The Feminine Mystique

by Ricky Chelette, Executive Director

In today’s world, it can be challenging to define what it means to be a woman, let alone femininity itself. For many people, femininity was first observed by the inspiring women they encountered. For most, their mothers were the first ones to exhibit the qualities of femininity that they would later seek to incorporate into their own lives (if they were female) or look for in their future partners. These characteristics include care, kindness, responsive attentiveness, abiding strength, eagerness to connect with others, nurturing, and rugged vulnerability.

As a man writing about femininity, I cannot speak from personal experience of being a woman. However, I can share my experiences with women who have challenged, encouraged and nurtured me, making me a better person and a better man. I am often confused by the culture that insists there is no gender or, if there is, it does not fit into traditional masculine and feminine roles. For example, was Mary, the mother of Jesus, too weak a woman when she watched her son hang on the cross? Was Mother Teresa too inept as she sought to be the hands and feet of God to the hurting and helpless people of Calcutta? Was Margaret Thatcher too brutal, bombastic, and bold as the leader of Britain? Was Princess Diana too beautiful, stylish, or graceful to be considered influential? Each of these women, living in different eras and with vastly different personalities and lives, demonstrated the complexity and beauty of femininity. Meeting any or all of them would have been a blessing and a challenge.

The Most Intimate Relationship

However, my greatest understanding of femininity came from the most intimate relationship in my life for over thirty years: my wife. She was a modern woman in every way: brilliant, beautiful, compassionate, articulate, nurturing, powerful, determined, loving, driven, funny, and deeply devoted to God and her family. But the woman I spent half of my life with did not always appear as she did when we were married.

She was one of six children, four brothers and an older sister. Her dad, brilliant and kind though he was, was also a sports-loving outdoorsman, as was everyone else in the family, including her beautiful mother. As a young girl, she was awkwardly tall for her age and always towered over other girls. Of course, she played basketball, fished with her brothers, and hunted at the deer camp just as they did. It wasn’t until late high school and early college that she became interested in her feminine beauty, which was always evident to others but had somehow escaped her.

By the time we met, she was the epitome of grace and beauty inside and out. Though still towering over most women she met, she carried herself with confidence, elegance, and strength. Working as a nurse for three decades, countless doctors and nurses affirmed her intellectual prowess. And when March rolled around, she could always be found in front of the television watching March Madness or watching her favorite football teams on Sundays after a morning teaching three and four-year-olds in Sunday School. She knew the names and stats of her favorite players and each team’s standings better than most guys and certainly better than me.

Why Femininity Matters

Why is all this important to femininity? Because femininity is not a monolithic concept. It is not merely a girl in a dress with high heels or a woman cowering in subjection to an overbearing, inconsiderate husband who believes marriage mandates feudal ownership. God designed femininity to be a complex, ever-adaptable awareness of His presence and work in the lives of others that seeks to draw out the best in them and create a place for them to thrive. It is a responsiveness to the image-bearing reality in others that seeks to nurture, love, encourage, and lead them to be at peace with God and themselves. Femininity is the most complex, unique, beautiful, bold, quiet, ever-aware strength that draws others in and allows them to be the best of themselves as God’s children without fear.

The feminine mystique is one of the most powerful human forces on earth. Wars have been fought to attain its love, win its favor, and receive its affection. It can present itself in many forms and shapes, but it is always mysterious to men, always slightly beyond our ability to fully comprehend. And that is just how God intended it to be.

Dear precious women of God, do not let the world define who you are, how you look, or how you perceive yourself. God has gifted you as His daughter, uniquely equipped to bring peace, nurture, love, and compassion to our world and call out the best in the men around you. You help everyone see Jesus and make this world a better place.


*My beautiful wife, Merlinda, went to be with Jesus on April 17, 2019. Aside from my salvation, she was the greatest gift God gave me. There is not a day that passes that I don’t think of her, hear her voice in my head and heart, and praise God for the woman of God she was to me. I would not be who I am today without all she added to my life.