It would make me angry, the way so many women doubt themselves, except that every time those feelings rise I think, "But is that right, I wonder? Maybe I just see that pattern because I want to see it." Soon my anger's vigor gets swallowed up by that giant sea of uncertainty and I don't say anything.
I've doubted myself for as long as I can remember. I don't pretend to know why, but I do know that self-doubt seems endemic among the women I know. Even the strong, secure, safe ones look at themselves from time to time and say, "Or...well...I don't know." Almost every serious conversation I have with another woman entails some degree of wavering about our perceptions, our feelings, or how we interpret the world in general. I don't even know if this is truly a woman's problem or if I don't hear it in men because it comes out differently.
But I do know a few things.
The ideals of femininity expressed among today's evangelical Christians often reflects values more medieval (or victorian...some of them strike me as exceedingly victorian) than biblical. I don't want to go through the list of "feminine characteristics" here, though I'll allude to a few later on, as examples. It seems sufficient today that most christian girls grow up with an image of what it means to be a christian woman, and they feel like they never attain it.
This seems even worse when girls are influenced by contemporary society. Girls get one message at church, another at school, and sometimes even another at home. What it means to be a woman who loves God fiercely and is willing to work and fight for Him isn't clear. There's not one mold, but several, and what fits in one doesn't fit in the others. What a ripe place for confusion!
Doubt seems to help us walk the lines between the molds. Instead of heeding the call to war and girding our loins to fight the enemy in our own ways if we're so called, many women walk around the house wondering if the desire to go is good or bad. In the end, we don't go because that debate is never over, and in staying home we meet the expectations of the Christians around us. While we don't stay for the right reasons, it's the staying that's important and no one sees the restlessness in our hearts. At the same time, having had the desire to fight and wrestled with it can please a more contemporary mold. We thought about taking our place in the lines, but golly, the fighting was over before we could get there.
Along similar lines to the ones above, self-doubt makes life easier. If we're not sure what to do, self-doubt lets us stick with the status quo. If I'm unsure that God is calling me somewhere that I'd like to go but that is more risky than where I am now, then I don't have to step into that until I'm sure. If I'm never sure, well, then I never have to change. Since following a calling like that often means fighting some non-biblical images of what Christians think a woman should be, and that can be an incredibly hard fight, it might just be easier to remain unsure.
Maybe it's also easier to live unfulfilled lives if we have the reason (excuse?) of not being sure what to do. Dreams are powerful things. They can change the world, if we give them a chance and follow where God leads. They're fulfilling, but they're also dangerous. And, as christian women, we're pretty much taught to avoid danger. So sometimes we face the dillemma of breaking the mold and facing censure for that, or living unfulfilled lives. Maybe having doubt about the call or the dream makes the unfulfillment more palatable, because we're not sure we should have been fulfilled in the first place.
As you think about these things, please know that there are several things I'm not saying here.
I'm not saying that every woman needs to break the mold. If a woman's life is within the mold and she's happy, then I'm happy for her. She's fulfilling God's call on her life--what more could I want for her? On the other hand, I hear more and more frustration about these things. There are enough women wanting to somehow, please, find a new mold, that it seems worth writing these things for them (...for me).
I'm also not advocating a reckless lifestyle or living without discernment. God's voice can be hard to hear, particularly when our own souls make such a racket that we couldn't hear him if he yelled. It's definitely worth it to take the time to hear his heart before we move forward.
Finally, I'm not pretending to know every heart. I'm sure there are a million reasons to doubt oneself, and if these don't fit for you, let me know what does. In fact, I feel more like I'm raising questions than offering answers. Why do women feel this way? Why do we hesitate, hold back and shuffle our feet in the name of uncertainty?
So, friends, women of God, what do you think? Why do we doubt? Because I haven't just heard this from women at large, but from our own mouths. I heard it as we sat around sharing our stories in the middle of the night, as we shared coffee, and as we talk on the phone. It breaks my heart to hear some of the most gifted, beautiful, amazing women I know doubt themselves and their ability to hear God. I want to love others in the name of Jesus as I'm called, and I know you girls do, too. So why does this hold us back? Any thoughts?