Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fight Like a Woman

She had slipped onto the battlefield disguised as a man, but in a moment the revelation of her womanhood would be known. In response to Eowyn's threat against him, the leader of her enemy's army boasted of an ancient prophesy that no living man can hinder him. It was then that Eowyn removed her helmet, allowing her long golden hair to fall free as she declared, "No living man am I! You look upon a woman." She won her victory against her enemy fighting as a woman.

Are there battles on earth that women are especially gifted to fight? We can discover much by going back to her beginnings - the creation of Eve - and through insight into some attributes that woman and God share, which reveal how she was made in the image of God, as a female.

At the dawn of creation, God said that Adam needed a helper. This part Eve had to play was not one of inferiority, such as an assistant. The Hebrew word for helper is "ezer" and it is a word that is used in the Old Testament mainly to illustrate God's help to us! Yes, God is also called a helper! And surely God is not inferior. Yet before we jump to conclusions that women are superior based on this title, it is clear that we are helpers equal to men based on the next Hebrew word, "kenegdo". Therefore, why do women share the name of helper with their God? The essence of our role lies in the kind of help we bring. Every time "ezer" is used, it is done within the context of fighting; surrounded by words such as sword, enemies, shield, strength, and delivery, or in the context of military allies. Clearly, "ezer" is a warring word.

Man and woman were both told in Eden to rule the earth. So the kind of help women bring to the world is in taking dominion of it, and fighting battles that need to be fought alongside the men. We are vitally needed. Indispensable. But does that mean we will fight just as men do all the time? God could have created Adam and Steve if femininity was not needed in this world. But He created Adam and Eve because she was the missing puzzle piece to complete the picture of creation. God is a spirit and has both masculine and feminine attributes. He needs His daughters to shine forth their natural femininity. If they do not, a profound side of God's character will be missing on earth. The puzzle would be incomplete.

Women warriors, take off your masks and let your hair fall free. Put on your high heels and get ready to crush the devil under your feet! (Romans 16:20) Let's look at a few ways in which women are often naturally gifted to fight:

1) Protect Relationships.

It is a scientific and psychological fact that for most women, relationships are the priority. It is even evident in the books and magazines we read and the conversations we have. In fact, many women define themselves in terms of their relationships. Is this a weakness in women? Why are we so interdependent? We may understand our nature better as we think about our beginnings. Why was woman made? Because it was not good for man to be alone. We were created to fill a relational need. Furthermore, not only was the first woman made for another human, but she was made from a human. Eve was God's only creation not formed out of the ground, His only creation made from something living! Women are also the ones to whom God has entrusted the privilege of a human growing inside of her. Unlike Adam, who lived on earth as the only human for a time, Eve was never alone. Immediately upon her creation, she was brought to the man to be loved by him. Like God, she only knew life in a relationship.

Like God you ask? Indeed.

In the Godhead is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They have always had a relationship with each other. The interdependence women live in is a picture of the Trinity on earth. We are relational to our core, and this is not a weakness. Rather, it is a way we image our Maker in our femininity. Our desire for relationships not only illustrate the Trinity but also reflects God's heart of longing for nothing more than to have a relationship with each of us.

I love how John and Stasi Eldredge described woman as "God's relational specialist given to the world to keep relationship a priority." In their book, Captivating, they wrote, "Women are needed to protect relationships...You might at times feel like the only one who cares. But as women we must hang onto this - that because of the Trinity, relationship is the most important thing in the universe...Your place in the world as God's heart for relationship is vital. You have been sent by the Trinity on behalf of love, of relationships. Fight for them." (p.209)

As God's relational specialists in this world, let us fight for and protect our relationships, whether with a spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, etc. Sent by the Trinity, female warriors are needed on earth to win the battle against broken relationships. How will you fight this battle?

2) Be a Life-Giver.

The first woman was named Eve. Do you know what Eve means? Life.

Women, in general, are natural nurturers. Many of us are gifted in the areas of care, nourishment and promoting growth. Someone once said that the body makes visible what is invisible to the eye. Look at the way our bodies were made to nurture a baby for nine months and then nourish it up to maturity. This is a visible illustration of the invisible attributes of our souls. We give life and growth. God is the ultimate Life-Giver. In the Bible, He has described Himself as carrying us in His womb, crying like a woman in labor, giving birth and nourishing us as a mother does the babe on her breast. In fact, one of God's names - El Shaddai - is derived from the Hebrew word for breast (shad). We are admonished to be as newborn babes, desiring the pure milk of the Word that we may grow thereby. (1 Peter 2:2) According to John 1:1, the "Word" is God. As we read His words in the Bible, we are nourished to maturity by the pure milk from El Shaddai. Before God feeds us this way, though, He gives us birth. When we believe that Jesus is the Christ, we have the right to become children of God, thereby being born again, "born of God". (John 1:13, 1 John 5:1)

As women carry, birth and nurse a child, we are pictures on earth of how God cares for all His children. But a woman does not have to be a mother for her life-giving, feminine soul to be manifested. Many women naturally reveal this attribute of God in their care and nurture of all the people around them. We want to feed, comfort, warm, and promote the growth of others. This is giving life.

Allow your natural desire to bring life to those around you to shine. Walk on earth as a warrior for life! In the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy was given a bottle of medicine to fight with. Her role on the battlefield was to give a few drops from this bottle to anyone hurt, and it would restore them. Lucy was not sure if this weapon was enough; she thought perhaps that she was brave enough to fight as the boys would. Yet it was her unique weapon that saved so many lives. How can we use our weapon, our feminine souls, to create a culture of life? We can fight against all the depression and death around us by bringing life through the words we speak, the looks we give, the way we touch others, the way we care for, comfort, encourage, and love them.

Women warriors also need to rise up in our culture to save literal lives, the lives of those most helpless and innocent. It does not matter if you label yourself as pro-choice or pro-life. What will make an even greater impact than debating these positions is putting your life-giving heart into actions that help women to choose life. Please visit these sites for ways you can help fight for life: Care Net, The Nurturing Network, and Feminists for Life.

3) Offer Your Vulnerability

"Eve's original material was more vulnerable than man's: she was made out of living cells", so says Jonalyn Grace Fincher in her book Ruby Slippers. Most of us will admit that both our bodies and our souls as women are more vulnerable than those of men. We experience greater physical and emotional vulnerability. What does it mean to be more emotionally vulnerable? Do you only see one side of the coin when considering your vulnerability? Does it remind you of how easily you may be hurt, how tender your heart is? In 1 Peter 3:7, God admonishes husbands to dwell with their wives in an understanding way, giving honor to their wives as the weaker vessel. Hey now! I am not weaker you may say. I'm a strong, self-sufficient, modern woman. Well, consider this: 1 Corinthians 1:25 says that the weakness of God is stronger than men. 2 Corinthians 13:4 reminds us again that Jesus was crucified through weakness. This word - weak - connects God and woman. Yet we know that God is not weak! Some Bible scholars believe this word would be better translated as "vulnerable".

Proverbs 25:15 says that "a soft tongue breaks the bone". The word for soft here means tender, gentle, delicate, weak. Speaking words that are tender and gentle, and speaking with a soft tone, can indeed break bones! Our vulnerable souls are tender; though this may mean we wound easier it also means we have a power that is released as we offer our vulnerability to others. This is what Jesus did: He chose to be vulnerable, knowing the power of extending such open love to others. The vulnerability of God is stronger than men. As Janet Davis wrote in her book, The Feminine Soul, "Jesus chose the vulnerability we as women so often run from...We harden tender parts of our hearts, assuming this is our only defense against more pain. Though we seldom realize it, much is lost in that moment of self-protection. Far from a liability, our feminine vulnerability is a real relational asset. It makes us easier to trust, easier to approach, and easier to connect with...choosing to live in the reality of our vulnerability is...a matter of feminine integrity." (p. 162)

If we harden our hearts in order to feel safe and in control, we are forfeiting a powerful part of our femininity. Our natural hearts are tender, and building a wall around them results in us losing touch with unique attributes of our feminine souls. We must do as Jesus did and risk any pain we may experience, knowing that God's arms are always open to heal us. In risking, we change lives and we change the world. Risking is fighting. Fighting the tendency to harden our vulnerable hearts. As the Eldredges said in Captivating, "A woman who is full of...soft vulnerability is a powerful, lovely woman...Offering a tender vulnerability can only be done by an incredibly strong woman, a woman...who knows Whose she is and therefore knows who she is."

Vulnerable women are Godlike. Our enemy loves it when we build walls around our hearts so we must fight against him. Don't allow him victory over your hearts, daughters of God. Stay tender. Stay soft. Bring any pain to God to be healed, and then go back onto the "battlefield" with the powerful vulnerability God has put within your feminine soul.

4) Make the World More Beautiful

Adam was created and then put into the garden, whereas Eve was formed in the midst of paradise, and awoke to see beauty all around her. Women often long to bring beauty to the world and are naturally gifted to do so. Whether it is through decorating a home, cultivating her own physical beauty, growing a garden, or creating beautiful things, God's daughters often have an affinity toward beauty-making. When women add beauty to this world, they are imaging the God who created this majestic universe.

One day Jesus' friend, Mary, came to him, broke her alabaster box and poured all the perfume on Jesus' head and feet. She got down and wiped his feet with her long, flowing hair. Imagine the scene of adoration and tenderness. The fragrance of the perfume filled the room. Jesus spoke and said that Mary had done a beautiful thing to him. Mary was not the only woman who had lavished love upon Jesus is this way though. There was another woman, who "had lived a sinful life", that also brought her alabaster box and poured the perfume on his feet. She wept, wetting Jesus' feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair and kissing them. How much more beautiful a picture can be painted?

My children have a book called Mrs. Rumphius. The lady in this story asks herself what she can do to make the world more beautiful. Have you ever asked yourself this question?

Beauty is essential to life. As was written in Captivating, nature is primarily beautiful, not primarily functional. Why is beauty so important? They wrote that it speaks to us, tells us that all is well. It comforts us, inspires us, and nourishes us. "A woman's breast is among the loveliest of all God's works, and it is with her breast that she nourishes a baby- a stunning picture of the way in which beauty itself nourishes us." (John Eldredge)

Where there is desolation and despair, we are warriors of beauty. The more beauty we add to the earth, the more others are comforted, inspired and nourished. What can you do to make the world more beautiful?

5) Listen to Your Intuition

Adam and Eve sinned, and so God came to them questioning their disobedience. Though Adam was standing next to Eve when the devil spoke his deceptive words to her, Adam blamed God and Eve herself for his sinful choice: "The woman You put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it." Eve, on the other hand, admitted the plain truth: "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." The New Testament confirms twice that Eve was deceived by the devil, so when she said these words to God, she was not trying to put the blame on the serpent, but rather just stating the facts. She did not say to God, "the serpent that You, God, put in this garden" or "Hey, wait a second. Why is Adam blaming me, he chose to eat!" No, Eve simply identified who the real enemy was. It was not God. It was not her partner in ruling the earth. No, the enemy was the devil. Eve was the one who had the inner eyes to see this truth. Could this have been the first recorded occurrence of woman's intuition?

Wisdom in the Bible is personified as a woman. Lady wisdom of proverbs calls out and wants to teach us. This is in the OT, and in the NT, the Greek word for wisdom is again feminine: Sophia. It appears, therefore, that wisdom may be another feminine attribute of God. In fact, Jesus Himself was said to be wisdom. (Luke 7:35; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30)

Could the connection of wisdom and women be understood in the amazing ability of inner knowledge that many women have called woman's intuition? Could this be a special feminine form of wisdom, this inner knowing?

When I was pregnant with my twins, I had a strong feeling that something was not right. I did some research and "diagnosed" myself with what may have been my problem. My intuition was strongly telling me that I needed a sonogram. I spoke to a doctor, shared with him my symptoms and my concerns of what they may be a sign of, only to get laughed at. But I persisted, and a few days after my sonogram (which was performed two weeks early) I was traveling across to another state to a special hospital that offered fetal laser surgeries. It turned out that I was correct in my "diagnosis" and had we waited another two weeks for my original scheduled sonogram, both of my babies could have been dead. I believe that the Holy Spirit can reveal things of this nature to both men and women, but the truth is that women often have a natural gifting in this area of inner wisdom to begin with.

I am not saying our intuition is always correct, but it often is, and so we should pay attention to it. The above example is only one of the ways my intuition proved correct. Daughters of God, listen to your inner wisdom. Don't be afraid of it, don't allow others to ever make you feel condemned for it. You need to fight for it by admitting that it is God's gift to you, and giving it the attention God meant you to heed to it.

6) Extend Mercy and Compassion

Adam said of Eve, "she shall be called woman". Did you ever look at that word? Womb man. A female is a man with a womb:) One Hebrew word used in the Bible for a woman's womb is "racham". There is something very interesting about this word, for it is yet another that connects woman to her God. "Racham" is also a word used to speak of God's compassion and tender mercy toward us! What is the connection between compassion and mercy and a womb? Well, many studies have proven that females have greater sensitivity and empathy toward others. One radical feminist called this tendency in women a "compassion disease"! Praise God it is not a disease, but an amazing gift to many women that reflects God's heart to us! Go out into the battlefield of this world, women warriors, and fight for mercy by extending it to those in need:)

7) Pursue Your Calling

"Confused religions encourage woman to be stripped of all sense of self and worth and lose their identity again in the man...It is not good for the woman to remain hidden within the image of the man", so says Lisa Bevere in her book Nurture. The earth needed a feminine voice, so God created Eve out of Adam's side. God took her out of the man for a reason. As women, we prioritize relationships, and that is what we were created to do, but in our fallen state it can turn into us being dependent on others when we should ultimately be getting our identity from God. Adam had no part in making Eve; he was sleeping. A man does not decide who we are. No one does but God. When He formed us in our mother's womb, He planted within us gifts, passions and callings that would have nothing to do with being a wife and mother. Listen to me: these roles are powerful ones, but they are NOT our highest calling as women. Our highest calling is to be a disciple of Jesus (Christian means Christ follower) and walk the path God has called us on. Women are not born to be wives and mothers any more than men are born to be husbands and fathers. In general, they are often more gifted in caring for a family because of their relational and nurturing qualities, but this does not mean such gifts are the only ones God has given them.

Fight for your calling. God told both Adam and Eve to rule the earth and to multiply. Man was not told to rule the earth and woman to multiply. Both aspects of life- work and family- were meant to be shared by men and women. Now, I am not saying that God's daughters should not be stay at home mothers; I am one. What I am saying is that there is work for us to do besides caring for children and a home. It may be paid work, it may be church ministry, it may be volunteering, etc. Right now my "work" is writing a book. I use any free time I have pursuing this goal.

We are to support our husbands and take an interest in their life, but their calling is not necessarily ours. Do not lose your identity inside of a man again. You are no longer hidden in the image of man; God brought Eve out. Many women tend to fear thinking about themselves at all. They fear being labeled selfish. Let this be clear: self does not equal selfishness. We must know ourselves, what our unique callings are. Sacrificing is a noble way to live, but not to the point of neglecting yourself. To believe this way is self-righteousness. Sure, we may look so holy meeting the needs of those around us while neglecting to nurture one person, us. But God does not want you to appear holy and perfect before others. He wants His daughters to care for others and love them, "as they love themselves". That is the second greatest commandment, to love others as you love yourself. Are women loving themselves?

Mary and Martha were sisters and one day Jesus went to visit them. Martha was busy, busy, busy working in the kitchen, serving Jesus, you know, being hospitable. Her sister, though, just sat down with the men listening to Jesus' words. Martha came to Him and asked Him if He cared that she was working all alone. She pleaded that He tell Mary to help her. It was expected in those days that women would serve, and rabbis would not "teach" the women. Mary's choice to join the men was a radical one. I could imagine what others were thinking, the looks they gave her. Yet Jesus told Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the "better part". Serving Jesus is good, but listening to Him is better. Jesus affirmed Mary's right to be one of His disciples and learn from Him just like the men, and He also speaks to us today to not feel guilty when we sit at His feet. Time not spent working, time spent reading and nurturing our souls, is not wasted time. We need to balance our work with our feeding our souls.

Jesus empowered women. Being empowered is holy. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has given us a spirit of power! This is written in the context of stirring up our gifts. Stir up your gifts warriors! Realize that mothering is not a career, it is a relationship. A profound relationship, one which involves much "work" on our part, but it is not our career or calling. Again, I am not saying we need to go out and pursue "paid" careers! Your real career is what you were made to do, what you can do in all seasons of life. It is your calling from God. Frederick Beuchner said, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

One last way we should "fight" this good fight (1 Timothy 6:5) is to let our calling be made known to others. God wants to be known for who He is and has taken the initiative to reveal Himself to us. Women are made in the image of God, so it cannot be selfish for us to also want to be known for who we are. We can take the initiative to reveal ourselves to others as we study how God has done so. He has made Himself known through His creation (Romans 1:20), His book (the Bible), and through the many names He has given Himself which help us to related to Him (such as Jehovah Jireh which means provider and Johovah Rapha meaning healer).

How can you make yourself known? Imitate God. Let your works/creations speak of you. Share with others whatever you create. Do not be shy; lay it out for others to enjoy. Secondly, God told His stories in the Bible. Share your experiences and stories with others. Lastly, give yourself new names. Don't just call yourself a mom. This is an idea suggested in the book Mama's Got a Fake I.D. by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira. You are a mom and what else? A writer? A blogger? A runner? A dancer? You fill in the blanks. Think of your passions, your interests, your hobbies. Think of what brings you to tears, what makes you feel alive, what energizes you. Think of your dreams and your calling. Then give yourself new names and shine! Doing so you will be bringing glory to the God who gave you the gifts that you have:)

Proverbs 31 speaks of a woman who is worth more than rubies. What kind of woman has such worth? A "eshet chayill". This is often translated as "virtuous", but it must be noted the only times it is translated as such in the King James Bible is when it refers to women (Proverbs 31:10; 12:4 and Ruth 3:11). In reality, the word means much more than just virtuous, not that this is't a great character trait. Often when it refers to males, it is translated as "man of valor" and indeed Hebrews today sing of the "woman of valor". The word is often also translated as might, power, army and strength. It is obvious that this word is also a warring word. A woman who is worth more than rubies is a female warrior, a "woman of valor!"

I pray that all of God's daughters would walk upon this earth fighting alongside the men in uniquely feminine ways. May we all live as the EZERS we were designed to be, as women of valor fighting to protect relationships, give life to those around us, offer our powerful vulnerability, and create beauty everywhere we go. May we heed our intuition, extend the compassion in our hearts, and pursue our unique callings. Fight the good fight of faith, in a way women are gifted to fight it.

Now take off that mask disguising your womanhood and let your hair fall free on the battlefield. Fight as a woman.



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