What Women Want from the Church: Eden’s Design
My faith tradition is conservative Mennonite, and I choose to live my faith in this sub/counter-cultural church. This is where I’ve experienced that God’s design for men and women is one that works and allows both to thrive and come closer to Eden’s perfection. It’s a creaking, groaning globe we live on, far from Eden, but God’s still in charge, and He’s still a good designer.
In my culture, the average young woman is married by age 23 or 24, and she is usually a mother in another year or two, with more babies coming later. Conservative Mennonite women spend large amounts of their energy doing what women do better than men: have babies, nurture children, and love and support their husband in a million creative, amazing ways.
However, being single and childless at nearly forty, I’m an aberration. Being average is over-rated, but what’s a single girl to do in church when most of her friends have wonderful husbands and several children?
But singlehood is another subject for another day. Back to women and the church.
I have time and gifts and abilities that could make me a good preacher or public speaker. I know how to wing words, and how to organize them to do what they need to. But for heaven’s sake—for the Kingdom of God’s sake—this is not a woman’s greatest or noblest accomplishment.
Although being a pastor is not an option in my church—and I’m glad of it—my gifts haven’t been squelched. I’ve been given a safe place in which to use my gifts with the support and encouragement of many good men.
Jesus’ treatment of women in Palestine gave them dignity and significance that no one else had ever given. He was counter-cultural then, and He still is. He is tender with our weaknesses, and affirms our strengths.
What women need the church to do is to be as Christ to her women: to give the protection that allows them to bloom fully into Eden’s design. What women need from the church is a restoration of our design as nurturers and helpers and supports. This includes affirming women’s gifts and protecting their vulnerability. It includes believing their sorrowful stories and defending their tears. It means affirming their beauty and praising their modesty, not objectifying them.
When women are objects, everything goes crazy. When men want a model to dangle on their arms, and a pretty face to look at, or a body to admire, or a person to control, women become something they were never created to be. Women were designed for relationship and heart connection. We are most alive, useful, and true to Eden’s design in these capacities. Objectifying women starts the crazy cycle of proving ourselves, hating ourselves, then screaming about rights and equality.
A woman is most useful, alive, and close to Eden’s design when she’s being a counselor and comfort, a sounding board and giver of hugs. When God called men to be pastors, He was saving women from themselves and their own innate power.
A woman has power but the greatest power is that which relinquishes itself as Jesus did when He washed feet and served breakfast. There is no limit to ministry when one is intentional about being a servant.
I know this is true, but I sometimes stumble and forget and demand honor that is ill-suited for a servant. I resent lowliness and hiddenness. I want to rest instead of work. More servant and less princess is how I want to live, however poorly I remember it.
In Christ’s body, no one is the greatest. Not everyone can be an eye or a hand. Every part has their own role. Their own glorious, unique contribution that God dreamed up for them. Women can find enormous satisfaction in doing things that men can’t do. Isn’t there a place for everyone to be useful and alive? Isn’t that what He designed us to be?
It is a mystery to me how a woman can extrapolate a calling from God to pastor a church, even while she claims to be a student of and guided by the Word. I maintain that if Jesus and Paul could meet any of us this evening in any town on the globe, they’d greet us warmly and laugh with us and tell us stories, but they wouldn’t rescind anything they said 2,000 years ago. Why should they? The original design of Eden still works.
What would happen if men and women started looking for the lower, more hidden places of service? What if we would stop name-dropping and ogling the most popular blogger or speaker or writer, and look instead at the homely, common person beside us and recognized the gold that’s hidden in them?
Seems like that’s what Jesus did.
Seems like that’s what He’d like us to do.