As a third grader of average size and ability, I had no outward reason to aspire to be the first to finish the mile. Not only was I average, but this wasn’t a competition. We were merely running as a physical-fitness assessment for gym class. Yet inside me was an overwhelming urge to win — in particular, to beat the boys.
I used all the running wisdom I had gleaned from my dad: “Don’t start out too fast. Keep a steady pace. When you round that last turn, dig down deep and sprint for all you’re worth.” And it worked. I managed to be the first third grader to finish the mile at Sunnyside Elementary School in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred ninety. Some people peak early. Let’s just say that I peaked in the third grade, in a non-existent race, against competition that had no clue I was gunning for them.
Over the years, I’ve reflected on that gut instinct to “win” a competition that didn’t exist. Nobody taught me to want to beat the boys; it was instinctive for me. I knew there was a certain sort of glory in it, albeit fading and twisted. In just a few years, it didn’t matter how much I gutted it out and pushed myself: I couldn’t beat the boys in gym class.
When Winning Is Losing
This beat-the-boys phenomenon wasn’t peculiar to me. Quite the opposite: as I went away to college, it seemed to be endemic, although not in sports as much as in academics.
There was particular praise heaped on young women who studied in fields that were mainly filled with men. There was a push to get more women into math and science and computers — to see them succeed when put up against male peers. Never mind the fact that women dominated fields where nurture and helping are primary, such as nursing and early-childhood development. Was no one curious as to why that might be? Did no one see a connection between women’s most popular professions and their bodily design?
The terrible lie sold to and perpetuated by women is that their God-given bodies are of no consequence, and not merely when it comes to the skills or jobs they pursue. The lie has gone so far as to persuade many that they should scorn their childbearing capability and instead live for self-actualization and supposed consequence-free (sexual) immorality.
Deceiving Women, Slandering God
That one lie is especially terrible because it carries a multitude of slanders against God. The lie assumes that God’s design of woman as made for man is not good, but bad; that his design for bringing children into the world through women’s bodies is not good, but to be avoided; and that a woman’s freedom to live in sin is better than the freedom from sin that God offers in his Son.
“Ungodly competition with men, although seemingly harmless in its seed form, leads to a myriad of evils.”
Ungodly competition with men, although seemingly harmless in its seed form, leads to a myriad of evils — it is even used to justify the murder of unborn children when they impose on the life of an ambitious woman. Is this lie not an echo of the very curse God warns us about when he says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16)?
What became clear to me is that this desire to beat the boys — or at the very least, to become functionally the same as men in the world — wasn’t contained to certain competitive individuals; rather, it was and is a societally approved goal. Schools and colleges encourage it, government funds it, parents cheer it, and even some churches preach it. Yet to do so requires a willful rejection of created reality. Men and women are not the same; they are designed for different callings. And this is really good news.
Grace Agrees with God
Sometimes, Christian women can embrace the gospel, embrace their need for a Savior, and yet ignore the implications for how God made them as women. But the grace that saves us also comes to expose the blind spots that keep us from seeing that womanhood is good and serves a deeply good purpose. Our growth in the Lord Jesus and his ways is not some generic sort of genderless growth — rather, as we grow in him, we grow into godly women.
“Men and women are not the same; they are designed for different callings. And this is really good news.”
That means we learn to agree with God when he says that his creation of male and female is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We agree with him when he says women were made as “helper” and as “the glory of man” (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:7). We agree with him when he says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). We agree with him when he says women are not independent of men, but dependent (1 Corinthians 11:11). We agree with him when he says that a quiet and submissive spirit is precious to him (1 Peter 3:4–5).
Apart from his grace, we don’t agree with God. Apart from his grace, we don’t even accept ourselves or our bodies as a gift. We may be full of self-esteem talk or self-acceptance talk, but the world’s “self-acceptance” isn’t any such thing — it could better be called “sin-acceptance.” Accepting our created bodies and sex as from God, for his glory and our good, is something his grace enables.
Begin by Thanking God
There are many reasons well-meaning Christians shy away from the wonder, goodness, and necessity of a woman’s design in childbearing — her unique and essential role in this world. I believe they mainly balk because they don’t want to make a woman who isn’t married or can’t have children feel bad. I don’t want to do that either. I want single women to know that God has a good plan for their lives and that they can absolutely trust him with every bit of the path he’s laid before them.
I also want both single and married women to open their eyes to the gift of having been made a woman. And part of that gift, even if you never have children personally, is being a member of the sex that bears children, being given a body equipped for it. You are made to nurture life — physically and spiritually. You are made to transform almost nothing into something quite remarkable. You are made to take what is simple and boring and make it beautifully complex. You are made to be an irreplaceable helper.
The first place to begin for any woman is with gratitude. Start by thanking your Creator for making you a woman. Thank him for the breathtaking gift of life as a woman! Praise him for making you his precious daughter. All his works and ways are good.
Credit: Abigail Dodds