I remember learning that Proverbs 31 described all the characteristics of ideal godly woman. It sounds like such an impossible goal – to be attractive and sucessful, but kind and modest all at the same time. At one point, I heard that since there are 31 verses in Proverbs 31, each one is the special verse for a girl with that birthday day of the month. This is mine, 22:
“She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linens and purple.”
Back in the day, I tried to read and come up with a deep meaning for this one. I never did. I suck at crafts and fashion, so I figured I wasn’t any good at my designated verse for being a godly woman, which is supposed to be very important for an evangelical teen girl. I never came to a conclusion about this one, but it sure didn’t help with the insecurity I already had as an adolescent.
The most important lesson I learned in life, I learned in PE class. My Christian college required actual for-credit PE classes (that did not transfer.) The purpose was something like being a good steward of your mind and body by learning to be active early in life. The first semester of my sophomore year, I took self-defense class for 1 credit. We learned how to stay aware walking down the street, how to best attack the eyes and testicles, and even how to change a tire. One afternoon, sitting on the floor of the gym with my classmates for story time, I learned two definitions that changed everything for me: rape and consent. Before that moment, I had no vocabulary for what happened to me about six months before. Abstinence-only education had taught me nothing about consent. I knew the concept of how to say no to tainted purity but nothing like “yes I want to” or “no I don’t.”
During this particular semester, I was subconsciously seeking out safe places to exist off campus. One was a Presbyterian church that would shuttle car-less students to Sunday services then provide a home cooked meal for us at a rotating church member’s home. Another was an exclusive bible study. I signed up for a weekly small group at the home of our school’s assistant chaplain. That hour collectively meditating on scripture was an escape from the Christian campus existence. The passage that I remember us diving into most deeply was this one:
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:6
Since that time, it has continued to resonate with me. I think those boundary lines were starting to impact me. I used to view boundaries in a negative light, even beyond my poor understanding of bodily autonomy. I would always forgive, always give more, and always sacrifice for what I believed to be the good of the kingdom. I would chide myself and beg forgiveness for not being willing to give up more and be more “broken” for a Christ-like transformation.
I had a deep spiritual connection to a personal Jesus who I would never say no to. My stream-of-conscious dialog with him made it so I was never alone. It took years, but I slowly built up boundary lines to make my personal space more pleasant.