“In our culture, boys are like gems” he says. “If they get dropped in the mud, it is easy to pick them up and clean them off.”
We are sitting cross-legged on the wood floor, eating from platters piled with rice and fish.
“But, girls in this country are thought to be like cotton balls.” he continues sadly. “If they get dropped in the mud, they can never again get clean.”
It’s a shock to hear gender roles explained so bluntly. If any warm words have been used to soften the cold facts, they’ve certainly been lost in translation.
I think back to my own muddy teenage years. Many of my actions – willful or mistake – would have rendered me unclean. I’ve had my share of slopping around in the muck.
So much of the world believes a girl’s life to be worth less than her brother’s. Parts of my own western culture also waters the same seed: boys will be boys, and it is the girl’s responsibility to keep herself out of the mud.
Intuitively, intellectually, spiritually – deep down – we know this is false.
Lie #1: My outward appearance and actions mean everything. I must be careful not to do the things, or associate with people where I might get dirty. I cannot make a mistake and invite unwanted attention. It is up to me to be worthy. It’s up to me to earn respect and love. It’s up to me.
In response to this deceit, modern society has adopted another ideology that is equally harmful to our women. It is tailored to those of us with more means, education, and freedom. If we were to sit together on my floor in Austin, I might sum it up like this:
“Of course we know our girls are gems! They can do anything they set their minds and hearts to do. A woman’s personal choices are endless – and so girls should be able to get as dirty as the boys without consequence. They should be free to schlep in the mud as they wish, without anyone’s unwanted moral judgment or condemnation.”
We want to believe this, promote this, even fight for this – but it is equally off the mark.
Lie #2: My outward appearance and behavior means nothing. My individual actions have no significant consequences. It is my right – completely in my power – to express myself in any way I see fit. It is society’s duty to always treat me as the gem that I am, no matter how I treat myself. It’s up to me.
Hope cannot be found exclusively in either one of these philosophies, but in a holy and human mystery of both.
We are all balls of cotton, stained and discolored, unable to clean ourselves from the wrongs we have done to others, and the wrongs that have been done to us.
None of us is perfect.
All of us are a mess.
In the same way, we are all precious stones: each of us is extraordinary and of great worth. We have been created in love – not to wallow in the mud – but to reflect light for the benefit and beauty of the world.
Each of us is valuable.
Each of us has been made to shine.
The best news of all is this: when we are all stuck in the mud, Jesus came down and got dirty. The only perfectly clean man became fatally ruined, so that we – male and female – might be re-made eternally new.
Why would he do this?
Because he made us.
We are precious to him.
He delights over his creation.
There is nothing else we can do to earn more of his love.
It’s not up to me.
Rest in this kindness and grace.