I shifted in my seat at the women’s ministry event; the speaker said it again.
“You are a beautiful, chosen, special woman of God. There is no one in the world like you!”
I’d heard this message dozens of times – on the radio, in books, at conferences – even emblazoned on coffee mugs and shirts at every LifeWay Store in America. It’s the same message directed at Christian women in every corner of western culture. And it’s a message that – while well-intentioned – remains deficient no matter how many times it’s preached.
You see, I’m not actually that special – and neither are you. An honest look at our humanness reveals this truth. Any woman who’s done a degree of self reflection knows that her struggles, insecurities, and sins aren’t unique to her. They’re part of being human in a fallen world. Further, any woman who knows the depth of her own inadequacy will find these Christianized platitudes of beauty and “chosen-ness” entirely insufficient for daily victory.
I’m not saying these encouragements are false. We are God’s handiwork (Eph. 2:10). We are chosen (1 Pet. 2:9). We are unique (Matt. 10:29-31). The question is not whether or not these things are true, but whether or not this is the most important message women need to hear.
Personally, I don’t think it is (and I’m not alone).
If I judged Christianity by its women’s conferences, I’d be led to believe that the Bible is no more than a series of compliments from God to man. Instead, the real story is far less complimentary and far more humiliating. Jesus didn’t come to earth because we were beautiful, special, or great. He came because we were too grossly sinful to bridge the gap between ourselves and God.
That’s not a message we want to hear from the stage of Extraordinary Women, is it? But it’s the one we need, because women who think they’re pretty awesome don’t need a Savior.
Women wonder if we’re enough. Looking at the titles of the books we read, I deduce we’re entangled with insecurity, fear, and identity crises. We’re in this constant state of “struggle” with very little victory, never really living as “conquerors in Christ” (Rom. 8:37). These are real spiritual issues, but you know what? I’ve yet to see one woman set free from insecurity by being told – however repetitively – that she is beautiful. It doesn’t work, and it’s not the answer.
The truth is that, apart from the transforming power of Christ, I’m not beautiful, special, or all that unique. I’m born into sin, and bent to rebellion. My insecurities and fears pulse through Adam’s blood in my veins. These can’t be rooted out with shallow “encouragements”. What I need – what every woman needs – is a soul-deep solution to the problem of sin. Insecurity is not the problem. Fear, poor self-image, marriage problems – these are just symptoms of the real disease. The disease is sin, and we all have it.
We need freedom, not compliments.
Again, it’s not a bad message. But it’s theologically deficient, and if the goal of a women’s ministry is to encourage and equip female Christians, the message has to change. The gospel is good news only to those who recognize their need for Jesus. When you create a culture that uses Jesus for little more than a spiritual feel-good, it’s no wonder the women it produces can’t get victory over anxiety, anger, insecurity, or fear. They leave our churches knowing all about themselves, and knowing little about Christ.
The solution is simple. Stop preaching the easy message, and start preaching the right one. Stop exalting us as women and start exalting Christ. And here’s the amazing thing about a gospel-centric women’s ministry: when all women do is worship Jesus, the insecurities, fears, and anxieties pale in comparison to His everlasting glory.
When our eyes turn to His beauty instead of pandering to ours, insecurities die.
When our ears listen for His voice instead of listening for more about us, fear has no place.
When our minds think about who He is instead of who we are, we find an identity wrapped in eternal purpose.
That’s the crazy thing about the gospel: our pre-Jesus ugliness magnifies the beauty of God’s love. Only by understanding who we are apart from Christ can we live in daily recognition of our beauty within Him. We need to be reminded of who He is to better understand who we are.
So please, stop telling us we’re special.
Tell us about Jesus.