by Sydney Kalebaugh, Resonate Moscow member
I sat outside of Starbucks with my 6-month old daughter chatting with my pastor about his hope for the women in our church in the upcoming year. He wondered if we could put on a conference exploring how God designed women and what a Godly woman looked like. I nervously smiled and said “Sure!” But walking back to my car after the meeting, I realized I better find out what this Godly woman is supposed to look like since I certainly didn’t know the answer. The journey that followed was one of wrestling, embracing, and seeing the freedom God has in store for us when we live in the design he made for woman and how it leads to the flourishing in the church.
God created men and women to be co-image bearers (Gen 5:1) of himself. He designed us both to reflect complementing facets of who He is. God has something unique for women to do that affects eternity through our womanhood. The image of God reflected in women is essential and indispensable to the mission of the Kingdom.
The devil desperately does not want you to embrace and live out your femininity. He wants you you to turn away from reflecting the image of God because he is afraid of what would happen if you embraced that femininity. He came to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). Taking down femininity is one of his major goals because he knows it will leave the Church cold and naive, thus stifling multiplication and fruitfulness. Today’s assault on womanhood is so deep, it can seem almost impossible to have a conversation about femininity without defensiveness and anger. It is challenging to escape what our culture thinks about women and not put on a cultural lens when we talk about Godly femininity. Many of us have grown disillusioned to what we think the traditional, biblical view of womanhood is and have wholesale rejected it. I ask you to lay your own experiences down, no matter how broken or fraught with hurts, and let the word of God wash over you and write a new narrative of freedom (Rom 12:2).
Through Scripture we can see three major attributes of women that reflect God; one might even say they are the essence of womanhood. A godly woman embraces her femininity by affirming, nurturing, and receiving; this leads to the flourishing of the Church.
Nurturing is not bound by your season in life or reproductive biology. God isn’t calling you to nurture only if you have a physical child; He calls you to nurture those around you in all seasons. The good news is God has so much more in mind for Godly womanhood than the narrow lanes we often think through.
The name of the first woman whom God created was Eve. Eve’s name in Hebrew is Chavah/Havah which means “to give life” because Eve was the mother of all living humans (Gen 3:20). The woman is the life-giver. What does giving life look like? To give life is to honor. To give life is to sacrifice. To give life is to consider others more significant than yourself. To give life is anything motivated by love. Women are often the first to see needs and meet them. That is why there is fruitfulness in multiplication of His kingdom.
The world is desperate for nurturing. We can gain much wisdom from the life of Amy Carmichael, a single woman who opened up an orphanage in India for unwanted children and became the mother of thousands of children over her lifetime. She started to notice that unwanted children were being given over to the Hindu temples for a lifetime of prostitution and prayed the Lord would make a way for her to help and he answered. She made a physical home, a place where these children felt safe, and she made a home for them with her attention and her availability.
Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” God’s design for woman is displayed in the physical traits of her body- as life bearers, receivers, and nurturers. How a woman feels towards her child is a dim reflection of how the Lord feels towards us; He never forgets us, our needs are at the forefront of His mind. He develops us. He gives us life.
In the light and power of the Gospel, the goal of nurturing is human thriving in the most magnificent capacity possible—that all the nations would see and savor Jesus Christ forever. The call to nurture is the call to lovingly meet the needs of others for the sake of Jesus.
God designed women to receive and submit. The word submit may cause you to immediately tighten up, but it is not living in oppression, settling for objectivity, allowing ourselves to be abused or pushed around, or keeping silent. Submission is vulnerability, a gift willfully given to Godly men who have been tasked with roles of leadership in our churches and our families. Submission is a Jesus role.
Jesus took on human life and death on the cross for the sake of the world. He was equal with God and chose out of love for God to become human (Phil 2:6-11). In the same way God is asking women to die to ourselves, to put our fleshly desires aside and live in submission. When Christ submitted himself unto the Lord and obediently continued to the cross, he was saying “my life for yours.”
Submission (Greek word hypotasso) is a voluntary attitude of giving over control. Submission is receiving or opening yourself up to the influence of another. Submission is a posture of deep trust and reverence to Christ. So when we approach Scripture we ask the Lord to give us this posture. In Scripture God calls us all (the Church) to FIRST submit to Christ as believers (James 4:7). He also calls us as the Church to submit to our leadership (Heb 13:17), as believers to submit to each other (Eph 5:21), and as wives, to submit to our husbands (Eph 5:24).
When we take a look back at why Eve was created, we see she was created to be a helper, or a ezer kenegdo. “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a ezer kenegdo fit for him (Gen 2:18).” This Hebrew word is translated to mean life-saver or life-giver. This same word is used to describe God as our helper in the Old Testament and then the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
Psalm 33:20: "Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”
Psalm 70:5: “But as for me, I am poor and needy; please hurry to my aid, O God. You are my helper and my savior; O Lord do not delay.”
Deuteronomy 33:7: "And this he said of Judah: 'Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him into his people. With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.’
God and the Holy Spirit are called helper throughout the Scriptures. Obviously this calling is in no way inferior as fulfilling the role of God. There is much honor in the position of helper. All throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is the sustainer, life-giver, counselor, and strengthener. The Spirit helps us discern right from wrong. It helps open our eyes and see truth, and speaks into our lives. So also, women reflect the image of God when they are the sustainer, life-giver, counselor, and strengthener.
Women can do this through affirmation. Affirmation is not empty comments fluffing someone up, but it is active and participatory. How does this play out? Through our attitude, our words, our actions, our trust. Sisters, we have the capacity to either complete or destroy our church. We carry the power and influence of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Our help and strength will be what saves the lost. It will be what completes Resonate’s goal of planting 21 churches by 2021 and beyond, and it will be what leads us to be Godly grandparents who have generations of disciples in our family tree.
A note for the woman who doesn’t think she fits the “mold” of biblical femininity:
First of all, God sees you. My heart aches for you. God knows you deeply and He made no mistake in creating you as a woman. Throw away the mold. Who cares if you dress like a tomboy, have a loud voice, or aren’t really that into babies. Stop putting femininity in a box; by doing that you put God in a box too. The best news about the Gospel is that God doesn’t ask us to try harder. He just wants the space and invitation to change us. Invite the Holy Spirit into your identity as a Godly woman, and ask Him to change your heart, and subsequently your actions. He is redeeming and restoring His image in you (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). Write down all the things you don’t like about femininity, your questions, your fears, and how your femininity has been wounded. Surrender them to the Lord. Wrestle with them, ask the Lord to give you clarity and freedom in your design.
I knew in my heart I could delight in submission but it has been a long journey. One of the most transforming steps has been to write out all of the negativity I believed surrounding women in submission; that somehow she is weaker, she has a lot on her mind but never speaks up about it, she is easily pushed around and overpowered, she lives her life feeling slightly oppressed and not free. I had to vomit up all of my thoughts so the Lord could replace them with truth and life. That submission comes from a posture of awe and reverence to the Lord, it is beautifully vulnerable, filled with honor and respect, and reflects our precious savior who modeled for us such a challenging task.
Have you thanked God that he uniquely made you female? Praise Him for the gift He has given you in femininity. I pray that you will live according to the Spirit, for there is life and peace (Romans 8:6). I pray that you can be real with the Lord and your community about femininity and wrestle deeply with it, open your heart and mind to the Spirit and God’s word, and embrace who you are as a woman in Christ . We need you on the front lines for the redemption of the world. Take the hand of Christ and He will lead you.