Last week, a group of men and women from my church came together to continue our discussion of biblical manhood and womanhood, this time focusing on women. The group included both men and women, though we hope to have more men in attendance at the next discussion (August 16).
We began with a review of our previous discussion, which focused on biblical manhood and mature masculinity. According to the definition we have been studying of mature masculinity, one aspect of masculinity is taking initiative. Those in the discussion group agreed that today’s men have been doing a poor job of that. After all, out of all the men in the church (or just the church’s young adult group), only two came to the discussion. Women, therefore, need to invite initiative. The definition of womanhood we’ve been studying includes nurturing as a major aspect of a woman’s responsibilities. By inviting initiative, we nurture and encourage men in their responsibilities – we strengthen strength. That was one point we kept returning to during the discussion: it is the woman’s responsibility to nurture the men in her life.
As we began to discuss womanhood in more detail, we were reminded to listen to “The Genesis of Gender,” a message by Mary Kassian. We turned to the book of Genesis and the creation of Adam and Eve to gain a bit of understanding about men and women. Adam, made of dirt, was created somewhere out in the world and then was brought into the Garden of Eden. When a suitable helper was not found in any of the other creatures God had made, Eve was created from a rib pulled out of Adam’s side. Eve – woman – was created as a helper. This is not a helper as in, “Woman, make me a sandwich.” Rather, woman was created to help man glorify God.
Looking at the creation of Eve, we noted the parallels with the creation of the Church. Adam, with his side a bloody mess, gave of himself – his rib – for the creation of Eve. Jesus Christ, a crucified and pierced bloody mess, gave his whole self in sacrifice for the sins of the world, and out of his sacrifice was born the Church. We use this image as a gauge for our relationships. How healthy is a relationship? Well, how much does it look like the Gospel?
We also noted that women were created always with someone to relate to. We talked about how women are greatly affected by the loss of a relationship, because from the beginning, women were relational beings. Likewise, a man is greatly affected when he loses his job, because from the beginning, men were created for work. Similarly, women tend to focus on conversation when they are together, whereas men tend to focus on activity. Of course, this does not apply to all men or all women.
During our discussion, we also talked about qualities that characterize immature and mature femininity. Under immature femininity are qualities like slavish, flirtatious, moody, catty, manipulative, and complaining. Under mature femininity are qualities like compassionate, empathetic, gentle, hospitable, supportive, perceptive, and quiet. We spent a good deal of time talking about “quiet.” One of the men questioned why “quiet” would be on the list of qualities for mature femininity. He can think of women whose outspokenness allows them to be supportive or demonstrate wisdom. To him, quietness in some women might actually keep those women from living out the other qualities of mature femininity. We decided that maybe “calm” or “quiet in spirit” was a better term, though I wonder if that was the true intention of the men who compiled the list (John Piper and Wayne Grudem, authors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).
Again, I left the discussion with more questions. This time, I wonder about personality and uniqueness. According to complementarianism, gender roles were created by God but corrupted by the fall. Men and women were created with specific design and unique gifts. For example, women are uniquely gifted to make a home in the sense of providing a welcome and hospitality. It is my understanding of the discussion that the corruption of our gender roles is what causes someone to deviate from God’s design and gifting of the separate genders, and we are to strive to fix this brokenness. Someone in the discussion also added that personality is shaped by the world and not given by God. I found this comment particularly interesting and thought-provoking. If personality is not God-given, what has God given us – other than our physical bodies – to distinguish one individual from another? And if someone who does not reflect the God-designed roles and gifts is just broken, is there any difference between being unique and being disobedient against God?
Obviously, I have more questions now than before, and I don’t think I have gathered any answers yet. I think I will create a separate post for the questions I have and the questions that have been raised by friends throughout this discussion. As always, I welcome your feedback.