I never realized until I was grown what a blessing it was to have two, entirely different examples of godly women around me.
One branch of my family tree, my daddy’s side, is filled with strong, fearless, adventurous, emotional, and very, very vocal women. They were most often tall, stately, and “big-boned.” You would have to look hard for tiny, petite (or quiet) girls on that side of my family tree; they just don’t exist.
As a complete contrast, my mother’s side of the family wrote the book on tiny, feminine, quiet, and gracious Southern womanhood. Their small stature and quiet demeanor could be misleading since those women were hardcore Mama Bears. No one messed with their families, no one.
For a long time during childhood, I figured that it would be an impossible and ridiculous attempt to try to develop some of my mother’s Southern demure and graciousness. I fully identified with my daddy’s side, and yet I fiercely loved my momma’s sisters and their daughters. Their Mama Bear love was so unconditional that even now I run to it in every storm.
I just always wondered as a child how in the world two such totally different kinds of women could all be related; it seemed so improbable, so confusing. I struggled with which kind of woman I wanted to be – loud or quiet, stately or petite, tomboy or beauty queen, imposing or demure.
It took me a while to understand that I could and should be like both sides.
Well, to be totally honest, I had no problem being loud and assertive. My natural inclination is to take risks, to try new things, and to do so as loudly as possible. So, those natural patriarchal personality traits have served me well in life - most of the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I admired the women in my momma’s family so much for their grace and elegance. I just did not see myself anywhere in their sisterhood of Southern charm. So, usually, I admired them from afar, in the top branches of a sweet gum tree, or from inside the cover of a book where characterization made sense.
After all, I was a Laura Ingalls in a world full of Mary’s. But like Laura Ingalls, I loved my sister and all my other aunts and cousins.
As time went on, I began to study those women from my momma’s side, and I realized that I needed some of their traits. I had to learn that just because a woman doesn’t immediately share her opinion does not mean she lacks one.
Take Queen Esther as an example. She was the epitome of quiet grace and beauty.
Of course, the reality of the male-oriented culture at that time, as well as her situation as an orphan taken in by her beloved uncle, was such that she probably learned early on in life to control her emotions and her tongue. We do not really know her thoughts on the choices made for her by all the men in her life, including her uncle, the king’s servants, and ultimately, the king. We can only surmise that she wisely listened, obeyed, and relied on godly counsel.
Even as queen, when the situation with evil Haman grew deadly, Esther took her uncle’s advice to heart, but she also chose to go to God for the final word on what to do or say.
After three days of prayer and fasting, she finally did speak outright and unsolicited to the king despite the known risk (Esther 4:11).
Consequently, her words changed the destiny of her people, literally saving them from destruction. And in the process, it became evident that Esther was placed in her position by God for such a critical moment in history.
Queen Esther also reminds us as modern Christian women (and men) just how important it is to boldly speak only when and what God directs. In His perfect timing and with His perfect words, we can know that, like Esther, we have been created “for such a time as this.”
And ultimately, Esther’s brave conversation exemplifies the perfect combination of womanhood – a quiet strength that courageously spoke God’s words with perfect timing.
So, maybe the biggest lesson we can take from Esther, as well as the women in my momma’s family, is that sometimes quiet strength is the greatest strength of all.