Jane Fonda or June Cleaver? Hilary Rodham Clinton or Laura Bush? Rosie O’Donnell or Martha Stewart? Mary or Martha? We all tend to identify with one more than the other. Some of us would secretly love to sit on a tank in fatigues and rivet a nation’s attention with our political message. Some of us know exactly what we would do if we were president. Some of us fantasize of having our houses in such order that a television crew could be a welcome guest. Some of us would sit at the feet of Jesus despite impolite comments from the opposite sex. Some of us right now are encumbered with much serving.
Why do some women tend toward political debate? Why are some interested in competitive cooking or decorating? Why do many camp out at tanning salons or dress shops? Why do some pursue seminary degrees and others fashion merchandising? What does it mean to be a woman? What are our similarities? What are our differences? Where do you and I find our identity as females?
The term “identity” is interesting to study. Most definitions include the terms individuality or uniqueness. There is something in our identity as women that sets us apart and makes us unique from non-women (i. e. men). And yet, much of our culture rejects the idea that there is something specific to womanhood that binds us as a unique group. We fear that defining feminine identity will suppress individual uniqueness. More pointedly, we fear that defining feminine identity will give ammunition to our oppressors. So we reject any definition at all, labeling all such attempts as stereotypes. Nowhere is that rejection more obvious than the “stereotypes” of womanhood presented in Scripture.
If you do not believe in a sovereign creator God, then we are at a roadblock for future discussion. Because in Scripture, the defining characteristics of the first woman—those things that make her utterly unique to her male counterpart—are inextricably tied to the character of her Creator. If you do believe in a creator God, or are at least willing to consider that he might exist, then consider what he created in woman and how her identity is tied to his. Knowing him precedes knowing ourselves. If we want to understand our identity as women, we must first understand his identity as God.
If you wrestle with a fear of oppresion, consider Christ. If you struggle with feeling a doormat, study the names of God. If being created to be a helper sounds condescending to you, search through the verses that teach of God as our Helper. Submission, respect, and help are meaningless terms when separated from a thorough understanding of the character and attributes of God. There is no sufficient answer to the problems women face that isn’t wrapped up completely in God’s character and all he has done for us through Christ. No other solution works, and any benefit it provides is temporary at best. Knowing God precedes knowing ourselves. And in Christ alone are we equipped to reclaim the identity for which He created us.
Suggested reading: Philippians 2, Colossians 1-3, Hebrews 1, John 1