Yesterday, I published one man’s response to “Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women.” Today, with her permission, I’m sharing a response that a woman sent to Elyse and me.
A guest post by Emily Snook
“You can stop talking now. What you say doesn’t matter.” Five minutes into meeting this pastor, I knew that was his attitude. But I was a little surprised that the actual words had come out of his mouth, especially since I was answering a question about me. My husband side-eyed me knowingly as I tried to control my face and voice for the rest of the meal.
When I tell this story to friends, dear brothers apologize, eyes widened in protective shock and horror, but sisters usually just sadly nod. It may be surprising to hear it out loud so bluntly. But the sentiment is not a surprise.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked a question about myself then been told to stop answering. In fact, there was a time I was pretty used to it. When I was a teenager, I became very sick. It was, as male friends often uncomfortably put it, “a girl problem.”
A Girl Problem
A girl problem. I know many dear friends, who loved and cared about me but just didn’t know how to navigate an awkward topic, would grieve to know how those three words affected me.
A girl problem. Meaning: not their problem. Something little and insignificant. Or indecent. Not something they were interested in or comfortable discussing. They would ask me to tell them, then quickly turn to squirming and changing the subject. Or dismiss it as not that bad or being dramatic. Not their problem. A result of weakness, irrationality, or worse, a desire for attention. If only they knew how little attention about this I wanted. They were embarrassed? I was horrified every time I knew I would have to explain what was happening in my body.
Some (men and women) even told me that it was my fault or that no one would want to marry me, or things so much worse I can’t repeat them. I’d already learned from some leaders in my church tradition that being a woman was dangerous and problematic, that there was a specific, narrow mold to fit into for godly womanhood. And that I was not adequately feminine because of my interests or abilities or demeanor.
A Feminine Failure
I was a failure at being feminine. I was told by one authority figure that my suffering was discipline for that failure. My very body seemed to confirm the lie. My femininity was inherently “less than.” I was broken and condemned. So I learned to stop talking. I learned to pretend to be fine. To fit the mold the best I could (which was still not very well), all while carrying constant physical pain and the weight of what I’d come to believe about myself—I was unclean, unfixable, and unwanted.
For a long time, it took a lot for anyone, of either gender, to earn my trust enough to hear my real answers. Eventually, through the intervention of true friends, excellent theological education, wise counseling, and God’s faithfulness, I began to break free from those lies.
Thank God for persistent friends—brothers and sisters, kind teachers and mentors, mothers and fathers. Friends who gently pushed past my defenses and pretenses. Who listened with empathy, not disgust or discomfort. Who told the truth to the lies that silence and shame long spoke over me. Who, twenty years later, still fight for and with me to know and believe that truth.
So often it’s easy for women, and men, to feel like the world, and even the Church, is telling us to stop talking. That what we say doesn’t matter. That, if we don’t fit the mold, we are less. That our struggle and suffering are shameful. That we are unclean, unfixable, unwanted. And while it is a good thing for people who we know love us, our families and friends, to tell the truth to these lies, what we need is the Church to be the loudest, most trustworthy voice.
Why Worthy Matters
This is why Worthy is so important. Its straightforward overview of the lives, roles, and value of women in the biblical narrative is a vital framework for pastors, laypeople, and everyone in between. Elyse’s story-telling does not set out a mold but paints a varied tapestry of feminine beauty, wisdom, and strength. Eric’s humble, careful exegesis and confessional exhortation (especially to his fellow pastors) is a necessary male voice. It brought me to tears multiple times, with thankfulness and relief.
Worthy is not a book for or about women. Not really. I did not come away from it in awe of women or even feeling better somehow in myself. Worthy celebrates women, but every single celebration points to the One who made her in His image, protects and defends her, keeps His promises to her, gives her voice and vocation, lays Himself down for her, and loves her as His Bride.
Worthy may lead you to reevaluate or better appreciate the worth of women. But more importantly, it will lead you to love Jesus. It will urge men and women alike to find their worth in the only One who can make the unclean holy, the unfixable whole, the unwanted chosen and beloved.
Worthy helped me love Jesus more. It encouraged me to wait for the day that He lifts up my head and calls me “daughter.” It stirred my longing for the day of His return when all the suffering of the curse is finally and fully redeemed in the realized promise of the Son.
Emily, her husband Matt, and their two sons live in small-town Oklahoma. They serve in a rural church doing youth ministry and work with a local non-profit. Emily studied psychology and theology at Oklahoma Baptist University. She loves hip-hop, superheroes, British things, sports, food, being alone, and believes in the power of stories.