Some say God loves the misfits and the Bible sure does seem to support this theory. From Moses with his stutter to Jacob the trickster who stole his brother’s blessing to Ruth an immigrant widow who courageously pushed the boundaries to provide for her mother-in-law to a Samaritan outcast. Despite the fact that the Bible is littered with stories that challenge our paradigms, we still try to wrap everything up into neat categories.
As one who has always loved math and the concrete physical sciences, where there’s a clean and tidy solution, I get the appeal. But as someone who has studied social science, I know that there is almost never truly a clean and tidy solution to most problems. And yet, I know the One who is our solution. Christ, truth and light in a world of murky darkness. But lest I fall into the sin of my own pride, I must remember that my clean and tidy ideas of who He is are likely muddied by my own mess. And yet, even if I can’t see or describe him clearly, He is.
As a woman, I have seen that clean and tidy ideas can wreak havoc. When I hear jokes about how “women like to make things look pretty” in Christian circles, it leaves me inadequate. As a woman who would rather think about ideas and solve problems than make things pretty, it makes me an outsider. When women are described as the more emotional gender, I again am an outsider as tears don’t come easily to me. So I feel at home among the misfits in the stories of Scripture.
A few years ago, I attended a women’s small group in which we read the book “The Excellent Wife.” I don’t know what made me sign up for this study. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a good wife, but my husband warned me. He said, “You’re not going to like this.” He had spent many nights with me after marriage studies when I tried to wrap my head around how Proverbs 31 could be seen as Scripture that supports the home as the woman’s proper place. While her “office” seemed to be her home, she definitely was a working woman. And the placement of her “office” in her home seems to me to be a sign of the times not a commandment for women not to work outside the home.
So, I came into this study wanting to be a better wife but I couldn’t help but question every conclusion the author was making about Scripture. According to the author, while a man’s purpose was to bring glory to God, a woman’s was to bring glory to her husband. She showed the infamous “umbrella”, which to me seems to oddly say Christ is inadequate without man to protect both husband and wife. It seems to inflate man’s role in a way in which God did not intend, causing harm to both men and women.
Since this study, I’ve wrestled with these ideas. I’ve read everything I can get my hand on about the key Scriptures used in the perpetuation of these roles. And I get that many who believe that these roles are Biblical are just doing their best to follow Jesus.
But what really frustrates me is when they say that the Bible is clear on these issues.
There are Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 11:7 that say “A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man” that seem to say that women don’t fully bear God’s image. And yet, in Genesis 1: 26-27, God said He created both male and female in His image.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Ruleover the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27-28, emphasis mine)
Not only that, but he instructed THEM to rule over the earth. What we don’t see is an instruction to rule over one another. And notably, God makes a blanket statement that it is NOT GOOD for man to be alone. Not just in the home, but everywhere.
And in Genesis 2:18, the more detailed account of the creation of man and woman, God introduces Eve by saying:
“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
This word for “helper” is ezer and it’s most often used in Scripture to describe God himself as a helper in battle. Women are warriors made for battle, to serve alongside men.
In the account of the fall in Genesis 3, is where we first see humankind ruling over one another. We see a power struggle begin. And not just between men and women but also among men. We see this in the story of Jacob and Esau, with one brother stealing the firstborn’s rights. But God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, continues to choose those which society has set aside.
Jacob, the second born, became Israel, God’s chosen nation. Deborah, a woman, was a prophet and judge. Ruth, an immigrant widow, boldly asked Boaz to glean outside of the boundaries which society had set. Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet, learning alongside the disciples, and Jesus told her sister that Mary had chosen best and it would not be taken from her. And Mary Magdalene, a woman, first declared Jesus’ resurrection.
So what has God called you to do, sisters and brothers? Is it outside the neat and tidy boundaries set by your church? Or by society? Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
If as a woman God is calling you to proclaim His good news, GO!!
If as a man, God is calling you to stay home with your young children while your wife works, GO!!
We need women in the mission field and we need men in the home. Not because they are the same but because they are different! In Genesis 1, God called man and woman to a blessed alliance. We need to stop battling one another and start working arm in arm to usher in His kingdom together.