I Don’t Know What I Am

Finally, a group of church friends got to go camping!  Venturing out of our COVID cocoons for the first time in a month, we hoped social distancing and fresh air would keep us safe.  We sang, laughed, and visited, but each family tended to their own meals and air-hugs were the thing.   It felt so good to feel the fresh air and warm sun.  I’d never again take things like this for granted.  At least I hope I’ll never forget.

The big kids had been on a hike and now returned thirsty and ready for a rest.  Some went to their tents. Some grabbed their phones.  But one of the young teens joined her baby brother on the quilt where he lay sleeping.  My lawn chair and I stood sentinel for the baby’s parents who had gone fishing for a couple of hours.

“Which trail did you guys take?” I asked.

“The longest one!  We ran a lot of the time, but it took the other girls longer to get back than it did me.  I  beat the boys back, too.”  Strangely, her tone didn’t match her words.  She didn’t sound happy about her accomplishment.

“I don’t hear victory in your voice,” I said.  “Did the guys get mad at you?”

“No.  They didn’t get mad, but they acted weird, that’s all.” She’d picked up a twig and was absent-mindedly breaking it into short sticks.

“Boys being weird?  Imagine that!”  I got up from my lawn chair and joined her on the quilt.  “I get the feeling they said something worse than weird.  I get the feeling they were unkind somehow.”

“People are always telling me I’m a *%@#.”

“Do you think they know what that means?”  I was hoping that the kids were just using a term they’d heard, not understanding it’s a vulgar word meaning “lesbian.”

“Everybody knows what that means.”  She threw down her sticks now and propped her head in her hands in frustration.

“I’m wondering if they mean it as an insult.  What do you think?”

“Well, some girls at school say they are.  The other girls hate them.  And sometimes girls ask me why I act like a boy or if I’m really a boy.”

“What do you say to them?”  I hoped she’d been able to come up with a response, but had an idea she was sitting here hoping she could figure out what to think or say.

“I just tell them it’s none of their business, and then I walk away.”  She was definitely feeling overwhelmed.  Adding to her pain was the fact that these kids were supposed to be family.  As “soul family,” this was the worst kind of friendly fire—and, sadly, it was part-and-parcel of any family of broken people.

She covered her face with her hands.  I knew she was hiding tears.  “I don’t know what I am.”

“Well, my feeling is that nothing is wrong with you.  What is wrong is that somewhere, somebody else mixed up what it means to be a girl or a boy.  Tell me what people say a girl is supposed to be like.”

She was silent for a moment, wiped her face, rubbing the tears on her jeans.  Then she shrugged her shoulders and offered, “I don’t know.  Girly, I guess.  You know—scared of bugs,  giggly, fancy clothes, boy crazy.”

I laughed. “Hearing that, I’m not sure I’d qualify as a girl for that crowd. Anyway, I’m more interested, really, in what one of God’s girls would be like.  How could we describe a godly girl?”

She looked up at me, unsure if this was a Sunday school test or if she should say what she was really thinking.

“I’m just looking for an opinion here,” I said.  “I’ve got those, too.  You go first.  How would you describe a godly girl?  Then I’ll see what you think of my opinion.  Fair enough?”

She took a deep breath and sat taller, tilting her head back a little. “I think God’s girl would be kind and helpful, moral and honest.”  She tilted her head the other direction and continued.  “I think she would do whatever God made her able to do, whether it’s running fast, or going to another country to help others.  Maybe she’d adopt ten boys and teach them how to fish!”  Then she looked at me for my reaction.

I smiled, raising my eyebrows in pleasure.  “I think you’re on a roll.  You go, girl!”

“Well, in the Bible, Deborah was a judge and even led an army even though she had a husband.”  Her eyes were sparkling.  She was giving voice to her heart! “And Priscilla was a tentmaker.  That would have to be hard physical work.”

“Yes!” I chimed in.  “And God had another woman named Huldah who took God’s message right to the King to tell them they’d stumbled across God’s word in the temple.  She even told them they hadn’t been doing what God said and were in trouble.  God also had her answer King Josiah’s questions for God.”  I loved talking together with her about Bible women.  “And there was Lydia, a business woman.  We don’t know that she was married, but she managed a good-sized household.  And you’re right!  Priscilla and her husband worked side by side in their business and in teaching and supporting young preachers.”

Suddenly she grew quiet.  I knew she’d thought of another question.  “But what if you don’t want to get married?  What if you don’t like boys that way?”

“Well, that’s something that could change as you grow older.  Some people don’t date or get married for a long time.  And I know some awesome women who never got married because they just don’t feel the need to live with a man.  You know Jesus never got married, and He did alright.  He also said that some people don’t even need to be married.  Besides, getting married is just one way we help people get to heaven.  Husbands and wives help each other and help their children.  But most women in Jesus’ life were not married.”

“No kidding?”

“No kidding!” I assured her.  “When God called Mary to do her job for him, she wasn’t married.  Also, Mary and Martha never married, and they and their brother, Lazarus, were Jesus’ close friends.  Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus and the apostles, and she even followed Him to the tomb and was the first one to see him alive again.”

“Yeah, but I’m not pretty, and I bet all of them were,” she muttered, lowering her head dejectedly.

“Hey.  Pretty is as pretty does,” I drawled like Forrest Gump.  We both giggled.  “Besides, I’ve never seen their pictures, and the Bible doesn’t say they were all beautiful.  In fact, Jacob’s wife, Leah, was downright homely.  But she’s one of the grandmothers of Jesus, not her beautiful sister Rachel, and she’s the one that Jacob loved to the end.  You know that even a pretty face becomes ugly when the actions are ugly.”

I got quiet until she looked up at me again.  Leaning forward, I studied her eyes.  “God looks on our hearts, Baby Girl, and that’s where He puts His light.  When you were talking about godly girls earlier, I saw that light in your eyes.  You are one beautiful person, my friend.  And you are definitely God’s girl.”

“So what do I say the next time they call me that?”

“You tell them they don’t know what a real woman is.  But God does.  And then smile because you know the secret.  Then walk away.”

“Supper time!” called her mom.

“I’ve got to go, Nannygranne.  Thanks.”  She stood up and raised her elbow for a bump.

“Yeah,” I said, answering with my own elbow.  “Hug ya later, girl.”

She smiled and nodded before she turned to trot back to her camp.

I sighed a prayer for all of God’s girls.


Additional Reading for parents: 

Spiritual nature, Gal 5:22-23; Deborah, Judges 4-5; Priscilla, Acts 18; Huldah the prophetess, II Kings 22 & II Chronicles 34; Jesus’ teaching not marrying, Matthew 19 (also I Corinthians 7:14-16, and Ephesians 6:4);  Unmarried Mary, Luke 1; Mary and Martha, Luke 10; John 11-12; Leah, Genesis 29 & 49:31; God looks on the heart, I Samuel 16:7;  Light, John 1:4

For an in-depth presentation:  “How Can I Know My Gender?” https://youtu.be/2Kaex8EA2y4


I am a mother, grandmother, nanny, and writer—with a passionate concern about children, all children. With the help of my son Travis (who has a graduate degree in apologetics) I hope to share some thoughts that will be helpful to all who have the same concern.

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