“How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You are like tombs that are painted white. They look beautiful on the outside. But on the inside they are full of the bones of the dead. They are also full of other things that are not pure and ‘clean.’ (Matthew 23:27 NIRV)
When I was a little girl, I loved tea parties. My mother put them together just for me and my sister. It was always a special time, away from our two brothers and childhood responsibilities. She would pull out her fine china, set the table with tea, milk, and sugar and listen to every word we had to say. But as a little girl the thing I loved the most was those little, delicate teacups. My favorite set was pure white, bore a gold ring around the rim, and was light as a feather. I remember lifting them in the light and looking at the shine of the glass and the glitter of the gold. They were beautiful and rare.
So, too, are the women who carry the torch of holiness. Our hair, manner of dress, and lack of worldly accoutrements stand out wherever we go. Because it is the most noticeable thing about us, like the outside of a pretty teacup, it easily, and often becomes, the focus. But just as the teacup served a greater purpose than looking the part, women of faith are far deeper than outward appearance.
To be vessels unto God, we have committed and submitted to holiness. And while I may sometimes long for thicker hair, less gray, or a thinner form, I don’t focus on my physical appearance or begrudge holiness. I do not wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and bemoan my uncovered face, my unbleached hair, or the row of skirts in my closet. These thoughts are secondary, small and unimportant, compared to others.
When I struggle, it is with heavier matters. I am concerned about whether I will make a difference in the world, my community and my church. I long to know I will someday fulfil the call of God in my life or at least that I am on the right path. Am I witnessing enough, doing enough, becoming enough? Am I raising my children right? Am I living up to Proverbs 31 and does my husband have that kind of trust in me?
Jesus told the Pharisees if they made sure the inside of the cup was clean, the outside would be as well (Matthew 23:27). As a little girl, I should have focused on the hours in my mother’s presence, the conversation, the time she spent building my character and nurturing my personality. I should have seen the woman behind the glass. In the same way, we should tend to the inside of our cups and focus more on the same for the women around us who desire to be loved, accepted and cherished.
The teaching and upholding of holiness are necessary, just as the teacup was needed to hold tea. But without tea, I would not have needed a cup at all. It is no secret women carry the standard of holiness. We carry that torch carefully and with respect, like I held the teacup in my small hands. But I did my mother a disservice by focusing on the cup.
Let us also remember to uphold each other, be there for one another, recognize the deeper struggles and triumphs. That we may be comforted and our hearts knit together in love (Colossians 2:2), let us see more than the pretty cup. Let us see the woman behind the glass.