A few years ago I was asked to join a team of young women who hoped to reach the women of their generation with a conference designed specifically for them. Feeling that the women’s ministry of our church catered to an older generation, these young leaders were hoping to capture the hearts of their peers.
What struck me that day was what these women hoped to communicate through their conference. A lot of ideas were knocked about but in the end it came down to this: our generation needs to believe it’s good to be a woman. Some of those present expressed the idea that it can be easier to think it’s good to be a woman out in the world than it is in the church. Once a woman becomes a Christian, a whole new set of expectations and limitations is placed upon her that can cause her to doubt the goodness of being female.
We’re at a point in time when women need to know that God created a good thing when he created woman. Rightly understood, what the Bible teaches about womanhood is empowering and freeing. Women are both fully human and fully woman. Women fully represent God in his eternal essence, just as men do. Women also reflect humanity as the object of God’s affection.
There is a lot of confusion in current Christian teaching on gender and “gender roles,” however. In some cases fundamental human qualities are ascribed to men alone, leaving the impression that women are somehow a bit less than fully human. In others, differences between women and men are minimized or ignored. And, very often, the fact that a husband and wife point to the greater “marriage,” that of Christ and the church, is taken to mean all sorts of things that it does not.
For this reason I have launched my It’s Good to Be a Woman day retreats. In one day women gain an easy to remember understanding of their essential identity, including how they are the same as men and how they are different. Drawing from my research on ancient understandings of the image of God and gender, I explain the surprising uniqueness of the Bible’s take on the essential dignity and humanity of all human beings, whether they be male or female, rich or poor, black, brown, white, educated or uneducated.
Then, working directly from Scripture, I break down a woman’s identity into six essential components, illustrating how each of them works out in practical ways through the lives of Bible women.
Here is a summary of the It’s Good to Be a Woman teaching on womanhood:
From Genesis 1 women learn that they represent God in his fundamental essence in three ways. Just as God is king of the universe, so women are given authority to rule and subdue the earth. As God is creator of all, so women are designed to be creative and productive and to work. And even as God exists as an eternal community through his triune nature, so women are created for community. In these aspects of her identity a woman is the same as a man.
From Genesis 2 women discover that they are also distinct from men. One of the most divisive passages of Scripture, this chapter is generally taken to establish either the authority of men over women or the equality of the sexes.
The point, however, may lie elsewhere. So that humanity might comprehend the intimate, passionate and very personal relationship God desires to experience with his own bride, the man and woman were created in such a way as to forever point to this far greater and grander truth.
For this reason the man was created first, to reflect the fact that God was first. And the woman was created for the man as his beloved, to reflect the truth that humanity was created for God as God’s beloved. The man leaves his mother and father to pursue his bride to remind us that God is the one who pursues us, who has sacrificed greatly in order to be one with us, his bride.
The woman is also the man’s strong help, his partner, revealing that humankind was designed as God’s strong help, the steward of all earthly creation. Finally, it is the woman who bears and nurtures life with her body, who is the mother of all the living. Through this God reminds us that his people bear the responsibility to nurture both physical and spiritual life around us. Without the cooperation of human beings, God’s family does not grow.
As part of my discussion of a woman’s unique feminine identity, I discuss the limitations of the husband/wife-Christ/church analogy and my understanding of headship. Though Christ is King, Lord, and Great Shepherd to his people, besides being our Bridegroom, Scripture never identifies a wife as subject, servant or sheep with respect to her husband.
If you are interested in hosting an It’s Good to Be a Woman event, or would simply like more information, please contact me through the form on my Speaking page. If you prefer a weekend retreat rather than a one-day event, I offer that option as well.