Arleen Spenceley is a committed Catholic and author of ‘Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin’, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Autumn 2014. She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.
What does the phrase 'woman of God' mean to you?
To me, the phrase “woman of God” describes a woman whose hope and goal is to align her life with that of Christ, who seeks to know Him, to know love, and to bring both to others.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Christian women today?
Anything that threatens to pull the path toward Christ and love out from under us, or that threatens to distract us from Him, or from our worth, is potentially an obstacle. There are lots of really big obstacles – too many for me to pick one. But most common among the lot, in my observation, are obstacles like sloth: “a sadness arising from the fact that the good is difficult,” according to St. Thomas. Plus ‘shoulds’, like “I should weigh X amount of pounds,” and ‘musts’, like “I must be married by age Y.”
There are also toxic relationships, with family members or friends or more-than-friends who are emotional vampires or negative influences, whose presence without appropriate boundaries pulls us away from Christ instead of pushing us toward Him. Another obstacle is the media – ads and movies and TV shows that say, implicitly or explicitly, that we aren’t pretty if our eyelashes aren’t voluminous, that we ought to be embarrassed by stretch marks or gray hair, that dating and having sex are synonymous.
But how big an obstacle is – assuming “big” in this sense means “difficult to transcend” – probably depends more on the woman than on the obstacle. These obstacles surround us, or hurtle toward us, or sometimes grow inside us, and how good we are at rising above them, moving beyond them or – when necessary – totally tackling them, depends on a bunch of factors. We can’t prevent exposure to obstacles, but we can take steps before (or while) we encounter them that prevent our succumbing to them. We have to pray, and go to confession and mass. We can set boundaries so what doesn’t help us does not distract us from what does, and we can involve ourselves with people whose walks with Christ we admire, who inspire us to get healthy and holy.
Do you have any advice for women struggling to stay true to God's path amongst the pressures of today's society?
Know that you are of infinite worth because you exist. Know that human nature is wounded, but not beyond repair. We are created able to overcome obstacles, but we aren’t created to do it alone. Seek counsel from professional counselors, or healthy relationships and boundaries, and have fellowship with fellow Christians as much as you can. To stay true to God’s path requires us to go against the grain, and that’s a lot less daunting if we do it as part of a group.