When you speak as much as I do, you end up saying some stupid things, particularly if you’re tongue-prone to shoot off from your notes like a bike into a briar patch. Nothing can run amok like a mouth. Sometimes you catch errant words as fast as you say them and you snatch them back before they land. No harm, no foul.
Other times, if you’re like me, on more than a rare occasion you start the second day of a conference apologizing for something you said on the first day. I am happy to report that in 3 decades of speaking and teaching, I’ve found groups to be refreshingly forgiving and gracious and lighthearted when you own up to something misspoken, particularly if it happened to have been funny. You get a fair amount of leash with funny, I’ve found, as long as you don’t cross a line. Of course, sometimes you don’t know you’ve crossed a line until you do it. Thankfully, most people give you the benefit of the doubt and, frankly, feel sorry for you for frying your own self up like a chicken.
In the words of Solomon, when there are many words, sin is unavoidable. (Proverbs 10:19 HCSB) Translation: talk less, sin less.
A few years ago I said something to a group that haunts me. I’m writing this article because I want to take it back. I’d like to blame the group because they were vocal and hilarious and egged me on. But I won’t. It was my own big mouth. As usual, it wasn’t in my notes. I’d do better with my messages if I wouldn’t look up from the podium but that’s no fun. I love faces; round ones, square ones, white ones, brown ones. I love faces. Anyway, spontaneity can be a lovely thing and sometimes the Spirit of God speaks most clearly through a word that comes to the speaker completely unscripted. This wasn’t one of those times.
I was talking about how territorial women can be. The group was all riled up in the subject matter with me, amening and nodding so I just kept prodding. “Not all territorialism is inappropriate, mind you,” I said, the bike now wobbling to the left. “For instance, if a woman lays a flirtatious hand on my husband, I’m liable to take her arm off at the neck.”
That’s a near-enough truth or I might die trying.
And that’s when my mind suddenly leapt from the sacred page of Scripture to the 1966 lyrics of that legendary queen of country music, Loretta Lynn. So, I just went with it and said…
Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man.
Since some of your parents were still in diapers when this feisty ballad blew up the AM radio dial, I’ll bless you with the rest of the song. Come on, now. Pat your foot. A country song doesn’t get better than this.
You’ve come to tell me something you say I ought to know
That he don’t love me anymore and I’ll have to let him go
You say you’re gonna take him oh but I don’t think you can
Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man
Women like you they’re a dime a dozen you can buy ’em anywhere
For you to get to him I’d have to move over and I’m gonna stand right here
It’ll be over my dead body so get out while you can
Cause you ain’t woman enough to take my man
Sometimes a man start lookin’ at things that he don’t need
He took a second look at you but he’s in love with me
Well I don’t know where they leave you oh but I know where I’ll stand
And you ain’t woman enough to take my man
Women like you they’re a dime…
No you ain’t woman enough to take my man
The first time I sang that chorus word-for-word, I wasn’t even woman enough to shave my legs. But, here I am full-grown and I can still spit those words out with sparks coming off my tongue.
Which is precisely what got me into this mess.
And that’s when I pedaled that bike in a blur of feet straight through the bushes:
And if she IS woman enough to take your man, you better woman-up!
The crowd went wild. We hooted and hollered and howled. We came dang near to throwing our shoes. We nearly drowned in our own estrogen.
Say to somebody beside you, “You better woman-up!”
And they did. Nice and loud.
We were women copping an attitude. Shaking our index fingers and wagging our heads. Women back-talking other women who’d had the gall to swish their petticoats into our territory. Girlfriend better step back because she doesn’t know who she’s messing with. It was hilarious.
Listen. You’re woman enough even if some other girl did take your man.
You’re woman enough even if you’ve been ditched by a man for nobody but himself.
You’re woman enough even if you’ve been thrown out and rejected.
You’re woman enough even if you’ve never had a man.
You’re woman enough even if you’ve never put on a stitch of make-up or darkened the door of a nail salon.
You’re woman enough even if you couldn’t care less about what purse you pick up.
If you’ve lost both breasts to cancer and don’t have a hair on your head, you’re still 100% woman enough.
None of those things make you a woman. Your Creator makes you a woman.
It’s not just men who can make us feel like we don’t measure up. It’s other women. We’ve got enough voices in this world telling us that we’re not enough. God forbid that we who are called to serve women echo the charge. Let’s watch our mouths out there. I’m talking to myself first.
Hopscotch through the Scriptures and you’ll watch God get a hold of one woman after another who didn’t seem to be woman-enough in her world.
As it turned out…
Hagar was woman enough. (Genesis 16)
Sarai was woman enough. (Genesis 17:15-19)
Rahab was woman enough. (Joshua 2)
Ruth was woman enough. (Ruth 1-4)
Naomi was woman enough. (Ruth 1-4)
Hannah was woman enough. (1 Samuel 1)
Elizabeth was woman enough. (Luke 1:5-25)
Anna was woman enough. (Luke 2:36-38)
The Samaritan woman was woman enough. (John 4)
For crying out loud, Jesus even saw to it that the sinful woman in Luke 7 was woman enough. We’d assume Mary was woman enough from the start because she was handpicked by God but I’m asking you whether or not you think you’re woman enough. God handpicked you, too.
This is what makes a woman enough. And a man enough.
So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
We are worthy of mutual honor and esteem because God granted such graces to humankind when He fashioned us in the palm of His hands.
When I look up at the heavens, which Your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which You set in place,
Of what importance is the human race, that You should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind, that You should pay attention to them,
and make them a little less than the heavenly beings?
You grant mankind honor and majesty. (Psalm 8:3-5 The NET Bible)
Several months ago a very dear brother in Christ asked me if I might know a young woman he could set up on a date with a Christian young man he loved and esteemed. Nothing wrong with that but I have lived long enough to break out in hives at the prospect of matchmaking.
Me: Well, what kind of taste does he have? What’s he looking for?
Him: A Christian.
Me: Yep, I get that. Of course.
My friend told me a few other things like high hopes for good looks then slipped this one in as an endnote: And he’d like her to be a virgin.
Don’t get me wrong. I teach abstinence outside of marriage. I beg girls to wait. I wouldn’t have a woman deal with all the issues of my past for anything. Barreling off the plan of God can bruise a person up. I have a tremendously high regard for both men and women who hang onto their virginity until marriage. Still, something hit me sideways even though I wouldn’t argue for a second about the young man’s right to choose. Each person must know what he or she is capable of handling in the past relationships of a prospective mate.
Is he a virgin? I inquired. Women my age can ask that kind of thing in a context like this and get away with it. I tapped my fingers and waited for an answer.
Him: Well, I think so but, if not, he’s a reconstituted one.
And I went off like a bottle rocket.
What he meant was this: if the young man wasn’t a virgin, he’d repented since then and been forgiven and restored by God.
Amen to that.
Me: But the girl couldn’t be reconstituted??
Him: “Yes. Of course. That’s not what I meant.”
And, to be fair, it wasn’t. He’s a great guy. But the persisting double standard that still lurks out there like smog in the smug nearly threw me into a coughing fit. Needless to say, it’s not just male-imposed. We women do it to ourselves. Somewhere way down deep in our souls, we honestly believe that a sinful woman is worse than a sinful man. We so wanted to live up to the woman we planned.
Jesus lived up to the plan. That’s what we need to know.
The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28
My grandmother might have said it like this: what’s grace for the goose is grace for the gander.
Jesus has done more than reconstitute us regardless of our gender anyway. He’s forgiven us, completely purified us, and made us new creations. Men and women alike stood at the foot of the Cross that dark afternoon. Men and women alike stand at the foot of it today.
Incidentally, I still believe in womaning-up when we need to, as long as it’s the kind we find in the folds of Mark 1:29-33.
And immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told Him about her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to Him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door.
No matter what has you down, your back to the ground, reach out your hand and put it in the palm of Jesus.
PS. Because you’ve gotta love her and you might need to grin.