Though it was an unusual question, I understood it immediately: “How does a woman appropriately, biblically, humbly, and submissively go about ‘cracking the twigs and stirring the leaves?’ A friend of mine said that it seems like girls end up ‘breaking logs and throwing leaves’ too vigorously at times.”
This woman was not referring to any hiking or forestry activity. She had heard a quote read at a Christian singles conference and she, like several other women, had written me to ask how to apply it. First, some background. The quote read at this conference was from the outstanding book, Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart, by John Ensor:
Brothers, it falls to us to be the initial risk takers in matters of the heart. Headship means being the one to go ahead and ask. It is ours as men to suffer the embarrassment of rejection if need be. It is our role to initiate. Get to it right merrily. We are the hunters. They are the quarry. It is for men to strike out into the forest and look. It is for women to crack the twigs and stir the leaves so we know where to find them.
Ensor wrote this as a humorous touch in an otherwise direct chapter about biblical masculinity. He wasn’t trying to explain anything to women in this chapter—he was addressing the guys and their responsibility to pursue and initiate relationships. Though I searched the rest of the book, there wasn’t any further explanation about this intriguing “twig-cracking” comment.
So I decided to take a poll and directly ask men for some illustrations of attractive “twig-cracking and leaf-rustling” behaviors. What I discovered is that the qualities these men were describing were quite similar to the qualities that the Bible commends for godly wives (see Proverbs 31). That should be no surprise! Here is a quick summary:
1. Smile While You Stir: A cheerful woman is hugely attractive. A self-absorbed, complaining, and moody woman is hard to lead and please. Ask any married man to describe what attracted him to his wife, and among his top qualities will be her smile—hands down. But this is not superficial cheer. It must really be grounded in the next quality. . . .
2. Trust God As You Wait: No man will ever do everything right—not as a boyfriend and not as a husband. The woman who does not expect perfection from fellow human beings, but is learning to put all her trust and faith in her Savior, is much more gracious and patient as “the quarry.” Anxiety, restlessness, and jealous possessiveness will spook the hunters.
“I think that women most effectively ‘cracks twigs’ by seeking to glorify our Savior with their lives,” writes a single guy named Kyle. “This is what draws my attention to a woman. The humility that is expressed in a woman who truly fears our God is what is most attractive. However, please understand that I am not advocating that all women become nuns. All that I am saying is that when a girl is not trusting God with her future, this is most usually seen in her interaction with the opposite sex.”
Trusting God for one gift (marriage) is hard if you don’t appreciate the best gift you will ever receive, though. Which is why the third quality is essential for both trust and joy. . . .
3. Grow in Gratitude for the Gospel: Marriage is a tremendous gift. But it pales by far in comparison to the gift of salvation. It is also a gift that is only for this lifetime. It is an important gift, and one that desperately needs to be esteemed more highly in our generation, but it is only a temporary gift. So we need to cultivate our gratitude for the gospel—that outrageous act of mercy in which Christ took the punishment for our sins on the cross and, in the divine exchange, offered us His righteousness so that we could be reconciled to a holy and just God. Gratitude for the gospel should permeate our lives. When we really grasp that we’re walking objects of mercy, it colors everything we say and do. This is how we can “rejoice with those who rejoice” when we have yet to receive marriage—for we have already received something far more miraculous that we desperately needed.
“SMILE! Your joy and satisfaction is not found in another person but resides only in the Lord,” writes a man named Tim. “Trust me when I say that the guy loves to see a woman smile. This does not mean you should wink at him or laugh at all his corny jokes, but let him see your joy in the Lord.”
4. Pray Before, During, and After You Crack Twigs: Proverbs 30:19 says that the way of a man with a maiden is amazing and wonderful, something too profound to be easily understood. So if Scripture says this is a mystery, why should we expect that some formula or method in the latest singles self-help book is going to solve it? When you think about it, it is amazing that two sinners can be drawn to each other (at the same time!) and then make a pledge to stick it out for the rest of their lives. Frankly, the longer I observe the mystery of marriage, the more I am in awe of God’s sovereign ability to bring two people together. So pray for the gift of marriage for yourself and your friends, pray for the single men you know to find a wife, pray for your pastors and your church to help single adults get married, pray that God will conform you as a fruitful helpmate to your future husband, pray for a humble man who listens for God’s voice—and then pray that God speaks your name to him.
5. Encourage the Hunters: It’s hard to be a godly man in a culture that promotes pornography, violence, and self-centered passivity in men. Give some props to the brothers who endeavor to flee sin and temptation to follow Christ. Even without that outside influence, men have to work hard to trust God and risk rejection when they initiate relationships. So be gracious when you’re approached—this man may not be the hunter you wanted to attract, but don’t shoot him down so hard that he flees the woods. Even if you say no, be kind about it and make it easy for him to keep on hunting. In fact, encourage all the nearby hunters. If you see them selflessly serving others, speak up and thank them. If you see them stepping up to lead a group activity (akin to herding cats at times), voice your appreciation. If they serve you by getting rid of some pesky varmints in your neck of the woods, make sure they hear your “well done.” Your general reputation as an encouraging woman may well draw a hunter from the far side of the forest.
6. Refresh the Hunters: Be a hospitable woman. Cultivate your domestic diva and make your “nest” a place that hunters want to be. You don’t have to have a huge house or even your own house. Just make the place you reside a clean, comfortable and attractive place and then invite others in.
“Create group fellowship opportunities,” says a single man named Ricky. “You can both practice hospitality and get to know people better by inviting people over for a meal, or ice cream, or to watch a movie. Don’t feel bad about including ‘certain people’ when appropriate. And build the friendship—don’t throw yourself at him, but it’s okay to ask him good questions and follow up on previous conversations. Let him know that having a conversation with him isn’t horrible and laborious and you wouldn’t mind having another one.”
7. Be in Proximity to the Hunters But Don’t Scare Them Off: This one requires some finesse—you need your friends and family to help you evaluate how you are doing. Your accountability partners can help you discern your motives and behavior, and will keep you from swinging too far in either extreme—avoiding both aggressive pursuit and fearful hiding. But as a general rule, rustling and crackling are subtle activities. Thus it’s helpful to be within hearing range of the hunters.
“It’s okay to be noticed and approached. It doesn’t mean that you’re flirtatious; it might just mean that your biblical femininity is showing,” writes a single man named Jon. “Live for God and don’t be shocked if a guy or two notices you. That said, there are ladies who are overly friendly and try to make their interest known. Some guys eat up the attention and jump right in, other guys find this extremely unappealing. These ladies aren’t rustling leaves but rather letting out the loudest deer calls they can. Their dress, appearance or social prowess is what primarily brings attention, not their godly lives and biblical femininity. For these ladies, I would encourage them to also not be afraid and to trust God that the right guy will notice them. You may find that more men of godly character come out from the bushes when you become less intimidating.”
8. Follow the Leader: Every herd has a leader. Can the hunters tell if you are a good follower in that herd? A woman who is supporting and submitting to the leaders and authorities currently in her life is demonstrating she possesses wifely wisdom. And men do notice how women respect—and speak of—their pastors, bosses, and parents.
“Do you submit to your father’s leadership or are you constantly dishonoring him?” asks Tim. “Do you appreciate what your mom has to offer and teach you about being a woman? Even if your parents aren’t Christians, you are still called to honor them, and God can still use them in a powerful way to speak into your life.”
Finally, if you find that you’re still a bit lost in the woods, here’s a testimony from a man who married his wife after she spent a few years patiently and joyfully “cracking twigs and stirring leaves.” I think the reflections of my friend, Rob McMillen, will be encouraging to many women:
From the time I graduated high school until the time I asked my wife into a courtship when I was 37 (20 years!), I was faithfully praying to God for a wife and pursuing the women that God had placed in my life. Now some may say that I was deaf and blind because in 20 years I should have heard some “cracking and rustling,” but God had Kelly planned for me and I did not meet her until I was 34. It was not that she was a better rustler than all of the other women I knew or more godly, but she was God’s sovereign choice for me. My wife is a great example of a woman who “cracked twigs.” Here are some of the things that she did:
- She prayed for a husband in general, she prayed for me to find a wife (even if it was not her!), and she prayed that God would open a way for us to be husband and wife.
- She positioned herself to be in the same places I was, but naturally. Places like our small group, church, group outings, etc.
- Whenever we spoke, she listened and responded to whatever the topic was with a genuine interest, even though the topic may not have been her “thing.”
- She was an encourager. I can think back to time after time where she expressed an appreciation for how I or another guy led in some small way. It really gave me a sense that she respected leadership even by a sinner like me.
- She and her roommate had people over for dinners, movies, and other events. They practiced biblical hospitality and gained skills in tasks that would be a part of married life.
- She was generally warm, friendly, and open. She smiled. She asked for prayer when she was struggling and genuinely asked others how she could pray for them.
I think the key thing that I would say is that she responded this way to most, if not all, of the men she interacted with because it is a picture of a godly woman. What made it different in my case is that she positioned herself to do these more in my presence than with any other man and God opened the door to our hearts.
I trust these insights will be received as intended—with much encouragement for the Christian single women of this generation who live as salt and light in an era of great relationship confusion. We serve the Lord of the hunting grounds. May we “crack, stir, and rustle” for His glory, trusting that He will provide all that we need!
Carolyn McCulley works for Sovereign Grace Ministries in church and ministry relations. She is also an author ( Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred) and blogger (solofemininity.blogs.com). Carolyn is also a member of Covenant Life Church where one of her favorite ministries is the single women's discipleship program. She highly recommends the resources for singles from the New Attitude conference and blog.
Your questions answered! Carolyn will periodically answer Crosswalk.com reader questions in her Singles Q&A columns. To be considered, please send your questions regarding singleness and related topics to Carolyn at [email protected].