Sunday, September 14, 2008

Removing the Tough Girl Mask

In today’s modern society, aggressive women who wear Tough Girl masks are frequently admired and promoted to positions of power and prestige. Their toughness is regularly mistaken for inner strength. Remember the movie Grease’s Pink Lady Rizzo — outwardly tough, but like a marshmallow inside. Like all tough girls, her mask was not a true reflection of what existed just beneath the surface.

Unfortunately, strong women are often compared to men, even adapting more masculine traits. This is not what godly strength is about. Not even close.

We were not created to be a Ms. or Mrs. Rambo in a skirt. Nor are we supposed to be timid little things daintily tiptoeing through life. Instead, we are to remove our Tough Girl masks and instead wear godly strength and gentleness.

Although these two qualities seem incompatible, in God’s scheme of things, they fit together like two missing puzzle pieces, making an ideal replacement for any façade of toughness.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 NIV —

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need.
— Colossians 1:11 NLT —

She is clothed with strength and dignity…
— Proverbs 31:25a TNIV —

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
— Isaiah 12:2 NIV —

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
— Isaiah 40:31 —

The Story of a Queen

Consider the lovely Queen Esther, a perfect example of these two desirable characteristics — gentleness and strength.

Raised by her cousin, Mordecai, to be a faithful Jewish maiden, Esther was likely terrified when the King of Persia’s messengers thundered into the Jewish quarter seeking young virgins to fill the King’s harem, and eventually, a queen to grace an empty throne.

The knowledge of former Queen Vashti’s abrupt banishment would have spread throughout the kingdom by this time, leaving the local maidens fearful, and possibly hopeful. There were, certainly, plenty of ambitious ladies donning their Tough Girl masks and eager to take charge of the situation at the castle. After all, this was a position of power and prestige for a woman like none other, and I suspect feelings ranged from outright horror to unspeakable glee at the possibility of becoming King Xerxes chosen bride.

Taken from her humble home into a lavish palace of immeasurable wealth, Esther was forced to rely solely upon her religious training and relationship with God to survive the culture shock her new surroundings were bound to bring, not to mention, the uncertain future she faced. If not selected as queen, Esther would spend the remainder of her days as a concubine in the King’s harem.

Amazingly, something more than Esther’s exquisite beauty caught the attention of her handler. Her quiet strength, gentleness, and wisdom, apparently outshone that of the other girls.

Remember, these exotic beauties came from every corner of Persia’s’ expansive empire. Lack of “good looks” was not an issue for the women selected. Esther, however, stood apart from the rest. Her demeanor eventually won her the crown and special place in her husband’s heart. Esther had found favor with God and the King of Persia — favor that would soon be tested. Thanks to one of Xerxes’ right hand men, the evil Haman, the day to exterminate the Jews of Persia had been set. The verdict was signed, sealed, and then delivered throughout the kingdom.

Esther’s gentle strength and faith would be put to the test like never before. Even today, Mordecai’s words to his beloved cousin turned regal queen, echo through the corridors of history:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? — Esther 4:14 NIV

Her response?




Plotting, manipulating, and acting tough were not part of Esther’s wise plan. Instead, Esther approached her earthly sovereign with strength and gentleness, until she reached his throne, where she bowed before him, awaiting the sting of metal against her neck, or the gentle touch of a scepter.

I picture Esther daring to glance up, meeting the eyes of the man who knows every curve of her body and the deepest thoughts of her soul. I imagine Persia’s powerful ruler, gazing at his bride, somewhat puzzled, yet intrigued by her boldness — boldness bathed in Esther’s gentleness. How could he not lower the scepter?

I can easily imagine the gasps of relief and a few muddled cries of disbelief as she reaches out to touch the tip of the jewel-encased staff. More importantly, I can hear deep in my spirit the thundering applause that shook the heavenlies on that fateful day so many centuries ago.

We can learn much from Esther. An orphan raised by a cousin. A teenager kidnapped by an at times ruthless political system. A woman forced to face death not only for her own survival, but also for the survival of her people. A woman that wore strength and gentleness rather than hiding behind a Tough Girl Mask.

In spite of Esther’s life circumstances, she was able to rely on God and the people He strategically placed around her. Although she alone had to face her king, she had thousands praying for her.

Removing false faces and mistaken masks isn’t a do-it-alone project. Rather, it’s a do- it-with-God journey — a journey that involves prayer, fasting, wise council, and loving support. God’s Word will become your guidebook to growth. Jesus will serve as your living example to follow. The Holy Spirit will empower you to let go of old masks and embrace new ways of living as a “real” woman of God.

Let’s pray.

Lord, You have created each and every one of us for such a time as this. I may not have a kingdom to save, but I do have a special purpose that is equally as important and uniquely suited to me.

Right now, I ask you to help me remove the Tough Girls mask. I’ve been trying to hide from the pain and heartache in my life. I’ve been pretending to be someone I was never created to be. I’ve acted in controlling, aggressive, and possibly even violent ways. I’ve been afraid to let others see my hurting heart.

Today, I choose to start a process of healing. I desire to put on the strength and gentleness that comes from You. Like Esther, I face many things. Like her, I desire to do so with integrity and without hiding any longer. I’m reaching out my hand to You, Lord. I trust You to help as I remove my mask. In Your Name I pray, Jesus. Amen.

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