Poor and Meek: On Being a Servant Who Expects Better than their Master

There is a book by the Puritan, Matthew Henry, that I think every Christian should read. It’s called, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. I first read it many years ago and have returned to it many times since. This is not a book he wrote for women. This is a book he wrote for Christians. Yet as a woman who is always battling my particular bent toward sin, this is a book I that has been deeply needed in my life.

As I’ve been thinking on Jesus coming to earth, the circumstances of his birth, that, “though he was rich, for your sake he became poor” (2 Cor 8:9), that he had no where to lay his head (Luke 9:58), that he was betrayed and denied by those who should have stood by him (Matt 26:75), that he became obedient to death (Phil 2:8), that he was humiliated and scorned and spit on (Mark 15:16-20), I’ve contemplated the many times I’ve thrown my lot in with the Lord, saying, “I’m yours! Tell me what you want me to do!” But I’ve cowered when he has asked me to be meek in the face of humiliation or misunderstanding.

I want the great exchange–I want the justification, the Good News that he did what I couldn’t and became sin for me, so that I could have his righteousness. But so often I want him to be poor in spirit, while I forsake the blessedness of being poor in spirit (Matt 5:3). I want him to be meek, so that I can have justice now. I don’t always want to follow him in meekness and actually turn the other cheek and patiently, with longsuffering, wait on the justice of the Lord. I want him to have no where to lay his head, so that I can have a perfect resting place now. His name was mocked, “King of the Jews,” but I want my name to be respected (Luke 23:37). He was misunderstood, but I want to be understood.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt 10:24).

The great exchange of the Gospel is absolutely glorious. But it isn’t the kind of glory that ends with me getting out of jail free so that I can live a life that is still my own, skipping off into the sunset of comfort and ease and zero heartache. I am a servant––a slave of Christ. I am not above my Master. That’s abundantly clear to everyone reading this, but the old, twisted remnants of sin in my heart still need to hear me say it out loud. Abigail, you are not above the Lord Jesus Christ. If it helps, you can put your name in place of mine. And that reality is for our good. It is a sign of our solidarity with the Lord. It is a sign of our sonship.

The great exchange of the Gospel means we have his righteousness and are now being equipped by it to forgive when forgiveness isn’t deserved, to love when hate seems more fitting, to be patient when we want what we want when we want it, to be meek and quiet when we want to give an answer and score a point, to be poor in spirit and absorb the cost of love when we’d rather pass the cost on to someone else.

Christ has come. Christ will come. The Holy Spirit is our real and powerful Helper now. Christ’s Spirit–the Holy Spirit–is the meekest, gentlest, kindest, purest, mightiest, most courageous, most hopeful, most happy, most groaning, and advocating Spirit in the world. And he lives in us. The Spirit that enabled Christ to say, “Not my will, but yours be done,” and enabled him to endure the cross and scorn the shame, will enable us to walk through our petty and not-so-petty trials. He will give us the grace to wait, with all patience, for the day when Christ will come again.

 

All of Life In Christ; All of Christ For Life

Below are a couple excerpts from today’s Reformation Doctrine: Union With Christ. This is the most glorious reality in the universe. None better. I realized the other day that this reality is what almost all of my writing has been trying to get at the last many years. I also realized that I never want to write about anything else–and happily, this reality incorporates everything, so there are no limits. I actually came up with mission statement for myself: All of life in Christ; all of Christ for life. That’s the truth I want to spend my life seeing and reveling in and causing others to see and revel in. You can listen to the teaching here and if you make it to the end you may even get to hear me blubber a bit–because this truth is too beautiful not to cry over.

“Romans 6:3-4, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

You may have thought of your baptism as simply being cleansed. We often think of being baptized like being washed clean of sin. But Paul is giving us another picture to consider. Our baptism isn’t a bath, it’s a drowning. It’s a burial. We see it visually—in baptism we go under the water, as if buried in a water death.  Paul says, “Do you not know that those who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” I think he expects we DO know and, if not, he’s reminding us of what we ought to know.

He goes on, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” So the point isn’t just that we die in baptism, but that we die with him. If we don’t die with him, we won’t be raised with him. We won’t walk in newness of life, because there is no life apart from Christ. None. If you aren’t killed with Christ and made alive in Christ, then you remain in Adam, in death.

Thought experiment: How can a dead person die?

We found out in Romans 5 that we are dead in Adam. And now we see that an absolutely essential part of being a Christian is: YOU MUST DIE. Here’s how we need to think about it: In Adam we are dead IN sin—in Christ we die TO sin. In Adam we are walking in death, walking in sin—in Christ we die to that deathly way of living. Paul says it like this in verse 5:

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Let’s keep on this thought experiment. Finish this phrase for me, “Jesus died so you could…” (live!). And that is gloriously true. But let’s think about what Paul is saying here. He’s not saying something contrary to that—he’s saying that, he’s just saying more than that. What Paul’s reminding us is that Christ died so that you could die. He lives so you can live. How can a dead person die? Because of Christ, that’s how. They are united to his death.

I have spent many years recovering from the notion that the being a Christian meant going from life to life. What I mean by that is, I thought, “Well—I was alive before I became a Christian, sinful but alive, and my sinfulness could lead to death… eventually.” Becoming a Christian meant avoiding that death and going from earthly life (although sinful) to eternal life. There are elements of truth there. Some of it is gloriously true.

But in this passage Paul is saying  that the Christian life is going from death to death. We were dead in Adam—we bore his name as our family name. We were dead in his sin, which was our nature. And the only way out of Adam is to die. But we don’t die with Adam, we die with Christ, in Christ. And when we do that, Paul says in verse 5, “you shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

One more point on this: When we die with Christ and are freed from Adam, we are immediately brought to life. The death we die remains dead, we leave an old self behind, but the new life that’s been given is the same motion as the death. We don’t die with Christ, wait a while, then get new life. Think of a baptism—it’s one motion: plunged below the water and brought up out of it. Death and resurrection. But not resurrection as the old man with a makeover, resurrection as an entirely new man (woman).

Martin Luther’s favorite analogy for the Christian life was not the courtroom, as glorious as it is to be declared righteous on the basis of another’s perfection, it was marriage. When we are united to Christ all that he has and is becomes ours and all that we have and are belong to him. He takes our sin and ugliness and we take his perfection and loveliness. But even as he becomes a curse for us, he also overcomes the curse for us and kills sin.

Eph. 5:22-33 is the marriage passage. Married people rightly read it to understand how this whole marriage thing works. But try reading it and thinking only of Christ and us.

Here are just a few verses. Ephesians 5:29-32

“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Can you hear our union with Christ? “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (ESV)

Friends. Our whole salvation, justification, sanctification and everything else is built on the fact that Christ will hold us fast. We belong to him. When you’re in the grip of the Son of God, when he has apprehended you, you don’t need to worry his grip will fail. He’s holding you and you are his.

We are not standing on one side of the room and he is on another and he hands us a present all wrapped in pretty paper that we open up and discover it’s righteousness. Then he goes back to his side of the room and we to ours. NO! The free gift of righteousness IS CHRIST—it’s through Christ! We get it when we are grafted into his vine—into him.”

 

The Secret Ingredient in Bible Study

Below is an excerpt of what I shared with the women at Bible study yesterday. It’s Luther’s rules for theologians. We’re studying Reformation Doctrine and if you want to follow along with us, you can do so here. Here is what I shared yesterday:

I wanted to take a minute and encourage you as you study your Bibles and seek to grow as theologians—as women who are knowing God better. Some of you may be overwhelmed with life. You’re here, but barely. You may be in the middle of something really hard. Luther has some encouraging words for you and me:

Martin Luther said in his Preface to the Wittenberg Edition, “I want you to know how to study theology in the right way. I have practiced this method myself… Here you will find three rules. They are frequently proposed throughout Psalm 119 and run thus: Oratio, Meditatio, tentatio (prayer, meditation, trial).

Regarding prayer Luther says:

“You should completely despair of your own sense and reason, for by these you will not attain the goal…Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God through his dear Son, graciously to grant you his Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding.”

Regarding meditation, Luther says:

“Secondly, you should meditate. This means that not only in your heart but also externally you should constantly handle and compare, read and reread the Word as preached and the very words as written in Scripture, diligently noting and meditating on what the Holy Spirit means…Therefore, you observe how in this psalm David always says that he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, day and night and constantly—but about nothing else than God’s Word and Commandments.  For God wants to give you his Spirit only through the external Word.”

Regarding trials he says:

“Thirdly, there is the tentatio, testing (Anfechtung). This is the touchstone.  It teaches you not only to know and understand but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s word is: it is wisdom supreme. This is why you observe that in the psalm indicated David so often complains of all sorts of enemies…For as soon as God’s Word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real [theologian] of you.”

Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy word. 68 Thou art good and doest good; teach me Thy statutes. 71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes.

Nothing has put meat on the bones of my study like trials, friends. Our youngest son with special needs has neurological sleep problems, which means 4 years of really bad sleep and lots of throw-up every week because of his problems swallowing. It’s amazing how bad sleep and vomit can open the eyes of our heart to behold wondrous things from God’s Word. Trials give us the gift of desperation. They give us the testing ground for our beliefs and the unmatched joy of knowing and experiencing Christ to be the keeper of every promise. So I encourage you to persevere and let your trials be the hammer that drives you deeper into Christ.

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Doing the Spiritual Splits

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I was looking at my calendar and realized my church attendance on Sunday morning is less than 50% for 2017. I’m sure I’m not alone. This has been a brutal winter for illness in MN and I’ve found myself rocking an ever-growing and under-the-weather boy on many a Sunday morning.

Rocking this morning is as calm as you’d hope, but my mind has been anything but. I’ve been pinned, all the while the laundry goes unfolded, the dishes unloaded, the supper un-prepped, the Bible study undone, the garden unplanned, the knitting un-knit, the lovely sunshine un-basked in. And on and on.

I was chatting with a fellow mom of five last week, brainstorming ways to bring structure and discipline to our mornings with so many variables in the form of small people and exponential relationships and possibilities for things to go awry. Change, thou art steadfast. It seems we never do live the same day twice.

I’ve always been a go-with-the-flow type. Probably a fourth child thing. Going with the flow ensures that I am GOING! And WITH others! Nothing worse than being left behind for a fourth child. This go-with-the-flow personality has served me well in many ways. I’m not opinionated about many decisions, as long as the people I love are around, which means I’m usually easy to get along with. But, it’s not a personality forged from virtue, it’s forged from my desire to have maximum enjoyment in life–and I tend to think that going with the flow will make me and those around me happiest.

But I’ve learned over the years that it’s easy to mistake this go-with-the-flow style for true flexibility–the kind of flexibility that’s learned to be content in any circumstance. All it takes to learn the truth is take away the ability to go with the flow. What happens when I’m forced to stop the movement, forced to be still, forced to make my own decisions without the comfort and enjoyment of the company I long for? And then what if even my best laid plans are thwarted? Like today with the laundry and the dishes and supper and actual work that I’m supposed to do?

There are probably many of you reading who aren’t go-with-the flow types. Maybe your type A or you like to run the show and make the decisions. Maybe the idea of being a passenger in the ride of life is a thousand slow deaths by pin prick. It’s probably more obvious for you that growth in Godly flexibility is necessary. You know your rigidity, your fight for control. And hopefully you know that it needs to be crucified in favor of trusting God.

But, if you’re more like me, your lack of flexibility might come as a surprise. So I’m hoping this reflection is helpful for you. Spiritual flexibility is just my way of saying that we trust God in every circumstance, without bitterness or bucking, that is to say, with real contentment. How flexible are we when we aren’t even allowed to be flexible? When we’re just stuck in the same place over and over, learning the discipline we want to run from?

So my hope today is not in getting up from the rocking chair where I currently type away with my little boy’s head resting on my arm. My hope is not in what I will accomplish or how easy I am to get along with on lunch choices. My hope is in God. I can trust that while I sit in this chair, he is accomplishing everything he wants to in and through me. And when the time sitting here is up, by faith I will flex to do what he’s put before me next. I’ll mess up, but I can trust him. He’s teaching me the spiritual splits, so that I can bend and flex and never break as I stretch out to love others in Jesus. Oh that our arms would reach out with Jesus’ as his were nailed to the cross. And they do, because we are united to him in life and death and life.

On Being a Good Mom

New (ish) DG article that I forgot to post on being a good mom. Good thing this is such an easy topic! Ha. 😉

One of a mother’s most difficult tasks — nay impossible, apart from God’s help — is weaning her children and transferring their source of life, comfort, and home to Another. In all her loving and comforting and making home, she is simply a pointer to a better one, a lasting one — a home where she already has one foot in the door, a home she testifies to by her own goodness.

But are we good mothers? Does even the question cause some chafing?

Christian mothers are supposed to be good mothers — happy in God, while loving and disciplining our children — because of Jesus. Yet often we’d rather celebrate our failures as a need for more grace than to rehearse, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).

That goodness is a fruit of the Spirit seems forgotten among jokes about our mom fails and laments about how impossible it all is (Galatians 5:22). The pursuit of goodness is often quickly rebuffed as works-righteousness. But is it? Not if our goodness is the result of Another’s goodness. This imputed goodness is Christ’s, and through faith he increasingly imparts it to us, where it grows to decontaminate and purify our mothering hearts. His grace makes mothers good.

When God gives us children, he answers a lot of questions in our lives — even ones we may not have thought to ask. Questions like:

  • What should I do with my life?
  • What’s it like to give my body up for someone?
  • How attached am I to privacy?
  • How selfish am I when giving feels forced upon me?
  • Does my faith hold on during the third night or third week or third year of sleep deprivation, or is it a product of my ability to string together rational thoughts?
  • Do I trust my husband as a father?
  • How weird am I about food?
  • What strong opinions do I have about clothing? Sleepovers? Education? Extracurricular activities?

Being a mom brings it all to the surface. It reveals a more truthful version of ourselves, not because we were previously being untruthful, but because we now are shaping a life for someone else, not simply ourselves.

Mothers are making decisions every day that can and often will impact another person’s entire existence. This pressure to make sure we don’t mess up our child’s life is pretty intense. It creates some heat that tends to wear us down to the core of what we really believe about God, ourselves, and the world.

Read the rest.

The Prism of Womanhood

I’m grateful to have a post up at DG today. Here’s an excerpt:

“The unique influence of a godly woman is in transforming things. A woman is to be compared to a crown on the head of her husband (Proverbs 12:4). This is not because she’s merely decorative, but because she is the thing that makes her good man great. She transforms a promising bachelor into a purposeful, respected husband. He gives his seed and by some miracle and mystery, God has designed her body to nurture and grow a new person, as Nancy Wilson outlines in her address, Dangerous Women.

In this transformative role, whether single or married, a woman mimics her Savior. Like him, she submits to another’s will and, also like him, God uses her to take what was useless on its own and shape it into glory. Dirty things clean; chaos turned to order; an empty kitchen overflowing with life and food; children in want of knowledge and truth and a mother eager to teach; a man in need of help and counsel and a woman fit to give it; friends and neighbors with a thirst for the truth and a woman opening her home and heart to share it with them.

A woman is a prism that takes in light and turns it into an array of greater, fuller glory, so that those around her now see the rainbow that was contained in the beam. She constantly radiates reminders of God’s faithfulness. She reads the black and white pages of the word of God and takes on the task of living them out in vibrant hues for her children, her neighbors, and the world to see. When the Bible commands feeding, nourishing, training and love, a godly woman sets to the task, enhancing and beautifying everything around her.”

Read the rest.

Don’t Hate the Messes of Glorification

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I have an article at DG this morning. Here’s an excerpt and link.

“I survey the kitchen and living room, and my eyes are assaulted with messes. Mail, worksheets, art projects, toys, plates of food with a few bites left, an origami style army of paper tanks, counting blocks. The messes feel endless. And for a tired mom, the messes can feel like the enemy.

Of course, they’re not. They’re evidence of life and growth. They are the essence of learning, exploring, and doing. A home without messes is a home without people, without life. If I want my children to grow as people, I must invite them to make messes. To take part in learning requires physical stuff to be used, to be handled, changed, glorified.

Then I also must invite them to learn to pick up, put away, restore order, and turn their learning into more than mere mess. A messy kitchen ought not to be chaos only, but the evidence of raw materials being transformed into something tasty and warm and good to eat.

And as I study God’s word, I find the same to be true. His word is living and active, and the process of growth that happens as I seek to understand it, and live my life under its authority and protection, makes messes. Not the kind of messes that are atrophy and dust-collection, but the messes of life and growing and glorification.”

Read the rest.

Mothering and the Reverse of the Curse

 

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Holy week is here, again, and has me in awe, again, over how our God takes a curse and turns it into promise. He takes punishment and turns it to ultimate blessing.

Many are probably familiar with the “proto-evangelium,” the first reference to Christ in the Scriptures that is found in Genesis 3. This is God’s curse of the serpent. And in God’s curse, is also found his unmistakable hint of promise.

“The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV)

Jesus will bruise the head of the serpent. The serpent will be put under Jesus feet. The best news of the universe and it was there in the beginning. And right under it is a parallel curse reversal that happens for women.

“To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

Many women are familiar with this part of the curse. Pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children. How many stories of pain and near-death experiences have we heard of childbirth. I have my stories to tell–5 live births, 1 miscarriage and 3 of the births with stories of true drama, heart-pounding stuff–emergency surgery, hemorrhages, blood transfusions–you all know the kinds of stories and have your own.

Yet in two ways, God takes the curse of childbearing and turns it into redemption.

First, God ordains that his Son, the God-Man, be born of a woman. The Savior of the world comes through a birth canal, and enters the curse. He uses the curse in order to turn it on its head.

The second is found in this well-known (because of how hard it is) passage from 1 Timothy:

“Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

How? How will she be saved through childbearing? I’m not a scholar, but I am mother. Could it be that part of how childbearing is redemptive for mothers is not that it is the atoning sacrifice that puts her in right standing with God, but that it is a means by which God keeps his daughters cemented to himself, humbled and reliant, as they care and pour out for children? This is a gift, a reversal of the curse, a privilege and nothing to scorn.

I read from the ESV study notes that the word “saved” is also frequently used to show perseverance and endurance in salvation. It need not mean that childbearing is the cause of salvation, which we know from all over the Scriptures is in Christ alone by faith alone through grace alone, but rather a means of an ongoing keeping, sanctifying, saving.

And childbearing has the connotation, not of mere birth, but of the ongoing care and raising of children–which applies to all women, mothers or not, by birth or adoption or some other connection. Childrearing is part of womanhood–aunts, friends, teachers, and on and on have incalculable roles in rearing the children around them. Which isn’t to say men don’t, but there is a distinction found here in the Scriptures and experienced in real life that we can all see in regard to a woman’s special role in the life of an infant and child and the reliance it produces in her on her God.

I’m in awe this Easter of our Savior who became curse and promise for us and who turned the curse directed at us into a means of painful, hopeful, miraculous redemption, even as I don’t fully understand it all–the glimpses are breathtaking.

 

Hopeful No Matter What Happens on Super Tuesday

As we in MN stare down Super Tuesday, poised to do our part and head to the caucus, I find myself hopeful and thankful.

With just a smidge of irony (because isn’t that how God works?), “Two” Corinthians just so happens to be the place where all this hope is welling up from.

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)

Christian friends, let’s resolve with Paul to refuse to practice cunning, but with an open statement of truth, let’s commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience. We can openly and with a clear resolve, give our Gospel, God-fearing reasons for who we hope will be President of our country, all the while making it clear that our peace with God is not disturbed by whatever happens. We can give thanks for all that there is to give thanks for in this country. This is our chance to show who our hope really is in. Go to your caucus and preach Christ, friends, not a candidate. Yes, you’ll have to vote one way or another and I’m sincerely praying that no Christians vote for Trump, but even as we give our support to a candidate, we must make it our larger goal to point to the source of true hope. Is there a place more fraught with worry and anger and more in need of the Gospel than the political sphere? We have an opportunity to shine the light of Christ.

Perhaps the most countercultural way we can testify to the fact that Christ has come to save–that his kingdom is at hand–is to show that by the imperturbable state of our heart and utter reliance and confidence in God. Preach Christ by refusing to let your spirit be rattled or agitated by what’s to come. Which isn’t to say that we are indifferent. No, not indifferent, but set apart, invested in the life of our country, but with our citizenship fully in heaven.

I’m remembering that God uses the strangest, most unlikely things to draw people to himself. I’m remembering that, even though some may intend evil, that God means all things for good for his people and that, even while we work against the evil as we should, God is powerful to turn the evil upside down and refine his church, strengthen his bride and bring many sons to glory.

We live in the Kingdom of light, not darkness, and I don’t mean America. God has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness and now we walk with him in the light. God’s kingdom came to us when he shined the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ into our hearts. Rather than act fearful of all that could come, we stand on a sure foundation. We do not fear for ourselves or our children. We serve the Living God and he will make all grace abound to us, no matter the outcome of Super Tuesday or any day after.

So, go caucus friends; caucus as unashamed and immovable children of God and bring the light of Christ to the dark places.

 

 

Conscripted for Life, Not War: Why the Draft is Wrong for Women

 

I watched the latest Republican Presidential debate with usual dutifulness. I want to be informed, I want to understand the candidates, and I want to play the small part God’s given me in this process, but as this was not the first one, I didn’t expect anything revelatory.

Imagine my shock as I listened to not one, but three, so-called conservative candidates vigorously support selective service–including combat—for women, even referencing the importance of equality for their daughters in their responses. Selective service registration exists as a way to reinstitute the draft should the need arise.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was having a hard time equating women’s progress with conscripting them to fight wars. Don’t get me wrong. I believe fathers should value their daughters. I think they should encourage them to do marvelous things. I just also happen to think they should value them as members of the female sex, not pretend that there are no biological, muscle mass differences between them and men.

It seems our government, indeed our culture, has engaged in a rendition of  The Emperor Has No Clothes, but instead it’s something more along the lines of, The Women Are No Different Than the Men. This idea that, because women can think as clearly as a man, that it would follow that she can (and should) also fight in combat against men with the same effectualness is, not to put too fine a point on it, absurd. I’m an average-sized female in relatively decent shape and even as I observe the smaller of the male sex, I know that it would be a poor bet to imagine that I could overpower or outrun such a man. There’s a reason women are anxious in dark parking lots at night and men aren’t. We aren’t stupid.

You may object. You may tell me about your friend who’s a fitness instructor or unbelievably strong or played on a boys’ lacrosse team. I grant all that. But is it the norm? And even given the fact that women can be physically strong, despite the reality that many are not, is that what God gave us strength for? To fight in combat against men?

God gave women marvelous strength. Strength that wasn’t meant to be compared or measured against a man. Last time I checked, I’d never met a man able to give birth. I’ve also never known a man able to handle months of sleep deprivation during which he fed a tiny human round the clock from his very own body. These are (some of) the unique strengths of a woman and we ought not to degrade men for being unable to perform these feats. Likewise, I should feel no sense of shame over the simple fact that I can’t take down a man in combat. Why would I want to? It’s not what I was made for.

Strength is a garment women ought to wear. The kind of strength that stretches out its arms to support the poor, to feed hungry souls, to grow and harvest all that God has given you. It is a strength that nurtures life, not war. Whether a woman can give birth or not, her strength is fundamentally different than a man’s. We can keep pretending this isn’t so, or we can embrace the body and the biology God has assigned to us.

In college, I was one of those girls who managed to get my MRS. degree along with my actual diploma. I remember the jokes and the smugness toward the girls who were open about wanting to be married and start a family. The peer pressure on college girls to forsake that sort of “wasting of your education” was sizable.

But let’s not succumb to that sort of juvenile peer pressure, as if an education’s value is found anywhere but saddled to a man and children. We won’t all get married in college (or at all) and we must all walk the path God has for us. But the desire to be married, the desire to have a family is a good one. Let’s not mistake it for something else. Similarly, the desire to live our lives now as women, clothed in the sort of strength that makes us uniquely women, not men battling in combat, is also a good one. Elisabeth Elliot said it best, “Let me be a woman.”