What the crap about this verse? What did God think about my chauvinist boyfriend? Was he right?

There is a chasm that forms between women over this idea of ‘biblical womanhood’.  This phrase conjures up  the image of a milquetoast Stepford housewife.

A lot of women struggle with what to do then. We find ourselves on a sliding spectrum of femininity.  On one side, we shrink back and say, “No. Forget you! I’m smart and talented. Ain’t NO ONE going to hold me back” or, (that character trait for which I have no charity) we resign ourselves to some imagined fate, and posture ourselves as a robotic Stepfordian. We disengage.  We don’t need to think because someone else will do that for us. Discussions revolve around people and things…the smallest of talk about the smallest of things, that make us the smallest of people.

In this advent season, our pastor said something that grabbed me:  The mystery and beauty of Christ can be found in God’s display of power in him, which is strength contained.  Fully God and fully man. 

Women like me are not looking to be a strength contained. Which means, miserably, that we are not looking to be like Christ.  The sweetest women I know are often willfully stronger than their compatriots/counterparts. They have learned to contain their power. They have not ‘shut off’, but instead, bring life (and really, power) wherever they are. They are actively submitting. Moment by moment. They submit to a higher authority, which is Christ.  

We have a way of screwing things up.
You want to know what comes shortly before the carcass verse?  

1 Corinthians 13:12 What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God's knowledge of me. (Good News Translation) 


At the heart of it, I think my lack of (erp) submission comes when I think God doesn’t know me. Doesn’t know my desires, and isn’t my protector and provider. (P.s. Men struggle with this too, but I’m talking to YOU, Ladies). 

What we see…is not what it is. What we think we understand, are, perceive, want…well, it’s as through a glass, darkly.  Our perception of what it means to be a strong, vibrant woman is through a dark mirror, dimly.

I want to be a !!!!!!! woman. And that means learning power contained. How to submit.


kristen mrdjanov

<Last 'clever' post: Night Lights
'clever' post: Cold Hands


  1. Yes, there are many women who are one extreme of the spectrum or the other within our gender's stereotype. Those personalities: The Gloria Steinem's and the Donna Reed's can be like visiting someone's house: You really only notice if it's too clean or, too dirty for your taste. A woman who measures her words, picks her battles, and practices patience doesn't always stand out... Until maybe later. The middle ground is much harder to model. Or, can largely go unnoticed.

    I'm not particularly fond of small talk myself, but small talk can be useful IF it leads somewhere in building a trusting relationship (some people just need it- so, :-) I try not to throw the Baby talk out with the bathwater). I just went to an event where the speaker decided to jump right in and share her authentic sordid past. It felt awkward and forced. I did not connect with her. It felt a bit like a mass puking and because I had no former relationship with her and I won't likely be someone who will be seeing her through any crisis in the immediate future. I just came back from another event where the speakers were authentic about their vanity. Somehow, easier to swallow, I guess, but still...

    I like authentic. But, it needs to be measured. I like people who challenge me, but I'd like to know it's not just malicious truth/criticism. I don't initially like to be made uncomfortable, but I like to be drawn into knowing "Why I believe what I believe." A true "!!!! woman" will be used by God in obedience to step outside of what sometimes makes sense in building a relationship and will challenge, motivate, and encourage.

    I think you're right when you said: the key word to the sweetness or a gentle personage is submission. But, a true discipline and love is required to attain submission. True discipline and love are rooted in a deep trust. I think the definition of what we strive to imitate in Christ is laid out in 1 Cor. 13 (well... and throughout scripture). I think when I throw myself into seeking after my God head long/heart first I know more about the God I want to imitate. When He is my focus, I might be grieved by my self in comparison and yet... I am also SO filled with hope. Only when Christ is my focus do I know what submission is- because I trust Him. And, my submission becomes based on the eternal instead of the temporal circumstances that distract and anger me. Only when I trust Christ, do I live the definition of love, because I realize how much of what is a pure love has been poured out for me.

  2. I so very much appreciate not only this post, but this conversation among you and your parents, K.

    I was just telling my coworker how you're one of the most intelligent people I know. But more than that, your (and your family's) ability to shed light on and so beautifully articulate God's plan in our everyday human struggles amazes me.

    Thank you for this. You are a light.

    (Your illustration is also beautiful - especially for 1 Corinthians 13:12)

    Love to you,

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