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Entries in Women (40)

Monday
Jul032017

The "real" older woman

I belong to a Facebook group of theologically-minded women on Facebook. I don't usually join such groups, but I joined this one. I don't participate in a lot of the discussions, but when I saw one about young people walking away from biblical teaching, I had to say something.

Experience Makes a Difference

During that Facebook discussion, I was talking to a woman whose children were 16 and under, and we were talking past one another, which was frustrating. She was perplexed when I asked her the age of her children, and the reason I did was because I have found there is a difference in discussion between women whose children are grown and women whose children are younger. Experience can make a big difference.

I have a friend who recently lost her son. I can offer prayer, love, and support, and even try to be empathetic, but I have no concept of the depth of her grief. Nor can I fully understand my friend who is a widow. Any counsel I have is purely theoretical. Now, if you want to talk about young people rebelling, I can do that, because I have been there.

The Sun Will Come Up

We want our children to embrace biblical truth, and the fear of them walking away from it can turn us into micromanagers. We may feel that we must "do" something to prevent the unthinkable. We may tend to treat spiritual training like making their bed, putting their toys away, and brushing their teeth; like a checklist. But spiritual training is much different. At some point, our children must take responsibility for their faith. When my children were younger, I was guilty of micromanaging, and it was borne out of my own fear. I was afraid of them turning away from biblical teaching; afraid of what would happen.

What happened is that the sun came up the next day. I learned that life goes on, that God is gracious, that he still loves me despite what happens with my children. I did not disappear. I was okay. When our kids turn away from biblical truth, we're still their parents, and we still love them and still speak the truth, even if they don't act on what we've told them. I wish when my kids were teenagers, I'd had someone who took me aside and said, "I've been there, too; you'll be okay."

Twaddle?

It is true that every woman is an older woman to someone, but I am coming to understand that there is something special about the real older woman: the one who is 60, 70, or 80. She has time on her side. She has lived through a variety of experiences and seen God's faithfulness through them. Much of our maturity is born out of struggle and suffering, and the woman who is truly older has had those opportunities. A 28 year old woman is an older woman to a teenager, but when I think about how immature I was at 28, and think back to some of the counsel I gave, I see that it was a lot of twaddle. I didn't know as much as I think I did.

I am blessed to have real older women in my life and I am seeing that there is no replacement for the simple life experience they have. I have not lost my parents, or a child, or a spouse. I am healthy, and have had a happy marriage for 30 years. Any struggles I have are really minor. Compared to what they have endured, I have had very little struggle. I have a friend who has lost both a child and her husband, as well as siblings and both parents. There is wisdom she has which I just don't have yet. Yes, we are an older woman to someone, but it's not the same as what a real older woman has to offer.

There are times when experience doesn't count for much; in fact, sometimes, relying on experience can lead us astray. In the case of older woman, experience is important. It is what makes a woman a real older woman.

Thursday
May042017

Women in the news

While I was on vacation, and scanned Twitter briefly at intervals, I did notice an exchange of articles about women and blogging. I am not generally a reader of Christianity Today, but I did see a couple articles from that direction, but I only quickly skimmed them. I'm aware of the conversation going on, but it has not grabbed my attention. However, when I saw the title of one article, something along the lines of who is in charge of Christian blogging, my immediate thought was, "Whoever manages to generate the most attention."

I did read this morning an article that Tim Challies linked, from RNS. There were some interesting observations; interesting enough for me to break my own self-imposed rule that I don't use my blog to critique other blog articles. This isn't a critique, however. It's more an observation which arose from the article.

In the article, Hannah Anderson compares the way women go about leading to the way men go about leading. She concludes:

From moral decision-making to leadership styles, women, in general, work with an eye toward relationships and cooperation while men operate more impersonally and individualistically.

When I read that, I thought, "That is not me."

I am a leader in my local church. I take on responsibility quite naturally, and when I am given it it, I work to give it 100% of my attention. But I don't work with relationships and co-operation in mind. I am not a dictator, but when I go about leading, I am not so much concerned with gathering a group or forming community as I am in simply doing the job given to me and working with integrity. In fact, I tend to avoid groups of women. Maybe it is a hangup from my past, or maybe it is the result of having mostly male friends as a child and being the only girl in the family, but I am more prone to backing up from a group of women than I am in embracing it. Seeing pictures of women at conferences, smiling and happy together makes me feel a little melancholy at times, because that has not been my experience, yet everyone keeps telling me that it is the goal I am supposed to aspire to. 

This often frustrates me. The current "leaders" in the Christian blog world who are debating about who is in charge don't really speak for me. Many are much younger than I am, and have few similar experiences to mine. I am Canadian; most are from the U.S. And yes, that makes a difference. I cannot help but think that there is a particular socio-economic similarity among those leaders, and I wonder how women from other backgrounds react to what is written. This also leaves me wondering a bigger question: should women be seeking to be led by women they will never know? With whom there is no personal accountability? This is a basic question, of course, and one that is always left there in the background while at the same time, we actually do allow ourselves to be led. This has troubled me lately, as I am seeing more and more the potential downside of putting too much emotional energy into online relationships.

Questions are good. I've never been one to avoid asking questions. My questions don't revolve so much around who is in charge of the blog world, or which women are the leaders. Rather it is how much does my interest in such leadership influence my relationship to Christ? Is it more distracting than helpful? 

Tuesday
Mar282017

And this is why I don't identify as a feminist

Today, a news story was brought to my attention through a link which featured Al Mohler's "The Briefing." I confess I have only every listened to one or two of these broadcasts, and this morning, I simply read the transcript, but it alerted me to one of those things that gets me riding the rocking horse of indignation.

The story comes from Australia, where journalist Sarrah Le Marquand puts forth this view:

Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed.

I believe it is implied that "gainfully employed" means employed for financial remuneration. She bases this conclusion on economic reasons, saying that her country's financial health would be better served by women contributing through paid work rather than childcare. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently pointed out the shortfall of female representation in Australia's workforce, so the best option is to mandate all parents work:

Only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.

I firmly believe that women are free to work after they have children. I am grateful for the work of many feminists in the past who worked to change inequitable and unjust situations for women. Their goal was to make life better for women. But in their pioneering to make work options more equitable did that mean removing their choice not to work? When a woman like Le Marquand tells me that I am not free to make my life's work my children, she is doing what feminists have long accused men of doing: exerting control. When feminist groups seek to dictate how other women live, they set themselves up as an elite (and sometimes, not a wise elite, but rather the elite who has been aggressive enough to be heard) handing down judgment. A women's boy's club. 

This is why I am not eager to embrace the title of "feminist." It's such a loaded word. I know women who identify as feminist who are godly women, who long to see women grow in the things of God, and to be seen as the equal heirs of Christ that we are. And then then there are extrapolations like this article. And when feminism begins to run to extremes as in this article, I don't want the title. I remain a committed Christian Theist, and I believe, if properly worked out and understood, it will necessitate equality of value for both men and women; including those who want to stay at home full time with their children for as long as they like.

Thursday
Mar022017

Married woman, do you have single friends?

There are five women in my theology class, including me. While two others have children, I am the only one who is married.

Recently, we got on the topic of the kind of teaching material that is offered to women in typical church settings. We all agreed that we would rather prefer to study a book of the Bible rather than a topic, especially books that are focused only on marriage and motherhood.

Over the years, when I have taught young mothers, I have taught specifically about those things, largely because there were many in my audience to whom those issues were pertinent. But in talking to my single friends, I wonder how often there was a single or childless woman in my group who was wondering when I would get to something else. Was I insensitive to the differences among women?

In getting to know these single women I have been reminded of a couple of things:

Ultimately, my identity is in Christ. It is not in my marital status or my children. At our group blog, a couple of years ago, I wrote a post called "Can I Love My Child Too Much?"  A lot of people didn't like it. I received some nasty mail over that one. I still stand by the principle, though: we can turn our family into idols. As I have got to know these single women and our conversation has focused on matters other than children and husbands, I have been reminded of where my ultimate identity is. It's something I'm learning daily.

My experience is not every woman's experience. It is natural for us to assume that others thing like we do, or experience life as we do. They don't. My life here in my comfy little corner of semi-rural Ontario, with a husband who has never laid a hand to me is nothing like the experience of the woman who struggles with an abusive husband while wondering how she will feed her kids. The gospel is sufficient to address every painful circumstance, but I have to be careful about thinking that the gospel includes replicating my circumstances. I think this also includes being sensitive to cultural differences. Trying to force a model of Christian womanhood that can only work in affluent North America may actually work against spreading the gospel. 

Married women, do you have single friends? If you don't, find some! Part of the beauty of the Body of Christ is its diversity. If we only ever stick to nurturing relationships with women exactly like ourselves, we will miss a great deal.

Wednesday
Nov232016

Women, we can still learn from men

Every now and then, I listen to other women, and I feel uncomfortable. It is as if in order to be fully supportive of women in the church we must abandon men entirely. There is a trend toward only reading books by women. Women read books written by women, about women, and for women. Maybe I'm a little addled, but to me, the best book isn't the one written by a man or a woman: it's the one that is simply the most helpful, the best written, and the best researched.

In the last few days, there have been quite a few articles about women's ministry. The articles which promote the reading and studying of Scripture are the ones I like best. But still, there seems to be a reluctance to recommend a "How to" Bible study book written by a man. I'm going to be honest here: I've read a lot of books about how to study the Bible, and the ones I have found the most helpful are the ones written by men. I wish they had been written by women. I would love to see women in seminary, studying the original languages, learning about hermenetical principles. That has not happened a lot at this point.

Here are some of the "how to" Bible study books I have read in the 30+ years I have been studying the bible and the 20+ years I have been teaching the Bible:

Understanding and Applying the Bible, Robertson McQuilkin

How to Study Your Bible, Kay Arthur

How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, Douglas Fee and Gordon Stuart

Bible Study: A Student's Guide, Jon Nielson

Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word, Kathleen Nielson

Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin

Grasping God's Word, J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays

Journey into God's Word, J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays

Introduction to Biblical Interpreation, Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard

Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, Walter Kaiser and Moises Silva

The last two titles are more advanced, and I wouldn't recommend a beginner start there, but neither would I discourage her if she wanted to. We have a tendency to start women off small, and while that may be useful for a woman who has no experience with the Bible, women are able to read difficult texts. We are a fairly literate society, and if women can be doctors, teachers, nurses, politicians, and accountants, they can handle a more advanced text.

If I was going to recommend just one of those books, it would be Journey into God's Word. No, it is not written like a book directed to women, as if the author and reader are having coffee. No, there isn't a pretty, feminine cover, but Journey into God's Word is clear and thorough. It lays an excellent foundation before proceeding to discuss the various literary genres in Scripture. And it is not long; 153 pages. But it provides a great starting point that will ultimately lead a person further in her study. Journey into God's Word is the condensed version of Grasping God's Word, and if I had to recommend a second book, that would be it. It gives a student a goal to aim for. If I was recommending a book to inspire a woman into studying, it would be Kathleen Nielson's. What we want as Bible students and teachers is to get better at what we are doing, to be more and more comfortable with interpreting the Biblical text. That is ultimately what we are doing as we teach. It's more than leading a group of women in a study. We are interpreting. And there are principles to help us with that.

I am not famous, so the chances of someone taking my views into serious consideration is probably small. I am not affiliated with a big parachurch organization, a mega church, or a famous Christian figure. But I have been learning and teaching a long time. I want the best resources I can find, regardless of whether a man or woman wrote it. If my suggestion that we continue to read books authored by men means I have failed my gender, do forgive me. It wouldn't be the first time I didn't toe the party line.