Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

In case you didn't know, today is "International Women's Day".  I'm not going to go into the history of the day, you can have the pleasure of searching it out if you want.  Instead, I decided to write a little post about women and our "role" (please keep reading!).  This is something near and dear to my heart because 1) I am a woman, 2) I am a Christian woman, 3) I am an educated woman, 4) I have a lot of women in my life I love dearly and 5) because I am a mother who is majorly responsible for shaping how our boys view women. 

Through history, as we know, women have in many, but not all, cultures been seen as inferior.  And due to that fact we now live in a culture who, in my opinion, sometimes says we should go too far to the opposite, forsaken our inborn womanhood just to prove a point, that we are equal to men.  So...or society often looks down on women like me...who choose to give up careers to raise children, who choose to fight for their marriages when they would be "perfectly fine" on their own...who choose to love, respect, forgive when society tells us we "deserve" better and that we look "undignified" and like "doormats".   But, I'm at a point in my life where my thoughts are not dictated so much by culture or society.  Instead I have learned, the hard way, that society is oftentimes wrong and that God's word tends to be a much better guide.  So...what does God say about women?  Are we inferior?  Does choosing to overlook offenses and respect and love our husbands make us "pathetic"?  Does building him up tear us down?  Sadly, there are many in this world who use the Bible to say many different things about women.  But here is what I believe and why. 

In Genesis 2:18-25 we find the story of God's creation of woman...
18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.  21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.  23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

There is much discussion and disagreement about the true meaning of "help meet" in this passage but suffice it to say it does NOT mean "lesser", "inferior", etc.  It's a position of honor!  What this passage says is that Adam, God's very important creation, had a need for companionship, other than with God.  And that need was not filled by any beast God thought up and created and presented to Adam.  So...God took a portion of Adam, because that creation was already so good, and made another creation...a woman...EQUAL but different, and Adam, upon seeing her, recognized her worth, her importance, her EQUALITY and said "this is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh".  And recognizing the importance of woman a man is instructed to leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and they are joined back as one flesh. Does that sound like an inferior position to you?  God is already setting up that he sees it as man's responsibility to put his wife in a place of honor, not inferiority.  The next verse mentions they were naked and unashamed, NOT that one was and one wasn't, NOT that Eve was ashamed of her body or that Adam saw her body as more important than her spirit.  There appearance was not important.  

God created them...equal but different...and then sin entered the picture and messed up a WHOLE lot of things....

So...God created women as equal but different than men, in a position of honor, to be his companion, his helper...so what does He expect of us as women?  God's Word is a guidebook for our lives so what does it say women should be?

The Bible is full of guidance that applies equally to men and women but Proverbs 31:10-31 is one of the best descriptions in the Bible of what God expects specifically from women

10  Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies.

11Her husband can trust her,  and she will greatly enrich his life.
12She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13She finds wool and flax and busily spins it.
14She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.
15She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
16She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
18She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
19Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.
20She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
21She has no fear of winter for her household,
for everyone has warm clothes
22She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
23Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders.
24She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.
25She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
26When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
27She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
28Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:
29“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”
30Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
31Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
 
Many take this verse as a bad thing, an indication that women should work themselves to death, that God has too high of standards for women.  But really, he has high standards for all of us, doesn't He? 
 
So...what does this passage indicate women should be?  To me...it says a woman should be virtuous, kind, hardworking, diligent, an example to her family, her community and a glory to God.  Isn't that what God wants us all to be?  Does that mean she works outside the home?  Maybe...if that's what glorifies God and is best for her family.   After all, this woman goes out and buys a field, she sells things!  Does it mean she is a stay at home mom?  Maybe...if that's what glorifies God and is best for her family.  The woman described rises early and makes her family breakfast.  So...does this passage mean we all have to do those exact things?  No.  It mostly means that she should be God's light...His city on the hill...an example that others look up to. Not because of her outward appearance but because of her character...her giving, loving, hardworking heart.    This passage mentions specifically a "wife" but does that mean all women have to be married or should get married just to be a "Proverbs 31 woman".  No...not if being single now or for good are glorifying to God. 
 
What else does the Bible say about women?  Titus 2 gives us another example:
 
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
 
This says we should be teachers, examples, that we should out our family as our first priority under God, that we should be virtuous, kind, an example of God's word.  Again, isn't that what God calls us all to be?  It doesn't specify HOW we do those things, through a job outside the home or by staying home, by being married or single.  Because we are each individuals and we can exhibit God's instructions through various ways. 
 
This passage also hints at another "instruction" for women...submission...oh that horrible word!  But is it so horrible?  Not really.  Because God sees us as EQUAL to men, but different.  And he calls men to submit as well...to God himself.  So...we are ALL called to submit, in equal but different ways.  And when a man submits himself fully to God his heart is changed and therefore it is comfortable, safe, glorifying to God for a woman to submit to a man.  When is it not so glorifying, safe, comfortable....is when sin enters the picture.  But sin is the reason we do ANYTHING contrary to God's instructions, its why we no longer live in the perfect Garden He created for us...so why is submission to Him or to our husbands any different?
 
Submission doesn't mean being a doormat, it means choosing to honor God by being loving, forgiving, caring, virtuous, no matter what another individual's actions.   That means different things in different situations but it always means honoring God through our OWN actions and reactions.   

We are also reminded that we are not to do things just for appearance sake or because society dictates it.  In Luke 10:38-42 we hear the story of 2 sisters, Mary and Martha, who both love Jesus dearly but show it differently.  While Martha is busy with "preparations", Mary sits at Jesus's feet, listening.  When Martha gets frustrated and points out to Jesus she is doing all the work while her sister sits He reminds her that He is the most important thing.  Life for all of us...women and men...is a constant balance of finding the true way of glorifying God, whether it is through hard work done FOR Him or sitting with His word.  Hardwork, diligence, a clean home or a successful job in itself is NEVER enough, not without Christ. 
 
There are many verses in the Bible about specific women and about womanhood in general.  They have been used and misused.  
 
So, how can we as women make sure we are glorifying God?  By being virtuous, Christ-filled individuals who strive to be what God created us to be.  THAT is what will bring us true equality...because God created us equal...but different. 

What are YOUR thoughts on God's goals for women?

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