There is tide rising in the conservative church. A tide of women who love God deeply, who love His Word deeply, and who love His Church deeply. But they don’t always fit what you’ve come to expect for Christian womanhood—they are gutsy and outspoken. They are showing up in the typically male fields of theology and philosophy. And they are pushing back the boundaries of darkness by using their spare moments, not to shop and hold Tupperware parties, but to fight human trafficking, sound the alarm against sexual abuse, and advocate for the poor.
They are rising up like the sun in all its might.
I consider myself among this “new wave” although I think it’s hardly new. Truthfully, it’s simply a return to ancient values—a return to values more traditional than those of 1950s America. This rising is a return to living imago dei–to embodying all that it means to be human, to becoming the image bearers God intends for us to be. But because we can be easily misunderstood, I want to take this moment to share our hearts–to share my heart–with you, our brothers and fathers in the faith.
To anyone who cares to listen,
Contrary to what you may have heard from Freud (and perhaps from well-intentioned Christian teachers who were unknowningly influenced by him), most Christian women don’t want to be men. We don’t want to be fathers. We don’t want your positions. (And occasionally, when we do, it’s only because it seems like you’re able to embrace your humanity in ways that we are not.) Truthfully, we just want to be people–in the full orb of all that this means. We want simply to be who God has made us to be–people with different gifting, different capacities, different callings. People you listen to, people you value.
Because whether you realize it or not, the way you think about us has tremendous impact on how we think about ourselves.
And yet, we want to be free to embrace our womanhood, to offer a uniquely feminine perspective and know it will be valued. We want to be able to talk about pregnancy and breastfeeding and homemaking and the struggle to be beautiful and know that you will listen and learn from us. We want you to believe that these are not “women’s issues” but that they are human issues–that they are imago dei issues—that they are reflections of a God who Himself gives birth to us, who tenderly feeds us, who exists in the beauty of holiness.
We want to serve alongside you but not only to organize the nursery or the kitchen, because quite frankly some of us are terrible at it. Some of us are better suited to dream and think and sort through the consequence of ideas than we are at keeping track of whether or not the wipes are stocked. (Just ask my husband and children.) We want not only to be mothers within the church, but mothers of the Church. Women who humbly walk beside the fathers of the Church as they nurture new life and offer guidance and protection to God’s children.
We want you to challenge us. We want you to believe we are capable of hard thinking and deep conversation and deeper prayer. We want to “worry our pretty little heads” about doctrine and philosophy because these are the things that undergird human existence. These are the things that undergird our existence. They are not masculine concerns—they are human ones.
We want you to say what a friend of mine said about his wife recently, “I have the utmost respect for her—not as my wife—but as a believer.”
We want you to know that we have more in common with you than we don’t–if you pricked us, we would bleed. And that while they may come in different packages, we bear the same burdens, the same fears, and the same cares that you do. That our destiny is the same as yours—to be freed from these fears and cares by being transformed to the image of Christ Himself.
We want you to understand that male is not the default setting for human existence. That being female was not an afterthought or a derivative. We want you to understand that we happily defer to you, but not easily. That submission is a sacrifice we gladly offer but it is a sacrifice nonetheless. It is a sacrifice precisely because we are equals. And deferring to you in our homes and churches requires a strength that only God can provide.
We want to truly be your helpers, to take some of the weight off your shoulders—the weight of always having to be the perfect man, the perfect leader, of always having to be Christ in the dynamic. Let us be Christ to you sometimes. Let us mirror His love and His service and His strength. We want you to feel safe enough to be able to be weak with us.
We want you to be our brothers and fathers. And we want to be your sisters and mothers. We want to be able to tease you like only a little sister can and nurture you in that extra-helping-of-apple-pie motherly kind of way. And sometimes, we need to be able to say things to you, to offer an appropriately-placed correction, just like she would as she was serving you said piece of pie.
We want you to know that there are Mary Slessors and Amy Carmichaels and Elizabeth Elliots sitting in the pews beside you right now. We want you to know that some of them are your daughters. Some of them may be your wives. And they need you to support them—to pursue their gifting as quickly as your would pursue your own.
This is a difficult world for women. Just like you, we groan under the curse waiting for redemption. But it’s a particularly difficult world for women who embrace a conservative understanding of gender. We’re the ones most pressed by the conversation because we’re the ones submitting to headship at the same time that our progressive sisters are throwing it off, beckoning us to join them. We’re the ones caught in the middle.
So we need you to champion us. Many of you already do, but let me just ask that you continue to invest yourself in our flourishing and realize that our success determines your success, that our capacity to grow to spiritual maturity has direct bearing on yours. We need you to believe that either we all get through this together or none of us makes it. We need you to return to living imago dei right alongside us.
With all my love,
Your Little Sister