Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Discovering Feminity

Leslie Basham: When Marcia Arnel was a teenager, her outward appearance reflected some of the pain that was in her heart.

Marcia Arnel: I had rejected being alone for so very long. I was a tomboy to the T. If I was a boy, then guys wouldn't want me physically. I wouldn't have to worry about the hurt and pain of that anymore and I looked back on that now and I realize that was me trying to protect myself.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, February 2. Let's join Nancy and her guest.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: All last week, we were talking with my friend Marcia Arnel who was sharing so openly with us about some of the experiences of her childhood and of her growing up in an abusive, alcoholic home. And yet as we closed last week, Marcia, you began to share with us a story of God's grace in your life and how the love of Christ really began to transform your life. You came to a personal relationship with Christ as a college age young woman and you shared with us that some things began to change immediately.

As I've heard you share your story before, one of the themes that emerged was how God began to change your thinking in relation to the whole matter of what it meant to be a woman. And apparently this was something that, until the point you came to faith in Christ, you weren't real comfortable with.

Marcia Arnel: That's right, Nancy. I had rejected being alone for so very long. At this point in my life I was a tomboy to the T. I dressed like a tomboy, acted like a tomboy. I could play all the sports with the guys. I even played better than most of the guys and I really looked up to my older brother so part of that was just wanting to be around him and his friends.

But as years went on, I specifically remember not wanting guys to notice me and part of that would be wearing big baggy clothes and, you know, if I was more like the guys, they wouldn't look at me as a feminine girl as someone they might want to be with. And I look back on that now and I realize that was me trying to protect myself because of molestation.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So you didn't want to be attractive to men?

Marcia Arnel: That's right. I was wearing pants, flannel shirts and combat boots about this time to be quite honest and there was even a point maybe in seventh grade when I went to mom and said, "Mom, can I possibly have a sex change," because I just wanted to be a guy so bad.

I just saw their lives as so much easier than my own and I had seen my mom for so long as a very weak person because she took all that abuse from my dad and continued to come back to him and I didn't want to be like that. I had rejected being a girl altogether by this point. If it was pink and purple and frilly, I didn't want have nothing to do with it, pretty much.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It sounds like there was a tension going on in your heart because on the one hand, Marcia, you were a tomboy and not wanting anything to do with looking or acting like a woman; on the other hand, you were captain of the cheerleading squad and that sounds like there was a little part of you that really was wanting to be in a more womanly role.

Marcia Arnel: Well, I don't know [that that was] so much about a womanly role as I love football and I really wanted to play football to be quite honest. And my brother didn't want me to so the next best thing was to be a cheerleader so I could be on the sidelines.

But part of that, being a cheerleader, too was my desire to have a boyfriend and to find my security in guys at that time. And so I think there was a part of me that was doing it to attract the guys' attention, but it wasn't about being a girl. It was more"¦

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And yet there's a tension even there because on the one hand you're repulsed by and scared of the men who have hurt you so deeply and not wanting to be attractive to them but there's this part of you that is wanting to be loved and accepted by a man.

Marcia Arnel: I think I started covering up physically wanting guys to notice me, as I got deeper into immorality. I think there was a sickness inside of me that that was all they want; then they would be gone and it wasn't really a care for Marcia, it was just desire to satisfy themselves and then to leave me. And so I wasn't getting the love and acceptance that I had thought I was going to get from being in relationships with guys. So I began to at that point to cover up who I was physically on the outside by my clothing.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Marcia, I understand that some women who have dealt with issues of sexual abuse and who as a result have rejected their womanhood, and are not comfortable with who God made them, sometimes even end up with extreme thoughts of attraction to other women. Did that ever become an issue for you?

Marcia Arnel: Yes, those were definitely thoughts that I had pondered and even had talked through with one of my girlfriends, "If we were to do this, what would happen? Would there be a relationship in this and would we become possessive" and I definitely talked through it with one girl and maybe even possibly experimented a little bit with another girl.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know, Marcia, as tough as it is to even resurface these kinds of things that are so much a part of who you were, but not who you are now that you're in Christ, I think you've illustrated so profoundly what is really a basic biblical principle and that is that when we respond to the hurts and wounds and painful circumstances of our lives with bitterness, we become vulnerable to all the various types of things that you experienced in your life.

As you've been talking a passage that comes to my mind is from Hebrews, chapter 12 where the Scripture says in verse 15 that we should be careful, "that we do not fail to receive the grace of God," the grace that God wants to give us, to respond to the inevitable hurts and wrongs and wounds of life.

The Scripture says that if we don't receive the grace of God, then what will happen next is that a root of bitterness will spring up in our hearts, and it will trouble us, it will destroy us ultimately, and then it will defile others.

And then the Scripture goes on in that passage to give us an illustration of Esau, and it says, "Lest any be a fornicator or a profane person, like Esau, who for one morsel of food, sold his birthright."

So what happens, we fail to receive the grace of God, then we become bitter, as you have shared that you did toward your dad, toward your mom, toward the molesters. There was hatred; there was anger that certainly could be justified from a human point of view but God wanted to set you free from all of that.

And He has been in the process of setting you free from all of that, but before you were set free, you lived those years, as a bitter, angry, resentful person and ultimately what has really surfaced here is that your bitterness was toward God.

Your dad didn't make you a woman; those molesters didn't make you a woman. God made you a woman. And in rejecting your womanhood and in throwing away virtue and virginity and morality to those guys in high school and in college years, you were really saying, "God, I'm mad at you. I'm bitter that you made me a woman and that as a woman you have allowed me to be in these kinds of circumstances over which I had no control."

And then you said, in effect, "I'm going to take control. I'll be immoral. I'll dress the part of a non-woman. I'll even engage in thoughts and experimentation of sexual involvement with other women, and where that could have led, only God knows.

Marcia Arnel: That's very true, and I remember that becoming an issue and being told I was rejecting the very person that God made me to be as a woman and that He desired me to be a gentle, quiet woman and that was okay. And that He wanted to grow me in that and I was encouraged at that point to begin to nurture things because that's a woman's trait.

And I was told that I should possibly begin to grow plants. So I began to grow my first plant. It was a little vine. And before long I had probably 25-30 plants around my room and desired to learn what it meant to be a woman, because I had rejected it for so long, I didn't even understand really what that meant.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Was there something that God used to draw you into becoming that kind of woman, to create in you a desire, an openness, to be more womanly?

Marcia Arnel: Yeah, there was definitely an excitement about being who God wanted me to be because my desire now was to please Him. And knowing that He made me to be a woman, I wanted to be whatever that meant. So I definitely became curious about what I needed to do; how I was to go about that. And God just began to put examples in my life so I could see women living out the role of being a godly woman.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Who was an example of that kind of woman in your life?

Marcia Arnel: There was one girl who was still a virgin, lived a wholesome life before me and I just wanted to glean all I could from her asking questions about her upbringing and the influence of her parents; just other girls around me that God had put in my life that were living a life for the Lord and just gaining wisdom and knowledge from them.

God has shown me since then that it's living a life of submission and gentleness and kindness, compassion and love and mercy and just"¦it definitely was not who I was; it was pretty much the opposite of that. And it was okay to take care of yourself and to make sure you look nice before you leave your room.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So you're saying the outward appearance was affected by what God was doing in your heart?

Marcia Arnel: Oh, most definitely. I didn't even begin to care about what I looked like on the outside before I became a Christian. And after God moved in, He began to change me inside out and I desired to be beautiful for Him.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And you really are a beautiful woman. It's hard for me to even imagine you as the person that you described before coming to Christ because you're not that person. You're a new person and that's the grace of God that is available to any woman, any man, young, old, past experience, whatever the circumstances of their lives has been, whatever the failures, there is grace for repentance.

And when God brings His grace into our lives, then we can embrace who we are in Christ, who He has made us, with thankfulness. We give that womanhood back to God. We receive it as a gift and give it back to Him as an offering. And God can transform that in us into something very beautiful even as God has been doing for you.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back. She's been talking to Marcia Arnel about femininity. If you'd like to learn more about the topics that we touched on today, we hope you'll visit ReviveOurHearts.com and get information on the book Biblical Womanhood in the Home.

Nancy edited this book and it will give you in-depth information on a lot of topics we just heard about. It will help you recognize true beauty in femininity. It will help you learn what it means to nurture life and if you're a mom to daughters, it will help you learn how to pass femininity on to them.

Again, our Web address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

You can call for more information at 1-800-569-5959.  And if you relate to Marcia's story, would you write and tell us about your discovery of biblical femininity.

When you write, would you consider supporting the ministry of Revive Our Hearts financially? Help us teach the next generation of women about God's perfect plan.

Tomorrow we'll hear an amazing part of Marcia's story about when she tried to reconcile with her abusive father. Now, here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You may find yourself as a woman, where Marcia was not too many years ago, rejecting God's authority in your life, bitter, resentful, resisting what it means to be a woman and yet perhaps today, God has spoken to your heart and He's given you the desire as a child of God, to begin to live out who God made you in Christ.

If that's true, let me just invite you to pray this prayer along with me.

Father, thank You for Your grace and we want to live as women, free from bitterness, free from anger, free from rebellion against Your authority. And, Lord, this day in a fresh way, we receive Your grace, we receive Your forgiveness. We ask Your forgiveness for ways that we have sinned against You in our responses to the circumstances that have come into our lives. And this day we receive who You have made us. You have made us to be women and we give You thanks for that and ask that You would transform us into women who reflect the beauty and the wonder of Your image, that we would fulfill all that You made us to be by Your grace. For Jesus' sake we pray it. Amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministry.

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