Plants and Pillars, Sun and Moon, Sons and Daughters, One Glory and Another

Last Sunday in church as we stood to sing the final song, my three daughters stood with me. Two on my left side and one on my right, their voices were ringing out loud and true, blending together, adorning one another in harmonies and unison. The men sang: “You will reign forever!” as we responded, “Let your glory fill the earth!” The sheer hell-defying strength of that moment washed over me like a hundred waves of Lake Superior’s North Shore as it does every Sunday.

To raise humble, confident, steely-spined, God-fearing, Christ-adoring, Word-loving daughters is impossible––except that it’s absolutely not. It’s exactly the sort of thing God is known for and we should anticipate from him by faith. It’s the same impossibility that Jesus speaks of when he says it’s impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven––in other words, it’s entirely possible because of the power of God. If he can make dead people alive, he can make a rich person fit for the kingdom, and he can make daughters who are secure, confident, humble, and beautiful in the midst of a world that doesn’t know the difference between a daughter and a son. And perhaps equally surprising, he can use imperfect parents to do it.

With my daughters’ voices ascending, I prayed a prayer that my parents prayed for me. “Make them corner pillars in your palace, God.”

When I graduated from high school, my folks wrote me a letter in which they asked God to make me a pillar. I praise God for that prayer. And I now pray it regularly for my girls. “Lord, make them pillars. Let them support and strengthen your house, your building, your temple, your palace. Don’t let them be the sort of women who tear it down. Don’t let them be beautiful but useless. Don’t let them be useful but lacking grace and beauty. Make them corner pillars in your house.”

Why pillars? Why not ask God to make them plants? The reason is very simple: because I’m asking him for a peculiar glory. Because not every glory is the same glory. Here’s how God inspired David to pray:

“May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
cut for the structure of a palace” (Psalm 144:12).

I know someone somewhere immediately wants to push back, “But can’t daughters also be like plants full grown? Shouldn’t sons also be corner pillars?” And those are terrible questions that totally miss the point (yes, I think there are such things as bad questions). It’s like describing the sun as bright and the moon as glowing and immediately retorting, “Well, isn’t the moon bright? Why can’t we say the sun is glowing?” Why would we immediately turn to flattening the two things with interchangeable descriptions? The contrast doesn’t negate the similarities, it actually helps us appreciate the wonders of each when the other is set in stark relief.

Is it wrong to ask God to make my daughters full-grown plants? Of course not. Metaphors are useful in a hundred ways. I often pray God would make each of our children oaks of righteousness. But, I do believe that anyone who wants to turn Christian discipleship into a system by which all disciples are interchangeable, invariably makes the church invariable––that is to say, exactly what she is not and mustn’t ever be, for in so doing she would cease to be what she is. Christ’s body cannot be one million opposable thumbs. It must not be ten thousand eyes. It cannot function as all left feet.

The church is variegated and sundry, full of plants and pillars, sons and daughters. We instinctively get this when it comes to a completely individualistic metric. We all know that as individuals we are unique and uniquely gifted––one a hand, one a foot, Christ the head––but we balk at the uniqueness of men as men and women as women and what that means for us as members of his body.

Imagine if I stuffed that moment of glorious feminine strength in the pew. Imagine if I silenced it with caveats and nuanced rejoinders and nice-sounding equalizers about the sexes. Two things come to mind that would be the result:

Firstly, fiction will replace glory. Lewis says, “…in church we turn our back on fictions. One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolize to us the hidden things of God.” To push down the differences is a way of embracing the fictions rather than doing what the church is supposed to do: turn our back on them. By receiving the fiction of what Lewis calls “the interchangeability of the sexes” we become blind to the mystery. God’s glory doesn’t diminish, but our ability to see will.

Secondly, the gates of hell won’t quiver, but laugh. Do you think that Satan likes the peculiar glory of women? Do you think he wants to encourage the particular honor of men? How happy is hell when we stop praying for our daughters to be corner pillars? How much does Sheol celebrate when we stop begging God for the miracle of sons––who in the years of their youth are full-grown plants––equipped with real maturity?

If you have sons, pray for your sons. And if you have daughters, pray for your daughters. Pray for the miracle of faith and sight. Pray for God to keep them to the end. But don’t leave off praying for their peculiar glories to be just that: a glorious and peculiar reflection of the God who made them sons and daughters.