Thursday, February 20, 2014

Male and Female

As we talk about women in ministry because, why not?, I think we also need to take an open look at the devotional materials and Christian texts that sort of set us up for this distinction between men of God and women of God.

Here's what I mean: Right now, there is a men's small group and a women's small group meeting at my church. The men's study is "Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood." The women's study is "Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food." See what I mean? This is always the case, too. Material written for men is about courage, strength, leadership. Material written for women is about beauty, service, and cravings. We had a women's retreat last November. Do you know what the theme was? "Chocolate."

We teach men that the way to be God's man is to be bold. We give him strength. We call him to be a leader, in his family and his community. We teach women to be better servants, to guard their "treasure," to remain beautiful but also pure. 

I'm not saying any of this is bad or wrong, necessarily. My problem is that if we're going to paint men and women into these boxes throughout our Christian culture, then of course it's going to be difficult to see much in a woman as minister. It also paints an incomplete picture for both men and women as to what we ought to be in God's eyes.

Because let me tell you something about being a woman after God's own heart, which I try to be and hope my Father would say that I am - I need more than beauty and chastity and satisfied longing. As a matter of fact, more often than you might believe by looking at our literature, I need courage. I need strength. I need permission to step up in my own life and be a leader. Not in any masculine form of the words, but in the fullness of a woman, I require these things.

And men? You need to be servants, too. It wouldn't hurt ya'll to learn about humble service and the kind of quiet behind-the-scenes stuff we women are always encouraged to. You need to learn to be beautiful, to respect yourself in your own eyes. You need to learn how to stay pure and how to fill your desperate desires with God. Trust me - I've seen you guys rolling around in your status symbols. It's no different than what the world tells us about beauty; you just have different outlets. How about "Rev Your Engines: Drawing your power from God instead of cars"? How about that for a book title? How about "Read Meat: How the Bible Fills Your Manliest Hunger"? 

I'm being overly stereotypical here, but I kind of have to be. That's the box our Christian market seems to have painted us into. And it's why so many women are struggling and so many men are hungering - because we're taught the opposite things! (Women are taught how not to hunger; men are taught to lean on strength.)

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a woman after God's own heart, what these traits I've mentioned would mean in my life. I've wondered what it takes to find courage. And please don't point me to the story of Esther. *rolling my eyes* Esther doesn't answer all my questions. I mean real, consistent courage that stands beside faith, not circumstance. I've wondered what it means to be strong in the Lord. Not the "Proverbs 31" woman, but truly strong in the Lord. I've wondered what it would be like to feel like I have the authority to step up and lead my life - and to lead with my life. These are the things we're not talking to women about, but as a woman, I'm wondering! I'm thinking about these things! I'm longing to figure out how to incorporate them into my life. I'm looking for a way to bridge the gap. 

Not because beauty and purity and service aren't important to me. They are. There is a place in my heart that responds powerfully to that; it's wired in my womanhood. But there's more to me, and there's more to God in a woman, than that. I'm just not satisfied settling for less.

Anyway, like I said, I've just been thinking about this kind of thing for awhile and wanted to throw it out there. It is an invitation for us all to think, male and female, about what it means to be wholly God's and what messages we're hearing, which ones we aren't, and which ones we desperately need.

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