As I lay in intensive care after lengthy brain surgery last May, two things spontaneously flowed out of my spirit. First came words of praise and adoration, thanking God over and over again for the gift of life. Second came a greater and greater burden for the message He has called me to carry: the blessing of children and the great worth of motherhood and homemaking.
That burden resurfaces every time I encounter the “empowerment of women” message. Don’t get me wrong! I am not for the oppression of women that occurred in the past (and that currently exists in many cultures of the world.) Women should have the freedom to vote, get an education, utilize their gifts, handle their finances, and escape abusive husbands. The absence of those things is wrong. However, while early feminists rightly diagnosed the problems, I believe they came up with some wrong solutions—solutions that affect our thinking today.
If you do a little research, you discover that many of the movers and shakers of the feminist movement were blatantly anti-God. The famous Susan B. Anthony (the face on the dollar coin) was a vocal proponent of the idea that women should be able to remain single and completely independent of men. Betty Friedan, author of the wildly popular book The Feminine Mystique, claimed that two things are necessary if women are to take their rightful place in the world: abortion and childcare. In other words, they totally eschewed marriage and motherhood, viewing them as roadblocks to women’s fulfillment.
That’s what concerns me about the women’s empowerment movement. Women are encouraged to fulfill their dreams, but nowhere in the midst of that do I hear an affirmation of motherhood and homemaking. It’s like we’ve let the pendulum swing from one extreme to the other—from the abuse of women on one end to the empowerment of women on the other end—and missed the sweet place of the God-ordained design of a woman that, I believe, belongs right in the middle. In our rush to gain equality with men, we’ve run right past our God-given assignment as keepers of the home and had to step around our God-designed ability to bear and nurture children.
Maybe that’s why Titus reminded the older women to encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children and be workers at home. Maybe that message needed to be emphasized in a world that tells young women to follow their dreams and callings, often at the expense of husband and children.
A study note in the ESV Study Bible helps me understand a confusing verse related to this topic. In the context of the fall, when God pronounced curses on Adam, Eve, and the serpent, God told the woman this: Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16b). The ESV commentary says this: “The ongoing result of Adam and Eve’s original sin of rebellion against God will have disastrous consequences for their relationship: 1) Eve will have the sinful desire to oppose Adam and to assert leadership over him, reversing God’s plan for Adam’s leadership in marriage. But (2) Adam will also abandon his God-given, pre-fall role of leading, guarding, and caring for his wife, replacing this with his own sinful, distorted desire to ‘rule’ over Eve. Thus one of the most tragic results of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is an ongoing, damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behavior of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage.”
Maybe instead of preaching the empowerment of women, we need to go back to the basics and teach a two-pronged message: 1) Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. 2) Wives, love and serve your husbands and children. Maybe we’ve got our message all wrong. It’s possible that women have sought a place of power because the men in their lives have not cherished and loved them as God intended. Maybe we need to run from the pendulum swing and call everyone back to the place of balance and original God-given design right in the middle.
I don’t have all the answers to this very complex topic and can’t begin to deal with all the related issues (What about single women? What about divorced women? etc) but I felt a need to get my thoughts out there before I take a break for the summer.
May you be blessed as you seek that “sweet spot” of God-ordained life in the middle.
See you in September!
P.S. Featured today are Patrick and Hope Farmer and one of their foster sons. In the midst of contending in faith for an open womb, they have taken in three precious sons. I am always touched by her online posts about her challenging journey in caring for them, such as the one posted after a day at the fair: “My favorite days are the ones when we can give the boys moments of pure joy. They walk with such heavy hearts because they have seen too much, been through too many horrible things, and taken responsibility for people who should have been caring for them. Today they had windows of time with no thoughts of anything but how exhilarating the ride was! The smiles and giggles on the bumper cars, the cotton-candy grins, the pure exhaustion on the car ride home…I hope they hold those moments in their hearts forever and that these memories push some of the yucky ones straight out of their heads! Sweet dreams, little ones.” We bless you, Patrick and Hope, pray for an outpouring of God’s grace to be upon you as you care for these boys,and stand in faith with you for an open womb!