Saturday, May 19, 2007

a woman, not a man

I have been reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot called "Let Me Be a Woman" and am loving it. (If you know me, this is really something in and of itself, because I've not always been a big fan of Elisabeth, shall we say...) One part in particular has really struck a chord with me in the way it addresses what women are capable of doing.

I've long wrestled with womens' roles, especially in church leadership. I have a real desire to understand God's heart on this, and not be led by my own flesh, the world's standards, another individuals commentaries on scripture (I think we occasionally forget that the notes at the bottom of our study Bibles are not actually part of the inspired Word of God), or anything else. Much of what I've read on both sides of the issue has not set right with me. I tend to think I would not necessarily fall exactly on the same lines as Elisabeth Elliot, but I think that the heart of the book I am reading really resonates with what I am finding to be true.

I think we have oft fallen into the world's mindset of feminism that equal value means 'the same in every way'. The world tells us that 'feminism' is equality, when more often it means being viewed as genderless, which is not something that appeals to me. Part of truly appreciating who I am is valuing my female-ness (which is what the word 'feminism' should imply). The problem arises with this when we try to 'pigeon-hole' what femininity looks like. I understand why women who don't fit the "sugar & spice & everything nice" mold sometimes feel they don't fit well in the church; I feel often the church has held up the picture of the stay-at-home-mom with the bow in her hair and adorable well behaved children as the model Christian woman that ALL women should aspire to be. While I obviously find the job of mothering of great importance (since I am one!!), I have an ever-increasing understanding of the struggle for those who have different aspirations.

I am finding though that within Christianity there IS great freedom for women to do and be anything God calls them to. This is much of what Elisabeth writes of in this book. What place has God called you to? It may be to be a wife and mother - or not! He may call you to be a doctor or engineer, a writer or a musician. But if you are a woman, He calls you to be a WOMAN doctor, a WOMAN writer, etc. While women can do much of what men can, they will (or should) do it in a feminine way. If you are a woman, the one thing you are NOT called to be is a man!! This is how Elisabeth illustrates this in her chapter entitled "A Choice Is A Limitation":

You will remember Betty Greene, one of the founders of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, who has flown every kind of plane except a jet. She even ferried bombers during WWII, and you were surprised that she didn't "look like a pilot". Nobody else thought she did either, and often when she would land in some foreign airfield the authorities were nonplussed to see a woman step out of the plane. "Do you fly these planes alone?" she was often asked. But long ago Betty had made up her mind that if she was going to make her way in a man's world she had to be a lady. She would have to compete with men in being a pilot, but she would not compete with men in being a man. She refused to try in any way to act like a man.

It is a naive sort of feminism that insists that women prove their ability to do all the things that men do. This is a distortion and a travesty. Men have never sought to prove that they can do all the things women do. Why subject women to purely masculine criteria? Woman can and ought to be judged by the criteria of femininity, for it is in their femininity that they participate in the human race. And femininity has its limitations. So has masculinity. That is what we've been talking about. To do this is not to do that. To be this is not to be that. To be a woman is not to be a man.


Zoanna said...

Excellent post. More things I keep finding that we have in common:

1) I was not a big Elis El fan myself, but do appreciate her viewpoints and strong stances. She is not the "sugar and spice" woman herself, her books are not coffee table style, but she has motivated be to be obedient like no other author.

2) I have wrestled with women's roles, and grew up with a feminist mom/pastor dad. Talk about a challenge! But God has really solidified in my mind the comfort in male leadership (and our church does it so well, where men are both strong in the Lord and are also model husbands and dads). I love being a lady. I love being a homemaker. I wouldn't want the responsibility of providing for my family. And I'd hate to have the 24/7 battle of lust that most men talk about. All in all, I'm very grateful to be a woman!!!

jessi said...

I'm finishing up the book and have really appreciated most of what she had to say. It was refreshing, because much of what frustrated me about EE was that ALL I ever heard her talk about (her radio program used to be on during my drive time home from work years ago) was submission. Not that I even disagreed with what she was saying, I just thought, good grief, there IS more to life...!!!

I would say I agree totally with her on the husband/wife roles, but would probably come out slightly different on women/men in general (meaning not all women submitting to all men, based only on gender) and also probably different on looking at acceptable roles within the church.

I also didn't love that she compared the animals total acceptance of their roles and place in the world to women's... I know this is over simplifying her message greatly, but I just thought, of course nature...the tides, the animals, etc... do their function without resistance; but they are not created God's image, and 2. for relationship based on free will (I'm not big into discussions about predestination vs. free will, but I don't think God created us as robots...I think He wants us to respond to Him and his love out of a desire, not because we HAVE to.

Those were basically my ONLY disagreements; overall, I surprised myself to be able to say, I loved this book!