What does it mean to be a strong Christian woman? Sometimes I have mixed feelings and mixed responses and understandings about this.
My mum (and Dad) raised my two sisters and me to be strong, capable and independent. When other kids were getting their hair done for school, having their parents help them with projects and caring for baby dolls, I was doing research on small Australian mammals, writing letters to my school principal about injustice within the school, choreographing dance routines and leading (read coercing) my friends into dance troupe perfection as well as taking phone messages for my parent’s home business.
I have always been ‘strong’.
As I have grown in life and in leadership, I sometimes feel as if I am out of place in Christian circles. Men are strong and capable as leaders, but other women appear not to take on these masculine traits and in fact submissiveness and gentility are celebrated characteristics for Christian women.
So where does someone like me fit? In leadership? In dating? In friendships? I find myself swinging between wanting to make a stand for myself and for others as a strong leader and feeling the weight of what I perceive as subtle, non-verbal disapproval to conform and submit to be accepted.
Strength is from God
Is it okay to be strong? Is this who God has made me to be or is ‘coming on too strong’ intimidating, even sinful? Am I not helpful to others?
As I battle with this, I can’t help but think, it is God who gives strength.
I was reading about a man called Samson in the Bible, one of the many interesting characters within God’s story. God gave Samson an unbelievable physical strength to defeat the enemies of God’s people Israel again and again.
This strength came directly from God, and at the time it was needed God’s Spirit came upon Samson to enable him for these great tasks. Samson’s strength is a reflection of the strength and power of God and reveals God’s character to all Israel and her enemies.
So too my strength and abilities are wonderful gifts from God to show the world what He is like. And I don’t need to apologise for this. For at my time of need, for the protection and benefit of God’s people, God will enable me to have strength and power to complete great tasks and overcome great challenges for Him as well.
So, what does this mean for my life, leadership and relationships? I’m still working this out, but I think maybe it means there will always be people who will be uncomfortable and intimidated by strength, especially that of a woman. Because in the same way light illuminates darkness, strength illuminates weakness. And that can be confronting.
A verse in the Bible, Matthew Chapter 5 verses15-16 says “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
So that people will understand who God is, I am tasked to keep my light and my strength and my talents, which God has given me, shining strong. And in the face of peer pressure, misunderstandings, lost opportunities, discomfort and rejection, I know the Holy Spirit will continue to be my strength and guide me in ways to best use this strength for his glory.
And whether I want to be a strong Christian woman or not, as the famous Hillsong ballad says, ‘I am who you say I am.’
Hannah Edwards is a graduate in theological studies, turned Human Resources professional, is an avid shopper and loves brunching. She is currently ministering to women in Brisbane in both church and community spheres, empowering women to reach their fullest potential. Hannah is also the founder of the online community Harvest Joy Women. Further material is available from www.harvestjoywomen.com