Tell her she is wonderful. Tell her she is made. Tell her she is knit together, in secret and with awe. Tell her she is known. Tell her she is beautiful, not for what she has done or left undone, not for how she looks or what she lacks, but for simply being the miracle she is, for being here and alive. Tell her she is seen.
Say she will experience the full gamut of life, longing, fear, delight, lust, grief, sadness, joy, favor, disappointment. Prepare her for being a woman and not an object. Tell her that boys are not animals and she is not their prey. Teach her anatomy with holy awe and do not avoid when she asks what goes where or when or why or how. Especially do not turn away when she asks who, for she is asking to be loved and this is what we all want, on our honest days and in our broken and whole ways.
This article was curated by the Purity issue's guest editor, Rachel Joy Welcher.
Let her make lists and let her burn them when her heart has broken. Remind her we all heal in different ways. Keep hot drinks ready for long conversations with hot tears. Make space for her to be curious and creative and wide and small. Always be a safe place for her. Always smile when she meets your eyes. Even when she hurts you, be her mother and not her friend.
But also, be her friend.
Tell her the butterflies and flutters of longings and lust are real and not unimportant. Teach her to understand biology but to also understand the heart—and that neither ever matters more than the other. And both matter equally to you. Have courage when her body begins to stretch and grow with womanhood. Do not leave the difficult work to books and aunts and sixth grade peers.
Do not whisper the words breasts and sex and period. When you whisper you teach her to be ashamed, that these are secret and shameful things, and they are not. Do not pinch the fabric between her skin and her jeans to show her how tight they are and do not pinch her skin to show her how she needs to take up less space in the world.
Teach her there is order but there is also chaos and this is why order matters so much to God. Believe me when I say this: you cannot protect her from the chaos. You cannot protect her from her own body or the bodies of others. You cannot protect her from the pain of sex within marriage or without it. You cannot promise wholeness if she walks perfectly, nor destruction if she stumbles. Teach her that God is the protector of her life and limb, her body and her purity.
Tell her you love her every day. Look her in the eyes when you say it.
And then let her go. The God who knit her, who made her wonderful, he does not slumber nor sleep, but keeps.
Cover image by Drew Coffman.