Like blinking eyes, the sun’s rays flashed through the Spanish moss dangling from the oak trees. The sky began its progressive filter into golden hour, while the pristine rural setting of an old Baptist church became the canvas for a difficult conversation with a 14 year old girl. She has been coming to our youth group for 2 weeks now. She’s different. Everything becoming feminine and womanly about her is covered with flat billed hats and baggy sweatshirts. Both hide her away from anyone who could make the assumption-based on her outward appearance- that she is in fact female. Tonight, though, something was different. Her eyes a deeper shade of blue than I had noticed in our previous conversations. This is because they were outlined with black eyeliner curved into what is called a “cat eye” line. The contrasting colors make for a dazzling hue of blue holding tightly the innocence they possess. When you sit in the quiet with another human, they either feel the comfort of being able to bear the quiet with you, or they will try to fill it with the overflow of their hearts. For this young girl, it was the latter. She began to explain to me how she identifies as “non-binary”. People who identify as non-binary fall somewhere on a spectrum that is neither exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine. This term has been used much as of late with the gender identity crisis plaguing our culture in the West.
A New Narrative
Humanistic cultural platitudes like, “I like mud, and dirt, and nature, and I hate wearing dresses”, filled the space between this girl and myself. Pointing to her chest, she exclaimed, “And what do I even do with THESE?!” I call these “cultural platitudes” because they are cultural norms societies place on gender identities. This girl, like many others who identify with a gender other than what is assigned by our Creator even before our conception, have believed the lies the enemy cunningly feeds us. For this girl, she believes females don’t play in the mud. Women are only to be helpers and servants to whom they are married, or if you are a female you have to love wearing dresses. As I listened to her, the mental boxes were being checked in my own mind. I, too, love playing in the mud and getting dirty. I enjoy nature and devouring the created world in many different forms. I will generally choose a pair of comfortable slacks to wear when I need to look more professional, not because I think dresses are all together ugly, but because I can be the woman, and do the things I do as a woman, in a pair of slacks. And let’s be honest, these hips don’t lie… the chub rub is real, y’all. I’ve wanted to learn to play golf with my husband for as long as I can remember. If you have ever been “blessed in the breasts”, then you understand the struggle is real. I get it.
The Struggle Is Real
For those of us who struggle, and I mean deeply struggle, with embracing the feminine characteristics of our identities, let me offer you hope as we behold the feminine characteristics of God. He is the Author of our femininity and the Author of our female DNA. Our God is wildly and beautifully feminine- just as He is powerfully and wonderfully masculine. He is both the fragrant gardenia and the rugged mountain. In humans we see both of these characteristics on display. Take for example the way a woman can have incredible physical strength. In my teen years I was a cheerleader lifting girls above my head in pyramids and stunts. I had an unusual physical strength most girls, even most grown women, did not have. However, whatever is done with your physical strength is done as a woman. It is done with a fierce femininity complimenting other types of strength. The physical strength I exude is filtered through my woman-ness. Nurture is another great example. Men can care and nurture children, but they care and nurture them as uniquely men nurture and care for life. Women nurture life in a way unique to them being female. If you place a crying baby in a room and ask a female to care for the child, you would see a unique way the woman cares for a child versus how the man would care for the needs of a child. One is not better than the other. This type of nurturing differs from culture to culture, but there is a generality across cultures proving this idea. One is unique and meets a specific need for specific situations. And the beauty of being created exclusively female and exclusively male is we see how both compliment each other in meeting the needs of life in every day situations. As women, we uniquely express characteristics of God not otherwise seen if true women were not displaying these characteristics all around us. In the Old Testament we see how the word ezer is used interchangeably as woman, or helper. The word ezer is translated to mean, “one whose strength wins battles”. It directly relates to the Holy Spirit as Jesus describes Him as the “Helper” in John 14:26. Eve, the mother of all living and the crowning beauty of Creation, was the ezer to Adam. Our identities as females go deeper than our physical bodies, appearances, or even our abilities to bear children. Deeply ingrained in our DNA is the ezer gene. Being made in the image of God, we as females resemble the “Helper”. We do this with a beauty and strength only Christ can give and offer.
Womanhood as General Revelation
When God breathed “It is very good” in Genesis 1:31, He didn’t do this as an act of finality. It was not until man and woman had been created that God saw what He had made was “very good”. Up to this point everything had been “good”. The “very good” title was left for the image bearers of Himself to hold. All was now “very good” because God’s image acting in man, and separately in woman, distinct in each of their ways was now on display. God saw Himself and His beauty and His image in everything He had made. The Lord rejoices in the works of His hands (Psalm 104:31). Everything God creates is very good and He rejoices in what He makes. How, then, could He make a mistake? How, then, could we say that God has made a mistake in assigning us our gender? I believe the mistake is on the years of lies we have believed as women. What will we say to this generation of image bearers, whether believers or not, who question all they are? The answer lies in where we anchor ourselves. Where these anchors are steadying our trust, belief, and hopes. As we consider how general revelation (God’s communication to all people in all places) shapes our view of our womanhood, we must remember “neither humanity’s natural limitations nor the effects of sin and the fall prevent humans from recognizing and correctly interpreting the Creator’s handiwork” (Millard J. Erikson- “Christian Theology”, 3rd Edition). The fall and sin’s effects on creation have no bearing on whether or not we recognize God has definitively made humans in His image: male and female. It is true because God is true. General revelation is not something read into nature by those who know God personally; it is already present, by God’s work of creation and continuing providence. Although this revelation may have been disturbed through the fall , God’s objective, valid, and relational character is seen in and through the general revelation of our sex. All He does is true and good. In our womanhood we see humans. Created. Limited. We are impressed by a cultures’ norm for humanity rather than how God has revealed Himself to all people everywhere through our image bearing as either male or female. This has a profound effect on how we then exude femininity. If we view it in light of cultural norms, then to be female I must wear make up and flaunt my curves. What if we started viewing our womanhood in light of the feminine characteristics of who God is? His character filtered through being woman. I believe the enemy would run in fear of what he saw stirring in us and our daughters!
A young girl came to me once and said, “My teacher (who is male) told me that I was the wrong gender because girls can’t play baseball the way I do. He said I was a boy trapped in a girls body. Louie, is that true?”
Let’s not pretend we haven’t heard this before. We HAVE to start a new dialogue with our women. Let us lay aside cultures ideas of woman. I want to know… What was God’s original plan for woman? As I have raged for years against my feminine nature, wielding it for gain, sinning against other women as image bearers, and even most recently ravaging another woman’s womanhood, I repent. Truly, deeply, repent. The enemy has been fighting a battle against women for thousands of years: enslavement, rape, bondage, abuse. Where there is an image bearer preciously made in to be female, let us press on to celebrate the awesomeness of God in our womanhood. Let us return to our “ezer” roles, ladies. Let us work to make His name famous through our womanhood.