Embodied Women: God’s Call In Our Design

New post at DG. This one is near to my heart as we navigate life with a disabled son. The design of our bodies is telling us something, even in the lack.

“The devastating way our society treats the calling of women’s bodies is to cleverly uncover them and use them for power and money. How many daughters and sisters and mothers and friends believe their bodies to be valuable only as they are objectified or viewed with lust? Or only as they earn capital for them under the false banner of empowerment?

On the other hand, our society has shamelessly rejected modesty and purposeful functionality as practical enslavement. Instead of using a hammer to hammer, we polish and paint it and hang it on the wall to stare at. Instead of making music with a piano, we refuse to have it tuned and super glue the keys in place so they can’t strike a chord — but boy do they look like they could make music, were someone ever to try them out.

How much more is this the case in twenty-first-century America? With plastic surgery and an inordinate emphasis on appearance, our bodies have become something like a mausoleum that we dare not spend or use for any purposes other than the ones we decide will benefit us. So while a woman may be quite happy to test her body’s limits at the gym so that she looks cute and young in a new outfit, she wouldn’t dream of testing its limits in hard labor of any kind for a purpose with no personal benefit, solely for the sake of another.

God gave women wombs so that babies could grow in them. Does every woman’s womb grow a baby? No, and there is no lessening of womanhood in that. But that doesn’t mean we miss God’s calling in his larger design. Wombs to grow humanity — that’s his mindboggling plan. It was God’s idea to give wombs to women, just as he decided to give us arms to lift things.

And knowing that God gave arms for lifting and wombs for babies impacts our calling. If God designed our bodies to be a home to a tiny person for nine months, then that understanding will help us to make sense of the instructions in Titus 2:4 and 1 Timothy 5:14 to work and manage the home. Why? Because he actually made our bodies a home, and making a home for others is an extension of that.

I’m not saying that we all must be having as many babies as we can, or that our arms should be lifting in perpetuity, or that our legs should never stop walking. I’m simply pointing to God’s design and asking the question, Why did he make us like this?

Are we willing to accept the answer inherent in God’s design and inerrant in his word?

The truth, of course, about God’s clear design doesn’t leave us without complex pains and questions. What about women who have had mastectomies or hysterectomies, or have had a leg amputated, or are blind, or in any way have a body that doesn’t function properly?

We begin by acknowledging that’s all of us at some level. Not all of us are missing parts, but all of us have a level of body dysfunction. That’s what sin does: it corrupts the creation. And that doesn’t make us any less a woman, or our bodies any less relevant, or our calling any less important. A woman who cannot make a home inside her body for children can still make a home for them outside of it. She can make a place of safety and warmth for others, whether they’re her children or not.

Our youngest son is disabled. He has a body and mind that “don’t work the way they’re supposed to” — though we believe his body and mind work precisely the way God intends. So what does it mean for our son to live a full life as an embodied soul, whose body has something to say about his calling? It means that while his calling will remain the same — the call to live as a Christian man, God willing — how it works out will be different because he’ll be in his particular body, not someone else’s.

Likewise, God has given Christian women whose bodies have a womb, but can’t carry a baby, a harmonious outworking of the calling of a Christian woman. As women, we’re all singing the same song, with the same goal, with our varied parts, some on melody, some on harmony and descant, and some sounding the minor note. And while the song is beautiful, it is heartbreakingly so.

The painful ache for those who long to have the part of bearing children is agonizing. It is a grief worth grieving. It does not make you lesser as a woman; you are loved and oh how we need you. Your body is not irrelevant, nor is your womb. It still points to something; it is still valuable and made by God, and it still has a role to play.

Sometimes the glory God gets from our lack far exceeds what he gets from our fullness. Our wombs are God’s design and calling, but empty wombs still point to greater realities — not despite the sorrow that comes with them, but with the sorrow as part of the pointer.

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