“A girl is not defined by what her society sees.
A girl is defined by what she sees inside herself.”
How I wish it were that simple.
But the simple fact is a girl (at least most of them) internalizes messages from her society, her culture, her community, and the people who loom largest in her life.
Those messages can be crushing.
Count me in when it comes to championing change in how young girls see themselves and in combating injustices that target girls and opening doors of education and opportunity for them. As followers of Jesus, Christians belong on the forefront in this devastating crisis. But the roots of the problem run deeper and saturate our own culture where doors are already open to girls. Yet they’re being bombarded—both outside and inside the church—with messages that lower their aspirations and shrink their horizons.
Questions I’ve been raising in my books are central to this issue.
Does the Bible have a message for women and girls today that undermines the negative and dumbing down messages they’re hearing? Does the Bible speak into our lives with a vision of hope and purpose that secures our value and empowers and calls us to live fully and freely for God, no matter what our history or our circumstances? Does that message only work where there is prosperity and wide open doors of opportunity, or does it speak with potency and redemption into the darkest corners of female existence?
We have that message.
It anchors a girl’s identity and purpose in her Creator who made her in his image, to know and reflect him and to live for his purposes. It tells her she is so profoundly valued and loved that Jesus died to rescue and reunite her with the God who made her. God calls his daughters ezers—a strong military name that applies to God himself as the strong helper of his people. It means, as I’ve said before, that the world is recklessly self-destructing when it muzzles, minimizes, or destroys the lives of girls. According to God’s vision, the true flourishing of ezers is not only good for women and girls, it is necessary for the flourishing of men and boys and for the good of God’s world too. The stakes are frighteningly high.
(If you don’t know what an ezer is, The Return of the Ezer will fill you in. If that whets your appetite to read more, there’s more in Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women.)
I hear regularly from adult women who tell me it has changed their lives to learn that God created them to be ezer-warriors for his Kingdom. There is growing interest (as well as a sense of urgency) in passing that message on to the rising generation of young ezers. Who of us doesn’t wish we’d been given that vision when we were just starting out?
Lately, that has been happening.
Here are two stories I received on the same day from two of my friends, Vivian Mabuni (Southern California) and Donna Tan (Philippines) who are carrying that message forward into precious young lives. That was a banner day for me! They’ve graciously given their permission for me to reprint their stories here.
“I was prepping a lesson for “Secret Keeper Girls” (a Bible study for tween girls some of the mom’s and daughters decided to do at our Asian church) and the lesson about not being boy crazy so you can save it all for your husband one day just didn’t sit well with me. I talked w/Darrin [her husband] about it and he said, ‘Why don’t you teach the girls the same stuff you’ve been teaching the college women? Lots of them have shared they wished they knew earlier.’ So I taught about image bearer, ezer and Blessed Alliance to a group of 11 year olds and their moms last night. Julia [Viv’s daughter] shared she noticed all of the girls were really paying attention. Being an ezer empowers and inspires. I had great conversations w/the mom’s afterwards. I’m excited for this next generation to have this message as a foundation rather than the wait around until you get married and have kids message. Your leadership, example and influence continues to bless countless people, Carolyn.
Also, I included Lost Women of the Bible in a stack of suggested books for my son who returned from his first year of college.”
“I just wanted to share with you about a talk I had with 20 young ladies ages 13-24 two weekends ago. I gave a talk about my own journey toward discovering my ezer calling, and shared with them how they can already be active participants in God’s kingdom, now. You know, as I gradually unveiled the meaning of helpmeet, of ezer, and that they can actually already be one at that moment, I saw how their eyes brightened in excitement at this new-found discovery! One young lady, I believe is 16, told me how she can’t wait to get into action. A week later, one of girls approached me and shared about how she had fallen into immorality with her boyfriend just a few months ago. They are not seeing each other anymore because their respective parents have disallowed it. When she heard me share, she was enlightened and she felt her spirit was revived upon realizing that she was not made to simply be someone’s partner. That she was made first to be an image-bearer, and to reproduce more image-bearers! Then went on to say “how can I reproduce girls in the image of God when I, myself, am a broken image bearer. But when she heard the talk, she saw hope for her broken self. Pray for these girls, as they ponder upon God’s calling for them.
I am giving the same talk on July 7, this time to our church’s women’s group – around 50 women, age range from 36-65+. I am already excited about it and can’t wait to see what God will do. Please say a prayer for me in this, when you can.”