As a recent 20-something college graduate, as a Christian young woman, as a millennial American, the world has a lot to say about who I ought to be.I should be a go-getter, bold, aggressive and relentless as I pursue both dreams and a career, I should keep my head down, my chin up, my voice quiet, my opinions politically correct, my hair perfect, my clothes stylish, my makeup (especially my brows) ‘on fleek,’* and my opinions simultaneously conservative (because I am a Mormon) and liberal (because I am a female 20-something).
Media, even as it declares that today is the age of women, tells us that we are an image to look at, a body without a brain or purpose. The only way to be a ‘successful woman’ as defined by the world is to be seen as someone who is a leader, a boss, an entrepreneur, or a mover and shaker, someone who commands attention and respect.
I look around me, at friends and mentors, women who I respect and admire, and I see that very few of them fit the bill of a ‘successful woman’ by the standards of our modern society. Yet, they are rich not with money or property, but with the blessings of the Lord. You see on social media the steps to “becoming a woman after God’s own heart” or “the markings of a Godly woman.”
Over the past couple months, as I’ve studied and observed and discussed, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a 20-something Christian woman. I’ve sought to know what my place is in the world as a single member of the Church who has served a mission and graduated from college. I’ve pled with the Lord to know what my role in His kingdom should be. And it wasn’t what I expected. These conversations took place in classrooms, at the homes of friends, in Church, over the phone and messaging platforms, via TED talks, videos, status updates, tweets, Instagram posts, and through many other means. It’s been a lot to process, a lot to pray and ponder about what the world was telling me.
And I realized that what the world was telling me was exactly the opposite of what the Lord was asking me.
Where the world was telling me to become a “take no prisoners” boss lady, the Lord was asking me to become a nurturer.
When the world was telling me that it’s okay to “throw a little shade,” the Lord was asking me to be a little kinder.
The world said I had to have “squad goals” or a “tribe,” but the Lord asked simply that I love them well.
I was reminded, while I was on my knees asking God what kind of girl He needed, who I needed to be in His Kingdom right now, of a conversation I had on my mission with Esmeralda, a girl we were teaching who was about 10 or 11. I had asked her, not thinking much of the question, how she thought Heavenly Father saw her. Her answer has stuck with me – she spoke of how He must know that she was trying, that she loved her family, that she knew she wasn’t perfect, and that was okay. He knew she was imperfect, but she was trying.
Being a woman in this world means trying. Trying your very hardest to be the kind of person the Lord needs, relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ to make up the difference, and realizing that perfection isn’t what’s needed. Heart is.
The Lord wants a willing heart, one filled with desire for discipleship. Imperfect, but willing to trust and take a leap of faith. One willing to make sacrifices, even when the blessings aren’t yet in sight. One willing and wanting to be obedient, even when it’s harder than it has ever been.
The Lord wants a nurturing heart, one that sees the harshness and crassness of the world and rather than responding in kind, responds in love. Responds with love that overwhelms the darkness of the world. A heart who is not afraid to extend a hand and a kind word, who fosters growth and peace.
The Lord wants a servant’s heart, a heart that is willing to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light… and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9). One who is willing to do as Christ would do, love as Christ would. Who isn’t afraid to ask, “Father, where shall I work today?” and gets to work when the Lord asks use to tend a tiny spot (remember – “Nazareth was a little place, and so was Galilee“).
The Lord wants a repentant heart, one that is quick to turn to Him and to seek to be better, rather than to stay mired in pride and arrogance. One who is willing to kneel and ask for forgiveness and guidance.
The Lord wants a humble heart, a heart that turns to Him first, not last. One that seeks to put Him first, and who recognizes who He is to us, and who we are to Him.
The Lord wants a tender, kind heart. It’s okay to be tough – that’s what this world requires, in all honesty, when you look around you. But that toughness, that resiliency demanded, needs to be tempered with tenderness and kindness.
The Lord wants a broken heart – that “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20) that He can mend and mold and make into a wonderous soul.
There are so many things that the Lord wants our hearts to be. It’s overwhelming sometimes, trying to decipher where and how we need to improve, or the things we need to let go of. Especially with the world telling us its opinion every time we turn on the computer, phone, radio, or television.
I’ve spent hours pouring over scriptures and talks and reading blog posts. I’ve spent just as much time on my knees, praying and pondering what kind of woman the Lord needs. What kind of heart I need to have. I had this idea of a beautifully written, inspiring blog post, one filled with examples of women in the scriptures, women in Church history, teachings from the Savior, prophets, and apostles. I wanted to quote General Conference, broadcasts, BYU devotionals. I’ve got lists, references, screenshots. All with what I wanted to incorporate.
Maybe one day I’ll have it written. Someday, I’ll find the words, the perfect references, the best photo to pair it with. I’ll let you know when I do.
But I sit here, and realize, what the Lord really needs is simply our heart. It doesn’t matter what kind of heart, just a heart. A heart that chases after Him. Maybe that’s what they mean when they talk about a woman after God’s own heart or the heart of a Godly woman.
It’s that leap of faith that matters. In the face of society and the world practically shouting at us at what kind of women we need to be, what kind of person, it’s that leap of faith in giving the Lord our heart that counts. No strings attached, no clauses, no “but if not” promises. It’s not the fanfare, not that big testimony over the pulpit, not that eloquent declaration that matters. It’s that simple act of giving Him our heart that makes us who we are – women that, despite our weaknesses and even because of them, the Lord can be proud of.
It’s in giving our heart that we start on the path to becoming that girl with the heart filled with kindness, that woman with the heart of a nurturer, that lady with the servant’s heart. That’s what womanhood is about. It’s about heart and trying and being and becoming. It’s about who you are in this very moment and who you’re becoming – not about who you were or who you might have been. It’s about knowing who has your hand and never letting go. It’s about telling the world to hush, and listening to the Lord – striving to see what He sees.
Yes, He sees your weaknesses, your shortcomings, the things you wish you could change, the wounds, the mistakes, the sorrow, the scars.
But He also sees the hard work, the tenderness, the care, the compassion, the hope, the faith, the light.
He doesn’t care about what kind of woman the world is telling you to be. He’s saying that He’ll show you who He needs you to be as you go.
It’s the heart He cares about. Being a woman, no matter how young or old, no matter the background, the life experience, the nationality or race, is about heart.
In all its glory and sorrow, triumph and trial, strength and weakness, faith and doubt, it’s your heart that matters most.
Your golden, precious heart.
*I’m honestly still not sure what qualifies as ‘on fleek,’ so do with it what you will.