A Mad Tea Party
As I look at my beautiful little girl, I wonder what womanhood may come to mean to her as she grows up—how she will come to think of herself amid the frothing nonsense of our society. I hope she doesn't listen to American culture too much. Most of its messages about womanhood are terrible: you should try to be like a man. You should flaunt your body to manipulate men. You should shut up and do what men tell you. You should do whatever you want, because nobody cares.
I want her to know that she is valuable. But not for the reasons that the world plasters across its billboards, proclaims from its political rostrums, and teaches in its “enlightened” classrooms. Not because she is sexy. Not because she can do anything men can do. Not because girls rule and boys drool. Quite simply, because she is a person.
|Michelangelo's "Creation of Eve" (Sistine Chapel)|
Our daughter is a female person, of course, which is delightful for many reasons. However, her femininity affects neither her essential value nor her essential purpose. After all, when we first realized that our baby existed, we had no idea whether it was a boy or a girl. Why did we rejoice, then? Simply because a soul had been created. When I felt her first movements, I still didn't know but I praised God for giving us a child. No matter which way things developed, our joy would have been the same.
And so I don't want our daughter's primary identity to be "a girl." That is, I don't want her to tiptoe through life filtering everything through her gender, believing that she must be different in every way from men and that if she isn't, she has somehow failed as a woman.
Rabid feminists and fundamentalist Christians (strange bedfellow, lured by different lies) often tumble into this trap. One side says you've got to trumpet your womanhood from the rooftops—never let anybody forget that you have two X chromosomes, hear you roar—because otherwise you're bowing to the patriarchy. The other side says you've got to wear pink frills and feign ignorance about football, because otherwise you're rebelling against God's created order.
What a suffocating mindset. In the end both sides mistakenly obsess over gender, when in fact, God seems to have a lot more to say about personhood. The call to follow Him, the command to love, the promise of eternal life . . . those are for people. Not just for men or for women, but for souls.
My daughter's primary identity is "a human being who belongs to God.” If she knows that, she'll walk through the world with eyes fixed joyfully on Him.
This, perhaps, is what Paul means in Galatians 3 when he says: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.” Taken in context, it's obvious that Paul is not suggesting that gender has been erased. (Just think about the rest of his writings, where he spends whole chapters upon the proper conduct of men and woman within the family and church!) Rather, I think he is reminding us that we have all put on Christ, all become heirs of His promise, so our first identity is now in Him rather than in our chromosomes.
In the end, of course, our core identity in Christ liberates us to live up to those chromosomes in a new and wonderful way. And we'll teach our daughter about that too. Not only is she a human, a remarkable and complex thing in itself, but she is also a woman. Wherever that ought to bear upon a situation, we want her to freely embrace it for the beauty that it is. (Incidentally, I think that my parents did a great job of this while raising me. If my femininity was relevant, as in what I wore or how I related to boys, it became part of the conversation. If it wasn't, as in what math curriculum to use in fourth grade, well, it didn't.)
I want our daughter to understand that God was deeply pleased when He created Eve--and when he created her. He smiled to see her soul take form. He also delighted in making her female, with its attendant strengths and responsibilities. I think that if she can get those in the proper order—knowing that above all she is a human being, and that afterwards comes womanhood.
A Mad Tea Party. She lives with her husband and baby daughter in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania . . and no, she is not Amish.