session five: letter to a daughter at thirteen

by Elizabeth de Barros

Please welcome friend and sister in Christ, Melissa Jackson, blogger at Breath of Life and Out of the Ordinary, and guest contributor for today’s session on Letter to a Daughter at Thirteen. Melissa is a working mother living a quiet and simple life in Virginia with her husband and teenage daughter. She enjoys reading, writing, coffee, football, and bonfires. She ministers in her local church as a choir member and deacon’s wife. She has a passion for discipling teenage girls, especially her own.


“I’ve spent so much of my life stitching together the answers to the hard questions that it’s natural for me to want to hand them down like a glove, one that will fit neatly onto an outstretched little clone hand. I try sometimes. But that glove won’t fit.” 

-Barbara Kingsolver


Somehow, Barbara Kingsolver has crept into the innermost recesses of my mind, finding the very thoughts that I’ve never wanted to face. I couldn’t believe they were real. Yet the words find me and lay my soul bare. I have tried to make my daughter into the me I always hoped to be.

 Letter to a Daughter at Thirteen is part commendation and part confession. Commendation for the young woman Kingsolver’s daughter is becoming; confession of Kingsolver’s own past failings as a teenage girl. Its poignancy and honesty unravel the hem of the neatly sewn life I’ve stitched for myself, forcing me to remember the torment that followed me during my teens and early twenties.

She writes, “It took me years to get over being flattered and flattened by any kind of male approval.” Oh, how my poor heart knows this truth! It is the one thing I want most to protect my 13-year old daughter from, the lonely ache of not feeling good enough, beautiful enough to be loved. Kingsolver believes her daughter is much stronger than she. I could say the same. Yet sometimes it finds me, the nagging doubt that my girl feigns her confidence just as I did. Then I see it — the one shining difference between me and my girl at the rocky age of thirteen. Jesus.

The wonder of it catches my breath. The grace that found my soul, starving for attention and sick with sin, called me unto Himself. All these years later, I’m still undone. As grateful as I am that He called me in my late twenties, I am incredibly thankful that He called my girl before she started walking that same filthy dead-end path I walked during my teen years. I know her confidence is not found on any earthly accomplishment or accolade she may garner; that it is far more complete than any self-confidence she may muster; and that it has a great reward, all because it is based on Christ.


Kingsolver admits that what “saved” her from her unhealthy self-image and dependence on male attention was reading books by Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, and other feminists. As a young adult in 1973, she fell victim to the feminist movement’s inculcation of our culture. She compares reading these authors as a “soul-shattering revelation” akin to a religious salvation. As I read, I couldn’t help but think, there but for the grace of God go I.

Friedan called women to “trust no other authority than our own personal truth.” (“It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women’s Movement”.) Greer once said: “Womanpower means the self-determination of women, and that means that all the baggage of paternalistic society will have to be thrown overboard.”

The fallacy of the feminist argument is that it denies the basic truth we cannot ignore: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  In pointing to male oppression as the source of blame, feminists deny that sin has caused the problems between the sexes. By overlooking their own sin, feminists have elevated women to god-like status. They believe we have the right to question everything and the power to change anything.  They either do not realize or do not care that this right and this power is reserved only for God.

 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
 Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”

 Thus says the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
“Ask me of things to come;
will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?
 I made the earth
and created man on it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.”

(Isaiah 45:9-12, ESV)


My own girl will celebrate her 14th birthday this weekend. If I were to write her a letter, I’d say:

You are more beautiful, more loving, more compassionate, and more considerate than I could ever hope to be. You are smart, funny, and fun to be around. On days when you find these things hard to believe, remember that they are true — not because of you, but because of God. In His grace, He created you to be the perfect you, for His pleasure and His delight. Don’t ever ask why. Just trust Him. Trust Him.


Next Thursday: Letter to My Mother 

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