When Women Argue With the Potter

In several places in the Bible, we are reminded that God is the Potter and we are like clay in His hands. Romans 9 is one of those places-- it speaks of God's sovereignty as the Creator- and how He crafts certain "pots" (that would be us) for honorable use and some for common use.

Growing up, I struggled so much with how I was made... competitive, outspoken, opinionated, and strong-willed. In my mind, I was built more for the debate team than for home-ec. Built more to be the leader than to follow. Built more for greatness & achievement (I thought) in political office than for the quietly serving my family in the home. When I was in college, this all came to a head, and I found myself asking God, "WHY DID YOU MAKE ME THIS WAY?!?!?!?!? Why didn't you make me a man? Why do you tell me to 'keep a quiet heart', and to 'submit'?"

Essentially, I was asking precisely the same question that Paul wrote about in Romans 9:20:
...Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'
Recently, I watched a documentary about the beginnings of feminism. I was struck by Elizabeth Cady Stanton's strong hatred for the weakness of her own gender. She could never please her father, whose valued son had died in a tragic accident, because she was not a man. She had all the "strength" a man was supposed to have, and yet, she was rejected by him for possessing the same strength he had wished for in a son. This lack of acceptance by her own father drove her to extreme lengths to seek approval as a woman from the nation, because she had not received affirmation as a woman from her father.

So many of us find ourselves in this position... particularly after decades of feminist dogma being drilled into our heads. Whether we express it this way or not, there is an underlying feeling that feminism is strong, and femininity is weak. Essentially, we as a generation of young women, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, have often wished ourselves to be men. And since we can't do that, we'll at least try to be seen as the SAME as men, to be treated as the SAME as man, and to do the SAME things that men do. We don't know why we're women... we don't know how to BE women (no one taught us-- it wasn't politically correct, and half of our mothers hadn't been taught by their mothers!!!)... we don't know what a woman is supposed to be... and often, we mistake that lack of knowledge for a lack of need to be a woman.

But we forget: there is a Potter. He intentionally crafted each of us for HIS own purposes. And we don't get to pick that purpose. He gives us a choice, to some degree, of whether or not to submit to His design and purpose. And I fear that many of us, as Christian women, are bucking His design and trying to decide that He was wrong in how He made us.

We try to "Christianize" the teachings of feminism, saying to the men around us, "anything you can do, I can do better"... we just try to cloak it in spiritual-sounding language. We try to do everything we see the women of the world doing: managing a business, managing our husbands, managing our wombs, all the while aiming to never being seen as subject to or weaker than anyone else.

But if we want to ever be content in our own "skin", we need to know what we were built for. Why did the Potter make us? What are His basic purposes for women? We can look to the Bible, and we can look to biology for clear, though perhaps not politically correct, answers.

(1) TO BE A HELPER & COMPANION & WIFE TO MAN (this was the purpose of the very first woman... she was created because it was not good for man to be alone, see 1 Cor. 11:9)
(2) TO BE A MOTHER (he built it into our very bodies!)
(3) TO TEACH OTHER WOMEN HOW TO DO THESE THINGS (Titus 2:3-5)

It will do us no good to argue with the Creator. We are not the same as men. He didn't create us to be so.

Whether or not it's "p.c.", we would all do well to remember why women were created-- to be a helper and wife, to be a mother, and to ultimately glorify God in our femininity. Instead of bucking against the design of the Potter and raising our fists to the heavens, asking God for an accounting of why He made us as He did, I believe we need to instead look at our design, and develop a love and appreciation for the wisdom and sovereignty of the Potter. It is our privilege to be useful to such a wise and perfect Potter. It should be our delight to submit to His plans for our lives... even if at first they rage against the message we've received from the culture.

Let us cast off the worldly philosophies that fill our heads with all kinds of lies about who we are, and who we ought to be, as women. Instead, let's look to the Potter, and embrace HIS purposes for our lives... laying down our lives to be used by Him as submissive and honorable wives, as faithful and biblical mothers, and as encouragers and teachers of the women who come behind us on the path of faith. Rather than striving to fulfill our own flawed perceptions of why we were made, let us glorify God THROUGH His design for our lives.

21 comments:

Anna S said...

Dear Jess, what a fabulous post. Thank you for writing about this so eloquently.

danica said...

Great post.

As I was reading it, I thought of a series my father preached recently on recovering biblical manhood and womanhood. Much of what he shared was simply the challenge to ask "What did God intend?"

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy them (my dad is great communicator!) Here's the link; there are four parts, I think, to the series.

http://cfconline.org/media.php

Terry said...

Wonderfully said, Jess. I, like you, struggled long and hard with what God's word requires of me as a woman. I don't know why this is so hard, even for Christian women. Well, I think I do know why. We have been programmed by the world to see feminity, submission, and service as signs of weakness. And despite all of the scripture references that contradict that notion, somehow the voice of the culture drowns out the voice of God and we fight against our God-given purpose.

Anonymous said...

Jess,

Thank you for expressing what I have been experiencing since becoming a Christian 10 years ago. I am a very intelligent and opinionated woman. I've always had my own mind. When I get together with other couples, I find I have more in common with the men (politics, theology, sports) than I do with the women (homemaking, sewing, baking) and I tend to find myself the only woman in the group of men. What's wrong with me? Why am I such a terrible "woman?" I just don't have feminine interests. I fight being submissive, gentle-spirited, feminine. I'd rather wear jeans and a ponytail than a dress and do my hair nice. It has been discouraging and, to make matters worse, God has given me three girls to raise. How can I raise them to be godly women when I am not one myself? I don't know where to turn to ask, "Please help me be a woman." Sounds silly . . I am a woman, but I know in my heart that I am not a Woman as God intended one to be.

Thanks for letting my bear my heart,
Jennifer

Anonymous said...

Jess- I posted this over at the shed in non-contro, but in case you missed it I thought I'd post it here for you to see- ~flyingmom~

I LOVED what you wrote today. This so describes the struggle I've dealt with in my own heart and mind:

Quote:
Growing up, I struggled so much with how I was made... competitive, outspoken, opinionated, and strong-willed. In my mind, I was built more for the debate team than for home-ec. Built more to be the leader than to follow. Built more for greatness & achievement (I thought) in political office than for the quietly serving my family in the home. When I was in college, this all came to a head, and I found myself asking God, "WHY DID YOU MAKE ME THIS WAY?!?!?!?!? Why didn't you make me a man? Why do you tell me to 'keep a quiet heart', and to 'submit'?"



I think, maybe... I'm not done thinking about it, but I think he made me this way because it is the right counter-balance to my ULTRA steady dh. I need to work on reigning myself in sometimes and cultivating that "meek and quiet" spirit but I do think too that so much of what makes me a good leader, driven, etc. also makes me a good helpmeet for MY particular dh. He's a steady so wants a confident, capable wife who can just *handle* things and not bother him with the mundane. The better I run run our home, balance our checkbook, plan a menu, cook, handle insurance people, etc. the better he feels about himself. I'm starting to wonder if maybe the personality traits that I've lamanted for so long in myself aren't so bad- maybe they were put in me for the express purpose of being the right helpmeet to *my* dh.

Anyway, I know I rambled a bit, but I just wanted to say thanks- what you wrote today was helpful to me!

NCLighthousekeeper said...

I just found your blog this week, and am enjoying it very much. I related to this post, in particular, as I also am somewhat of a "leader", I went to a liberal women's college which preached feminism and lambasted femininity, I grew up in a strongly matriarchal family. The Lord has had a lot of work to do in me over the years...but I am much the better woman for yielding to His design and plan. Thanks for putting down your thoughts so well.
<><
Beth

Kara said...

This post again reminds me to be thankful for my family. Many of your posts for me highlight how ones "bringing up" impacts them for...well, for a long time!

I do not remember having any women in my family, nor any women around me who I looked up to who were into a feminism outlook on life. I know, I grew up in a very different world than the "normal" American! Also, God made me with a very storg desire for my entire life to be married and have babies!

All that to say, I am thankful that I have not had to fight against a message to me that that is not enough. I AM thankful that I have my college degree and truly enjoy what I have done as a nurse (the newborn baby nursery!), but it is definitely not something I define myself by. Also, to say to you all that as you raise your children you can teach them, both your sons and daughters, to live gracefully and glorify God with who they are. I do think that sometimes our reaction to the feminism of the world is at times an over-reaction. Although, a lot of it is a heart issue so maybe some people have to do more 'outward' things to change their heart?? I'm thinking about what Jennifer spoke to above.... I truly don't think for a woman to glorify God does she have to be in love with cooking, baking, and all things homemaking! Again, our cultures say what is "feminine" or not. You won't be seeing too many, if any women in dresses or skirts where I live!! We shouldn't be just making more rules just to be in opposition to what the feminists say.

Frieda said...

Your definition of God's plan for women is good as far as it goes, Jess, but I think it is incomplete because a single woman would have a hard time finding her slot. Could you please develop the thought a bit further? Incidentally, speaking of what constitutes godly femininity, I love the description of Fanny Roberts in Trollope's book, Framley Parsonage, which is one of the Barchester series. Sorry, I don't know how to underline titles in this window! He says, after describing her appearance (and she was not the usual beauty one finds in books): "If high principles without asperity, female gentleness without weakness, a love of laughter without malice, and a true loving heart, can qualify a woman to be a ...wife, then was Fanny qualifed to fill that station."

Jess said...

Kara,
You are right that you were indeed blessed to grow up in a virtually feminism-free zone. And I definitely agree that we need to avoid coming up with extra-biblical rules and standards that then become legalistic views about what makes us ladylike or not. At the same time, culturally, there are things you do, there in India, that signal to others that you are a lady, and assumably, that you are a respectable woman. I think that, whatever culture we live in, we need to be personally striving to have it be evident to the people around us that (1) we aren't trying to be men (just like in the OT where it talks about not wearing men's garments... it's not talking about pants or not-- it's talking about being culturally feminine, as far as I understand it), and (2) we are God-fearing, respectable women (not dressing like we're inviting sexual advances, etc.).

So while I agree that we don't need to come up with church-wide standards for x,y, and z... each one of us DOES need to bring our femininity to God and see how HE would have us express it... which it sounds like it something you learned from your family, but many, MANY of us in America did not learn to do. Which is why I write stuff like this-- it helps me process my own "junk", and hopefully encourages others to think through whatever baggage they've brought to these issues as well.

~Jess

Jess said...

Frieda,
I didn't address single womanhood because it is not a Biblical pattern that is held up for women to emulate. When you look at Genesis 1, when you look at Proverbs 31, when you look at the Ephesians teachings on the family, and when you look at the plan for womanhood throughout, there is a clear intent by God for us to be helpers. There is a clear intent for us to be mothers. There is a clear pattern for us to teach other women to do these same things.

I cannot write every post tailored to every individual woman that may come across it, or each exception that may exist. The biblical pattern for womanhood is marriage and family. Certainly, there are exceptions (and Paul addresses singleness in some places in the NT), but it is not held up as a pattern for us to strive for.

I would never want my words to pierce or wound a single friend... and I fear that this response may do that. But I also have to look at the complete biblical picture and see what exists there. And then I also have to look at the FACT that, almost without exception, every single Christian woman that I know would love to be married. And there's a reason for that-- God has written it on our hearts.

There may be men that are not stepping up to fill that God-given design, and there may be circumstances that disallow that option for particular women, but when I look at the simple and optimal plan for biblical womanhood, it is a plan of femininity, a plan of marriage and being a helpmeet, and a plan of fruitfulness in being a mother.

I hope this clarifies why I didn't address singleness in this particular post. Paul does address singleness, and makes it clear that the purpose of a single woman is to be working heartily for the Kingdom... but over and over and over again throughout Scripture, the overwhelming pattern for womanhood is in marriage and family.
~Jess

Frieda said...

That's precisely the point of my request, Jess. Single women need to see that, rather than being somehow cheated out of following God's pattern for women, 'their maker is their husband' so that their lives can be devoted to helping Him, that rearing spiritual children is the task God has given them, and that they can help other women see their lives in this same way.

mm said...

I mostly agree with your comments on singleness and the fact that marriage is the general route that most Christians will take. However, I have noticed in some Christian circles a tendency to take this to an extreme. Some will speak as though if a single christian person shows no strong desire to marry, or does not jump onto the first opportunity to get married, that person must be compromising with the world somehow. I believe such sentiments are going beyond what the bible would say.

A young woman’s chief purpose is to love the Lord will all her heart, something which can be done with or without a husband. I think in an effort to combat feminism, many perhaps well meaning Christians push the importance of family too hard.

Jess said...

mm,
Thanks for your comment.

I'm sure that some people do turn family into an idol, but that is few and far between. Far too often, it is the case that the importance of the family is not emphasized strongly enough.

Some people do indeed have a call to singleness. But most people are burdened with a need for another person. Which is why God, before giving Adam a wife, had him name all of the animals so he could see that each rooster had a hen, and each boy dog had a girl dog, etc. He was showing Adam, and building into him, the felt NEED for a wife. MOST humans have that need as well.

What we see in our culture is not the "norm" for human history. We have half of all twenty-somethings remaining single right now, despite the fact that most of them yearn for a husband or wife.

God Himself is strongly pro-family. We do not err when we place importance on the first human institution (the family) that God created. My concern for the Church is not that the family's importance is over-emphasized, but that it is dramatically under-emphasized.

~Jess

Brenda said...

Jess, Jess, Jess...please don't ever stop blogging. I'm not saying that to pat you on the back, but to let you know (since you can't see any of us readers) that God speaks to me through your blog. This was a GREAT post and put in words so many things I have been thinking about. Thank you for the time you take to write these things out.

Kelly said...

Jess love the post. I too am one of those opinionated, strong willed, and leader type women who grew up wondering why I hadn't been made a man.
I'm going to tell a bit of my own personal story here just to highlight that an opinionated, strong willed woman can be EXACTLY what God wanted you to be.
My own mother was/is emotionally and verbally abusive. Over a year ago, after she crossed too many boundaries I had set to protect my daughter from her. I had to cut off contact with her.
It's only recently that I've realized that God made me so strong to survive the abuse I suffered as a child and I am now using my strong willed nature to stand up and protect my family.
FYI, my husband stands by me, with me in this. But I had to stand up to my own mother, she would not listen to anyone but me.
So now the strong nature that has always been a hindrance in the past is helping me cope with an abusive mother, and raise my very strong willed and opinionated daughter.
My point here is that you may find God has a purpose for your strong nature.
Kelly

Jess said...

Kelly~
What you've written is definitely true... I have found other "outlets" for my opinionated self ;)-- like this blog. :)

I've also found that with parenting, I just have to hold onto the rule/standard one time longer than my children buck against it... and then the standard holds... well, guess what?! My stubbornness and strong will certainly help in that regard! :)

So, yes, I agree- there are definitely areas that are very clear to me why God made me as He did now. I'm just thankful that He kept graciously leading me into marriage and childbearing so that I could discover just how rewarding these things can be for such a supposedly "independent", strong woman.

Thanks for your comment!
Jess

Jess said...

RE: Singleness...

I just sat down last night (after writing this post in the afternoon) to start "Biblical Womanhood in the Home" by a group of women authors. The first chapter, on femininity, has much of the same elements of what I wrote here, which is interesting... but Carolyn Mahaney did have some great words about singleness that I thought would be relevant here, because of some of the comments that have been made here. Here are some of the ideas and quotes that I found interesting:

She addresses single women in the idea of being a helper, saying that God uses single women as helpers to godly men in their lives-- their fathers, brothers, bosses, and friends-- to spur those men on towards servant leadership and godly counsel.

Additionally, she has this to say about how single women can fulfill the "need to nurture":

"As women we are created to be life-bearers... gratefully embracing every stage of child-bearing, receiving and nurturing each child as a gift from God. In no way does this exclude single women. As Elisabeth Elliot reminds us, a single woman may mother many children: 'She can have children! She may be a spiritual mother, as was Amy Carmichael, by the offering of her singleness, transformed for the good of far more children than a natural mother may produce. All is received and made holy by the One to whom it is offered.'"

And as far as being "keepers at home" and "watching over the affairs of the household" (ala Titus 2 and Proverbs 31), she has this to say:

"Scriptures make it clear that while it is the man's responsibility to be the provider for the home, it is the woman's responsibility to be the caretaker for the home. Domesticity-- devotion to the quality of homelife-- is an essential facet of femininity.

"Single women, may I advise you not to wait until marriage to cultivate this? Whether you get married or not, you can express your femininity by developing a love and devotion for the home. In fact, don't assume that if you ignore cultivating a heart for the home while you are single, you will automatically have it once you get married.

"... I have talked to many married women who admitted they didn't value domesticity when they got married. ... Why? Because they didn't develop a vision for the importance of home-life when they were single. They filled their single years with every possible pursuit but a devotion to the home. I'm not saying other pursuits are wrong; the single years do provide opportunities for many other God-honoring pursuits. But these should be balanced with cultivating a love for the home."


I think these few quotes and thoughts give more elaboration to how single women can indeed display femininity to God's glory in each of these areas-- as helpers, nurturers, and caretakers of the home.

Thanks for the discussion so far-- I'm not sure I would have read these particular quotes in this chapter so intently had this discussion not spurred me towards considering how single women fit in to each of these areas of biblical femininity!
~Jess

Kara said...

Jess~I hope I didn't come across that I didn't think this was a very important topic....YES, I do think that in whatever culture we live in we should be living in a respectable/dressing appropriately as a women. For me, this has been pretty easy for me here. The clothes are comfortable, your backside is always covered...I LOVE that! :) It just seems that in America I see extremes so often ...families that have not thought about it at all or families that have made hard and fast rules of what they view as "feminine". Going even further, many people use Bible verses to "prove their point" that all women should, for example, wear skirts. Where do all the other cultures of the world fit into this?? That is doable in the American/western cultures b/c skirts are a part of us already. There are just so many things I see people making Biblical stances on that quite possibly only stand up in our culture, SO how much of that is Biblical and how much of it is Culture?? Of course, the heart is the matter of all of this, so regardless of what they do, if they do it with the intent on pleasing God...there you go. Whatcha think? I think you addressed this so well, as its more about who we are "trying" to be or fight against!

Thanks for the additional thought on singleness. I did sort of cringe when reading the post only b/c I have two single sisters who, like you mentioned, would LOVE to be married. God obviously did make us with these desires, but He does call some women to use their mothering, companionship in untraditional ways. I think you do a good job at including this in your posts.

darci said...

thanks for this , jess. i have been a sporadic reader for the last while (with a newborn everything is sporadic!) and in the wee hours here tonight this is what God had for me to read. thanks for being used by Him. darci

Jess said...

Kara,
I admit I'm jealous of the bum-covering outfits you get to wear there. I found a shop here that sells Indian and Thai tops, and I've determined I'm definitely going to stop in there post-baby and get a few more longer tops... I love em too!

I admit, I didn't really know how to take your comments; thanks for clarifying what you meant... sometimes it can *feel* like any negative comment (like "we don't need to..." or "I wish people would stop..." or things like that, even when not aimed at me) must be written in response to something I said. I hope that makes sense... anyway, so thanks for coming back to comment about what you meant.

~Jess

mm said...

Hi Jess,

Thanks for your reply.

Again, I would pretty much agree with what you said. However, I would maintain that simply because the world has gone of on a sinful course does not justify us going to extremes on the other side of the spectrum.

I guess my comments were directed within the context of a blog like this, where most would hold to the biblical priorities of women. So if this discussion were taking place in another, perhaps secular or more liberal context, I might not necessarily have made the comments I made.

Again, I would maintain that there is no value or virtue in devaluing single people just to promote family (please note that I did not think your post did so. I just thought I would comment on this since the topic came up). There are those who seem to either say or imply that it is somehow improper for a man or woman to be single and not actively seeking a spouse. As pro-family as the bible is, I do not believe it goes that far. You are right in what you say that it is certainly not the historical norm for so many young people to be remaining single for so long. However, I would disagree with those who want to go further and point at specific individuals and question their motives just from the simple fact that they are unmarried at the moment. Likewise, as I see it from the bible, there is no sin or compromise for a person to simply choose to stay single for the moment. There are practical considerations and one’s motives must be examined, but this calls for examination of people as individuals, not for board brush strokes that assume someone must be following the ways of the world simply because they are of marriageable age and not actively seeking marriage.

Again, I am not saying that is what you said, I am just making a comment.