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Entries in Biblical Womanhood (18)


Thoughts about Titus 2:3-5

Yesterday morning, I taught about Titus 2:3-5, the famous "Titus 2 Woman" passage.

I tried to be as prepared as I could be, listening to sermons by Alistair Begg and Ligon Duncan, as well as my own study time, which included William Mounce's commentary.  These are issues I want to be clear about in my thinking as I move into this "older woman" phase of life.

Some things stood out to me as I studied and prayed and listened.

First, our conduct in the body of Christ is not a private matter.  Throughout the entire book of Titus, it is clear that living a godly example and teaching through example is important.  Not only was Titus to appoint elders in the city of Crete, he was to teach others and be example of good works (Titus 2:7-8).  The older women were to benefit from doctrinal teaching so that their lives reflected certain things, found in 2:3-5.  Their lives were also to be an example.  We don't live in this world alone; when we're in the body of Christ, we are accountable to others, not just the Lord.  I don't think this idea of authority lines and accountability is popular anymore. We all feel we have the "right" to do what we want as an expression of our "freedom" in Christ.  I don't see that picture in Titus.  I see a picture of accountability.

Another thing I saw was that the teaching that the older women were to do was not primarily the kind where one opens a book and provides instruction.  Alistair Begg, in his sermon on the passage talked about not handing out a "three ring binder" of instruction for youger woman alone.  He did not exclude that from the principle of teaching, but he emphasized that this was the kind of teaching that was done as women rubbed shoulders with younger women on a daily basis.  It's the kind of teaching that grows out of a relationship with someone.  It's the kind of teaching where an older woman may say, "Oh, your husband works long hours, and you feel like you're about ready to collapse?  I lived through that; let me help you."  As I read Bill Mounce's commentary on the passage, his thoughts were similar:

Context shows that this refers not to an official teaching position in the church (I Tim. 2:11-12) but rather to informal, one-on-one encouragement.  It pictures the older women, those who were experienced in life, marriage, and child rearing, taking the younger women in the congregation under their care and helping them to adjust to their responsibilities.

While I think that formal teaching of the Word of God by women to women is a really valuable and needed work in the church, this informal teaching is just as valuable.

This teaching carries with it a few implications.  First, it means we have to get to know younger women and younger women need to get to know older women.  It means that we older women must be living an example that gives is credibility with younger women.  We must build trust with people if we're going to be an example, and that means honestly caring about younger women and being interested in them.  It means maybe sticking around home now and then and being available to them.  One young woman I know confessed to me once that she hesitated to call older women because she said that often, they simply weren't available.  By the same token, I have also confronted young women who think older women are horribly out of touch with child rearing and marriage, and will only seek the counsel of their peers, or books written by women with whom they have no personal connection.  I would never discourage a young woman from reading good books, but there is a place for face to face relationships with people whom we have an outside chance of getting to know well.

It also means being honest about our own struggles.  We don't want to put across the idea that we had it all together when we were younger, or that we're not still learning.

Last week, I had a young mother and her husband and daughters arrive at my house with a plate full of baking.  I was so touched and blessed it.  It made my night.  I thought as they left that I should have been the one dropping baking off at her house.  I have far more free time for such things.  It was a good reminder to me that the ordinary, day to day encouragements mean a great deal.


Thoughts on being a homemaker

As someone who would use the term "complementarian" to describe my view on the roles of men and women in the church, I don't like to see the other view, egalitarians, believe that what is referred to as "biblical womanhood" is confined stritcly to being a homemaker.  Neither would I like to see it confined strictly to being a working woman.  Women who embrace complementarianism come from a variety of circumstances.  In developing our thoughts about biblical womanhood, we have to remember to look beyond simple activities and worry more about a woman's relationship to Christ and how she submits to the Bible.

While it is most certainly true that complementarianism doesn't say that biblical womanhood is all about being a homemaker, we also must be careful not to minimize the role of homemaker.  We want to be careful that we don't say:  "Oh yes, biblical womanhood is about so much more than being a homemaker.   Look at all of the doctors, lawyers, academics, and professional people we have. Yes, it does include homemakers, but just look at all of these important jobs it includes."   

As human beings, we often tend to extremes, and just as I would not take the extreme position that a woman may not work outside her home, neither would I take the extreme position that a homemaker is not doing enough by staying at home.  It may be the case that most women work outside their homes, but I think it does a disservice to consider a homemaker on the "fringes" simply because her vocation is in the home.  And while we're at it, where is the term "vocation" in all our verbal parley about biblical womanhood?

When my daughter was in her last year of high school, I was driving her and her friend somewhere, and the two girls were talking about career plans and their futures.  While my daughter was quite certain about her aspirations, the other girl was not.  When the idea of staying at home and being a homemaker came up, my daughter's friend said:  "Oh, I want to do that, but I want to do something with my life first."  Interesting.

Here's something I wonder:  In all of our counselling of young ladies toward their futures, would we consider of limiting a young lady in what she may choose to do in the future?  I don't thinks so.  We would encourage her to pursue what she felt she could do depending on how God has gifted her.  On the flipside, how many of us would say to a young girl thinking of her future, "Why not consider some day being a full time homemaker?"  I have a feeling that suggestion would not necessarily be made.  Part of the freedom women have is not just to seek a career; it's to be able to choose to be at home without being considered some kind of feminine anomaly.

We need to be careful that complementarianism includes a wide range of expressions of "biblical womanhood." 

For more on the idea of being a stay at home mother, and what that may involve, read this excellent piece at Jam and Books.


Confessions from Mrs. Empty Nester

It's been two months since my youngest flew the coop.  It feels like he hasn't really flown at all.  He still sends me text messages regularly, and he's been home often.  I'm thankful for that part.  Still, the house is a lot quieter and I realize how just how much easier it is to run a household with just two of us here.  Some evenings, I don't even cook anything; we just have soup and sandwiches.

When we confront new situations, we often speculate about how it will be.  Often, we expect one thing to happen, but something else does instead. I didn't know what to expect, really, when I thought of life with all of my children away from home.  I do know, however, that the feeling of guilt that I recently detetcted was not something I anticipated.  Guilt, you say? About what?

Many women, when they have no more children at home return to the workforce.  I am not planning to do so. If it was a matter of feeding us, I would, but we are able to live on my husband's income alone. I don't take any credit for this. We understand this is a gift from God.  What has surprised me is the comments some have made, and my own feelings of guilt about it.

Some have said, "Oh, it must be nice to be at home all day."  I don't want to be paranoid, but there often feels like an unspoken, "...sitting around doing nothing" behind such comments.   I do have more free time than I used to, but I am also busy with things.

I also get comments like "We could never manage on one income," as if our ability to do so is somehow abnormal or suspect.  Well, we only had two incomes for two years of our marriage; we adapated.  It has meant sacrifices.  When people talk about how lucky we are (and we know we are blessed) to manage on one income, I seldom mention the fact that we've never had more than one television, and the one we have now was given to us as a gift. We've never been to Disneyland with our kids and most of our holidays have been to see family or have been taken when my husband went to a convention and our transportation costs were covered.  Our home is not elaborately decorated and we only have two vehicles because one of them belongs to my husband's employer and he has the privilege of using it. I'm thankful for all our blessings, and I wouldn't change a thing.  I am not going to get into a debate with women who work about the benefits or drawbacks. We all have our vocations.

My guilt, I suspect, has come from the prevalent sentiment in our culture that says that our worth is found in our ability to work.  I have grown up in a world where being able to earn substantial amounts of money or gain success in employment has become a virtue.  In a society which rejects God, people will naturally turn to something else to determine their worth.  As a Christian, my worth is in Christ, and that worldly practice of determining my worth by my work is not an attitude I should have.  

I realized that I had given into this guilt trip last week, when after lunch I indulged in watching on DVD an episode of one of my favourite television shows, "Ballykissangel," while I knitted.  I had a clean house.  I'd finished my study for the day in preparation for my lesson the following Sunday. That morning, I'd been in the nursery at the mom's bible study, and my dinner for that evening was simmering in the crock pot.  Yet I still felt guilty. Surely, sitting around like that was being a bad steward of my time.  As I reflect on that I see that this comes from the wrong place.  Whose standard am I trying to live up to?  Do I subconsciously still cling to the notion that my identity is wrapped up in my work?

My identity does not rest in the definitions outlined by the world. Because I am in Christ, my life is hidden with Him (Colossians 3:3).   I have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5).  I am His workmanship created to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).  My citizenship is ultimately not in this world (Philippians 3:20). I am not to be of the world despite being in it (I John 2:15-17).  My identity is in Christ and in doing everything to His glory.  That can mean a number of things.  An entire post could be written about the things a Christian woman is able to do in service to God.  My point is that I should not give in to guilt because I don't bring in an income or have a prestigious career.

Every morning, after my husband is gone to work, I sit at my desk.  I read; I study; I pray; I write; I listen to music; sometimes, I sing out loud. If the sun is coming up in a particularly lovely way that day, I may run out on to the driveway in my bathrobe and take a picture.  I love those times.  But I recognize that all of this is a gift from God, and it could all change without notice. There could come a day when I long for times like this. The challenge now is to make sure I immerse myself in Scripture as much as I can.  This opportunity to study and read more can only bring benefits with it.  Who knows how what I'm learning now will help me in an area in the future?


Book Reflection - God's Good Design

I just finished reading Claire Smith's God's Good Design.  The subtitle for this book is:  "What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women."

Smith looks at portions of Scripture that seem to provide the most disagreement about gender roles in the church.  After reminding us that we all live in the shadow of feminism, she goes on to discuss the Scripture passages that discuss our role within the church and home.  She looks at I Timothy 2, I Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, I Peter 3 and Genesis 3:1-3.   Following the chapter about Genesis, she discusses the ultimate distortion of Scripture with regard to women, and that is abuse of women.  She ends the book with a discussion of the Proverbs 31 woman and then with a more personal chapter to conclude.  I think reading the chapter about her personal experience first wouldn't be a bad idea. Knowing where she has come from will definitely explain how she has arrived at some of her conclusions.  She is a former feminist and she has not come about her positions strictly in theory.

What I liked the most about Smith's book is her return to Scripture, verse by verse, word by word.  In each case, she presents a plain reading of Scripture and reminds us that Scripture's clarity means that this word is indeed able to be understood.  If there are any problems, they lie with us, not the word of God.

After presenting the plain reading, she returns to the passages each time, presenting possible criticisms of her conclusions and  how she reconciles those questions.  That, to me, is what is most important with any debate we have.  We all bring presuppsotions and biases to our reading of Scripture.  But do we see that?  Is our interpretation based on those knee-jerk reactions we have or does it lie within the Scripture themselves? While we may never convince our opponents, we can at least be true to the Word and seek it rather than dismissing it altogether.

At the end of the book, when Smith talks about her own experiences, she says this, and I found this to be very good:

If we resist God's right to rule in our lives, if we doubt the goodness of his word, if we use one part of Scripture to silence another part that we find objectionable, then it is a salvation issue - because our attitude to God's word cannot be separated from our attitude toward God himself.

Gender issues get a lot of press these days.  Sometimes, I wish we could stop talking about it.  But as someone with a daughter and sons who will hopefully have spouses and families, I want to understand this from a Scriptural point of view.  I want to react less and hunker down more and see what this word has to say.  The waters that young women navigate now are treacherous and some of them will latch onto a teaching without having tackled it first.  I want to encourage young women to seek the answers in God's word, and rely less on the voices outside that tell them how to respond to this word.


Putting away the baggage

Whether we like it or not, our past comes with us wherever we go.  Do you remember saying you would never do or say something your parents did, only to do that same thing or repeat that exact phrase to your own kids?  We get shocked and say, as a friend of mine often liked to:  "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, I am my mother, after all."

We bring our past hurts, confusions, and questions to bear on everything, including how we read Scripture. For example,  I know that there are women whose fathers were anything but ideal.  The idea that God is our father is a difficult thing to hold on to.  When I was converted at 20, I remember having a very hard time with the apostle Paul because I had most certainly considered myself a feminist, or at least leaned that way.  It took me a while to appreciate him, but I do now; very much so.

In her book God's Good Design, I am about to start a chapter which discusses Genesis 3:16.  Recently, at the Gospel Coalition, Smith and Wendy Alsup both presented their views on what this idea of "desiring" our husbands means.  They don't agree.  I won't replay their discussion here for you; it's much better if you read their own words.  This exchange between them was the impetus for me wanting to read this book.  Click here for Smith's contribution and click here for Alsup's article.

Smith provides a good reminder as I begin to look more closely to what she thinks about it:

As we think about gender, our battle is to resist allowing what we know from bitter human experience to drown out what we know about the holy God of love.

That's a fairly brief comment, but I think the implications are very profound.  How often do we let our past influence how we analyze the present?  How much do our hurts, burdens, and baggage influence how we react to God's Word?  Yes, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, but we still live inside bodies of flesh.

I think it's a question we should ask ourselves as we think about these issues.