I get really frustrated when women in the church try to tell men in the church what a Godly man should look like. I get even more frustrated when men try to tell women what a Godly woman should look like. Now, the Bible is full of basic, foundational truths that both men and women can live out in order to effectively reflect God’s image and bring His Kingdom to Earth. But men and women reflect God’s image and embody His character differently and I don’t think one should tell the other what that should look like during our day-to-day living.
I haven’t always felt this way, but recently I’ve been convinced that this is the central reason for our extreme need for more pro-active female leadership in the Church in America. Disclaimer: I’m not necessarily advocating for female senior pastors right now; that’s a conversation for another time. What I am saying is that the women of my generation desperately need female leaders in the church. We need women who will mentor their fellow Christian sisters. We need women who will show us how we uniquely display Jesus. We need women who will talk with us about faith, insecurity, evangelism, sex and every other topic that young women refuse to discuss with their male senior pastors because ‘they just wouldn’t understand’. Ladies, I have been there. I’ve tried talking to male leadership in my church about my struggles with the role of women in missions, why it is or is not okay for me to not want kids, or how am I actually supposed to stop wanting sex as a single, 25 year old virgin. And you know what, it never, EVER goes well. My uniquely feminine heart and mind are completely unfamiliar and terrifying territory for men, so when did we start thinking that they have the authority to tell us how a Godly woman makes decisions about her life? More importantly, where have all the well-read, outspoken pastor’s wives gone? Because in my mind, they are the ones we should be turning to with these kinds of questions, but I can’t find them! When did marrying a pastor translate to a life of standing behind him while he preaches? If you’re reading this and you’re a woman, pastor’s wife or not, I really hope you are mentoring some young women in your church right now because they need you desperately. If you don’t share the wisdom and passion for Jesus that you have, we are going to go right back to a prior generation of women who will not talk about anything to anybody in their church. Not their relationships, not their addictions and certainly not their dreams. We need women who will be women in the Church.
Let me break this down very simply. If you ask a group of men and a group of women basic questions about the Bible, the stories it has to tell and what we learn from them, you will get some similar answers, but I believe we would be very surprised at some of their differences. We all know men and women often view and respond to the world in fundamentally different ways, that’s just the way we’re wired. But when it comes to our relationship with and understanding of the character of God, both perspectives are not just helpful, they are both necessary. There’s a reason women think about XYZ topics of ministry and the Bible while men think about ABC areas; it’s because women uniquely embody XYZ characteristics of God while men uniquely embody ABC characteristics of God. Now, it would be silly to say that women only embody XYZ characteristics of God and that men only embody ABC characteristics; there is always and everywhere evidence that each of us is uniquely, beautifully and wonderfully made with the intention of displaying Jesus in our own way. The point is, whatever characteristics you get, whether they are XYZ, ABY or CYZ, they are from God, so they are good and bonus, they affect the lenses through which we hear God’s Word and see Him move in our lives. It's very simple, really. Whatever pieces of His character we each happen to embody will determine how we feel about and respond to what He says. My question is, if both the traditionally masculine and feminine sides of God’s character are necessary in understanding Him and His Word, why does the church spend so much more time talking about biblical men than biblical women? If we really want to understand God’s character wholistically, why don’t we spend more time talking about how women uniquely responded to God in His Word?
To get this conversation started, I’d like to recommend a book I recently finished called Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James. This book changed the way I look at women in the Bible forever. I realized that not only do women have significantly less biblical peers than men, we also don’t talk about them very much. The church in America keeps a great list of biblical men for almost any diagnosis. Are you angry? Study Peter. Are you feeling useless and uncalled? Study Gideon. Do you doubt? Talk to Thomas. Do you have a drinking problem? Talk to Noah. Do you struggle with sex? Read the entire Old Testament. But what’s the female equivalent here? My challenge in this post is that you not only consider this question and take a look at Carolyn’s book, but that you crack open your Bible and really dig into the women you find there, particularly in the Old Testament. Trust me, ladies; powerhouse women are there, you just have to look for them. Do you feel like you will never measure up to your husband or male counterparts’ calling? Let’s talk about Sarah or better yet, Noah’s wife. She doesn’t even get a name in the Bible; her only affiliation is that she is this important man’s wife. She can tell you all about being in her husband’s shadow. And do you ever feel like you’re just too much to handle, like there is too much crazy pent up inside you for God to use, for your husband to desire or for your kids to learn from? Well then, let’s talk about Mary Magdalene (She had seven demons, guys. Seven.) or Martha (cause she’s a neat freak and everyone knows it). And there are so many more. Do you think that you will never be enough to satisfy a man’s desires or please the women around you? Let’s talk about Hannah. Do you think your only value is in your ability to marry and have children, but it’s just not happening? A close look at the study of Tamar will rip that one wide open. Do you feel like God is simply too busy blessing ‘better Christians’ or too preoccupied with ‘more important things’ to care about how miserable your boss or your mother-in-law makes you feel? Oh honey, let’s just talk about Hagar for awhile.
I really hope that some of you, both men and women, will check out this book. There is a really huge part of God’s character (I’d say about 50% actually) that we completely miss if we do not dig deep into the heart of biblical women and how they understood and responded to God’s call for their lives. Because He absolutely has a call for women that is just as important and necessary for bringing His Kingdom to Earth as His call for men. If we only talk about God’s traditionally masculine side, we will only know and love part of God. And only knowing part of God does the world about as much good as not knowing God at all.