17 December 2017

Consider.. The God – Given Role of Woman

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.”…The Lord God made a woman…” (Genesis 2:18&22)

Recently a few items in the media have stopped me in my tracks and have caused me to consider what I really believe it means to be a Godly woman in the 21st century. Ever since our suffragette sisters fought for our emancipation we women have believed that we can have it all – no door should be barred to us and all should be possible. Career, family, financial independence, education – it should all be there for the taking. I am glad to have had the opportunity to study at university level and to have forged a career for myself. I am grateful that the work of women in previous years has offered me more freedom to make choices in my own life. However, over the last few years this idea that I, as a woman, should ‘have it all’ has felt like a lot on my plate. Am I the only one who feels that the pull of family, the pull of career, and the pull of further education are just one pull too many? This has caused me, on numerous occasions, to wonder about what God wants for me, as a woman living in this aspirational, ‘all things are possible’ age.

One of the media items that arrested my attention on this issue was a television series entitled, ‘Living with the Amish’ which aired a few months ago on Channel Four. The basic premise was that a group of slightly skeptical teenagers from the UK travelled to America to spend time living with families in various Amish communities, experiencing their unique culture and learning from their values. This series is still available for viewing on 4oD and I would encourage you to watch at least one episode. I believe it will challenge you to contemplate how we, as Christians, should be taking more of a stand in promoting and upholding our Godly values in this modern, secular culture. However, the reason it stopped me in my tracks was that I was struck by the great dignity, strength, and worth the Amish women felt as they fulfilled their clearly defined role of ‘female’ in their community. It was plain to see that they were submissive to their husbands and held a very domesticated position, yet they were not downtrodden workhorses. They were joyful in their God-given role and exuded great purpose in their lives. It baffled the British teenagers, especially the girls, and it resonated with me. I found myself envious of their clearly defined positions and their uncomplicated desire to nurture their children and be devoted to the home. Their example drew my attention to the book of Proverbs, chapter 31, within which we are given a very detailed picture of ‘The Wife of Noble Character’. She is quite the woman! Interestingly her self worth and fulfillment comes from the tasks she carries out for her husband, her children, and those in need in her community. Her role is that of nurturer, or as we are defined in the very beginning, as ‘helper’. “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls…She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:15&20) When we, as Godly women ignore or suppress this desire to nurture I believe we miss out on a fundamental, God-given part of our nature. And please understand, you do not need to be married or have a brood of children in your midst to exercise these female qualities. Caring for and reaching out to family members, friends, people in church or people with needs on our streets uses the same nurturing gifts. It is true to say that many a feminist would have me hung drawn and quartered for making the comment, but I believe God has given each woman a nurturing heart and His design is perfect.

Now, I have to say that after watching an episode of ‘Living with the Amish’ each week I would turn to my husband and wistfully say, “I wish I could be like those women.” He would respond with a chuckle and glance, not so subtly, towards the unwashed dishes on the draining board and the pile of ironing defying gravity as it balanced twice the height of the basket. The truth is, I am a stay-at-home mum and I know God has called me to focus on raising and nurturing our children, but I do struggle to be enthused by keeping house. I have always felt discordance in my spirit over the desire to be a good wife and mother, and the desire to use the talents I believe God has given me in a working environment. The great joy I have discovered is that these two do not have to be dichotomies – rather they are both sides of my nature. The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs is a capable woman, “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” (v 17-18) This model of womanhood provided in Scripture is able to use her God-given skills to benefit her family. We shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to use our minds and our talents. However, please do be aware that, like so many things in life, balance is the key. The wife of noble character does not neglect the nurturing of her family in order to pursue her own interests, rather her work outside the home enriches her family and enables her to provide greater care, “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed…” (v 21-22) In my experience I have felt most overstretched and unhappy when I have tried to do it all, all of the time – full-time job and full-time carer of children, home and family. Thankfully God does not demand this from us. I believe our culture puts this pressure on our shoulders. Our Father wants us to fully enter into our purpose as women, and in that we will find great fulfillment, security and joy. This is what I am pursuing and I encourage you to take a moment to consider your God-given role in life.

Christine Cordner