As women we have long passed the 50’s housewife image, for better or for worse we have progressed. But the image of a woman who is ladylike has not progressed. We still see ladylikeness as a woman who is very proper, elegant, quiet in well-pressed clothes. This woman’s house is never a mess, she always has dinner ready on time and her children never cry in public.

The Webster Dictionary defines ladylike in a few ways, one being“resembling a lady in appearance or manners.” The problem with this concept (besides the fact that you would have to first define what a lady actually is) of being ladylike is that we are teaching women to be like a lady in outward terms only. The trouble in trying to outwardly resemble another “lady” is that it’s exhausting.  It’s like seeing a Van Gough painting at the Met then going home and trying to repaint the same picture, it may look similar but it’s not the real thing. When the only example we give women is our lives and how ladylike we act outwardly, we inhibit them from experiencing and living in the beauty of being a woman made in the image of her Creator.

Another way Webster defines being ladylike is, “lacking in strength and force.” This picture of a lady is a lot of time how women feel that they should act in the church.  If you are a strong woman, have opinions, work in a leadership position in the marketplace, or heaven forbid your home is messy, please do not put a mask on before you walk into the church. You are free to be all these things and more. You have a place in the church.  Being a woman does not mean you are a doormat as soon as you walk into your church. You, your mess, and imperfections are what the women around you need to see.

We often forget that the gospel is messy, it’s not some clean concise story; our story, and our lives are messy. Instead, invite people into that mess. Inviting a younger woman into your life and your mess will be more impactful and freeing for her to live a life pursuing Christ-likeness, not ladylikeness.  

Taking the masks off

For some of you this will be a challenge, for so long you have lived a nearly perfect life, or what appears to others as nearly perfect. You work hard so that your house always appears clean, your children always appear well-behaved.  You present a balanced work and life still having the time to perfectly host a dinner party for your Pastors and their wives without even seemingly breaking a sweat. Taking off your mask of a perfect image will threaten what you have built your life upon. None of the above things are wrong, but doing all these things in pursuit of saving face or living a life with the image of being ladylike or godly based solely on your appearance causes you to miss the joy of experiencing a heart consumed by a Savior who lived a perfect life for you. He stepped into our mess for His own glory. Share your mess, be vulnerable with women and grow in the grace that Jesus was perfect. Because He was perfect, it is okay that you are not.

For some of you this is freeing. Being around a woman who is ladylike is defeating you because you will never measure up. You may be rougher around the edges, you may be single, you may hate the color pink. As crazy as it sounds you need to be reminded that all these things are temporal. A woman who is like Christ and pursuing the Lord is able to recognize that it’s okay that she doesn’t look like her woman’s leader or have all the perfect answers always ready in the perfect tone. It’s okay if you don’t overly love “girlie” things; your role of being a woman is not lost on you.

A godly woman’s personality is not lost, it’s sanctified, and she knows, lives, and responds through the grace she has received.

We all need each other. I often hear women say they want nothing to do with their women’s ministry or events because they aren’t anything like the leaders or speakers. They love shopping while I play sports or go rock climbing while you decorate your home. You need all kinds of women in your community to do life with. Women who are both uniquely different than you and who are just like you should hopefully challenge you and point you towards the Lord in the uniqueness that He has created them. Die to your preferences and expectations that you must behave a certain way and enjoy the fellowship and freedom of being in the company of your spiritual family.

Amanda Edmondson is on staff at Sojourn Community Church is Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow her @amandaedmondson.