Clothed with Dignity, Part II

“Dress code” comes up a lot in Christian circles. What should the Christian woman wear? we ask, debating the inherent morality of yoga pants with the vehemence Luther once used to debate against indulgences and transubstantiation. Yet our (Christians’) concerns over what women should and shouldn’t wear is a reaction against the world’s horrendous treatment of the female body as ad-fodder or public property. The clothing and fashions marketed for women don’t measure up to our standards or our beliefs about women’s innate value, so what are we to do? How are we, as Christian women, to carry ourselves, dress ourselves as members of a culture so determined to objectify us?

The Bible doesn’t itemize a dress code. There’s no injunction against leggings or shorts or crop tops. In fact, specific garments other than headgear (jewelry, veils, and hairstyles) never come up at all. (I don’t consider Deuteronomy 22:5 to be a condemnation of women in pants because, frankly, nobody wore pants when Deuteronomy was written.) The Bible doesn’t list do’s or don’ts about what women should wear; it chooses rather to focus on how women should “clothe” their inner selves.

I found a testament to God’s perspective on women’s dignity and clothing in an unlikely location: I Peter 3:3-4. The verses stand out in the context of a discussion on the dynamic between Christian husbands and wives, a discussion belonging to a larger context in 1 Peter about how the church should operate in a culture opposed to Christ. In these verses, Peter makes the point that women have no reason to prioritize externals. Her dignity and beauty don’t depend on her uniform. While some have taken the verses as a command against jewelry or elaborate hairstyles, the verses merely intend to redirect the Christian woman’s priorities. There’s nothing wrong with looking nice or making an effort to look nice, but it’s more important to maintain “the imperishable quality of a meek and quiet spirit.”

That is not to say a woman should strive to become a mousey doormat. Quite the opposite. Gentleness and meekness are characteristics of Christ, who was far from mousey—he was Kingly. He was quiet-spirited and others-focused. A confident woman who rests in the knowledge of God’s grace knows that her worth doesn’t depend on her body, her beauty, her hair, her clothing, or even her talents.

Another verse, this time from the Old Testament, affirms feminine dignity separate from externals. One of the notorious “pink” passages, Proverbs 31, profiles the Wise Woman, or, more famously, the “Proverbs 31 Woman.” She’s no June Cleaver. She’s a business owner, physically strong and multi-skilled, who provides generously for her family and anyone else who sets foot in her house with the profits earned from her various industries. The passage says not a single word about what she wears other than the uniform described in verse 25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Her clothing does not define her; the passage never mentions her face or figure, either (unless you count her strong arms). Quite the opposite; the passage measures her by the works of her hands and the strength of her character. The passage admits her worth is unquantifiable; she’s worth far more than jewels, at least (v. 10).

Yet I know my worth in the eyes of my heavenly Father rest in a quality that transcends how human beings tend to quantify the value of other human beings (appearance and utility). My worth is woven into the fabric of my essence by the Master-Weaver.

When God made human beings, He made them in his own image, after His own likeness (Gen. 5:1-2). I will leave in-depth explanations of what “the image of God” to better writers—there are plenty out there. Suffice it to say that because humans bear God’s image, we’re set apart from other creatures such as trees or dogs. We resemble Him in character and attribute the way children, though different from their parents, unmistakably resemble them. Passages like Psalm 139:13 suggest that God handcrafts each human being from the moment of conception. Not only are women made in the image of God, we are each works of His artistry. Author and theologian Carolyn Custis James condenses God’s definition of woman into the phrase “Image bearer; created in God’s image and likeness; called to be fruitful and multiply, to rule and subdue” (Gospel of Ruth, James 65). James adds that because woman bears God’s image, “any slight of her is a personal affront to God, an insult to His kingdom” (Gospel of Ruth, 65).

Therefore, I have confidence existing in a world that tries to boil me down to the sum of my parts by living in the knowledge that I am handcrafted by a loving God. I am more than my cup size or my waistline or my wardrobe or my hairstyle. I am more than my fertility or marital status. I am more than my intelligence or my talents or my taste. My value rests in the hands of my Creator, Whose image I bear, who weighs my essence against all the jewels in the world and declares my worth is far greater. He surrendered His own life for my sake. I am worth that much to Him.

God’s esteem for women makes the world’s treatment of them seem especially egregious. How dare we tell her she’s only good for that “one thing” all men are supposedly after? How dare we call a woman a burden because she hasn’t married? How dare we demean her for her struggle with infertility? How dare we reduce the strength of her character to the length of her skirt or the exposure of her shoulders?

How dare we devalue and debase those that the King of all creation surrendered His life to redeem?

I resolve to allow my knowledge of God’s design to inform my assumptions of other people and my own harsh judgement of myself. I am sometimes tempted to measure myself by the world’s unrealistic, objectifying standards. I fall short. Other women fall short. We will always fall short.

But in God’s eyes, we are priceless. Redeemed. Whole.

Clothed with Dignity, Part I

I don’t have to tell you that we’re superficial creatures. We make snap judgments about people without conscious effort. Assuming is easier than careful thought. And so many of our snap judgments depend on peoples’ appearances.

Women tend to be more particularly aware of the perceived importance of appearances. While both men and women face the unfairness of appearance-based ridicule, in general, cultures tie women’s appearances more closely to their intrinsic worth. *

I’ve observed a correlation between clothing and our perceptions of dignity. Think about the universally recognized and formulaic garment, the suit. Generally considered an exclusively masculine garment, it covers the wearer from neck to ankle to wrist. The common garb of businessmen, dignitaries, royalty, and presidents, we associate the suit with strength, power, respect, and the dignity those qualities imply. Most (western) men have at least one.

Contrast the male suit with the typical fare available to women in the average department store. Women’s garments are, more often than not, manufactured under the assumption that the wearer’s aim is to entice. If the neckline of a dress is high, the skirt will be short; if the skirt is long, the neckline plunges. Fabric is flimsy or transparent, cuts uncomfortably tight, pockets fictitious—practicality, comfort, and function all sacrificed at the altar of visual appeal. Even women’s suits (skirt suits or pantsuits) pare blazers with low necklines and skirt suits hanging to the ankles are generally considered too dowdy for the wearer to be taken seriously—show your calves or show yourself out (I learned this the hard way during my high school speech and debate days). In general, women don’t particularly care about attracting attention as much as they do wearing things that make them happy (which accounts for the variance in styles and tastes among us). The garments offered to us are usually attractive, but attractiveness (for some) requires exposed skin. But culturally we do not connect exposed skin to dignity. In fact, the more skin a woman exposes, the more is assumed about her character and, unfortunately, her worth and personal dignity.

The socially pressured priority for women is attractiveness, not dignity. Even if we don’t think about attracting attention when we toss on an outfit in the morning, our audience throughout the day will assume that is our aim. Because, after all, a woman’s social responsibility (in all cultures, from time immemorial) is to marry and reproduce, which she can’t hope to do without attracting a mate. Consider the woman who does not marry—even in the 21st century, there are societies that consider women who cannot connect themselves to a mate wasted goods or, even worse, burdens. This utilitarian view of women reduces our essence and worth to our reproductive capabilities. And no one will marry us if we’re not pretty enough.

Hence why the beauty industry is so lucrative. Businesses pitch outfits and products which are not, as claimed, self-esteem boosters, but lures to draw the validation of attention and potential mates. We’re expected to bend over backwards to enhance our visual appeal, even to the point of bodily harm—by bruising our feet in shoes that emphasize our calves and tushes while warping our postures, cracking ribs in waist-trainers (or their predecessors, corsets), triggering cancer in hours on tanning beds, or starving ourselves in the name of unnatural thinness. We must change our faces, our bodies, our lives, sometimes at the sacrifice of our own personal dignity, to achieve the ROI expected by our governments, our corporations, and sometimes even our families. We’re expected to keep up with ever-shifting fashion rules and body-type preferences or any number of unspoken or spoken behavioral laws (“You’ll never get a date with opinions/hair/outfits/a figure like yours”) as a matter of survival. An unattractive woman may not marry. An unattractive woman may not bear children. An unattractive woman, therefore, in the eyes of cruel, judgmental, and sinful world, is worthless.

Hence why women who go for years without a single date are tempted to question their worth, no matter their intelligence, physical beauty, skill, or contributions in their spheres of influence.

I don’t dwell on this societal pressure. Most women don’t. I don’t think about any kind of social responsibility when I shop for clothes or skincare products. I’m drawn to bright colors and light fabrics and flowy skirts and traditionally feminine aesthetics. I like flat shoes but have a pair of heels for date nights with my spouse (it’s not that women never dress to attract—just not all the time). I like what I like. I don’t have a closet full of pantsuits because I think that’s the only way people will view me as a person with dignity. Nor do I think women should necessarily dress “like men” to show the world what’s what, wearing men’s clothes for the sole purpose of bucking tradition. I value femininity, just not how the world prefers defining it.

Nor, of course, do I look down my nose at women who choose an aesthetic other than mine, one with shorter/lower hemlines or lower/higher necklines or tighter/looser tailoring than my preference. I cannot attach a woman’s dress or physical appearance (or marital status) to her worth. I know her worth (and mine) lies elsewhere—deeper and higher.

In my next post, I will tell you why.

 

 

 

*I realize, of course, that men experience similar pressure to conform to unfair and unrealistic standards of attractiveness or social utility. I write from a female perspective because I am female and have never experienced life as a man, but I acknowledge the weight on my male readers’ shoulders and encourage you to share in the comments any observations about the subject from your perspective. In the future, I hope to write about the unrealistic standards cultures maintain for men as well. Because they’re just as ridiculous.

Hiatus

Hello, friends and followers. I’m so terribly sorry.

Juggling grad school, marriage, adulthood, and writing proved more challenging than I thought. I’ve broken the cardinal rule of blogging, which is providing decent content and then stopping out of the blue.

I got overwhelmed by life. That happens.

I also got overwhelmed by my content of choice. That happens, too.

Update on my life: I am rapidly approaching the end of my graduate school career (yay!) and am trying to launch myself into a different career (aack!), which, hopefully, will involve a lot more dedicated writing time and time to read up on the subjects that interest me the most.

Update on my content of choice: it depresses me. It breaks my hear that there are people out there who think of women as lesser beings. Every time I see a headline about a woman killed by her partner or a little girl abducted and murdered or about the atrocities befalling women in ISIS-dominated territories, my heart gains another hairline fracture.

Yet I can’t shake the need to research and write about the topic that in the last few years has become so important to me and to many people I know and love–God and His kingdom purpose for His ezers.

Unfortunately all the time I’ve had to research, I’ve been researching for information to fill out the papers and projects necessary for the completion of my MA in English, nothing theological. But I want to get back into that as soon as I walk off the stage on May 5th, diploma in hand.

Thank you for your patience and your support.

Love to you all,

E.A.S.

 

IMG_7368-001

The Parable of Margaret Hamilton: Christian Women and Higher Education

You’ve probably never heard of Margaret Hamilton. You’ve probably heard plenty about Neil Armstrong, one of the first men on the moon, but there isn’t much said about his support system. Margaret Hamilton is the woman who sent him to the moon–and without her, he may not have come home again.

She was one of the founding fathers (ahem–mothers) of modern software. Without her brilliance and mad coding skills, software as we know it would not exist and those men may never have landed on the moon. She was working as a programmer at MIT to get her husband through law school when the Apollo program started. At the time, she had an undergraduate degree in math and a 4-year-old daughter she frequently brought with her to the lab. She was chided occasionally for abandoning her motherly responsibilities for the space program. The chiding stopped when America won the race to the moon.

Margaret had a natural aptitude for her job. This aptitude, properly tuned, allowed her to serve her country, her family, and the world. Though she worked in the background, her tireless effort drove a giant leap for mankind.

I read a post by a prominent Christian blogger bemoaning that Christian women are too focused on higher education and finding careers outside the home. Why aren’t they content with being mothers? Don’t they know God gave them ovaries, uteruses, and breasts for a reason?

Reading this post broke my heart a little. Sadly, her attitude reflects the attitudes of many in the church. While other teachers may couch this attitude in more flowery language and enforce the idea more subtly, they still hold that motherhood and housekeeping is the only appropriate calling for the Christian woman.

I won’t disparage housekeeping or motherhood in the slightest. Both are high callings. No mother is “just a mother.” Motherhood is hard, motherhood is important, and motherhood is beautiful.

But aspiring to motherhood does not free the Christian woman from the responsibility to develop the rest of her body. She has a uterus, ovaries, and breasts, true, but she also has a heart, muscles, and a mind. God does not owe the Christian woman a husband, nor is she guaranteed children. But she is born with talents, and burying those talents in a field is poor stewardship (Matthew 25:14-30) and cripples the church.

One of the primary tenants of the Christian patriarchy movement, as I understand it, is that men bear the responsibility to protect women. To protect women is noble and good, but the movement’s approach at protecting women–to discourage them from leaving the home, from getting a college degree, from working outside the home, or, in some scattered cases, even choosing their potential spouses for them–does not protect them, at least not for the long term.

The trouble with this element of Christian patriarchy is its short-sightedness: this “protection” does not protect women from the misogynistic attitudes inherited from the Fall, but perpetuates them. By discouraging the women of the church from going to college, working outside the home, learning marketable skills, or honing their God-given abilities, we are exposing the backbone of the church to a world of harm. Without either a college degree or certification in a specific field, a woman cannot support herself (and certainly not her children) in the modern economy. Proponents of Christian patriarchy insist that the primary responsibility to support a family falls on the shoulders of the husband or father. While that may be the case, a woman may never marry; her husband may die or leave her; her father may pass away or might have never been in the picture. A woman who is unable to support herself is especially vulnerable in a world programmed to belittle and demean her.

The best way for men to protect women is not to hide them from the world but to instruct their sons, colleagues, and friends that women are not property, sexual objects, or lesser beings, but human beings made in the image of God and who reflect His intelligence, His creativity, His wisdom. By permitting our daughters to discover their talents and use them for the good of others (and themselves) and the glory of God, we show a watching world the value of ezers and train future generations to value them, too.

Protecting a woman also includes putting the tools in her hands to protect herself in the present and the future. For this reason, higher education is vital for the Christian woman. Proverbs 31 shows us a woman with strong arms and a strong mind. Playing a supportive role neither demotes women nor removes us from the personal responsibility to sharpen our minds, to know the Scriptures like the back of our hands, to be articulate, to use reason, and to hone our God-given skills. We are ezer–helpers–soldiers. We cheat ourselves and our brothers  if we do not actively become the best we can be. One woman’s best may look different from another’s–that’s another post for another day. Regardless of our individual skills, we have a divine responsibility to shine His light as image-bearing ezers empowered by God.

Mary, Martha, and Theology

Ah, Mary and Martha. Where would Christian women’s literature be without them? Their tale is so brief, so easily digested, and their relationship with Jesus packaged into a seemingly simple dichotomy: Martha the workaholic, and Mary, the girl who stops to smell the roses. The moral of their story? Don’t be so caught up in working for God that you forget your relationship with God. Short, sweet, to the point.

The trouble is, many of us have bought the idea that “Marthadom” is the best path to “biblical womanhood.” Whether through implication or direct instruction, many women in the church believe that the only way to please God with their femininity is to run themselves ragged in the service of others. Stopping to study the word for longer than the usual thirty minutes in the morning before the kids wake up is simply not an option for the Christian woman. A woman who chooses to pursue a degree in theology is  considered odd at best. A woman who earns a PhD or writes books on theology is even more rare, and could possibly face a bit of opposition from peers or from family. After all, if she’s busy studying the Bible in a formal academic setting, she might not get married, have children, or participate in the church after the usual fashion.

In short, we are told to be Mary, yet expected to be Martha. We often expect Martha of ourselves.

I will not bash the women who have made the sacrifice of service in the house of God. We are to be each others’ servants as members of the Body of Christ. We are supposed to love each other more than we love ourselves (Phil. 2:3). I will not demonize servanthood, not when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.

But we sell ourselves short when we assume that the serious, intense study of theology is for men only.

I know I have had this thought. If men are supposed to lead, as we’ve been told, and if men are supposed to preach, then women don’t need to study the Bible with great focus. After all, we’re too busy with other things, like making sure the house is clean (which is also very important).

Putting our personal responsibility to know the Scriptures on the shoulders of our leaders, expecting them to spoon the truth into our mouths, is the easy way out. And no Christian is called to the easy way out.

Jesus praised Mary for her hunger for knowledge. Martha was only doing what she had been taught to do–when she was growing up, her brother Lazarus might have gone to the synagogue to learn the Scriptures while she and Mary stayed behind to learn the maintenance of a home. But in His gentle reminder, He told His friend that the “good portion” was available to her as well. He did not bar his female friends from a deep knowledge of truth. The Word belongs to men and women both. We are all welcome at His table to eat and drink the magnificence of the Word.

Yes, work hard at whatever your calling is, and by all means serve your neighbors, but unless you take the time to know God’s Word, to sit at His feet and LEARN about Him, you’ll have no idea what you’re working for.

 

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Sisterly Advice

May I give you some sisterly advice?

My heart hurts for girls about my age. We get so many mixed messages; figuring out early adulthood is much harder than anyone ever told us it would be. Navigating the relationships we’re forming during this chapter can be touchy, even perilous. I hurt for my brothers, too–but I don’t share all of their experiences. Some things about being female are unique to us–whether these elements are societally driven or not, they exist, and they’re challenging.

I wish I could look every girl I know in the eye and tell them this:

I thought I heard the voice of God. It wasn’t. No matter how much I wanted it to be, it wasn’t.

He told me over and over again that our relationship was heaven-blessed. That we were destined for each other. He was kind at first, charming and handsome. It was easy to believe him at first.

Never mind my parents’ misgivings. Never mind my friends’ warnings. Never mind my own nagging sense that something about our relationship was horribly, horribly wrong.

“Don’t listen to them, Emma,” he’d say. “Don’t listen. They can’t possibly understand. They don’t have what we have. They’re just being stumbling blocks. Don’t let them get to you.”

Never mind that I had no peace.

At that time in my life I believed that the man I married would fit certain criteria–the itemized list I’d heard repeated ad infinitum as I grew up. He fit every item on the list–or at least he seemed to. He played the role of the Ideal Husband. He became what I thought I should want. At least until he thought I wouldn’t leave.

But when someone tells you to lay down the talents and abilities God gave you just to make him happy; when someone tells you to tune out that inner voice that keeps you walking in the light; when someone downplays your achievements and belittles your dreams; when someone uses the words of God to tell you lies–

Run.

Once he gets close enough, there’s no telling what damage he will do.

No man’s voice is the voice of God. A man may try to play God. He may try to convince you that he is the god of your corner of the universe.

He is not God.

Don’t let him try.

No one person can fulfill you. That is too tall an order for any human being. No one may demand superhuman strength from you while simultaneously demanding you put up with his flaws. Anyone who asks you to compromise your principles or bruises your conscience is not the partner you should choose for the rest of your life’s journey.

If you tell a boy that your relationship with Christ comes first, and he still shoulders his way between you and your Redeemer–

Run.

Run to the Rock that is higher than you. Listen to the still, small voice of the One who loved you enough to give up everything for your eternal joy.

Darling girl, walking the road of life with God alone is far better than braving that journey with the wrong person. You may fear being alone, but believe me when I say there are far more fearful choices.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

That is my sisterly advice to you.

Given in love,

E.A.S.

So I Wrote a Guest Post

Tim Fall (of Tim’s Blog — Just One Train Wreck After Another) asked me to write a post about an observation I’d made on Twitter several months ago. I tweeted that I was confused by all the talk I’d heard about how hard early marriage is — yet, so far, mine hasn’t proven to be that difficult (knock on wood, right?). When does marriage become a challenge? And is it in fact as hard as everyone says it is?

You can find the post here.

To My Brothers (and Sisters) in the Friendzone

I’m about to tell you something that’s worth every penny you pay for it: the friendzone is exactly where you want to be.

(Side note: the heavy research behind these posts will have to move to a back-burner because of upcoming school projects. Degrees don’t earn themselves, otherwise I’d be in the library hunting for commentaries and/or reading The Second Sex instead of hunting for literary criticism on The Christmas Carol. Hence why this post is a rabbit trail.)

If you don’t know what “the friendzone” is–well, you probably do, just not by that name. “The Friendzone” is not a literal place but a state of being. The Friendzone is the state of the girl (or boy) you love…not loving you back.

Both men and women have experienced the Friendzone, but (at least in my experience) men tend to be more vocal about it. In context, a boy whose female friend has said no to his third request for a date will usually turn to his friends, sigh, and say something to the effect of,

“Man, I got Friendzoned,” (the verbified version of “Friendzone”). “This is so dumb. Nice guys always finish last.”

I’m sympathetic, I really am. I’ve been in the Friendzone. Several times. It’s annoying. In my mind, I was so perfect for the person I liked, but he kept going after all my friends.  My pride was hurt.

But there are underlying problems with bemoaning the Friendzone. Serious problems. There’s an equally serious problem festering at the root of the idea that “nice guys finish last” because “girls only go for jerks.”

Problem One: The Idea that You’re Entitled to be Loved by the Object of Your Affection

Yes, I understand. Unrequited love is tough. Very tough. But a person is a person, not a thing. A person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). A person is made with a specific purpose in mind (Philippians 2:13, Psalm 138:8), a purpose that may or may not include you. People are not potential possessions.

By believing that somehow a person owes you love, you are ignoring their personhood. You may think you know what’s good for him or her (you) but might very well be wrong. If you’re a friend, keep being a friend. Respect the person’s free will and desires. After all, that’s what friends do.

Problem Two: The Idea that You Deserve a Reward for Being a Decent Person

I know that many of us grew up being handed trophies just for participating. Arguably, that worked in elementary school. But, at least from what I’ve seen, that doesn’t work in relationships. Any kind of relationship. Just because you are a nice person, or even just because you went out of your way to be nice to the person you like, doesn’t mean the girl (guy) owes you a date. Or anything else.

Of course you should be nice. Sometimes guys and girls both put up a front of jerkiness or flirtatiousness because they want to atrract someone, anyone. Still others alter their personalities to adapt to specific people they like, hoping the masks will be good enough. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER put on a front for the sake of being “attractive.” Please, please be who you are; please strive to be kind.

But don’t strive to be kind in the hopes of getting a date. Remember, we are to be kind for kindness’s sake. We are made in the image of God and God is love, therefore we as His children are to love even our enemies, to “do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35). If we are to love our enemies without expecting any favors in return, then how much more should we love our friends and consider their wishes more important than our own (Philippians 2:3)?

It’s unwise to expect a cookie for being a nice person.

And even if you could, people aren’t cookies.

Problem Three: What’s so Bad about Being Someone’s Friend?

Full disclaimer: I’m 23 and only newly married. I don’t have a very deep well of wisdom to draw from just yet. Like I said, you’re getting what you paid for. But I will say I have had a few relationships, and I took careful notes as they faded away. And a lot of what I’m about to say has been passed down to me from my parents and grandparents and many other wise and experienced people in my life who know what’s up.

Healthy relationships are founded on healthy friendships.

My husband was in the Friendzone. I put him there. I did not want a relationship. With anyone. Ever. As far as I was concerned, Sam was in the Friendzone for good.

He knew that. And he was okay with that. We kept being friends. Then things happened. Then we got married.

We’re still friends. Married, but friends first.

Love is so much more than romance. Yes, romance is beautiful and fun, but it’s the friendship that fuels the flame.

The trouble with wanting the grand, breathtaking romance is that the romance comes with absurd expectations. You’ll be tempted to hold your significant other to a fanciful and impossible high standard. And you’ll be disappointed every time they tumble from the pedestal constructed from rom coms and Disney movies. Again, people are people. People are sinners. People make mistakes. People aren’t perfect, and the last thing any of us wants is a relationship where we’re expected to be perfect.

But friendship sees the imperfections and loves wholeheartedly anyway.

I don’t have a verse that will say all that for me. The Bible is not a book of dating advice. There aren’t many romance pointers outside of The Song of Solomon.

But take Christ’s relationship with His disciples. Jesus called them His friends (John 15:15). In fact, there are several places in Scripture where God calls His people His friends. He also compares His relationship with His people as that between a bridegroom and a bride (Isaiah 62:5). Friendship and love are not mutually exclusive ideas. We need to erase from our minds that being someone’s friend is somehow a demotion. God doesn’t seem to think so.

If you are in the Friendzone, you’re sitting on prime real estate. If nothing else, you have a wonderful person as a friend, and that is something to be thankful for. And please, oh please, keep being nice. Keep being kind.

I hope I haven’t come off as patronizing. That’s the last thing I want, but sometimes tone is hard to communicate through a keyboard and a screen. I want to look you in the eyes and tell you it will all turn out alright.  I, too, know what it’s like to hurt and wait and wonder. I know what it’s like to desire someone and to be disappointed. But please believe me when I say “He makes all things beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The Gospel of Eve

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 3:15

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…  Galatians 4:4

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  Matthew 1:23 

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

There, I saved you some time and put all the important stuff at the top of the post.

This will be short. This post will be a short observation inspired by a sermon I heard today. This post, like most of my posts, is not comprehensive or fully formed.

The observation is this:

Both genders are crucial to the existence of the Gospel.

From the moment of the first sin, Adam and Eve knew that there would be Someone coming to right their wrongs. God told the Serpent, Satan, that he and the woman would be enemies, and her offspring would be responsible for his downfall. Not Adam’s offspring. Eve’s.

The prophecies about the coming Savior frequently emphasized that He would be born of a virgin. A woman who had never slept with a man. He would be brought into the world without a drop of Adam’s blood, but “born of woman.” Immanuel–God with us–would take the body of a man, but would not be a man’s child.

Yet this boy, Jesus, would be a second Adam. By Adam’s fall, we sinned all, but it would be through Eve, a Son born of Eve’s distant daughter, that all men could be saved.

God had a redemptive purpose in creating male and female in His image. Remove one or the other from the picture, and the redemption story collapses.

Of course, God could have brought a Savior to the world any way He wanted to. But He chose Mary to carry Christ, who could stand in Adam’s place for all our sakes. He chose to use both male and female to bring about the greatest reality of human history: Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

That’s all I have for now.

Of Princesses and Queens

What does it mean to be a woman writer in a culture whose fundamental definitions of literary authority are, as we have seen, both overtly and covertly patriarchal? If the vexed and vexing polarities of angel and monster, sweet dumb Snow White and fierce mad Queen, are major images literary tradition offers women, how does such imagery influence the ways in which women attempt the pen?

–Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar

In their co-authored essay, “The Madwoman in the Attic,” prominent feminist literary theorists Gilbert and Gubar elaborate eloquently on a theme mentioned over and over again by the women who came after them: women are rarely represented accurately in any male-dominated medium.

Gilbert and Gubar observe a disturbing pattern in all acclaimed literature. The female characters lack any depth beyond their capacity to reflect well (or poorly) on the male leads. Women in the novels they reference are of two categories: angels and demons. There is no in between. A female lead is either a flawless goddess of beauty and morality or the Wicked Witch of the West. Because, Gilbert and Gubar explain, that is how men see women. One or the other. There is no gradient.

They also fear that this unfair representation of women in literature will trap female readers into believing they have no choice but to be an angel or a demon. Female writers especially will be trapped into perpetuating this pattern in their writings, which of course will never be taken seriously by the male elite who govern what is “good” and what is “bad” as far as literature is concerned.

They have a point.

It’s very frustrating, as a woman, to watch movies sometimes. When I go to a theater, sometimes I find it helpful to leave my opinions at the door to enjoy a film’s plot, particularly an action film, and pick those opinions up for the film review that will happen in the car ride on the way home. It’s frustrating to watch, time and time again, a woman be thrown into a film for decoration only. And then occasionally when I’m delighted by a film with strong female protagonists, I’ll hear someone complain that the movie made the male lead look superfluous and that’s not fair.

Must be tough.

The same plague haunts modern entertainment that haunted the Victorian novel. A woman who falls from her pedestal may never rise again.

I see that plague lifted in the Bible.

The women in the Bible are as diverse as the women I see every day. They all have different backstories, different motivations, different strengths and weaknesses. A woman with a huge family (Leah), a woman who struggled with infertility (Hannah), a woman who oversaw armies (Deborah). I see women in loveless marriages (Abigail), and women with loving husbands (the Shulamite girl). I see female entrepreneurs (Lydia), women who gave their all for others (Tabitha), women who risked their lives for strangers (Rahab), and women who risked their lives for their countrymen (Esther). I see women who were prophets (Anna), women in places of authority (Miriam). I see a woman who worked hard to provide for herself and those she loved (Ruth). I see a woman who was not taken seriously when she told the truth and later proven to be right (Rhoda). I see a woman scorned by men for doing the right thing but praised by Christ Himself (Mary).

I see hopeful women, desperate women, angry women, mourning women, laughing women, praying women, gentle women, clever women, proud women, careful women, busy women, bookish women–imperfect women. Women presented to us with both their virtues and their flaws. Their mistakes are not ignored, but we see them at their best as well.

And as I read through the Bible and note the women I see, I notice that any woman listed by name (Mary) or moniker (the Wise Woman of Proverbs 31) is never used as a garnish. The Bible may call a woman beautiful, but she is never just eye candy. Her role is purposeful and her personality is distinct. And without them, the Book’s plot would never get anywhere.

As I read the Bible from a literary point of view, I read of a wealth of role models. They are neither angels or demons, though occasionally I meet princesses and queens. They are human beings with flaws like mine, dreams like mine, and strengths like mine. I see their lives and know that I am not alone.

God loved them. And He loves me.

And I will pick up my pen and write about them.