I am woman

As I look at my daughter, on the brink of womanhood, there is nothing I wish more for her, as a daughter of God, than to embrace her beautiful essence of God –given femininity and for her to impact the world with a kingdom mind-set of true and creative womanhood.

My prayer for her is that she would drown out the clarion call of Society’s pursuit towards feminism as well as the church’s unintentional and oftentimes subtle, yet functional call towards subjugation and subordination. I long for her to see her image-bearing worth through the eyes of God and the words of Scripture.

She is not less than. She is not inferior.

If God does not view her as such, no man or man-made philosophy has the right to do so. May she never enable views such as chauvinism or misogyny with her silence or apathetic acceptance.

‘To understand the meaning of womanhood we have to start with God. If He is indeed “Creator of all things visible and invisible,” then He is certainly in charge of all things, visible and invisible, stupendous and miniscule, magnificent and trivial. God has to be in charge of details if He is going to be in charge of the overall design.’ [Elizabeth Elliot]

When God created the world, there was not sufficient in Adam to reflect God’s image. Neither Adam nor Eve were adequate, on their own, to bear the divine image. Adam, on his own, was not good. It was only after God created woman, that together they complemented each other and filled in what the other lacked with their own unique strengths. It was only then that God could pronounce that His creation was complete and very good and truly beautiful and could give Him glory. It was only then that God stopped creating.

John Piper’s view of true womanhood is captured through his childhood eyes:

‘When I was a boy growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, my father was away from home about two-thirds of every year. What I learned in those days was that my mother was omni-competent. But it never occurred to me to think of my mother and my father in the same category. Both were strong. Both were bright. Both were kind. Both would kiss me and both would spank me. Both were good with words. Both prayed with fervour and loved the Bible. But unmistakably my father was a man and my mother was a woman. They knew it and I knew it. And it was not mainly a biological fact. It was mainly a matter of personhood and relational dynamics.’

In God’s perfect creation design in Genesis, He gave a special place, honour, function and glory to the man and the woman – different from each other but the same, equal in value, worth and dignity. The cultural or creation mandate, to fill the earth and subdue it, was given to both Adam and Eve. Neither could carry out this mandate and mission successfully on their own.

Every culture and society, post Genesis 3 and down through history, has had expressions and attitudes of viewing women as inferior and less than – objectifying them, disrespecting them, discriminating against them or abusing them.

This was never God’s design or way. It comes from Satan, the father of lies, who loves to imprison, keep in bondage and distort the Truth with his well-practised mantra, ‘Did God really say?’

In fighting the war against the world’s view of feminism and its invisible chains, the church has sometimes built a prison for women. Its bars are built from reactionary fear and the mishandling of God’s Truth. It comes from viewing women through a post Genesis 3 lens.

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By expressing our divine design of femininity, in all its wonder and beauty, we not only reflect God and bring Him glory, we feel free and fulfilled.

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Culture, not the Bible, has imposed definitions on words that assume weakness and insignificance. When we take Biblical terminology, words such as ‘helpmeet’, submission’ and ‘weaker vessel’ and we don’t define them biblically through the lens of Genesis 1 and 2, [where they imply strength, dignity and beauty], but rather redefine them through the lens of culture and a worldly societal context, we do much damage. We misrepresent God’s beautiful design and we start empowering feminism and chauvinism in the church context.

In so doing, we play right into Satan’s hands and his game of discrediting God. Women desire to rule over men and men want to rule harshly with women. We are as deceived as Adam and Eve were in Genesis 3. We don’t reflect the Gospel, we reflect the world.

‘It is a naive sort of feminism that insists that women prove their ability to do all the things that men do. This is a distortion and a travesty. Men have never sought to prove that they can do all the things women do.

Why subject women to purely masculine criteria? Women can and ought to be judged by the criteria of femininity, for it is in their femininity that they participate in the human race. And femininity has its limitations. So has masculinity. That is what we’ve been talking about. To do this is not to do that. To be this is not to be that. To be a woman is not to be a man. To be married is not to be single – which may mean not to have a career. To marry this man is not to marry all the others. A choice is a limitation.’  [Elizabeth Elliot ‘Let Me be a Woman’]

Biblical womanhood cannot be simply defined and limited by the two ‘go-to passages’ of Proverbs 31 and Titus 2. That becomes confusing and restrictive and distorts God’s design for true womanhood.

Society and the church’s view of women is to define them by their roles. God’s view of women is far grander, far more glorious and exceedingly more creative and beautiful. God defines women by their image-bearing worth. In God’s eyes, our identity as women comes from who we are in our created image-bearing design. In the eyes of a fallen world, our identity as women comes from an evolutionary design.

I am not as concerned with Society’s view of woman; Society will always get it wrong. I am concerned for the church; that is where we need it to get it right. It is where we can get it right. According to Gods’ Word, a woman is not ‘less than’ in the Church and she is not inferior in the home. This is often reflected in attitudes and mind-sets in the church context. Subservience is glorified because it looks like holiness and humility.

The church needs to see as God sees.

This is hard because tradition is entrenched and the fight against egalitarianism has seen many retreat to the other side, the side of patriarchy and chauvinism. When the pendulum swings from one side to the other, it often takes a long time to settle back in the middle.

Culture has always taken a contrary view to the Bible. The Bible’s view is good, but Culture has taken what is good and called it evil.

Culture considers women as objects, as inferior, as less than. Culture measures worth by ability, man-made standards and Darwinian instincts. The Bible has always regarded women as worthy, noble and honourable.

God drew near to Hagar in the wilderness when she was unfairly banished from Abraham’s home with Ishmael. God punished Onan when he disrespected his duty to Tamar. God saved Rahab, a prostitute abused by men, and honoured her by including her in the lineage of Jesus. God chose to work through women who were stigmatised by ancient societies because they were barren – Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Samson’s mother and Elizabeth. God blessed Ruth, a Moabitess, and culturally less worthy. God considered her worthy of being redeemed and becoming the mother to Obed who was in the line of David and Christ. Jesus defended the adulterous women who was discriminated against. Jesus gently revealed who He was to the Samaritan woman at the well, lower in ethnic, religious and social status.

The Bible honours women. Jesus honoured women. Paul, in his letters to the NT churches, honours women.

I want my daughter to see these beautiful Biblical expressions of womanhood honoured in the church. Women who are precious in God’s sight, resourceful and fearless, clothed in strength and dignity, full of wisdom, kindness and grace. Women who fear the Lord and are praised at the gates.

I want her to see godly men in the church respect women and treat them with honour, protection, kindness and gentleness.

I want her to see women flourish, alongside men, in making disciples as Jesus commissioned both men and women to do as the church’s mandate.

I want Society to look at our churches and to not be drawn in by the beautiful steeples and stained glass windows, but rather by the beautiful and countercultural expressions of biblical femininity and masculinity that the Gospel creates and calls us to.

I want my sons to see beautiful examples of women who are ‘omni-competent,’ clothed in strength and dignity, laughing at the days to come, because they fear the Lord. I want them to learn how to serve women by giving up their lives sacrificially for them, just as Christ gave up His life and exemplified submission to His Father.

When Adam set eyes on Eve, after realising that there was no suitable companion for him among the animals, he burst forth in poetic song, celebrating her as a precious gift, honouring her and worshipping God in gratefulness. He recognised Eve as a woman. She was beautifully different from him in form and physiology, but completely like him in her image-bearing design, reflecting their Creator’s master hand. They could communicate together, be creative together and glorify God together.

I want my daughter to see and experience that in the church and in godly Christian homes.                                I want my sons to recognise that unique worth and value in women and celebrate it.

That will happen when it is modelled. That will happen when Godly women celebrate their unique design of femininity and are joyfully content expressing that beautifully. That will happen when Godly men acknowledge it and hold it up as excellent and noble and rise and call her blessed.

Why do warriors go to battle? To fight for and protect their women (and children) from foreign invaders, because women are worthy of being fought for and protected.

Why does the prince rescue the princess? Because she is worthy of being rescued.

She is not less than. She is not inferior.

A woman’s input, in the home and the church, is necessary and valuable. It is invaluable. Men need it. They needed it in Eden, when there was no sin. God saw that and He created woman. It is the way God designed it and it was very good. It was perfect.

‘My plea is let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me.’ [Elizabeth Elliot]

This blogpost was first published here

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