I am a woman, and I’ve loved coming through the “I Am That Man” teaching series, and processing exactly what that means for me and for the women of Flatirons. The more I process, the more excited I get, the more my mind is filled with understanding of what it means to be a woman right now, in this place and time. Multitudes of sources would be thrilled to tell us what it means to be a woman. There are organizations, female speakers, political groups, academics, even religious groups, all with a quick and passionate answer to that question. The problem is that everything I see around me indicates we’re getting more misinformation than truth. If the current status of the social fabric is an indication of how much we’ve evolved in answering that question, then it would appear we need to start from scratch.
When it comes to women and the beginning, I’ve been drawn back to Eve. I’m less concerned about her responsibility for the pain of childbirth (whatever!), and more interested in the intent behind her creation. Eve was designed very specifically to be the perfect complement to Adam. In the bigger picture, femininity is the mirror image of masculinity. That is not an accident, and God’s divine and creative intent is significant to our understanding of femininity. Adam needed a companion. He also needed a co-worker in the assignment of running the garden, taking care of the animals, building a family to populate the world and, basically, everything that would happen going forward. When you strip away any understanding derived from our culture of what it means to be a woman, we can begin to define ourselves as women based on God’s intent when he looked at Adam and said “what design would be the perfect counterpart to man?” Every aspect of the female (us) was specifically thought out and produced perfectly with an eye toward what would make families and communities function best as we all lived completely connected to God the Father.
Okay, well, we all see some giant black holes of confusion looming once you move on from there. First, Adam and Eve screwed everything up when they decided they had a better idea and would make their own rules. Consequently, we all have a natural inclination to make ourselves the source for our own truth, which has ultimately created broken relationships and families, a warped understanding of marriage and sexuality, and a whole host of other problems that I won’t go into here. Secondly, I know some of you are screaming (I think I can actually hear you) that if Genesis chapter 2 is the definition of Biblical femininity and womanhood, then women are undefined outside of a husband. The reality is, not every woman (or man for that matter) is married. God obviously knows that not every woman is married. If you read the New Testament, Paul talks a lot about the value and calling in the lives of those who are single, both men and women (Jesus and Paul falling notably into the single category). Where we sometimes get tangled up is trying to create definitions for women that are “stand alone” and completely separate from any reference to the definition of men. Those of us who were intentionally and thoughtfully created by God as female (that’s all of us women, Psalm 139:13-14 and Jeremiah 1:5) must come to terms with the truth of God’s Word in this regard. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates we can or should be able to define masculine or feminine as if one bears no connection in creation to the other.
So, where does that leave us as women if God’s specific intent and design for woman, the feminine, is and will always be femininity as a complement to masculinity? We first have to make the decision that femininity, or the concept of differences in gender, is neither discrimination nor an insult. If we believe that God is who he says he is, that he is good and he intends good for us, then we have to believe that his purposeful design of gender distinction and the complementary nature of masculine and feminine are all that we could desire or hope for. To get there, we may have to scrape away layers of cultural untruth that we didn’t realize we had accumulated.
Here’s a challenge, let’s lay aside an agenda of what we think our positions should be, our rights should be, where we’ve been wronged, righting the wrongs of male oppression, etc. Let’s start with a clean slate and study what God gave us in creating us female, what we can hope for and aspire to in all of our roles as we follow Jesus, and see if Biblical femininity (womanhood) isn’t fantastically far beyond what we might have thought.
Come back for Part 2 . . . lots more to talk about.
By Karen Berge, Women’s Ministry Pastor