16 January, 2007

Woman, Define Yourself

It has been quite a while since I or many of my blogging friends have posted anything. I have several long drafts in my folder, waiting to become readable. I don't know if I'll ever finish them. But tonight I had something to write that I need to remember for later.

The men in my church recently went to a conference (a "Manference") concerning biblical manhood. The ones I talked to came back envisioned for pursuing the ideals of biblical manhood. For several reasons I pulled out my notes for the two women's conferences I've attended, one in 2000 and the other in 2004. I'm very curious to read the notes from the Manference, to see how the two conferences compare (though I wonder if that will ever happen) because...frankly, the women's conference in 2004 hurt.

In fact, I spent an hour tonight with tears on my face, struggling with my emotions surrounding biblical femininity. What is it? Is it possible to separate femininity into what is culturally acceptable and God's standards? To research this, I turned to Proverbs 31, which is my 2nd favorite passage of the Bible (my first, for the record, is Psalm 30:5).

Here's what I noticed about Proverbs 31. Things seem to be mentioned in a rather scatter-brained order, but it made sense that this was a listing of the woman's priorities, not just a collection of random thoughts. Taking that into consideration, I noticed that she is trusted by her husband, and his welfare is her first concern. She's eager to work, and cares for her household when no one notices. She invests her efforts and time wisely, not selfishly. She is physically active to be strong, not just to look good. She has found a valuable niche for her business efforts, and gives her customers a quality product. She is generous, even seeking those who are not asking for a handout in order to give. She is confident that her household's current and future needs are provided for, which reflects how she trusts her husband. She enjoys the fruit of her own work. She teaches the truth (wisdom) in love (kindness) to others. She cares well for her household, being neither idle nor micromanaging. Her family appreciates her publicly, and she is rewarded for the fruits of her actions. And here's the jewel of the whole chapter: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

Isn't it funny how many of these qualities are applicable to both men and women? I don't know any man who shouldn't invest his time or money into something he hasn't thought long and hard about, or who shouldn't be generous. I know that society has been celebrating the homogenizing of women and men, which is despicable. Because heart attitudes are so difficult to measure, however, it's easier to give people a list of what is masculine and what is feminine, rather than defining motivations.

I was not envisioned with biblical femininity at the women's conference, nor a heart attitude to strive after. I was given a list of do's and dont's, which was extremely burdening. Grace was in there somewhere, but it seemed to be thrown in as an afterthought. "Here's how you should grow, and this is what you need to do it. Oh, and don't forget that this is a collaboration with the Holy Spirit." Wha-? Grace isn't a safety net for when my efforts fail, but it should be the motivating factor behind my work. Where's the Main Thing? How can I pursue femininity while keeping the gospel central? Sovereign Grace's presentation of biblical femininity seems skewed. It seems they're describing biblical femininity plus personality traits and cultural femininity. Yes, I want to be culturally relevant, but please don't tell me that interior decorating is akin to evangelism. Sure, it can facilitate it, but if I don't evangelize in my home because it's not perfect then God is not served.

Rather than seeing my position in life as God's will for me, I was told that God wanted me somewhere else, with a husband and children. How is that in any way biblical? I am eager for the day that God will bless me with a husband and children, but do you know how hard it is to be satisfied in singlehood when one has been preparing for marriage and motherhood since infancy?

Could I use this information to prepare for the future? Of course. Next time I have the opportunity, I'll go camping with a Bible instead of attending a womens' conference. Ok, ok my reaction probably shouldn't be so extreme. But this conference had no new information for me, and I'm still sinning in jealousy and bitterness because where I am is not where I want to be. I'm excited for the future, but I need to be excited about here and now, too.

If you see points that need editing, please tell me. I'd gladly edit bitterness and jealousy out of my life, but I'm having a hard time seeing how right now...


Jon Daley said...

I don't have very good notes for the main sessions - I tend to not be very good about writing notes for other people to read.

I do, however, have all of the handouts for the main and small groups - probably a month or two of reading material...

I wonder if you would like to come over and talk about things with Heather and I?

Clear Ambassador said...

If the women's conferences and Sovereign Grace's presentation of femininity are indeed as you have presented them here, than I wouldn't leave this at just a blog post, but I would email some folks, maybe starting with our pastors, and let them know your concerns.

If this post is accurate, properly bereft of bitterness and jealousy and emotional reactions, then you will have a solid case to talk about with our pastors. If it is emotional and skewed by your sin, then as you talk to them (or probably just as you contemplate and prepare for talking to them), your case will fall apart in your hands.

That has been my experience with several issues I have almost brought to people. Most ended in my brain. One ended with a three-hour talk with Dr.Parker in his office! I don't know if you're right or wrong, but I'd say don't leave it here.

Your bro
--Clear Ambassador

Clear Ambassador said...



SursumCorda said...

Your response to the women's conference seems pretty healthy to me, if it is as I am imagining. I think I've been to a few conferences like that, myself.... Camping with a Bible sounds like a good alternative, though it might be nice to have a few friends along who are asking the same questions. Don't get me wrong -- I think marriage and parenthood (and grandparenthood) are wonderful! And in most of our society, highly underrated. But in our enthusiasm as Christians (and somewhat in reaction to society's disdain) we often forget St. Paul and the fact that singleness was once honored for both men and women. We serve God best RIGHT NOW, where and how we are, not "when I grow up," "after I graduate," "when I get married," or "as soon as [insert expectation of the future here]."

Laedelas Greenleaf said...

Thank you all for your encouragement. Your comments provided some healthy meditation on my part :-)

Jason said...

I was going to comment earlier, but every time I stopped by your blog, this post reminded me that I hadn't finished my own "notes" post.

I've (obviously) only sat under Sovereign Grace's Biblical manhood teaching, so I can't really comment on their womanhood ones. The manhood teaching has been good. Some of it can feel like a kick in the pants (I think we call this conviction), but I wouldn't say they presented grace as a throw-in. This year especially, Dave Harvey's opening message brought God's grace into focus.

It's unfortunate the womanhood teachings lead you to feel like you can't truly serve God until/unless you're a wife and mother. At The Quest, certain things were directed more at husbands and fathers, but there was always truth for us single guys to learn from as well.

Just remember, though, new information (I wouldn't say there was any at The Quest) isn't necessary to make a conference good. Learning to apply previously learned truth is a lot in and of itself, so we're often re-taught things. As you mentioned, everything taught must relate to the Main Thing, and the Main Thing doesn't change.

Jason said...

(whoops, posted too soon)

I intend my comments to be encouraging. I hope they don't come across otherwise.

Laedelas Greenleaf said...

Thanks, Jason. They were very encouraging. It is especially encouraging to see my Christian brothers pursuing God's ideals so wholeheartedly. Call it healthy peer pressure :-)

Reminders are wonderful. Youth Camp is a good example--rarely do I learn "new" things, but my perspective shifts again and I learn more through new experiences.