Beginning her message, at the first Ladies’ Ministry night, Ruth looked at the differences between men and women through a powerpoint presentation which can be located by clicking here. There are so many differences between men and women, which is why we wanted to begin the Ladies’ Ministry.
An article published in a 1954 magazine describes what the ideal wife should look like. This can be found here. Women today are vastly different; being far more independent, and career oriented, while still managing to hold together a house, and family. The description Ruth gave of the modern woman gives an almost polar opposite ideal. The women described are at two different ends of the spectrum, with us falling somewhere in between.
In Proverbs 31, there is another description of a woman. This woman, seems far more like super woman, and super human than either of the others, and it is interesting that this is actually written by a woman, instructing her son on what to look for in a wife. The truth is that, while we may all embody some of the things listed here, none of us will ever be able to embody all of them.
So, Ruth asked, what stops us from being this woman? Looking at a psychological text about the differences between boys and girls, the author says that while boys play more competitive sport. Girls spend more time playing with dolls. When playing competitive sport, boys make plenty of mistakes, which they are then encouraged to go back and try harder to correct. Girls cannot really make mistakes when playing with dolls, as there are no rules. Therefore, when girls make mistakes, they are comforted, and learn that mistakes are something that we should feel bad about, whereas boys learn that while mistakes can be embarrassing, they aren’t usually fatal. Boys also learn that they earn their team’s respect by making mistakes and learning from them, where, girls learn to take their mistakes to heart, and that they will always be consoled if they call attention to their mistakes.
Women will sympathise; they are overly apologetic, and tend to discuss failures far more than their successes, which they will, in turn, play down. This is then perceived as them taking ownership, but really results in them blaming themselves when things go wrong. In contrast, men seem to acknowledge their mistakes, correct them, and the move on. They tend to shout about their successes, and don’t accept responsibility as readily, whereas women tend to take on criticism, and are far more insecure than men.
Ruth continued to say that the more we focus on our thoughts, the more likely they are to become a reality to us. Thoughts tend to make us see things around us, and if we start believing it, it will become a reality. She then challenged us as to what we are believing about ourselves, and asked us whether we were focusing too much on these things to the point where we begin believing them, even though many of them are lies.
Using the title of a song by Pink Floyd, Ruth used the illustration of a wall, and asked us if we were putting bricks in our wall. Are we putting bricks in our wall every time we hear something negative? Are we constructing a wall of bad life choices and poor self belief, or are we not building a wall at all, but have in fact, already built it, and it has become our prison?
Looking at the wall that we build as we go through life, Ruth gives us four points to remember when we think about adding more bricks to it.
- Perfection is a myth
We all dream of the perfect life; husband; home; children. Life doesn’t turn out this way though, and we will never be satisfied if we want perfection. We will just keep adding bricks to our wall; bricks of anxiety, and failure, and discontentment. One example of this in the Bible, is in Luke 10:38-42, when Jesus visited Mary and Martha, and while Martha was trying to make the house, and food perfect, Mary was simply content to sit at Jesus’ feet.
2. Your past doesn’t define you
We all have a past. Some things we’re proud of, and some we’re ashamed of. Some things have already been built into our walls, looming over us to make us feel even worse about ourselves, but the truth is that the past is gone. We can’t change it, but we can change our future. An example of this in the scriptures is in the story of Ruth. She is brought up in an environment where she is an enemy to Israel, and worse than that, she was barren. This effectively meant that she was seen as cursed. She must have felt so many things, including ‘different’ and ‘alone’, but Ruth achieved everything in her life. She didn’t let her past define her.
Similarly, with us, there could be abuse, rejection, divorce, or even poor grades. We could make any of these things into a reason for not succeeding, but the story of Ruth encourages us, as she didn’t let her past become her reason for not succeeding. While she couldn’t change her past, she could change her future.
Another example of a woman who has done this is Christine Caine. She grew up feeling rejection and shame, but she refused to let it define her. The truth is that while we can’t change the beginning, we can change the end. The thing is that what the enemy intends for evil, God intends for good. We are not defined by what we perceive as being a failure. Isaiah 43 tells us “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness”
We must acknowledge our past, but then look to how we can move forward into the life that God has planned for us.
3. Don’t stare and compare
It is normal nowadays to look at social media for numerous hours a day, and to scroll through other people’s photos. Then, the temptation is all to easy to compare ourselves to others. Our own feeling of self worth can be defined by how we think we measure up to others, but the truth is that comparison will steal our happiness. It will keep us down, and make us feel inadequate, and ultimately, it will prevent us from achieving. It gives us a preconceived view of “I am not, therefore I am less…”, but in reality, others’ perfection isn’t real. We only see what they want us to see.
The truth is that life isn’t fair, and often, others will seem to have more advantages that us. Hard work sometimes isn’t enough, but comparisons will turn friends into rivals, where we can’t celebrate their successes, but get jealous instead, and every time we compare, another brick goes into the wall.
In scripture, the story of Rahab, who was a prostitute, and considered to be the lowest of the low, still made a difference in her town and in the lives of lots of people, because she didn’t compare herself to others, but simply moved forward in the way that God had planned for her.
4. Words are powerful, handle with care
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” This is one of the biggest lies that we tell our children. It should be rephrased to say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words go even deeper”. God says that the power of death and life is in the tongue, clearly demonstrating how powerful words can be. So many criticisms that we hear can be stored up forever in our hearts.
In the Bible, David’s brothers threw negative words at him, but instead of storing them up, and adding more bricks to his wall, he chose to ignore them and to not let them grind him down, because he believed in God. The truth is, that yes, words hurt, but we have a choice of whether to hold on to them, or whether we will choose to let them go. Our words have immense power over us, either filling us with confidence, or destroying us.
“I am” are some of the most powerful words. What story are we telling ourselves? How are we answering that sentence? In John 8, a woman is caught in the act of adultery and hauled before Jesus. She must have felt terrible, and ‘not good enough’, but to Jesus, she was good enough. He told her that He didn’t condemn her.
Ruth then handed out post it notes and asked us to imagine that they were our bricks, and to write on them the lies that we’ve been telling ourselves. She encouraged us to tear down these lies and to replace them with some new words. God tells us in Psalm 139 that we are His creation. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. He knit us together in our mother’s womb.
The truth is that while we were still sinners, He died for us. We are finally free, because there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. We are blameless; clean; and redeemed. He knows us, and He chose us. He forgives us even when we don’t forgive ourselves.
He LOVES us, and He wants us to break down our walls and live the live that He has planned for us, if only we will.
Scriptures: Proverbs 31; Luke 10: 38-42; Ruth; Isaiah 43:18-19; Joshua 2; 1 Samuel 17; Psalm 139; John 8.