If you follow global news, you know that something is amiss. A storm is raging around gender, and we are yet to face its full fury here in Africa. To the world, gender means nothing beyond biological differences. Gender doesn’t matter. As such, marriage and family have become mere cultural constructions or obsolete institutions. This remarkable disintegration is taking place before our eyes. And its implications for our understanding and celebration of womanhood are massive.
Today, even biological difference is fading away. In his first week in office, Joe Biden made an executive order to include transgender athletes on female teams in high school and college sports. The directive stated that, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” It added that Biden’s administration will “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The language suggests that gender is a uniform one can simply put on or take off.
The language of gender identity and sexual orientation suggests that gender is a uniform one can simply put on and take off, whenever you want. In the name of stopping discrimination, biology no longer has a say in the matter. As I’ve said, this article won’t challenge these global trends. Instead I want to show how womanhood is stifled and ultimately suffocated in these conversations.
How Did We Get Here?
Elizabeth Elliot, in an essay on the essence of femininity, notes, “throughout the millennia of human history, up until the past two decades or so, people took for granted that the differences between men and women were so evident as to need no comment. They accepted the way things were. But our easy assumptions have been assailed and confused; we have lost our bearings in a fog of rhetoric about something called equality so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to belabour to educated people what was once perfectly obvious to the simplest peasant.”
Existentialism asserts that people are free agents who control their choices and actions.
The quandary Elliot describes has arisen from humanism and existentialism. Neither affirm that God is sovereign over his creation. Humanism posits that the world is only a natural place, where reason and science suffice. Existentialism, on the other hand, asserts that people are free agents who control their choices and actions. The women’s movement that arose in the 1950s encouraged women to look within themselves and to their intellectual capabilities rather than God for ultimate satisfaction. As one feminist thinker, Betty Friedan, writes, “we women do not need and can’t trust any other authority other than our own personal truth.”
The Deeper Reasons Behind Our Rejection of Womanhood
As Christians, this should not surprise us. God warns of such trends in his word. Paul’s discourse in Romans 1:18-32 echoes the deeper problem of humanity’s sinfulness. Paul notes that the world is under God’s judgment, because it overturns the truth. Furthermore, he says that humanity knows the truth but deliberately suppresses it. Instead of choosing truth and its foundation, namely God, we continually harden our hearts and consciences, discarding what Elliot rightly called “perfectly obvious.”
Humanity knows the truth but deliberately suppresses it.
So, in turn, God leaves the world blind and allows it to wallow in its own deceit. Thus in our idolatry and self-conceit, we ignore the obvious biological gender distinctions and complementary roles. To do so isn’t merely to carelessly follow the course of culture. It is to reject something that God clearly says in the Bible. And because he insists that gender matters, so does your womanhood.
Women are Different, Yet Just as much in God’s Image
1. Womanhood is About God
God created the woman for his ultimate glory and fame. Like the man, the woman was fashioned in the image of God and bears equal responsibility with him to mirror God (Genesis 1:27). To be a woman is not to be a second-class citizen. Women were not an afterthought. Instead, as God image-bearers, we share his nature and possess abilities that no other creature has.
In Genesis 1, we read about a good God who is intentional about every part of his creation. The text constantly affirms that God was pleased with his work. He called it good at every stage of creation (Genesis 1:1, 12, 18, 25). But when God created man and woman, his masterpiece, creation was complete. God saw everything and it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
2. Women Mirror God in Ways Men Cannot
Even though Adam and Eve are both made in his image, commanded to be fruitful and multiply, they fulfil this mandate differently. As they go about this they reflect different aspects of God’s character. More importantly, they were to do this together, not separately.
When God first introduces Eve to Adam, he breaks into song (Genesis 2:23). Adam recognises her beauty, along with her stark contrast to him. She was different from him for a purpose. We’ll get to that in a minute, below.
3. Complementary Genders Anticipate the Church and Christ
The Genesis story begins with a love story. This is very profound, for there will be a grand wedding at the end of the age (Revelation 19:9). Augustine put it well, writing, “As Eve was got out of Adam’s side, so was the Church born out of Jesus’ piercing at the cross.” God knew that sin was about to beckon at the first couple’s door. He, therefore, patterned it according to the relationship that would counter sin once and all, namely Christ and the Church (Romans 5:14; Ephesians 5:23-24).
Womanhood Has a Peculiar Purpose and Design
Firstly, God created woman and called her to be the man’s helper. Adam could not be fruitful or multiply without another. So God, in his divine wisdom, provided him with someone to support him. The term ‘helper’ by worldly standards connotes feebleness. But in the scriptures, it reflects who God is in himself (Psalm 27:1-8; 46:1; 54:4).
Secondly, God created woman to be the life-giver and nurturer. Filling the earth is not a one person job (Genesis 1:28). Our bodies testify to this concealed, but significant truth. Mary Kassian, in her book, True Woman 101, says: “while the male body produces large quantities of testosterone, which creates the push to advance, take risks, guard, and conquer, the female body produces a large amount of oxytocin, promoting bonding and affiliation and enhances maternal instinct.”
God created woman to be the life-giver and nurturer.
The world, unfortunately, has looked down on motherhood. Part of the reason for this is that children are considered a waste of time, inconvenient interruptions. But another extreme exists, which says motherhood is the singular goal of womanhood. Importantly, not to mention biblically, birthing and nurturing children is a gift from God. But not every woman is called by God to it. However, we should have a God-honouring attitude toward motherhood (Titus 2:4).
Womanhood is More than Motherhood
This life-giving characteristic is symbolic of the influence women can have in their relationships, homes, churches, and communities. We are life-givers when we share words of encouragement with those who are discouraged. We nurture when we seek to disciple and mentor other women. Although motherhood is one of the highest badges of honour in African culture, God celebrates womanhood, whether there are children or not.
God celebrates womanhood, whether there are children or not.
Nurturing entails viewing both homemaking and hospitality as a God-given assignment for women. This is true whether we are single, married, or widowed. The world gives us the wrong view that the home is secondary. It says house chores are meaningless, but unavoidable tasks. However, in God’s economy, a home is a sacred place where children with immortal souls are nurtured. Here their worldview will either be shaped for God’s glory or not. Therefore real ministry to souls happens in very ordinary places (Titus 2:3-5).
Two Common Objections to Biblical Womanhood
One lady said to me, “I love this canvas you have painted, but what about my intellectual competencies? Must they all go to waste?”
Women, God affirms your gifts and skills! However, at the same time, we need to remember that our identity is not in any of the things given to us by him, whether intellectual insight, children, marriage, career, etc. Instead, our identity is found in God alone. Unfortunately, much of our education and vocations today cause us to mute this beautiful design as women. It is up to us to ask God to lead us step by step in using our gifts creatively to serve others gladly both within and outside the home.
Figure out the season of life you are in and how you can serve faithfully in it.
A second common objection is, ‘What about the abuse that women suffer at the hands of men? Is it not encouraged by the Bible’s teaching on womanhood?’
This requires a lot more ground to deal with. But, in a nutshell, I will say that we live in the post-fall era in which the world is tainted with the consequences of sin (Genesis 3:14-18). I honour men and women seeking to reduce these injustices, and while we can be a part of that solution, remember that we are all guilty sinners in need of God’s redemption through his Son, Jesus. He is the ultimate solution for sin.
My Final Exhortation
And so, I leave you with this challenge. Figure out the season of life you are in and how you can serve faithfully in it. If we are indeed disciples of Jesus who want to proclaim his lordship, we must align ourselves with God’s design. I have laboured to explain how each of these facets reflects God. Our gender is profoundly stamped by God himself. Thus our womanhood is about God. How we choose to live it out says something about our understanding of who God is.