I have struggled with developing a healthy view of femininity for most of my life. I am determined and intelligent and capable of accomplishing many things and of doing them well; my family refers to me as "a mover and a shaker", whatever that means. Yet, despite my qualifications, intellect, and abilities, I can't seem to find my place within the church. It doesn't make sense, really. Each time I try to minister within the body, I cannot get past the gender alarm that screeches, "She's a woman! She shouldn't be allowed to teach men or hold office within the church!" and every time I have asked why I have gotten essentially the same answer, Genesis 3:1-7. Eve fell prey to the serpent's crafty plan and therefore all women should not be trusted with teaching men or in church office. Some gate-keepers gave more carefully worded arguments supported by great theological minds, but essentially it always comes down to this passage in Genesis, the beginning of the powerful, yet powerless woman.
I have heard almost every variation of this argument, but I know that at least one response to this post will still surprise me. Yet, what these people miss is the major implication of that Genesis 3 story: women were made to be powerful influencers.
God made Adam from dust, but Eve He made from bone. He created her to be complex and strong, to give structure to order, to be resilient, to bear a load and be a companion. The serpent picked his target well in the garden. He picked the one that shared a name with God, "Help-Meet", the one who would carry life and vitality within her womb. He picked the one who would think more of her mate than of herself. Many preachers defame Eve saying that she was stupid and couldn't even remember God's ONLY commandment correctly. They don't give her the benefit of the doubt, but I would like to. I have often wondered why Eve gave the fruit to Adam to eat and why she didn't realize what she had done before giving it to him. The answer is there in verse 6, "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate." Putting myself in Eve's shoes, I would think I am giving my husband the best thing I could find. Giving him food that was good for him. Her thought was of her husband and the serpent exploited her natural tendency. The serpent knew that Eve would be seeking Adam's good and knew that was his way in. They ate the forbidden fruit, broke God's law, and sin entered the world. Most preachers ignore this fact, but not in an obvious way. The crafty serpent deceives them as well. Every sermon I have heard on sin entering the world grossly misrepresents what really happened, and yet it took me 18 years to see it for what it really is. Most preachers will indicate that Eve began sinning before the act of eating the fruit. They will argue that Eve "lusted" after the fruit and in so doing, she sinned. But here is the problem, sin didn't begin with lust, it began with disobedience. God never said that they could not look at the tree or admire it, He simply said not to eat of it. And that is what they did, in disobedience. Am I saying that Eve played no role in disobeying God? No. Am I saying that she was a victim of Satan's exploitation of her God-given desires to give her husband the best she could find? Yes. Sin did not originate with humans, that was Satan's creation, he just found a way to pass it along and ruin God's plan. Or at least he made his best effort.
I find that Satan's oppression of women extends far beyond Genesis 3 though. Throughout history, women have been degraded, chained, used, hated, and slapped around. Some would argue that the church is to blame for this, but I do not agree. I think they miss the true culprit behind this misogynistic mindset: Satan. He picked his target in the garden; a way to get at God via the one who shared His name. And the assault continues to this day. Eating disorders, depression, body image, violence against women, equal rights/equal pay, sexual harassment, these are just a few of the ways Satan tries to keep woman, "Help-meet", from knowing her true name. Sadly, these efforts do not stop at church doors. Satan uses Eve's history, the one thing that would stop us in our tracks, to stop us from serving God to our fullest in the church. We agree, saying that the church is right and we shouldn't be trusted, completely forgetting that we have been redeemed from that past.
I think that is why Satan has us running scared. He doesn't want us to live in light of that redemption because if we did, we would be a formidable foe.
I think I am beginning to understand femininity and how beautifully it fits within the body of Christ, the problem it seems, is with the body. It's like only using the right side and letting the left just sit there, useless, burdensome, and wasting. I see so many godly, gifted women in the church who have been told that it's not their place to teach men or hold office, when in their careers they lead (men and women) dynamically. But to the use of these gifts, the church tells them no. Because you are a woman.
I hope and pray that God will begin changing the hearts of church leaders to embrace His name bearers and the distinctly feminine gifts God has given them.
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