02 January 2008

Thoughts on being a godly woman....

The role of women in 21st century America has shifted dramatically in just the last 50 years. I am old enough to have seen the mixing of roles from housewife to feminist as the wave of change crossed the United States, hitting some areas much harder than others. I grew up a child of the 60s living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I remember women burning bras, campaigning for what they saw as equal rights and flaunting their bodies as if being less clothed meant they would be more respected. It all seemed perfectly normal to me, it was all I ever knew.

For a good part of my life I imagine I would have been described as a feminist, though I never actively sought the title and would not have spent two minutes thinking about it. I wasn’t expected to be anything different than what I was and I was never taught what it means to be a woman, let alone a woman of God. Whatever my expectations might have been for my life, being conformed to the image of Christ and living my life by God’s standards were not among them. However, here I am and I find myself contemplating what it means to be a middle-aged Christian woman in America without the benefit of a mentor or foundation of biblical femininity. How did I get this far without someone stepping up to show me the way?

Most of my confusion I come by honestly. I was raised by a string of people, none of whom were Christian. Bounced from person to person one of the first things I learned was people were not to be trusted and I must fend for myself. I learned early that knowledge is power and being able to do things for myself was the greatest way to escape the pain of disappointment. I never realized that beauty and strength could occur as a natural part of depending on frail, fallen people. I did not ask questions and never let anyone know I had not a clue of what was expected of me. I made choices with limited information and assumed that given a bit of intelligence my choices would be correct or I would be both smart enough and able to fix them should they be wrong.

By the time I became a woman of faith, those assumptions were firmly solidified and I arrogantly believed I did not need the help and guidance of a woman to mold me. Thrust into the culture of an evangelical church without benefit of good doctrine or knowledge of theology, all I ever heard about the roles of women was centered on the "s" word: Submission. I was not a wife nor was I a child and so I stopped listening. It was easy to stop listening. I didn’t like what I was hearing. I saw the typical Christian woman as weak and helpless and it made me angry that God might expect of me.

I still don’t care for what I see passing for femininity and womanhood in the church. I see far too many women hiding behind the bland persona they have wrongly associated with submissiveness. Submitting to the headship of a husband or father or pastor doesn’t abdicate a woman from the responsibility of learning sound doctrine, exhorting others and taking an active role in the church. I am in no way egalitarian in my view of the roles of men and women. However, I am ready to say that my complimentarian view includes women being strong and formidable allies in the battle for souls. Sadly, what I see in many women is the reticence to hurt feelings or become involved and a decided willingness to look the other way. Or worse yet falling into the trap of gossip about the failings of a young mother or wife while never once offering counsel, advice or hope. How I long for women to put on the armor of God and equip their sisters for the battles we all face as mothers, wives and sisters in Christ.

I must be fair to my sisters and say that our culture has not made it easy to be Titus 2 women. We do not have the same ability to influence one another that those who came before us have had. We are victims of technology and transportation. Our families are separated into the smallest fragments and connected only by interstates and the internet. We live lives of great ease, but that ease has cost us a sense of community and continual interaction with one another for the necessities of life. We don’t go to a spot on the river to wash our clothes together. In the solitude of our homes we put the laundry in a machine, turn a knob and go on to the next chore. We do not have to have basic survival skills that the women of the bible had. We do not have to keep the oil lamp full, the embers glowing in the fire, or comb and card the wool of our goats and sheep in order to spin the yarn to make our clothes. We have stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco to take care of all of those needs. As long as we pay our bills we flip a switch for heat and light and those who still cook at home do so in ovens that are fueled by the local utility company.

We are all of us more dependent on our technology than we are on one another. In fact, the very technology we use to make our lives so much easier will be obsolete several times over before we see our children grown and on their own. We are not only isolated from the others in our community but our lives of ease and instant gratification have in many ways insulated us from handing down what we know to our own children. Look at what we have created without thought to how it will impact us! It all happens so quickly that our children have their own technology and teach us how to use it.

I believe that if you clearly define a problem, the solution becomes evident, but I don’t think we can or wait for someone to write another book to identify the exact cause of this problem. We already have one. We can analyze the symptoms by looking at events in our country’s history such as the entire family dynamic changing significantly after Word War II when women entered the work force out of necessity, but that wasn’t the beginning. It started much earlier than that. If we women were not in danger of doing this wrong, God would not have exhorted us in His Word to do it correctly. Sisters, that is where our solution lays; the practical application of the Word of God in lives of women individually and corporately. (More to come on this topic- Thanks Carla!)

Titus 2:3-5

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,

4 that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,

5 {to be} sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.

(NAS)

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