About a week before Christmas, I decided to join my husband's family for an entire day of shopping. I got ready for the day with my usual routine of showering, blow-drying my hair, and picking out an outfit, but there was one difference: I left the house without an ounce of makeup on my face.

"Today I am going out without makeup on as an act of Christian discipleship!" I announced to my in-laws upon entering the living room. My confidence flagged, however, as soon as I walked in the first store. I vainly wanted to tell the salespeople, "I don't normally look like this"—as if they were concerned. Eventually I adjusted to the change, but the entire time I kept asking myself, Why do I feel naked without makeup?

In order to answer that question, let me retrace some steps. It all began with a book by Maria Harris titled Dance of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Women's Spirituality. Harris, a Catholic professor of religious education, bucked linear models of human development and offered a more organic, true-to-life framework of spiritual development. As Harris conceived of it, a woman's spiritual growth is more like a dance than a straight path: She moves forward, sometimes backward, and often repeats the same moves over and over throughout the course of her life. Indeed, Harris's gender-inclusive language and her discomfort with accepted Christian traditions would make any evangelical cast a wary eye. Even so, in the course of my doctoral research at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I have found myself rather inspired by her surprising voice.

Harris termed the first stage of a woman's spiritual dance awakening, which is best compared to the scriptural concept of daily renewal. Romans 12:2 instructs Christians to "be transformed ...

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