Expressions of Gracious Femininity
“There’s a grace for this,” my words were barely audible and without strength. On the other side of the office door stood a young woman who was looking for answers, but that particular day I had questions of my own staring me in the face and I seriously doubted I could put together an intelligible sentence. It was obedience that raised my hand to the knob and opened it…
When a stalwart attitude and genuine smile are needful when I feel incapable of such a response, when a delicate situation requires being handled with care and compassion, when mountains in my life appear insurmountable, this simple phrase holds me fast to what I know to be true — that the One who is Grace incarnate will furnish me with everything I need to exhibit a gracious spirit. After all, has He not promised to faithfully supply?
A few days after that meeting, a card was left anonymously for me on the desk. I opened it and read, “Your radiant smile and gracious spirit blessed me…” I closed the card. If only she knew, I thought.
Not all of my attempts at graciousness have been so successful. I have fumbled my fair share of awkward situations and ill-timed comments. If gracious living is the finishing school of a believer, I am a student of His grace; ever learning how to best express Christlikeness in the circumstances I face. This has set my heart and mind to thinking. We often think of graciousness in terms of etiquette and social polish — a gracious woman is one who is kind, courteous, elegant, and charming. Society says she is Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
But as enchanting as etiquette-based graciousness appears, it will be prone to changing shape with the shifting sands of time and cultural correctness. Etiquette will not provide entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, neither will it come through for us when we are in need of supernatural ability to give that which we do not inherently possess. Only Grace will. In fact, God’s grace does.
As daughters of the King, we should desire to be gracious women — not because it is the polite thing to do, but because it is an evidence of Christ in us. And He, dear reader, is where it begins — Christ must be within in order for His grace to be without. But who is she, this gracious woman, and what does she look like? Let’s explore what it looks like to be engraced.
Picture One: Engraced
I imagine that all of England was in a flutter of patriotic excitement. There had been a royal flurry of preparation leading up to this history-making day. Now a sacred hush rested upon Westminster Abbey as the princess glided up the steps and through the double doors, whereupon she jubilantly emerged to shouts of, “God, save the Queen!”
The details of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation were lavish, but it’s what happened during the coronation that I find most fascinating. The ceremony by which this young woman would be engraced to lead her nation as Queen is rich with symbolism and reminiscent of another “coronation” … the one that is ours in Christ through salvation.
Isaiah 61 stirs our recollection of when we put off our sin-stained garments and put on robes of righteousness, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with [a] robe of righteousness…” (vs. 10). By grace through faith, we are enrobed in Christ’s salvation and become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, ambassadors of His ways to this earth, and entrants to the throne room of grace to find help in our time of need. In short, we become engraced. Placed within the fullness of His grace, this becomes the position out of which we live, and move, and have our being. (See John 1:16 and Acts 17:28.)
A gracious woman is one who lives into the new identity she has been given in Christ. Having been lavished with grace from God she becomes a flow-through channel of expressing His grace towards others.
Picture Two: Enforced
Opulence was everywhere I looked. The palatial estate inspired me to walk a little taller as I toured the spacious rooms that housed crystal chandeliers, gilded furnishings, and marble cut from quarries in Italy. When I closed my eyes, I imagined ladies and gentlemen arrayed in their finest, enjoying an evening of dinner and dancing in the grand ballroom while the lilt of the orchestra filled the air.
A grand house, such as the seaside mansion I visited years ago, is built to endure and commands a presence through its presentation of Greek columns, spacious windows, and the tallest of tall ceilings. Each feature is constructed out of the finest and most durable materials. As I waltzed up the sprawling staircase, I never questioned if the building was structurally sound. That was obvious. What was harder to wrap my mind around was that something so strong could be equally, if not more, beautiful.
Within the Psalms there is a word picture that encapsulates gracious femininity. King David was accustomed to grandeur, but he also knew the value of hard work and simple living. His description of femininity is one of my favorites, “that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace” (Ps. 144:12 KJV). Another translation says it this way, “that our daughters may be as pillars, sculptured in palace style” (NKJV).
In ancient times palaces were constructed to display the wealth and wonder of those who lived within their walls. Palaces put the earthly glory of kings and queens on parade, but the Temple of God was the dwelling place of the Almighty — heavenly, holy, set apart.
Because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, the physical temple has become a spiritual reality as those who are engraced house the very life of Christ — His Holy Spirit — within their frames. Paul expressed it this way, “For you are the temple of the living God…” (2 Cor. 6:16) and again, “…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).
A gracious woman has both backbone and beauty not fashioned by her own hands, but by His. Forged from the Chief Cornerstone, she is sculptured in palace style; built to house the life of Christ within, clothed with strength and dignity, and polished for God’s glory. Fortressed with truth, she can withstand the heat of trial as well as the force of opposition in the battles she faces on this earth.
Picture Three: Expressed
It was my second time taking in Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker. As ballerinas pirouetted their way across the stage during “The Waltz of the Snowflakes” my breath caught in wonder as the masterful choreography caused the audience to erupt in spontaneous applause. The scene I had witnessed defied possibility, yet the crowning moment of the performance was a triumph because of the dedication, the trained strength, and the graceful polish of the dancers.
I mentioned earlier that grace must be within in order for it to be manifested to this natural world. To me, ballet exemplifies this truth — a ballerina possesses tremendous strength, discipline, and self-control within to display such breathtaking expression without. A gracious woman is one who has the grace of God actively working in and through her life. Once she has been engraced with Christ’s righteousness and reinforced with His strengthening truth, she can now begin articulating the grace she has received towards others.
One of the most soul-shaping ways I have seen this concept unfold in own my life has been through the blend of gracious discretion. Proverbs 11:16 paints this picture, “A gracious woman retains honor.” The word “retain” in this verse means to keep or hold back. Imagine for a moment a powerful current that is held in place by a strong, sturdy dam. It is built to retain the water on the other side and release the force in a controlled, proper, appropriate manner — lest the absence of a guard lead to an overabundance of water that floods out and destroys what lies in its path.
The Lord’s gentle dawn of truth swept over my heart as I understood that a gracious woman weathers a storm while retaining honor throughout the situation — the honor of Christ, the honor of her own heart, and the honor of those involved in the situation. Out of love for God and for others, she leans into His grace that covers a multitude of sins or situations. Her behavior doesn’t negate the fact that perhaps wrong was done and should be addressed properly, but it is handled in such a way that those who are outside of the circle of the situation are not harmed in the process; driven into forming judgements that aren’t theirs to make, harboring critical spirits, or snowballing the situation out of control through gossip.
A gracious woman is empowered to express the Gospel through her femininity. Her perspective keeps the Kingdom of Heaven in view and doesn’t fixate on the unruly kingdom of her own emotion. Her posture is framed by grace rather than gossip or griping. And her gracious speech is a sweet salve, “like … honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24 ESV) — both for her own frame and for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ.
. . .
Grace & Glory
I aspire to be such a woman. And while I have been walking through a season where I find myself repeating, “There’s a grace for this,” if you asked me what I’m learning it would be that grace always gives way to glory and the brilliance of God’s ways will come shining through. Psalm 84:11 promises us that, “The Lord will give grace and glory…” When His grace enrobes our everyday actions, the glory of God is exhibited on the stage of our personal weakness.
What about you, dear reader? In what areas of challenge do you need to see grace give way to glory? Is it…
In hurry and hustle
In weakness and pain
In loneliness and grief
In uncertainty and change
In ache and longing
Oftentimes engraced living is fashioned through simple actions — forfeiting the battle over having the last word, cheerfully placing the needs of others in front of your own, or willingly appearing foolish before the world in order to stay true to Christ and His Word.
Whatever you are facing, I encourage you to approach your challenge with an attitude that says, “There is a grace for this.” And then, simply ask. Ask your Heavenly Father who holds everything you could ever need to lavish you with His grace. May this truth unleash a confident uprising of faith in your heart that our God is able to make ALL grace abound toward us so that we will ALWAYS have an abundance for every good work He places before us!
Pictures of Gracious Femininity
If you want to take the concept of gracious living deeper, I encourage you to study the lives of these leading ladies in Christian History:
grace that leads
Betsie ten Boom
grace that loves
Betty Scott Stam
grace that sacrifices
Corrie ten Boom
grace that forgives
grace that suffers well
grace that testifies
grace that creates
grace that endures