Dear Ava*, part of me wishes I didn’t have to write this letter.
You see, I wish we lived in a world where all men treated all women with dignity and respect, at all times.
Alas, that’s not our world – at least not yet. While there is much good, beauty and truth in our world, we both know that it’s far from perfect. And so, if we’re to live well as followers of Christ Jesus, we need to face up to the world as it is, not as we wish it would be.
Which is why I’m writing you this letter.
While there is much good, beauty and truth in our world, we both know that it’s far from perfect.
Here are some things I want you to know – not to scare you, but to prepare you:
First, our world is fundamentally broken
It’s fallen. It’s not the way God wants it to be. In particular, we see it in the way all too many boys and men objectify women and girls.
Whether it be derogatory words spoken by men to women that threaten and degrade. Or that unwanted physical contact. Or, as we’ve seen on the news, even rape. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, humanity has been disordered in its desires and in its behaviour, including sexual behaviour.
This means you need to be wise as you interact with boys and men in our culture. Now, to clarify, I don’t mean being paranoid or scared: thanks be to God, there are lots of good men and boys in your life, whether family, church and school. There are many men you can and should trust. They are here to help you and care for you as you grow.
Thanks be to God, there are lots of good men and boys in your life… And yet.
There will be some boys and men that will try and take advantage of you. They will try to use you and perhaps even abuse you. This is their fault. They should be ashamed of themselves and they should be stopped. But until that happens, you’ll need to be wise. Your mother has taught you well here. Remember her words: Your body only belongs to God, and to you. So be sure to use your intuition: if you feel uncomfortable in any situation, then leave. Be careful of who you spend time with alone. Don’t put yourself in situations where you’re vulnerable.
Second, our modern culture is incredibly sexualised
You’ve seen this yourself.
In our culture today, a female’s worth is measured not by the content of their character, but by their external appearance. By how they measure up to our culture’s air-brushed view of beauty. It’s so hard to avoid, isn’t it? From Cardi B and WAP, to advertising, clothing, and makeup. Your worth is all about how “sexy” you look (disturbing, to say the least).
And I don’t have to tell you what a trap this is for so many girls and women. How they feel the pressure to measure up to some impossible air-brushed standard that no mortal can meet. And the self-hatred, self-loathing that can so easily result when identity is tied to our appearance.
But thankfully, there is hope. There is a better story the Bible tells about your identity and worth as a human being.
There is hope. There is a better story the Bible tells about your identity and worth as a human being.
When it comes to your identity – who you are – remember it’s God’s view of us that matters: in His eyes, we’re His image-bearers, of infinite worth to Him. Furthermore, as Christians, we’re washed clean of all sin. We’re dearly loved members of His own family. We’ve been raised to new life spiritually – no longer dead in our sins – even as we wait to be raised physically on that Last Day. Our identity is secure in Him.
And if your identity is secure, then you won’t chase after the world’s affirmation or applause. You won’t be tempted to do things simply to fit in with the people around you: things that you may regret later. You’ll be able to hold fast to that which is God honouring, pure, and truly beautiful.
Third, look to God for your deepest needs
So many people – including women and girls – long for love and affirmation from boys and men. While God has wired us as relational beings, looking first to other people – including boyfriends and husbands – to meet your emotional needs will eventually leave you feeling empty and unsatisfied. Only God can meet our deepest emotional needs. As a famous man once said: our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.
“Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.”
Fourth, celebrate God’s view of sex
As I wrote to your brothers, sex is not a toy or a game that you play with whomever and whenever, but a precious gift that you must only share with your most intimate person: a husband. Our world sees this Christian view of sex as old-fashioned and oppressive, but the opposite is the case. When used according to our Maker’s instruction, sex is incredibly wonderful and liberating. But when used against His good design, it can be incredibly destructive and hurtful. In fact, it’s because our culture has rejected God’s view of sex that girls and women are at greater risk of harm and sexual assault.
Fifth, look to Jesus and how he treated women as the indicator of your dignity
Jesus treated the women in his life with the dignity they deserved – a dignity that is theirs by virtue of being human beings, made in God’s image. You’re not inferior or less than any man. Moreover, Jesus loves you so much he gave his precious and infinite life to rescue you. Eternal life has been opened to you, and to all females, just as it has been to males. Never forget this.
Jesus treated the women in his life with the dignity they deserved.
Sixth, be a model and servant to those around you
I know that right now you’re swimming against the tide. You’re feeling the pressure of our sexualised culture. You’re fighting to remain faithful to Jesus in a world that rejects Him. And yet, just by continuing to trust in Him, you can have an impact. Just by standing firm against the current of our culture, you’re serving those around you. You’re showing them that there is another way to live. A better way.
You’re fighting to remain faithful to Jesus in a world that rejects Him. And yet, just by continuing to trust in Him, you can have an impact.
Sure, they might not see it right now. Right now, they’re probably seeing you as the cultural loser who misses out on all the fun. But over time, many of them will sadly taste the bitter fruit of the sexual revolution. Many will start to wonder if there’s a better way to do life and sexuality. And under God, you can be the one they look to. You can show them the way – the way that leads not to pain and sadness, but to life and joy. The way of true satisfaction, meaning, and purpose: God’s way in Jesus Christ.
Seventh, know what true beauty is – and strive for it with all your heart
As I’ve mentioned above, our culture’s view of beauty begins and ends with your physical appearance. Not surprisingly, girls and women around the world spend billions a year trying to make themselves as physically beautiful as possible. Alas, they’re chasing the wrong beauty.
To be clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making yourself look nice. But I think there’s a deeper, more valuable beauty that we should all be chasing: the beauty of inward character (1 Peter 3:4). This is a beauty that will never fade or grow old. You’ll never feel pressured by it. You won’t die a thousand deaths like those who rely on their ageing external appearance as their source of beauty. This inner beauty will make you truly beautiful.
And as you go through your teenage years with all its pressures, hormones, joys and challenges, hold fast to Jesus. He’s a man who will never, ever let you down. He’ll meet your deepest needs. He’s got your back. Now and forever.
*I’ve changed my daughter’s name to protect her privacy.
Article supplied with thanks to Akos Balogh.
About the Author: Akos is the Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition Australia. He has a Masters in Theology and is a trained Combat and Aerospace Engineer.
Feature image: Photo by Luisa Denu on Unsplash