“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”-Luke 12:27
There’s a whole lot going on in Luke chapter 12, but today I just want to take this famous verse about the lilies and speak of purpose, calling, and women. Another way of saying something similar to consider the lilies is, “sheep don’t strive.” Relax, trust, keep the faith, worry doesn’t add a single day to your life. Be content, be well, be beautiful. Human be-ings, not human do-ings.
A lily’s job is simply to be beautiful, to grace the world with something pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the senses, pleasing to the spirit. Lilies reflect the beauty of their Creator. That’s what Christian men and women are called to do and to be out in the world, beautiful, salt and light.
Being beautiful takes a lot of different forms, we aren’t just speaking about physical beauty here, although we are all wonderfully and fearfully made, but truth and beauty can also be found in someone’s kind words or a casserole delivered with some love.
I sometimes joke about women and the way we often do our best to make the ugly things pretty, no matter what the circumstances. In the face of tragedy, one will run off to make coffee, another to find a good table-cloth, and the other to bake some cookies. These rituals, routines, responses, are all simply a way to try to infuse some love into something that is beyond our control, to bring some beauty to what is sometimes dark and ugly.
It took me a long time to really appreciate and value those feminine things because I am such a doer and a fixer, an activist even. I had to learn that really the best response when someone is hurting is often, “I’ll make coffee, find us a nice table-cloth, and listen while you talk.” That’s a very passive response, feminine even, but it has the power to change everything, to fix what is broken, not by our own actions, but by being a conduit for God’s love to flow through.
I have a niece who has just had a baby and she is suddenly aware of the miracle of life, of what it is to have been entrusted with someone so precious, so beautiful, and to understand that you have worth and value too, true purpose, beauty you didn’t even realize you had. Suddenly you have this honored guest and you want the best for them, everything changes in an instant, how you perceive the world, how you perceive yourself.
Women have tremendous worth and value in the world, not just as mothers, but in so many diverse and amazing ways that really reflect the essence of who we, possessing skills and a way of being in the world that is unique and wonderful. We can also be spiritually valuable, as in consider the lilies..
I am not a feminist in part because that is an ideology that often seeks to erase what is special and precious about women, to shame what is feminine, and replace it with envy for the things that are more traditionally perceived as masculine, one that declares the alleged moral superiority of things like perhaps, reason, competition, careers.
It’s an ideology that tries to take what is beautiful and make it ugly. So motherhood is sneered at, being girly is frowned upon, being a stay at home mom is somehow shameful, and faith is seen as irrational, delusional. Women, rather than enjoying a protected status within Christianity, rather than being loved and valued, are now labeled oppressed and forced into some kind of limiting role. Feminism is an ideology based on scarcity and envy, as if there is not enough pie to go around and we are all victims.
Since this is a post about lilies, right on schedule we have Violet, who always stops by to inform me how ugly I am, how archaic, how delusional. She says among other things, “…it’s damaging to tell women they have to behave like ‘princesses’ or force them into any kind of stereotyped and limiting role…”
Ai yi yi, where does one even start? First of all, I encourage women to embrace the nature of themselves and to celebrate the feminine. What is damaging is when we try to deny biology and to make it into something shameful that must be cast off. Second of all, I don’t tell women what to do, nor do I force them. True, if I could compel every woman in the world to see her worth and value, to see herself as God sees her, I would do that, but I don’t have that power. Not even Jesus Christ forces us to love Him, so I am not a big fan of “force.”
Third, it’s really not about behavior, but about the condition of our heart. Embracing femininity and reflecting God’s love for us as women is not about skirt lengths and whether or not to wear red shoes, it’s far more complex than that. Fourth, stop shaming princesses. Princesses come in a lot of different styles and they aren’t just some disney-fied stereotype. Think about what we’re doing to little girls in their princess costumes everytime we sneer and put that word in quotation marks as if it’s something shameful and wrong.
And lastly, there’s nothing stereotyped and limiting about faith. Following Jesus Christ actually broadens your view, opens your eyes to new possibilities, expands your horizons.
Luke 12:27, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not;” is really about letting go of control, setting aside worry, embracing the nature of yourself, loving your Creator, perceiving oneself as His creation. Being content, joyous even.
We’ll call it a life style choice, one I’m going to have to demand that you tolerate becasue that’s how I have chosen to self identify.