She Is Clothed in Strength

Confession time: I’m a complete nerd. I love learning, period, but I currently especially love learning about how God wired me. (If you’re with me in this nerd boat, hello!)

One of my favorite parts of the recent training for church planters’ wives was unredeemed relating styles. It was not a pretty or easy process, but man, did God work through it! There were four options: Little Girl, Nice Girl, Tough Girl, and Party Girl. After filling out a survey, to my surprise, I found that I’m primarily a Tough Girl.

“I place a high priority on performance, tasks, and accomplishment. I am often driven, suspicious of others, overly critical, and at times enraged. I deal with problems with an “I can handle it” attitude and specialize in others-centered contempt. I often feel anger when and where others would feel sadness or fear.”

(Yes, it’s a tad harsh. But this is an unredeemed relating style, so just wait. We’ll get to the gospel, I promise.)

We gathered together by style and discussed each group. Here’s a snapshot of what I discovered:

1. What do you enjoy about being in relationships with Tough Girls? (by non-Tough Girls)

I can just let them lead. They make it clear how I can please them. They get it done. They know where they stand. They’re the CEOs of our environment.

2. What is difficult about being in relationships with Tough Girls? (also by non-Tough Girls)

They can hurt my feelings. Bullying might enter in. I can feel unsafe. There’s a tension about dominance; if I want to lead, I’m overpowered. They can lack grace and heap on shame.

3. What are Tough Girls’ inner struggles? (by Tough Girls)

I have a lack of compassion for myself. Being a Tough Girl (as opposed to a Tough Guy) is difficult in our culture—one is considered a leader, the other is considered a witch. I have competing desires: vulnerability and protection. I don’t like being seen as tough. I demand perfection from myself. I often wonder if you see me as truly enjoyable or simply useful.

4. What does redemption for Tough Girls look like? (by everyone)

Having tenderness and compassion for both ourselves and others. Upholding the power of God. Fighting for our own and others’ dignity. The ability to be weak, knowing Jesus is strong in our place. Bringing forth life into situations.*

5. When redeemed, what is a Tough Girl’s new name? (by leaders and, ultimately, Jesus)

Woman of Strength and Valor

I can’t tell you how much the Lord has been using this in my heart lately. Honestly, the Tough Girls group was the smallest: we only had three ladies, and we were all a bit nervous about discovering how others perceived us. One of the girls said, “I’m afraid our poster is going to be blank because they can’t think of anything nice to say.”

But Jesus entered into that space so beautifully, so freely, and I came away with an awareness that He made me on purpose with good things in store (if I can just get myself out of the stinking way). He brought all of this to mind as I read through Colossians this morning. I had to stop and camp out in 1:11-12, my new prayer as a recovering Tough Girl. Here it is in the Message version:

We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.

Strength is needed for this kingdom life. But not the kind I muster up on my own. This morning’s mercy is that I can be soft, fragile, weak, empty, and the world will not fall apart because He still holds it—and me—in His hands.

*My favorite part of the redemption bit was when the leader talked about our scars. The world inflicts deep wounds, wounds Tough Girls accumulate and try to ignore. But Jesus sits down with us and lovingly traces our scarred arms, holding out His own and saying, “Look, baby girl, see how your scars look like Me?” It’s a much-needed reminder that what the enemy means for evil, God works for our good. The most painful remnants of my past are a cue for my heart to dwell in the One who was scarred for me.

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