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A Letter to my Baby Girl

My daughter,

As I’m writing this, I am watching you in the corner of my eye, eating blueberries. You look at me in between stuffing your mouth with a chubby handful and you laugh with great delight. I want you to stay this way forever—one and a half years old, toddling around, fearless, determined to discover everything you can about the world, confident that you are safe because of our love, and appreciative of all the sweet things God has created for us to enjoy. But I know that time will pass and things may change.

Before you were born, your father and I chose not to learn your gender. We knew we’d love you and raise you with the same values and opportunities—boy or girl. When the doctor announced that you were a girl, we were overjoyed. In some countries, having a girl is not something to rejoice over. Boys are prized and girls are treated as less than second class citizens. This is something that we hope you will never experience.

Some people will try to tell you that God created Adam first and that therefore men are more important. They will point to the judgments on Adam and Eve after the fall and declare that hierarchy was what God envisioned for humanity, rather than a negative consequence of sin. Others will tell you that God made the man the spiritual leader, and that the woman must follow, submit, and discount her own ideas. However, the Bible actually says that God created humanity in his image, both men and women. As an image-bearer, you have equal value, status, importance, significance, and authority with all other image-bearers. God’s will for your life is to follow God wherever he wants you to go and to do whatever he wants you to do.

As a female, you may have to continually fight this battle of where your identity resides. One of the ways that your worth may be challenged has to do with physical beauty.

As a young woman, I was haunted by this one question: “But what if I’m not beautiful?” Not only was it true that I did not turn heads or resemble the women in magazines or on television, but, deep down, I also feared that my dark secret of being born with a birth defect was the ultimate repellant to boys. I was convinced that I was not beautiful, and because of that, I would never be loved or accepted.

Even when I searched the Scriptures, my insecurities seemed to be affirmed by the descriptions of the notable women: Abraham said to his wife Sarah, “I know what a beautiful woman you are” (Gen. 12:11). Of Rebekah, it was written, “The girl was very beautiful…” (Gen. 24:16). “Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel” (Gen. 29:17-18). It seemed to me that these women were noteworthy and loved because they were beautiful. But is that God’s way?

Further investigation led to this discovery: Of Ruth, Boaz declared, “You are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11).

Among the prominent females of the Bible, Ruth is a rare exception of a woman who was described with noble character. Nothing is mentioned about her beauty. But she is a woman to be emulated and admired. Her bold actions not only made a difference to those around her but also made an eternal impact for the entire world, for all of time. She is attractive to us and honored by us for her faith, courage, steadfast love, and boldness. This story gives hope. You and I may not necessarily fit the world’s standard of beauty, but we still have the opportunity to be an extraordinary influence, bless others around us, and make an impact on all of eternity.

Look to Ruth’s story to remind you that it is far better to have character than physical beauty. Notice that the other women who were known for their beauty are also remembered for their godless actions: Sarah had a hand in Abraham’s doubting of God’s promises with regard to Hagar, Rebekah encouraged Jacob to deceive, Rachel was spiteful and ungracious toward her unloved sister. We can admire certain aspects of these women, but we also must be discerning about what we emulate in them.

Ultimately, I want you to remember from this story that it’s not about how beautiful one may appear to be but how beautiful one is inside. When you have character, you have true beauty. We are never clued in to the beauty of the surface of Ruth’s face, but we will always remember her as beautiful by her life full of grace.

God used this story as one of many to affirm me in who I am in him. As you are bombarded with different messages from this world and even from those in the church, I want you to always search the Scriptures to discover what is true. Some in the church may tell you that your identity comes from being silent and passive.  The world will tell you that your identity comes from physical beauty, money, power, and popularity. These standards will always be impossible to meet. However, God’s standards are different. When we measure with his ruler (the only ruler that matters), you, my daughter, come up beautiful. You are beautiful because you were designed by God, made in his image, and created to influence and bless the world around you.

My child, you are a crown of beauty and a royal diadem in his hand (Isa. 62:3).

I love you!,
Mama


What do you have to say to your children about gender and beauty? What do you wish you would have learned as a young person about faith and physical appearance?

28 Comments

  1. Don J
    Comment #93734 posted March 30, 2011 at 7:27 am

    A hearty amen and amen!

  2. Michelle
    Comment #93735 posted March 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. I hope things will be a little easier for your daughter.

    I love this, “We knew we’d love you and raise you with the same values and opportunities—boy or girl.”
    :-)

  3. Comment #93736 posted March 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Your daughter is blessed to have you as her parents. :)

  4. Jules
    Comment #93737 posted March 31, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Beautiful! I may have to share this with my pre-teen daughter. Thank you.

  5. Comment #93741 posted April 1, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Amen!

  6. ktill
    Comment #93742 posted April 1, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    This is beautiful and I am definitely going to share this with my daughters…and my sons!
    You have said things in this letter that are filled with the reality that every little girl faces to some degree. What a beautiful woman Ruth was; I never realized that it is never actually stated that she posessed outward beauty.
    Thank you for writing so elequently your thoughts to your daughter, and sharing them with us.
    Peace and Grace – to all or our daughters and sons.

  7. Meggie
    Comment #93743 posted April 2, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Beautiful! It’s sad (and not uncommon) to see prominent women so often publicly disparaged because of their appearances. Thank you!

  8. Comment #93745 posted April 3, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    We had 4 sons and always told them that it was more important to know what was in the heart of a person (female or male) I was very fortunate to be told that as a child so passed it on. One verse I clearly remember from childhood was that people look at the outside, but God looks at the heart.

    I’m sure the author of this post would love to hear some more answers to the 2 questions at the end (take another look)

  9. Don J
    Comment #93747 posted April 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Question asked above: What do you wish you would have learned as a young person about faith and physical appearance?

    Growing up in the 60′s I rejected the false slick images but then trapped myself into thinking appearance made no difference at ALL, so I went the unkempt route for a while.

    God lead me out of that also false belief. People do not have infinite time to evaluate you; despite the proverb about not judging a book by its cover, people do this ALL THE TIME, even if you try to not do that. How you look and how you dress is a way of communicating and you should be sure it says what you want it to say.

    “If you want to get a promotion, dress like those who are at that level.” is good business advice. Yes, the con artists will still slick up and appear to be what they are not. But do not make it harder for another to see beyond the surface.

    EVERYONE has some filters on how to assess the credibility of others, consider why the major newspapers and news magazines look as they do when compared to the ones talking about alien abductions. You quickly come to different expectations, which can sometimes be wrong, but they are still different initial expectations.

  10. RED
    Comment #93749 posted April 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I wish I had learned a long time ago that it’s more important to find what looks good on *you* than to try and make yourself look like someone *else.*

    In my mid-20s, I have confidence in my appearance because I am trying to look like me, the me that God made. I’m not trying to buy clothes or products that are for a different body type or fit the “model” image.

    I think the reason beauty is often such an entrapment is that it forces us to try to become like other people and reject the way God made us (this is called coveting!). When I started paying attention to the way *I* was created, my attitude towards physical appearance grew healthier.

  11. Yvette Sonnet
    Comment #93750 posted April 5, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    I’ve tried to be proactive in teaching my children that a woman’s worth isn’t centered around her outward appearance. While history books are replete with stories about men and their contributions to society, women, in comparison, are scarcely recorded on the pages. During my homeschooling years, I incorporated females with strong character into our curriculum to help offset some of that imbalance. We read biographies of notable women like Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, Teresa of Calcutta, Mary Slessor, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Queen Elizabeth and Joan of Arc. We learned about contributions of female inventors—like Marie Curie. As they became familiarized with popular fairy tale stories, I added a book within the same genre about strong female protagonists who saved the day via courage, compassion and intelligence rather than waiting around passively for a strong male to come to the rescue.

    Recently, my middle school daughter gave a PowerPoint presentation on the women’s suffrage movement in her American history class. Her classmates had never heard of Alice Paul. Wouldn’t it be great if Alice Paul’s name and contribution to society became as well known as Martin Luther King Jr.’s? They share a lot of similarities! And since they both have January birthdays, maybe the US national holiday could celebrate both of their lives…

    I don’t know if current statistics still show that the self-esteem of girls plummets in comparison to boys during adolescence. I think that in the past the heavy focus on outward beauty for females coupled with an education that, for the most part, omitted females noted for their intelligence and/or strength of character contributed to this conspicuous decline in girls’ personal esteem. Women have so much more to offer this world than merely being alluring and captivating trophies for men.

    MaryAnn, your letter to your baby girl is inspiring!

  12. Comment #93751 posted April 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    I wish I had learned, as a young person, that being a person of faith does not exclude being attractive (ast least acceptably so). I also have a visible “defect,” which happens to be hereditary. Along with suffering a lot of embarrassment, I also was very ashamed. I was taught that physical appearance doesn’t matter, but it did matter to me, terribly! Nobody, not even my family, helped me accept and deal with my situation until I was well into adulthood. Then a pastor friend told me, “There is no shame at the Cross.” This does not mean that Christians will never become embarrassed or ashamed, but that Jesus “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows”–even the private, unspoken ones. The Savior who was treated with scorn and ridicule, who hung (probably naked) on the cross, who died a criminal’s death, knows all about shame. He makes us beautiful in His eyes. And helps us to see that we are worthwhile and dignified and even beautiful in our own!

  13. RED
    Comment #93754 posted April 7, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Thank you Marjorie! I sometimes worry that the church makes girls feel guilty for thinking about their appearance at all, which is also an unhealthy extreme. You’ve said it well; there is no shame at the foot of the cross. I’m glad you found someone in adulthood who could help you deal with your personal difficulties.

  14. Comment #93758 posted April 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    rachel also stole from her father and lied to him

  15. Comment #93761 posted April 9, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Sonnet, what a GREAT list of strong women you have there. I will have to copy those and make sure to teach my daughter all about them. Also, I love what you said about Alice Paul! That WOULD be wonderful if she was celebrated as much as MLK.

    Marjorie, I had similar feelings about the way I look. I, too, felt like the message, “God looks at the heart” attempted to simplify my pain too much. It felt like someone was trying to slap a bandage over a wound that was not cleansed and healed. God took me through a journey of really understanding my worth and value in his eyes — and what his standards really look like. Thanks for sharing your story too. Your words were wonderful to read.

    And thanks to everyone else who has left a comment. It’s wonderful to read feedback and thoughts.

    - Mary Ann :)

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