Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Biblical Womanhood

I guess the title says it all right? I don't know if it's just me...but when I hear those two words, I immediately get a picture in my head of what I think biblical womanhood looks like. Let me tell you...the picture I get is the exact opposite of who I am. It can be really discouraging at times to have this picture of what I think it should look like...and then look at myself in the mirror.

The picture I get in my mind...a biblical woman is soft spoken, submissive(with no questions asked...think "yes dear, of course dear, whatever you say dear"), warm smiles, good hugs, always cooking something, cleaning something, staying home and raising children, calm, quiet, put together, reserved...etc. I picture women like my pastors wives...who are all wonderful women that I look up to very much. They aren't all like this...but you get the picture...I'm sure this describes people in your life as well. If you're not following...the best I can come up with for a comparison would be women from the 1920's-1950's I guess. The role of the woman...her ultimate goal in life is to grow up to get married, have babies, cook, and clean. I's ridiculous, but for whatever reason...this is just always what comes to mind when I think of a biblical woman.

Then when I look in the mirror...I see...a mess, I see someone who is loud, someone who argues all the time, someone who hates cleaning and will try to get out of cooking if she can help it, I see someone who is lazy, I see someone who would rather serve outside the home rather than in it...I see a lot of things about myself that don't describe a biblical woman at all.

So I guess you can see where the struggle is. I know my picture of biblical womanhood is pretty ridiculous...and you're probably sitting there thinking "she's hating on herself", I'm just being honest...and most of the people who know me well will agree. So anyway, I've just been unpacking lately what it means to be a biblical woman. There is a lot out there about what biblical womanhood is...I'm not claiming to be an expert, I'm just sharing my journey of finding out what biblical womanhood looks like in my own life.
Titus 2:3-5 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Okay well, lets start here...since this is typically where I find myself resorting back to that really skewed picture. It's easy to read this and think...yeah that's exactly what it's saying, that you have to be quiet, married, and stay at home. Hang on, not so much. Lets walk through it...
  • This is basically saying that older women...that's anyone who is old enough to mentor someone younger...(I'd say college girls on up...). No matter your stage of life, you should be discipled by someone who is older and wiser than you...and in turn, you should be taking in what they teach you and teach it to someone else. That goes back to the great go and make disciples...and in Proverbs where it says to train up a child in the way he should go(if you haven't noticed...especially in the south...a child is pretty much anyone who is younger than you)
  • Then...the things older women are supposed to teach the younger women:
    • act like a lady...not in the 'wear a dress and cross your ankles and bake 24/7' kind of way...I'm not sure the best way to explain what it's saying...but don't act like a dude...don't scratch your butt...don't power-trip...don't swear...stuff like a girl...
    • don't gossip...kind of obvious
    • don't get drunk...this is for both guys and girls...but making sure that girls know it is specifically directed at them too
  • The older women are to teach good things and not false things or bad things (they are supposed to teach things with the way they live as well as what they speak)
  • Older women are to show younger women how to be wives and's a lot to take on to go from being single to being married. Saying your vows doesn't somehow give you all the information you need on cooking and cleaning and taking care of your husband or how to raise children or what to do at 3am when your baby will not stop crying(and no, throwing the baby out the window is not the answer).
  • Verse 5 is usually what trips me up...
    • self-controlled...that's good...people in general should be self-controlled
    • pure...that's good too...not just sexual purity but mental and spiritual purity as well.
    • here's where I always got tripped up...working at my mind I always thought that it ruled out getting a I have to stay at home. This is simply not the case. Taking care of a home is work. There's a lot to do to keep a home from falling apart. It's not saying that you can't ever work outside of the's telling you to be diligent in your work at home.
    • kind...that's good...people should be kind to one another...the world would be an awesome place if we would just stick to what God tells us to one another and be kind
    • here's another one that always got me...submissive to their own husbands...two things with this one:
      • I always thought it meant that whatever he said goes and I couldn't say anything in disagreement. Also not the case...being submissive doesn't mean that you can't discuss things with your husband. Your husband is held doubly accountable before God. He has to answer not only for himself but for the way he led you and your family. Together you must come to a place of agreement in the direction your life you raise your children, the way in which you set up house. It's about trusting his leadership and encouraging him in his role.
      • I also always wondered about the single women...they don't have a who do they submit to? God puts men and women in your life...parents...grandparents...small group help you and hold you accountable. If you aren't married, these are the people that will help direct you and care for you.
    • that the word of God may not be reviled...also good...keeping the word of God holy in your life.
So that's what Titus 2 describes. I don't know if you can see where I get tripped up or not...again, I may be the only one who struggles this way...but it's always good to study scripture. This is usually the scripture that discourages me the most...I feel completely unworthy after I read this...I'm not married, I don't even plan on being married anytime in the near end goal in life at the moment is not to work at home and have kids. I feel like I'm not a biblical woman because that stuff isn't on my radar. I'm a single woman, done with school, working a job and hanging out with college kids. I can handle power tools better than I can anything in a kitchen. My daily routine includes getting dressed, reading my Bible, make it through work, eat something, go to M28, don't be anti-social, and get at least 4 hours of sleep. I read this scripture and I feel horrible...I'm not investing in younger women as much as I should...I'm not training to be a does that mean that I'm not a biblical woman?

This is the part where I usually get so discouraged I walk off in a bad mood...but lets not stop there...
Proverbs 31:10-31 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Okay, so yeah it starts off with an excellent wife...but stay with me here...remember, you're not going to automatically gain these qualities once you get gotta start now. Lets do the same thing we did with the verses in Titus 2...
  • V11. Her husband trusts her...okay that means you're trustworthy...that people around you trust you. He will have no lack of gain...she makes him a better person...or if you're not invest in people, care for them, encourage them.
  • V12. She does him good not harm all the days of her she takes care of's a life-long commitment. It means to be consistent in investing/caring for others...not hurting them by gossip or slander or doing anything that would directly hurt someone else.
  • V13. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. - She seeks valuable resources and is willing and eager to find work and work hard at it...she doesn't just sit around the house all day long...she goes to work whether at home or at a job, she is always finding something that needs to be done and working at it until completion. (Or as my old manager used to say: "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.")
  • V14. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar...This woman makes sure she gets the best food for her household...she searches for the best prices, even going out of her way to get something that she needs...she doesn't just go to the nearest grocery, she weighs the options, checks the sales, cuts coupons...she is wise with her money.
  • V15. She rises while it is yet night...She wakes up EARLY, she doesn't sleep til noon and stay up all night...she rises early so that she can get things done before anyone else is awake. And provides food for her household and portions for her maidens...she cooks...she makes sure that the people around her are served and cared for.
  • V16. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard...she works in real estate!!! This woman considers things before she does them or buys them...she careful plans things out and chooses something based on what is best for her family...she doesn't do things on a whim. After she buys her property, she works it herself...she puts the seeds in the ground herself...for us this is taking care of our homes, our land...making sure that the apartment/room isn't trashed, paying the rent on time...
  • V17. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong....She goes to the gym...haha probably not...but this woman works hard enough that she has muscles...we aren't called to be dainty or needy...we are called to be strong and work hard. Not to say that we should be so independent that we don't need men in our lives but we need to be strong enough to support ourselves if we aren't called to be married...and strong enough to support ourselves and our family when/if the husband travels or is away for long periods of time. It is a good thing to be able.
  • V18. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night....She makes things, she is a business owner. She makes enough money to keep the lamp (heat, air conditioning, electricity...the utilities) going all day and all night.
  • V19. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the many different ways this woman is strong and talented...she knows a lot of things, how to fix things, how to work a power saw and a kitchen mixer...she is well rounded in her areas of ability.
  • V20. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. - She is charitable...she not only takes care of herself and her household but she invests time and energy and money towards those who are less fortunate than her. She donates money, she probably cooks meals for people or opens up her home to someone who needs a place to say. She sees the need and fills it, she crosses the street as Christine Caine would say...she doesn't just walk by on the other side, she's a good Samaritan
  • V21. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet...she isn't afraid of inclement weather because she and her family will be safe and warm...she makes sure that everyone has the clothing and protection they need for every circumstance.
  • V22. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Again, just like above...she takes care of her family by making/buying/providing nice things for her family...things that are good quality.
  • V23. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. This is important to me because this means that he is confident that things at home are taken care of...he doesn't have to worry about things at home because she's got it covered...she works hard enough so that he has the time to go sit with other pastors and teachers. She makes his ministry possible.
  • V24. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. As we saw earlier, she is a business woman...not only is she taking care of things at home but she has enough time and resources to have a side business! This lady is crazy talented and a superb multitasker!
  • V25. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. - She's strong...people look up to her because of how she carries herself. She has poise and elegance. Also...the future doesn't make her want to curl into a ball and cry. I don't know about you but the future is pretty scary to me...but not to this lady. She isn't afraid of the things that could happen because she trusts in God for her future and she spends her days making sure things are taken care of instead of procrastinating.
  • V26. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. - She is kind and wise...when she opens her mouth it isn't foolish talk or gossip, it's something to pay close attention to. We all know those people who don't say much but when they do it's always something really deep or something that really speaks perfectly into the situation.
  • V27. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. - This lady is NOT lazy (if you haven't figured that out already). She makes sure her household is being run in a way that pleases the Lord and makes sure they have everything they, bills are paid, laundry is done etc.
  • V28. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. - This lady's family sees how hard she works and they respect her and love her for it. There is probably not a mom out there who wouldn't agree that this is the best kind of gift. 
  • V29. "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." - These are the praises of her husband. I can totally see where he is coming from...there are many awesome ladies out there, but how many do you know that completely embody everything that was written in this passage? I know that I am nowhere near living up to this lady. 
  • V30. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. - I think that so often we forget this. Especially in the society in which we live, beauty is the number one thing to everyone. I bet you can't watch TV for 10 minutes before seeing an ad for clothing or makeup or perfume or a TV show about models or fashion. Our society has been programmed to value beauty and vanity over hard work and a relationship with God. I know far too many women that cannot leave the house without makeup...I also know many who won't even leave their bedroom without makeup on. Makeup is not what makes you beautiful, it is not what will last...when you are completely invested in the life that God has called you to, that is beauty, that is charm. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who loves the Lord with everything she has.
  • V31. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. - This basically says that she is known throughout the land because of her hard work. Not only does she make her husband's ministry possible as we discovered earlier, her ministry is praised at the gates as well...even if she isn't there herself. When she is working, people see it and it is a ministry to them. She doesn't go around boasting of what she has done....her heart of service and her love of God speak for her and everyone in town knows who she is because of her example. 
Well, we have reached the end. I'm really not sure how I planned to wrap this all up...I'm not even sure why I wrote all of this. Maybe it was just for my own help me understand what God is calling me to be as I grow older. If you're still with me after this epistle of sorts, thank you! I hope it was as helpful to you as it was to me. I think this is one of the most misunderstood topics in the Bible and so many teachings do nothing to dispel the confusion.
Biblical womanhood according to the Bible does not describe a meek little housewife who has never experienced fact, it describes the exact opposite. I am so glad to see that this woman was educated and independent and godly. It helps me to see that Biblical womanhood isn't cookie-cutter...that even if you are loud and crazy, you can still be a woman after God's heart. Maybe once I get married, I will settle down into a meek housewife...I kind of doubt it but you never know what God is going to do. 

I think my favorite stories of modern women who best represent this biblical standard would be Ruth Graham and John Piper's mother. There's not a specific story about Ruth Graham, but I've heard so many times how she made it possible for Billy Graham to conduct his ministry away from home by making sure that home-life was taken care of. He didn't have to worry about home because he knew she had it taken care of. I have never seen a more reverent and strong woman than Ruth Graham. 

I read of John Piper's mother in a book he wrote entitled "What's the Difference? - Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible." (Which is an AWESOME and very helpful book...I would highly recommend it to all of you no matter your season of life.) 
"When I was a boy growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, my father was away from home about two-thirds of every year. And while he preached across the country, we prayed - my mother and my older sister and I. What I learned in those days was that my mother was omni-competent.
She handled the finances, paying all the bills and dealing with the bank and creditors. She once ran a little laundry business on the side. She was active on the park board, served as the superintendent of the Intermediate Department of our Southern Baptist church, and managed some real estate holdings. 
She taught me how to cut the grass and splice electric cord and pull Bermuda grass by the roots and paint the eaves and shine the dining-room table with a shammy and drive a car and keep French fries from getting soggy in the cooking oil. She helped me with the maps in geography and showed me how to do a bibliography and work up a science project on static electricity and believe that Algebra II was possible. She dealt with the contractors when we added a basement and, more than once, put her hand to the shovel. It never occurred to me that there was anything she couldn't do.
I heard one time that women don't sweat, they glow. Not true. My mother sweated. It would drip off the end of her long, sharp nose. Sometimes she would blow it off when her hands were pushing the wheelbarrow full of peat moss. Or she would wipe it with her sleeve between the strokes of a swingblade. Mother was strong. I can remember her arms even today thirty years later. They were big, and in the summertime they were bronze.
But it never occurred to me to think of my mother and my father in the same category. Both were strong. Both were bright. Both were kind. Both would kiss me and both would spank me. Both were good with words. Both prayed with fervor and loved the Bible. But unmistakably my father was a man and my mother was a woman. They knew it and I knew it. And it was not mainly a biological fact. It was mainly a matter of personhood and relational dynamics.
 When my father came home he was clearly the head of the house. He led in prayer at the table. He called the family together for devotions. He got us to Sunday School and worship. He drove the car. He guided the family to where we would sit. He made the decision to go to Howard Johnson's for lunch. He led us to the table. He called for the waitress. He paid the check. He was the one we knew we would reckon with if we broke a family rule or were disrespectful to Mother. These were the happiest times for Mother. Oh how she rejoiced to have Daddy home! She loved his leadership. Later I learned that the Bible calls this "submission."
 But since my father was gone most of the time, Mother used to do most of those leadership things too. So it never occurred to me that leadership and submission had anything to do with superiority and inferiority. And it didn't have to do with muscles and skills either. It was not a matter of capabilities and competencies. It had to do with something I could never have explained as a child. And I have been a long time in coming to understand it as part of God's great goodness in creating us male and female. It had to do with something very deep. I know that the specific rhythm of life that was in our home is not the only good one. But there were dimensions of reality and goodness in it that ought to be there in every home. Indeed they ought to be there in varying ways in all mature relationships between men and women.
 I say "ought to be there" because I now see that they were rooted in God. Over the years I have come to see from Scripture and from life that manhood and womanhood are the beautiful handiwork of a good and loving God. He designed our differences and they are profound."
I probably read those first couple of pages a million times before I was able to move on. I had read the Bible passages so many times but it never occurred to me what they were actually saying. John Piper's book opened my eyes to the fact that I can have a colorful personality and still be a biblical woman. I don't have to stop being independent or quit my job when I get married...I don't even have to get married if God has called me to single life...I don't have to do anything except follow God, be attentive to his will and work hard at whatever I do in order to be an example of biblical womanhood. It is with such joy that I finally realized that. I hope that you ladies understand that too. You don't have to be a cookie-cutter are you with all of your personality and your strengths and that is who God made you to be. Lose yourself in him and his word, work hard and you will be more precious than jewels. (And for you guys who have read this...I hope this helps you know what you are looking for in a woman.)

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