I’ve been writing for Desiring God fairly frequently lately. Hopefully I’ll have time for some more of my normal posts here, but until then, I’ll keep linking up.
I guess I’m not a typical woman. She spoke of her love for sports and lack of emotionality as she made this (ironically typical) confession. Her statement inspired me to freshly ask, How many of us would call ourselves a typical woman?
What do we mean by “typical woman” anyway? And is being typical a good thing or not?
In my conversations with ladies of many ages, I’ve noticed that we have varying understandings of the typical woman, but few of us think of ourselves as one. Start a conversation with a woman in your church, ask her all about herself, find out her life story, and usually you will hit a point where she will tell you that she doesn’t (or didn’t) feel like a typical woman. We may not think of ourselves as special or unique, but many of us have had the experience of feeling — whether for good or for bad — like we didn’t quite fit the mold.
Maybe you didn’t like to play with dolls as a child, or maybe you love wielding power tools. Perhaps you aren’t sure you want children, or you despise shopping or love woodworking. Some have a nagging feeling of incompetence as a mom or nonexistent cooking skills or were considered a tomboy or the only girl math major in college. I know many women whose husbands talk more than they do, or have a hard time connecting with other women — or a hundred other ways women don’t feel like they are quite the typical woman, depending on what their view of typical is.
Some are happy to be different than the perceived norm — and proud — as if the closer they get to what is regarded as masculine, the more powerful or respected they will be. Their view of a woman is narrow and somewhat pathetic, so it makes sense that they’d want to distance themselves from it. Others are sad — and even ashamed — that no one taught them what womanhood was supposed to look like, and now they’re fumbling around in the dark trying to figure it out.
As Christians who have the benefit of God’s own revelation of the truth in the Bible to help us navigate this world, along with the benefit of the creation itself to clue us in on God’s design, we need not fixate on what our society seems to call typical. The goal of a Christian woman isn’t to be typical. Especially if what typical means is an overly made-up, hyper-feminine, wilts-at-the-first-sign-of-hard-work, check-brain-at-door type of woman. Where is that in the Bible? Thankfully fainting couches and Southern belles aren’t mentioned either. Rather, we live our life in Christ and pursue holiness — and that is anything but typical.
As a child, when I watched my mom, a farmer’s daughter, use the chainsaw to take down dead branches and load them into the trailer to haul to the brush pile, I was learning about being a woman. When I saw her prepare our home for countless guests, and food for countless mouths, I was learning about being a woman. When I heard her discuss the Bible with dozens in our living room every Tuesday night, I was learning about being a woman, because she was a woman doing those things. And thankfully for me, she was more — she was a Christian woman.
When we read the narratives of godly women in Scripture, the same thing happens — we have the advantage of observation, of watching particular women face particular situations. We watch the Hebrew midwives fear God more than Pharaoh, and in so doing, save the Hebrew sons (Exodus 1:15–21). We see Rahab earnestly bind herself to Yahweh, putting her life on the line for his people (Joshua 2:1–21) and Sarah believe that God would provide a son against all odds (Hebrews 11:11) and teenage Mary magnify the Lord in the strangest of circumstances (Luke 1:26–38) and Prisca risk her neck for Paul (Romans 16:3–4). In all these, we learn about being women — not as a cookbook of what we must do with our lives, but as varied examples of God-fearing women through the ages. And we learn that far from being typical, we must be faithful women in the life and circumstances God has given us.