Teaching Our Girls How They Are Wonderfully Made

by Meredith Storrs
Mommy is bleeding but she is not hurt.

Over the years, I’ve struggled to come up with the most appropriate words to explain complex ideas to my growing children. At the school where I work, we advise parents to start with a simple, clear answer to the question being asked. For instance, a child who wants to know where babies come from may be perfectly satisfied by “the baby grows in Mommy’s tummy.” If he asks follow-up questions, you might get into the science, but it is best to let the child’s curiosity lead before you overshare and overwhelm.

Some conversations as a parent will follow a different timeline. Sometimes we need to lay the groundwork now for important truths that we hope our children will internalize as adults. Conversations about the gospel fall into this category as do intentional lessons about consent (When brother says no, we stop doing whatever is bothering him.), race and identity (God made all kinds of skin and thinks they are beautiful.), money and possessions (God gives us things to enjoy and to share.), and more. As our culture continues to evolve its perspective of gender, talking to our children about the goodness of their sexed bodies has become an increasingly important topic in this category.

As a parent, and specifically as a woman, I think a lot about what I want my daughter to know and love about being female. I continue to revise and refine the exact words that would make most sense at each developmental stage. I want to help all our young girls feel confident and safe. I also want them to stand in awe of God’s brilliant design and celebrate with the psalmist:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it. (139:13-14)

For all my fellow mamas, aunties, and big sisters, I can’t promise the perfect turn of phrase or aha moment. But I do believe we can get the conversation started about body changes and the path to womanhood with at least three big ideas:

God designed our female bodies and calls them good.

When we think about what it means to be a woman, we need more than gender theory. Our daughters deserve better than a boss girl narrative or an “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude. Their schools work to eliminate gender barriers and stereotypes for good reason and with many valuable results. We have more women engineers, athletes, and business owners — and our world is a better place for it. But sometimes in the process of opening doors for women, our culture requires us to coat check our femininity as soon as we walk in.

God invites a better way. Consider the poetry of creation. God opened the symphony of our world with a design for male and female. In sun and moon, earth and sky, our sinless state was infused with lovely symmetry. God uses a number of pairings to proclaim His glory and communicate His nature to those He created. Like strings to woodwinds, our sexed differences are a pair meant to partner in harmony. Together with our brothers and sisters, we proclaim God’s beauty to a watching world. We were created female, and God says female = good.

Analogies from the natural world are sprinkled throughout the Bible. As women (and those who know and love women), we engage differently with passages about God opening barren wombs, wooing his bride, or groaning in labor as we experience these things in real life. To be female offers a distinctive window into the image of God and breathes life into passages like Isaiah 49:15, Matthew 23:37, and Psalm 22:9-10. If we allow our culture to erase or minimize the uniqueness of being female, we lose some of the poignancy of scripture.

We also miss out on celebrating the beauty and diversity of our girls. As each one reflects God differently, her femininity manifests in its own way. We ought to encourage our daughters to dream big for their futures — not in spite of being female — but in light of the distinctiveness their femininity brings to any interest they pursue. There are as many ways for this to play out as there are daughters on the earth, but it could look like a facilities manager who prioritizes projects for relational use rather than efficiency or bottom line. Or a business owner who organizes her staffing to accommodate family needs. Or a mom who puts her own professional dreams on hold to advocate for her child.

These examples don’t allow us to neatly divide what traits and decisions are feminine and which are simply Christlikeness, but that’s part of the point. Our souls are not divided from our bodies in that way. Instead, the interplay between our hormones, minds, and bodies is wonderfully complex. Anthropology and our own experience can offer patterns and generalities about being female, but how it all works out for me and for you is a mystery we get to witness unfold. Where we find sturdy footing, though, is knowing that God’s design for us is both intentional and good. We are girls on purpose and for good purpose.

God designed our female bodies to create life.

This is where the puberty talk begins. Developing breasts and hips, growing hair in new places, and a monthly visit from our new “friend” are actually a lot more significant than your typical PE class discussion might suggest. I recently purchased a lovely little puberty guide for tweens and found it refreshing to see that the book linked periods with childbirth, albeit briefly. As I discussed the science of body changes with my daughter, I found myself eager to paint a fuller picture.

Having a period is a big deal, not just because of its physical impact but because of what menstruating actually signifies. A period is a monthly reminder that our bodies were designed to create life. And this is worth celebrating!

Before you scoff at the idea of a period party, consider these changes in light of God’s plan for humanity. Today’s preteens are appropriately years away from childbearing (while many may never have children at all). But developing into a woman reminds us that female bodies are designed with housing capacity. We don’t have to downplay the challenges of puberty or present a Pollyanna outlook to periods, but we should not separate the science of how our body changes from the intention behind why our body changes. Breasts are designed to nurse a baby. A period signals that ovulation did not result in conception. Hair protects our most vulnerable parts so that we are healthy enough to create life. As girls get older, we can connect the dots between how these same parts of our bodies involved in housing and sustaining life also offer sexual pleasure. We can help them see how sex, intimacy, and childbearing are beautifully interwoven and best enjoyed in the safety of a healthy marriage. Through it all, we can offer them some inspiration during seasons of life that can often be awkward and uncomfortable: puberty is part of how God designed us to fill the earth with His image.

As we help our daughters navigate their growing years, we are also laying a foundation for adulthood. Barring a significant culture shift, they are likely to enter a workplace that downplays their womanhood. After all, a womb is a cyclical inconvenience in our current economic structure. The marketplace needs workers to be interchangeable parts, plugging holes in org charts and accomplishing tasks and milestones. Few offices make time to cater to the ebb and flow of hormones, and announcing a pregnancy can be met with mixed congratulations and panic about how the company will manage while you are away. In the US, jobs are often protected for women who take time off to recover from birth and care for a young infant, but most families are left to figure out how to finance that in a vacuum. This is part of why we’ve designed birth control to regulate our menstrual cycles or to eliminate them altogether, why so many pregnancies are unwanted (or feel impossible) and aborted. Our culture does not value life the same way that God does. In talking with our daughters about the strengths of being a woman, we invite them to challenge the status quo and define childbirth and mothering as valuable work.

As we uphold the beauty of our life-creating female bodies, we can also draw girls’ attention to the spiritual parallel. Whether or not our daughters bear their own children or mother in other ways, we want them to view their physical capacity to create life in light of Jesus’ Great Commission, a new form of “be fruitful and multiply” where we all participate in filling the world with disciples and hope.

God designed us to mother in a village.

In God’s church, we thankfully do not have to raise these girls on our own. As our daughters grow, we have the opportunity to show them the diversity of womanhood in the context of Christian community. My child may be like me in some ways and very different in others. Or maybe she’s a complete enigma. The girly girls, the sporty types, the princesses, the robotics queens, the history buffs, and the gamers — they all showcase God’s image. Each of us will manifest different aspects of femininity to differing degrees. When we paint a broad vision for womanhood in the church, we help our girls see that their personalities and gifts are welcome and valuable here.

Just as community can be a place of inspiration for our daughters, it is also a hopeful and healing context to work out our challenges. Despite the beauty of our design, we also live in a fallen world, and the effects of sin and suffering can take a toll on our bodies. Even for otherwise healthy girls, teen years can offer specific struggles — developing significantly earlier or later than their peers, painful menstruation, powerful hormonal changes and mood swings, or struggles learning to love their new bodies. Some girls feel really disconnected to our current cultural definition of femininity and may question whether God made a mistake in giving them the body they have. Each of these scenarios defies the scope of a blog post. Our girls need more than hot takes and influencers to guide their development. They need real live women in all stages of life to give them a more complete picture of Christlike womanhood. As their mentors, we need a village to help us find the words. We need grandmas, older sisters, counselors, childless aunties, and all the men too — a symphony of voices to continue the poem:
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:15-18, 23-24)