How We’re Learning
By Kristin Goodrich
“Toughen up, buttercup!”
“Put on your big girl panties!”
“No tears. Nope.”
Military culture projects an eleventh commandment to women in uniform: Thou shalt not cry.
I spent my formative young adult years cultivating military professionalism in spite of being a woman. I swung hard toward leadership and excellence. I felt as though I didn’t have any time to deal with my emotions, lest I be taunted about “that time of the month.”
In recent years, I’ve worked at developing my feminine side in emotionally intense situations, knowing that the Lord delights in me as a Christian—military—woman! I am starting to figure out what to do with my tears.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14a)
I enjoy taking personality and aptitude tests, and the results always give me insight on how God has made me unique. My strengths cluster in executive function and strategic thinking, which I easily apply to my faith journey as well as my military lifestyle.
In my Christian walk, I have been reading through the Bible for years now. I pore through books covering history, biography, principles and practices for leadership, fiction, and much more. Many, but not all, include components of a Christian worldview.
While wearing a uniform, I absorbed the lessons I was taught and the behaviors I saw modeled. My voice is now deeper and can authoritatively carry quite some distance. Through my facial expressions, I can express disapproval as well as an expectation of excellence. I lean into the challenges of military life and work.
In my pursuit of growth, my aptitudes have easily been applied to growing deeper in relationship with the Lord while also finding my niche within the military community long after exchanging my active-duty ID for a dependent (now retiree) ID card.
However, I have only just recently begun to focus on the third way that the Lord has created me as a Christian military woman. Conflicting opinions abound regarding women in uniform, as well as how women in the military community “should” behave. Yet, God created us all with purpose – male and female.
I like my casual clothes, wash-and-wear haircut, and my forthright personality. But I also like that the Lord is taking me on a journey to embrace the “woman” in my story. I’m learning that grace can demonstrate strength. I’m pushing through the confusion I feel as I identify and label various emotions, which often lead to tears.
A decade ago, I gave my friend Margaret, a fellow Air Force wife, permission to completely revamp my wardrobe. To this day, I make mindful choices about colors and styles that suit me more than others.
I’ve started wearing my Naval Academy class ring, accepting that some will be instantly put off by the “cocky, ring-knocker” visual. I love that my ring is inscribed with my name and a reference to Psalm 139. Every one of the twenty-four verses in that psalm are rich and deep, and have been a comfort to me for over thirty years.
I have focused on improving areas that don’t come naturally. I am starting to figure out that tears come in all shapes and sizes, just like we do. And sometimes my tears are mixed in with laughter and joy.
Six months ago, I began taking basic classical ballet classes, and I will continue to go to classes twice a week this upcoming year. I am being evermore intentional in softening my voice and affirming the strengths and successes of others. And most profoundly for me, I let others see my eyes well up with tears and hear my voice fill up with emotion.
How to Be Free to Cry:
So, how do we become “Free to Cry” as Christian military women seeking to be brave?
- Embrace your strengths, knowing that the Lord has made you to be wonderful (Ps. 139:14a).
- Accept that your complexities are part of who you are, whether or not you and I are similar or vastly different! Emotional strength in a woman can be so attractive.
- Spend time and effort depending on the Lord as you exercise the weaker or less confident areas in your life.
- Read all twenty-four verses of Psalm 139 and pick one verse to reflect on this week.
Every time you re-read Psalm 139, find a new truth to remember, a new challenge to consider, and a new blessing to celebrate. Like me, you might never become fluffy in any way, shape, or form! But, you are fearfully and wonderfully made…even during a public, ugly cry.
Verses to Ponder:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! (Psalm 139:1)
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence. (Psalm 139:7)
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17)
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)
Lord, I can be challenged to grow in any, or all, three categories you’ve been leading me in as a Christian—military—woman. Help me to celebrate that growth and stretch in each area. Help me make time to read Psalm 139 in its entirety this week.