Feminine mystery has virtually disappeared.
In our age of social media, disclosure and vulnerability are touted as the greatest virtues. We women are praised for our uncanny ability to post our deepest struggles and secret joys all over social media for the world to see. I’ve noticed some of the most viewed posts are when a young lady opens up her heart about her depression or eating disorder or relationship struggles … and then garners a whole string of comments praising her for her willingness to “open up” and “be real.”
But what of that old-fashioned trait of discretion?
Discretion? The word has gone out of vogue today. Perhaps it’s because the hot topic of mental illness and its so-called enemy of isolation. I remember on my Christian college campus vulnerability was pushed so hard, by everyone from chapel speakers to the campus pastor and discipleship leaders to the RAs and prayer leaders. To avoid falling off the ditch of isolation, we were pushed to open up about our innermost struggles to anyone and everyone.
Or, perhaps it’s the unashamed culture in which we live creeping into the church. The world’s solution for what the Bible calls sin—everything from transgender to behavioral disorders—is to simply open up and be proud of who you are. Why change if you are in control of your own destiny?
I’m not proposing we hide in the back row of church, refusing to deal with our sin issues because of fear of telling others. I’m not saying we as Christian women should put on a façade, go to ladies’ Bible studies, and pretend to have it all together when in reality our lives—or our hearts—are a mess.
Instead, I’m simply encouraging a rediscovery of the age-old virtue of what Leslie Ludy calls “feminine mystery,” or discretion. The wisdom to know what ought to be opened up about when and where and to whom. It’s not about isolating, for there are trusted people to whom we should open our hearts and remain accountable, for the fight against heart-sins is real and desperate. But there is a beauty to feminine mystery, to a woman who has great spiritual depth that can only be plumbed with time, and trust, and friendship.
I can’t imagine the Bible saying it clearer: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion” (Prov. 11:22, ESV).
Mary stood in stark contrast to that abhorrent pig picture of the woman who spouts out the secrets of her heart for all to see. After giving birth to the Messiah–God’s Son—Mary simply “treasured these things in her heart.” She didn’t go write a book about it. Or travel the country speaking her story. Or post her amazing experience on her blog. She simply mulled it over, every time of meditation growing her affection for God’s faithfulness in her life.
I think we young women can have the temptation to share our innermost struggles and experiences because we somehow think it will gain guys’ attention or make them think we’re more godly. We might know better than to flatter or dress immodestly, but somehow this seems like an okay means of getting a Christian guy to like us. Actually, the opposite is the case. A true man of God will appreciate feminine mystery. He will observe, probably without you even noticing, a life lived for Christ. When you use discretion in not unwisely opening up your heart to him, the depth of relationship you have with Christ shown in your behavior will intrigue him. Those deep and hidden lessons of the Lord’s dealing with your soul will be a treasure to him, but it’s a treasure that’s to remain hidden until the Lord brings you into relationship. Total vulnerability is a gift God has given for a covenant relationship entrenched in the gospel and characterized in forgiveness. To fully open up in any other context is scary—for we don’t have the protection of covenant love. Isn’t God’s design beautiful?
At the same time, sin grows in secret. The fight against it is a serious thing. For that reason, God has gifted us younger women with Titus 2 mentors to help us know when to open up. All of us should have godly, older women in our lives that we can be real to about our struggle against sin. They will be able to impart wisdom to us about how much we should open up to others, whether it be on social media, with other friends, or in conversation with our brothers in Christ.
Feminine mystery is a beautiful virtue when a young lady has depth behind her daily walk with the Lord. But such depth does not come without work. It’s far too easy to live a surface life and be concerned only with fashion, friends, food … Rather, inner depth comes through daily seeking Christ in the Word, crying out for desires after Him, running to Him in our deepest struggles, and nurturing a close love relationship with Christ. That kind of inner depth, our secret relationship with the Lord, will reveal itself in a beautiful life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, even without us “opening up” about it. Feminine mystery is others-focused, producing a life that is a sweet aroma of Christ.