When You’re Not a Typical Woman

I guess I’m not a typical woman. She spoke of her love for sports and lack of emotionality as she made this (ironically typical) confession. Her statement inspired me to freshly ask, How many of us would call ourselves a typical woman?

What do we mean by “typical woman” anyway? And is being typical a good thing or not?

In my conversations with ladies of many ages, I’ve noticed that we have varying understandings of the typical woman, but few of us think of ourselves as one. Start a conversation with a woman in your church, ask her all about herself, find out her life story, and usually you will hit a point where she will tell you that she doesn’t (or didn’t) feel like a typical woman. We may not think of ourselves as special or unique, but many of us have had the experience of feeling — whether for good or for bad — like we didn’t quite fit the mold.

Maybe you didn’t like to play with dolls as a child, or maybe you love wielding power tools. Perhaps you aren’t sure you want children, or you despise shopping or love woodworking. Some have a nagging feeling of incompetence as a mom or nonexistent cooking skills or were considered a tomboy or the only girl math major in college. I know many women whose husbands talk more than they do, or have a hard time connecting with other women — or a hundred other ways women don’t feel like they are quite the typical woman, depending on what their view of typical is.

Some are happy to be different than the perceived norm — and proud — as if the closer they get to what is regarded as masculine, the more powerful or respected they will be. Their view of a woman is narrow and somewhat pathetic, so it makes sense that they’d want to distance themselves from it. Others are sad — and even ashamed — that no one taught them what womanhood was supposed to look like, and now they’re fumbling around in the dark trying to figure it out.

Anything but Typical

As Christians who have the benefit of God’s own revelation of the truth in the Bible to help us navigate this world, along with the benefit of the creation itself to clue us in on God’s design, we need not fixate on what our society seems to call typical. The goal of a Christian woman isn’t to be typical. Especially if what typical means is an overly made-up, hyper-feminine, wilts-at-the-first-sign-of-hard-work, check-brain-at-door type of woman. Where is that in the Bible? Thankfully fainting couches and Southern belles aren’t mentioned either. Rather, we live our life in Christ and pursue holiness — and that is anything but typical.

As a child, when I watched my mom, a farmer’s daughter, use the chainsaw to take down dead branches and load them into the trailer to haul to the brush pile, I was learning about being a woman. When I saw her prepare our home for countless guests, and food for countless mouths, I was learning about being a woman. When I heard her discuss the Bible with dozens in our living room every Tuesday night, I was learning about being a woman, because she was a woman doing those things. And thankfully for me, she was more — she was a Christian woman.

When we read the narratives of godly women in Scripture, the same thing happens — we have the advantage of observation, of watching particular women face particular situations. We watch the Hebrew midwives fear God more than Pharaoh, and in so doing, save the Hebrew sons (Exodus 1:15–21). We see Rahab earnestly bind herself to Yahweh, putting her life on the line for his people (Joshua 2:1–21) and Sarah believe that God would provide a son against all odds (Hebrews 11:11) and teenage Mary magnify the Lord in the strangest of circumstances (Luke 1:26–38) and Prisca risk her neck for Paul (Romans 16:3–4). In all these, we learn about being women — not as a cookbook of what we must do with our lives, but as varied examples of God-fearing women through the ages. And we learn that far from being typical, we must be faithful women in the life and circumstances God has given us.

God’s Crowning Jewel

I wonder if we all can agree that how we feel about being a woman doesn’t have any decisive bearing on what we are. We may feel like we don’t fit the mold, but God calls us to live in a way that shatters the world’s expectations. So in our misfit feelings, he has actually given us a gift. Our misfit feelings don’t change reality. We are women. When we act, when we do whatever it is we do, we do so as women, and we become a living narrative that models womanhood to those around us, for good or for ill.

As Christian women, we are telling people what God is like. Not because God is a woman, but because we bear his image, are clothed in Christ, and have his Spirit at work in us. We are his representatives — as women. We tell a story with all we say and do about who God is. That God made you a woman is an essential part of the story he is telling about himself.

So what does your life tell the people around you about God and the crowning jewel of his creation called woman? When we walk in holiness with our God-ordained peculiarities, in his lovingly appointed circumstances, we tell the world the truth about God. When we indulge in sinful proclivities, we distort the truth about him. And perhaps the most important, powerful thing we tell the people around us, living as Christian women, is that we are not stuck in sin.

We never are powerless in our sin, because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us to make us new. The story we tell when we repent and turn is the gospel story. It is the truest thing we can say with our lives.

Don’t Be Typical

The other gracious thing God has done is that he’s made a whole body to show forth his glory. I’m so thankful that my kids have Christian women to learn from other than me — women whose lives are marked by obedience to God. That way they can see faithful women with skills in management and organization, women navigating disability, women who teach science and piano, women who enjoy ironing and are excellent meal-planners and dearly love to laugh. They are atypical because in whatever they do, they do so to God’s glory — and that is rare indeed.

So, be encouraged and truly liberated, all you atypical women. God doesn’t ask you to be typical. He calls you to be his. He calls for unequivocal submission and loyalty to himself — and this requirement is the most loving thing he could command of you.

A life of obedience to God is the riskiest life that has ever been truly safe. And as he commands our submission to him and his Book and his design, he simultaneously enables it through the limitless power of his saving Son.

(@abigaildodds) is a wife and mother of five. She’s a homemaker seeking to know and love God through the study of his word. She’s a regular contributor to Desiring God and blogs at hopeandstay.com.