She is my firstborn. With fiery red hair and beautiful blue eyes, she is strong-willed, talented, fun, determined, creative, boisterous, self-focused, and so much more.
At nine years old, she loves the Lord and loves to worship. On some days she wants to be a pastor, other days a teacher, and still others the president of the United States. Yet, there are days when she is not so sure of herself or the world. There are days that she is scared to grow up.
There are days when I’m scared for her to grow up. Especially when I see videos like this one: “How Christian Guys Describe a Godly Girl.”
In this video, girls are judged as godly by standards that are both toxic and unrealistic. Seemingly harmless in their presentation, videos like these possess the potential to contaminate the minds of little girls in the church just like my daughter.
It’s dangerous to judge women by arbitrary standards that have been mislabeled as biblical. In the video, women were only deemed worthy of marriage if they met certain gendered expectations. These standards damage women’s self-esteem and distort their identity.
Every little girl is created in God’s image. She is more than a servant, more than her manner of dress, and so much more than a list to be fulfilled.
When words such as “loud and boisterous” and “self-focused” are viewed as “unattractive” qualities in women, little girls hear that they are meant to be quiet and demure. They stop pursuing leadership roles.
While boys who exhibit the same qualities are viewed as “natural leaders,” girls are scolded into silence and passivity.
This video implies that a girl can only hope to achieve Christian men’s definition of “godliness” if she is “passionate about being a wife and a mother.”
My daughter can be loud and boisterous, is self-determined, and yes, she dresses to impress. With her monogrammed boots and her bright colored outfits, she loves to draw people’s attention. Most of all, she loves to lead others. Whether it is the kids in her classroom, her little brother, or her friends at church—she is excited when she gets opportunities to lead.
One day I would love for her to get married, but that is not our number one hope for her. She has things to do for the Lord first. We do not pray for her future husband at night, nor do we pray for qualities she should look for in a man. We allow her to be who she is, pray God uses her mightily, and trust him to direct her in all of her decisions.
When we found out we were expecting a girl, joy filled our hearts. We searched through countless name books, and prayed for God to lead us in naming our firstborn girl.
The morning after we sought the Lord, we saw a banner across the stage at church that contained her name: “Mercy.” It was deeply significant that God had centered her future name across the stage of the church. God gave her to us, confirmed her name, and gifted her to lead.
At one time, I was one of those girls who desperately tried to meet others’ standards for godliness. Toxic to my soul, it took me years to overcome. More importantly, it kept me from leading how God designed me to lead. As I waited for a husband to sweep me off my feet and take charge, questions flooded my mind.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I find a husband? Did I serve others well? Was I too self-focused? Was I reading my Bible or praying enough? I never felt good enough, pretty enough, or “godly” enough to fit that role.
When I met my husband, none of those things mattered to him. He saw my raw, underutilized leadership abilities and encouraged me to use them. He wasn’t looking for “the one,” but we loved each other and knew we were a good fit. Today, we make a strong team and both of us lead in our household and in ministry.
More importantly, we encourage our daughter and son not to be defined by stereotypes. We encourage both of them to be the person God has made them and to lead, no matter what others say.
We named our daughter Mercy. We don’t encourage her to fit other people’s definition of a “godly girl,” but rather to be the strong-willed leader God created her to be.