Have you ever wondered what it means to embody ‘femininity’? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the quality of being female” or “womanliness.” Fashion magazines portray femininity through women who are beautiful, independent, sexily-dressed, and in high heels. Others may link femininity with females who are good with kids, sweet, and marriageable. But true femininity must mean more than these stereotypes and idealised qualities.
Among Christians, there are also different ideas about what ‘godly femininity’ should look like. Many may think of the wife described in Proverbs 31:10–31. But if she is the ideal, godly woman, the bar is set so high that it is unlikely any of us can reach it! Others may think of prominent women in the Bible such as Queen Esther, Ruth, Sarah, Rebekah, and Deborah the judge. But that angle tends to focus only on the strong, successful parts of their lives to emulate as godly women.
When I look at my own life, I feel far off from meeting such high standards. I remember struggling as a single throughout my twenties. As I watched my friends get married and start families, I wondered, “Am I less of a woman if I don’t have a boyfriend, husband, or kids? Can I, as a single woman, embrace femininity even though I’m not a wife to someone? Even though I’ve made mistakes and don’t have a beautiful track record, can I still be a godly woman?”
The answer came when I read about the nameless woman in Luke 7:36–50.* She had a reputation as an immoral woman and was openly labelled “a sinner.” When she knew Jesus was having a meal at the house of Simon the Pharisee (an expert in Jewish laws and traditions), she braved her way there to meet Jesus in person. In her hands was an alabaster jar of perfume, which was rare, expensive, and precious. She stood behind Jesus, crying. As her tears fell onto Jesus’ feet, she began wiping them with her hair, kissing and anointing them with the perfume, honouring Him in public.
Simon looked down on the woman, thinking how unclean she was to touch his guest. In his heart, Simon also judged Jesus for allowing “a sinner” to touch Him. So Jesus told Simon a parable about extravagant love as gratitude for the forgiveness of sins, then proclaimed that the woman’s many sins were forgiven. Jesus even blessed her by saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
To me, despite her blemished past and mistakes, this nameless woman embodies ‘godly femininity’ as she loved Jesus extravagantly. We can learn from her what a godly woman is like:
1. Intimacy with Jesus: She draws near to Him at all costs.
2. Courage: She dares to be who she is and honours Jesus in the way she can, regardless of what others may think.
3. Humility: She humbles herself in faith to bring her brokenness to Jesus, knowing her sins will be forgiven.
4. Generosity: She pours out her love for Jesus, offering her best, not leftovers.
Like this woman, I too have been freed from my sins through Jesus. Through faith in Him, I can rest secure in my identity as a daughter of God. How ‘godly’ I am as a woman is not limited by my broken past, nor defined by peoples’ comments or social expectations about how I should look, dress, or behave. Who I am is because of Whose I am, and so I can love God extravagantly. This is what ‘godly femininity’ really is.