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.