Do you ever feel like you don’t fit the mold? I constantly felt this way growing up and it was not only because I am an Asian woman with freckles, who is above average in height, and can break a person’s nose with one finger, but because starting in kindergarten, I was a latchkey kid who had to take care of my older brother while my parents worked two jobs. Even though my brother is four-years older, it was explained to me that because my brother was a male, I had to take care of him. Every day after school, I was responsible for opening the front door of our home, feeding my brother a snack of Chef Boyardee or ramen noodles, and warming up the rice and soup for dinner. I also had to prepare a bath for my brother, make sure he brushed his teeth, and then clean up the house before going to bed. I did this until he left for college.
On the weekends when my mom was home, she would point out every flaw on my face. She always thought my nose was too flat and wide, so she would massage my nose bridge and make me sleep with a wooden laundry pin on it. I always remember how she would also make me practice smiling in a way that did not make my nose look flat and my eyes too slanted. She told me that my looks were “too Asian.”
When my mom was not advising me about my outward appearance, she was teaching me how to cook a good meal for my brother since she knew he would be the “one” to attend a top university and become a successful businessman or doctor. When I would ask her about the dreams that she had for me, she always said it was to grow-up to be a beautiful woman, so I could marry a doctor, move to Northbrook, and have a husband who could buy me a big house.
When it was time for me to attend college, I picked a school that was far away from home. I wanted to finally experience freedom and find myself. I did not want to take care of anyone or be told who I was as a daughter and female. Many boys thought I was pretty, but called me a snob and lesbian for not wanting to date and go to social events. One boy became so upset at my lack of interest in him that he got his fraternity brothers to hide in the trees one night and rape me. I was able to escape because of my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but I was never the same person after that incident. My hope and innocence died with each layer of clothing the boys were able to peel off my body.
When I withdrew from the college, I was so bitter inside that I pushed everyone away and put up a wall. For years, I let the animosity build because I was tired of the unfair expectations of me and how everyone was trying to put me in a mold. Why was I not allowed to be me?
When I sought out the church to guide me through these dark times, I was told by my pastor and church leaders to “stop being angry” and to guard my heart as a single woman. They believed that once I found a good husband, any pain would go away since marriage brings wholeness to individuals. But how could I think about marriage when I had such a broken past? No one wanted to address this part of me because they believed being in a relationship, learning to be a submissive wife, getting married, and having children was the highest calling for a woman.
When several men began calling me and saying that God wanted us to be in a relationship and get married, I became so angry that I wanted to punch them in the face. I didn’t understand how two people could worship the same God, but hear different messages. Was I the one who was not open to His leading because of the bitterness or sin in my heart? I sought the advice of people at church again and I was told that I had the wrong perspective because I should want to be in a relationship with a godly man and I should feel blessed. I had career and academic goals for myself, but they insisted that marriage and having a child would make those desires unimportant because ” I would understand how being a mother is the highest honor since I would be used by God to bless the lives of my child and anyone who came into my home.”
After many of these type of conversations with the leaders of the church, I had a meltdown and walked away from Christianity for two-years. Not because I was disappointed with God, but because of the way that people in my life, especially individuals in church leadership misused and abused their authority to oppress and dominate -sometimes even justifying their ideas by using passages in the Bible incorrectly. These wrong interpretations are damaging since they distort God’s design for a woman and can make her feel bad about herself.
In John Piper’s essay, “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” he talks about the importance of returning to masculinity and femininity that is biblical. When men do this, there will be ” a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s different relationships.” As for women, there will be “a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s different relationships.”
Without a doubt, the greatest achievement of any human being is to discover God’s design and fulfill it. This should be the goal for the church and society. For women, should not be placed in a mold since it limits who God made them to be.