Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Is the River of Your Life Calm?

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian say God gave women distinct feminine characteristics, but that doesn't mean they have to fit a stereotype.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: For so many women, that conjures up this image of a girly-girl. You know, she always has frills and pink. There are certain things she doesn't do and certain things she has to do. But we're really talking about something that's not so related to what we do as to who we are.

Mary: That's for sure, because I would have a really hard time wearing pink. I don't do pink well. So, I am one of those girls.

Nancy: You also can do a hammer, can't you?

Mary: I can do a hammer.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, August 23. Last week Nancy began a conversation with Mary Kassian. They've been looking at the wayward woman described in Proverbs 7. Mary provides an in-depth look at this woman in her book, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. As we've seen all week, the picture from Proverbs 7 is surprisingly fitting for our day. Let's get back to that conversation.

Nancy: Mary, some of our listeners are not old enough to remember a song that was really popular in the early 70s. But you and I are old enough to remember Helen Reddy's top song.

Mary: That's right. Top song 1972, "I Am Woman."

I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman!

You want me to sing it?

Nancy: Yes, I want you to sing it.

Mary: I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman! And that's when she went off.

Nancy: And how old you were you when this came out?

Mary: I was twelve.

Nancy: And you were familiar with it.

Mary: I was familiar with it. We would sing it in my middle school. I remember walking down my hallway, and all the girls knew this song. It actually really marked a change in the attitude of girls at that time. Because we took on this mantle of I am strong, and I'm invincible, and I am woman.

Nancy: And I’ve got an attitude.

Mary: And I've got an attitude and nobody tells me what to do. It was introduced when I was a young girl. Then it worked its way into popular culture, and then later on we saw with the Spice Girls, there's girl power. And then the Powerpuff Girls, the cartoon for girls, and this whole concept, this cultural concept of women being strong and invincible and having this really brash, saucy, sassy, in-your-face, I'm in control attitude.

Nancy: But that attitude isn't really so new. It didn’t begin in the early 70s. In fact, we see that attitude in the woman we've been looking at from Proverbs chapter 7. The woman we've called the wild woman. That passage describes her in a way that really sounds contemporary. It says in verse 11 that "she is loud and wayward; her feet never stay at home."

Mary: That's right. Loud and wayward are two descriptive words that are very telling of this young woman's attitude. The loud is really a in-your-face, I'm going to have my way, and this saucy and sassy and brash, brazen kind of attitude. A my-way-or-highway kind of attitude. And the wayward, which really talks about an obstinacy, like a stubbornness.

Nancy: In fact I think some of the translations actually call it that. She's loud and stubborn.

Mary: Stubborn or obstinate. Where she's ungovernable. Nobody is going to tell me what to do.

Nancy: Or how to dress, or how to talk, or who to marry, or whether to marry.

Mary: Exactly. So the first one is really two sides of the same coin. Loud and wayward. The loudness is, I have a right to do what I want. I am going to do what I want. And the second one is, nobody else is going to tell me what to do. So it's really two sides of the same coin. It's the same sort of a brash, real rebellious type of an attitude. And that is really the type of attitude that has been fostered in the last thirty to forty years in women.

And that’s the kind of attitude that we admire in women. We say, oh that’s great. You know, she is a woman who is in control. And if you say, girl you got attitude. You know, that’s almost more of a compliment than saying something negative. That’s upheld as desirable for women today.

Nancy: And it describes our role models in entertainment, in culture. When you think about popular women, popular shows in how they portray women, isn't that the attitude you see across the board?

Mary: It is the attitude. That loud and obstinate. She's the one who is in control. You see that pictured in the movies. She's the one who is throwing the karate chops and kicking the men. Being the dominate one and telling them what to do. It really is upheld as the desirable characteristic for womanhood. To be that loud, opinionated, brash, my-way-or-highway kind of a girl.

Nancy: As we've been looking at the Proverbs 7 woman, we keep coming back to remind ourselves that she was not a prostitute. She was not a woman out on the street. She was a church lady. Do you see that attitude among church women today?

Mary: Sure you do. In fact, I think that it's just as prevalent in the church as it is outside of the church. This woman in Proverbs 7, she was a young, married woman, and she had all of the right behavior. But she had this underlying attitude. She had the attitude that she had the right to determine how she was going to act and nobody was going to tell her what to do. And we see that a lot in girls today.

As you said Nancy, it's nothing new. This loudness and waywardness, this obstinacy is really characteristic of a sin nature and characteristic of a way that womanhood turns when it is not under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And we see it in the Proverbs 7 woman, and we see it throughout history, and we see it in society today, and we certainly see it in the church.

Nancy: What do you think drives that? Is it a reaction to men or to something?

Mary: Well, some of it is. I think there are various reasons for it. I think some of it is a reaction to disappointment or to hurt that women have experienced in their relationships. I think that a great deal of it is due to just cultural trainingthat this is upheld as the ideal for women. We're told that women who don't have a take-control attitude, it paints this picture that they are out-of-control or that they will be taken advantage of.

Nancy: And they're not going to get anywhere.

Mary: And they're not going to get anywhere. They're going to be the doormats. They're going to be the ones who really are very wishy-washy and do not have backbone. Culture paints this picture of the ideal woman who is loud and obstinate and clamorous, defiant, who goes for what she wants, and says, "This is what I want," and demands it. And she is really ungovernable. She doesn't want anybody telling her what to do.

Then it also demeans the attitudes which really are godly, biblical attitudes. It downplays them, and it paints them as undesirable and weak. It says that a woman that has biblical characteristics really is portrayed as one who is wishy-washy and very weak. And who would want to be like that?

Nancy: I don’t think a lot of younger women do listen when we talk about some of the True Woman characteristics and the True Woman Movement. We talk about cultivating virtues of meekness and gentleness and submissiveness, and they think, "Who would want that, and why would you want that."

Mary: We're told in 1 Peter chapter 3 that there are certain characteristics that God wants in women and that He created women to be. A woman's beauty is to be that of a gentle and a quiet spirit. The passage also talks about the submissiveness or the deference, the amenability of womanhood. Then it says that these things are very, very precious in God's sight. I think that when we rebel against these images or when we see the gentleness and the quietness and the amenability, we see those as undesirable. It just shows us how very much our hearts are not attuned to God's way.

God sees us as incredibly precious. And so the question for me as a Christian, when I approach Scripture and I read this, the challenge for me is does my heart value this? Do I value what God values? Do I see these things in the way that He sees them?

Nancy: We're talking here about some innate, God-created differences between men and women that our culture has really tried to obliterate, to blur those lines, those distinctions. But even our physical makeup, our bodies testify to fact that God created differences between men and women that are precious and valuable.

Mary: Our bodies testify to that. In Genesis when Eve was presented to Adam, he said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, for she was taken out of Man" (2:23). And so, those words woman and man, Ish and Ishsha, are the Hebrew terms. One comes from the word, strength, for man. And the word for woman is probably from the word, softness.

So there's a receptivity that she's a responder and a relator, and she's soft and receptive in a very positive way. And God sees that as very precious. So often our culture really demeans that and diminishes that, but it is a beautiful thing in woman. Culture turns it into a harshness and a hard, harsh spirit that really when it works its way out is not very beautiful at all.

Nancy: I think, Mary, when we talk about women having a soft, beautiful, womanly disposition, that for so many women that conjures up this image of a girly-girl. You know, she always has frills and pink. There are certain things she doesn't do and certain things she has to do. But we're really talking about something that's not so related to what we do as to who we are.

Mary: That's for sure, because I would have a really hard time wearing pink. I don't do pink well. So I am one of those girls.

Nancy: You also can do a hammer, can't you?

Mary: I can do a hammer. My father was a carpenter, and I have five brothers. I did all of the wiring in our basement, all of the electrical wiring. I'm pretty good with a hammer and building things. So, it's not what you do. Also, it doesn't relate to one type of personality. You don’t have to be a girl that's an introvert or shy or a docile type personality in order to cultivate these godly characteristics. I believe they can come out in any type of woman, in any type of personality.

A woman who is out there wrangling steers can be just as womanly as the southern belle who is dressed in lace and pink. So it's not what you do, it's who you are. I believe that the more our characters are transformed by the power of Jesus Christ, the more we become who we are. The more He makes our personality shine, and the more that we really truly become the women that He made us to be.

Nancy: I think that whole thing of personality is an issue I struggled with a lot as a younger woman. As I would read 1 Peter 3, I would see this model of a woman with a gentle and quiet demeanor. And I'm thinking, "I'm going to have to have a personality transplant to become that kind of woman." That's just not how I’m wired. Because to me, that was speaking of personality.

But as I’ve grown in my understanding of God's ways, I see that God gave us different personalities that He wants to use for His glory. We wouldn't be doing this Revive Our Hearts ministry and you wouldn't be doing the things you're doing if we were really reticent, introverted sort of people. So God has given us those outgoing personalities, but He wants to have them fueled by that gentle and meek spirit is really like the Spirit of Christ.

Mary: It is the Spirit of Christ. There's nothing stronger or more powerful. That's where I think a woman’s softness, her ability to be receptive and responsive is really her greatest strength. When the passage talks about gentleness, we tend to think of gentleness being weakness. But gentleness is really the strength of character that enable me to respond in a very kind and a very considerate way, even to people who are not behaving properly themselves.

It is a strength of character that I can respond in a gentle, godly way even to someone who is treating me harshly or treating me in the wrong way. So it's a disposition where we trust God and where we trust that God is in control and that God is sovereign and that He is good.

Nancy: Therefore, in responding to His Providences in our lives, the circumstances He brings into our lives, we don't have to buck them or resist them.

Mary: That's right, we don't need to come against them harshly or kick against them and throw up a big fuss. We deal with them with wisdom, with grace, and with gentleness. So gentleness can go with any personality, any personality type. Any woman can cultivate gentleness and calmness.

We were talking at your home. We were looking at the river out back, and there wasn't even a ripple on the surface of the water. We were saying that really is what being calm is all about. It means that you're not churned up and agitated and needing to grasp control or manipulate or being anxious. It's really that depth of character and that depth of spirit where you have rock solid convictions. There is a strength of character to rely on God to be in control and therefore exhibit calmness.

Nancy: By contrast, on that very same river, I have seen whitecaps. There are days it's howling out there, and that river really is churned up. What a picture that is of how my heart can be at timesjust churned up and in turmoil, anxious, controlling.

But as we saw the river last night, there's a serenity there. There's a calmness that comes into our hearts when we (it comes back to this again) trust that God is in control, that He is good, and we're surrendered to His providence in our lives. Then there can be, even in the midst of turbulent circumstances, there can be a calm, serene trust in God that's really a beautiful thing to see in a woman.

Mary: It really is a beautiful thing to see. Again, this doesn't have to do with personality. You can have a woman who is very effervescent, who is very outgoing, who is very bubbly, who can demonstrate a calmness in her spirit, that she just trusts God. She really relies on Him and has this sweetness about her spirit. This soft receptivity, even though she is an outgoing, bubbly woman.

Nancy: The opposite of that, the wild woman, that great verse in Isaiah 57:20, that says, "The wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt."

Mary: That's exactly what a wild woman does. We see this woman in Proverbs chapter 7. She's loud, and she's wayward. So she's obstinate, rebellious, and just like that verse in Isaiah, she tosses up mud and mire and she's all churned up. She seems all sweet on the outside, but there's this churning underneath the surface. She gets herself in involved in situations, in circumstances where she ought not to go there. She goes there, and she makes a mess of her life.

Nancy: So gentle, calmthese are descriptors of the wise woman instead of the wild woman. And then you use a third word that is not familiar to most of us. I want you to unpack it for us. It's the word, amenable.

Mary: Amenable. That is a great word. I was looking for a word that would describe a disposition. Later in 1 Peter 3, we see that a wise woman who, when she is married, she will be submissive to her husband. But I believe that submissiveness is really a deference, a willingness to bend, a willingness to be soft and receptive. And that is what really relates to what amenable is.

So amenable is a disposition where you are willing to say, “yes.” It's just an inclination towards being agreeable. It's the opposite of having an obstinate spirit. It's a disposition where you are soft and receptive and relational. And so, amenability is based on the word, amen. Which, do you know what amen means?

Nancy: Let it be so.

Mary: Let it be so. So an amenable woman is a woman who has a bent or a disposition to be agreeable.

Nancy: And that reminds me of what is probably my life verse, Luke 1:38, where Mary says to the angel who has just given her new that has turned her world upside down and inside out. And she says when the news that she is going to have a child is, "I am the Lord's servant. Let it be to me as you have said."

Mary: That's amenable. That's amenability. It's the disposition in her life that allowed her to respond to that news in that way. It's the disposition where Eve just beamed when Adam named her. You know, she didn't come out and say, "What are you doing giving me my name? I'm gonna name myself. I'm in charge here. How dare you?" I am woman, hear me roar. She didn't have that type of attitude. She had an amenable spirit. That spirit is very, very precious in the eyes of God.

Nancy: Now Mary, we get letters and emails as I know you do in your ministry from a lot of readers, listeners who are in some really tough life circumstances. Life is not working. It's not going as they had hoped or planned. It hurts. It's painful. They're living in very difficult marriages. Or they have waited patiently for years and years and years and have had no marriage, no child, no whatever their dream was. It's been shattered.

They're saying, "In the midst of this crazy world I’ve been living in, this dysfunctional family that I’m a part of, you're telling me I’m supposed to be gentle and calm and amenable? Does that mean I just lie down and die and let the world walk over me and I have no opinions, I have no voice, I have no input into the situation?" I think that's what the enemy would have women believe.

Mary: That is what the enemy would have women believe. But nothing could be further from the truth. I think that when we cultivate godly character, He gives us more strength than we could possibly have on our own. He is the one that allows us to cultivate and develop these characteristics in our lives.

The whole paradox of it is that when we do things in this way, we gain far more than by doing it in a clamorous, rebellious, me-first, I've gotta do it, I'm gonna take control kind of a way. It's like the paradox that Christ often presents. You lose your life, you gain it. You give, you receive. And it's the same sort of thing that when we respond to God in the right way, that He gives us the strength and the wisdom to respond to our circumstances the right way.

Nancy: In responding to those circumstances, we're not suggesting that you don't speak the truth, that you don't speak up, that you don't insert God's ways of thinking into the situation. It has more to do with the demeanor and the disposition with which you do that.

Mary: It's the way in which you do that that is important. You do need to speak truth. You do need to stand up for truth and for righteousness and not go in the way of sinful behavior. You need to say "no" to sin and to evil. That takes a lot of strength to do that. A woman who is walking in God's way will do that in a way that honors the disposition He has has given her.

Nancy: I want to encourage you as you're listening today to make this personal and to just say,"Lord, am I a wise woman? Or, am I a wild woman? Does my disposition tend to be clamorous and defiant, loud and wayward? Or does it tend to be gentle, calm, and amenable? Just be honest.

If you're not sure, ask your husband or your roommate or a close friend who will be honest with you. Ask them if the river of your life would be characterized as serene or tumultuous. Is it stirred up, churning up, or is it gentle and calm?

If you find as I sometimes do in my own life that there is that churning, there’s that tumult, there's that loudness or that stubbornness, then humble yourself. Say, "Lord, I want to be the kind of woman who brings you glory, who reflects the gentleness and the meekness of Christ to those in my world."

Scripture has so many wonderful promises if you will choose the way of wisdom. Psalm 37:11 tells us that "the gentle delight themselves in abundant peace." And in Isaiah 29, it says that they constantly "obtain fresh joy in the Lord" (verse 19). I love that verse in Isaiah that says, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. God is calling us to be strong women, but not women who roar. Women who trust the Lord. Women who manifest a quietness and a meekness of spirit that points people to Christ and makes them desire Him.

Leslie: A wise woman is a picture of peace. Does that seem impossible? Well, I hope that conversation between Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian has shown you that it isn't impossible to display God's peace. They've shown that biblical femininity doesn't necessarily have to fit a stereotype either. Learn to be the woman God wants you to be based on His Word.

Mary Kassian will show you how in the book, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. This is the book Nancy Leigh DeMoss refered to earlier in this series as one every woman should read. Mary will show you twenty points of contrast between a wise and a foolish woman. She'll show you how to make wise choices day by day.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we'll send you a copy of Girls Gone Wise. You’ll also get a copy of the complete conversation between Mary and Nancy in a CD set. Just donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. Ask for Girls Gone Wise, the book and the CD series, when you call.

Well, what's the connection between modesty and humility? Mary and Nancy will show you tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version. 

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