“Flight Paths”

*** Please check out prior posts for context***

 

 As Gene Jordan of MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) recently put it: “God does not stamp people out as if they were gingerbread men or women.  He demonstrates His faithfulness by perfectly customizing each of His children for His service… and then standing by them as they face the flight path that He has set before them.”

 

Here, here.

 

Seguing from prior posts, the main “beef” I have with the typical “women’s ministries/Christian women” paradigm is its one-size-fits-all approach to the topic.  I think this type of paradigm isn’t just inaccurate and stereotypic, it’s soul-stifling, often repressive, and woefully inadequate.  Here’s an example:

 

Think of a woman who’s married with children.  Does she homeschool, knit, garden, sew, can, play piano, and bake her own bread?  Does she spend most of her time in the kitchen?  Does she emphasize or exemplify a “quiet and gentle spirit” and “keepers of the home,” lead or participate in a women’s Bible study (it has to be a women’s Bible study, by the way) and insist these qualities are the sole and only measure of Christian femininity or biblical womanhood?

 

Think of another woman, perhaps a “career woman.”  She’s well-educated, articulate, scholarly, extroverted, matter-of-fact and decisive.  She carries a briefcase and wears business suits.  She has authority to hire and fire and runs the corporate boardroom.  Does that make her un-feminine?

 

I know several fine, upstanding Chrisitan men who are compassionate, sensitive, family oriented, nurturing and loquacious.  Does this make them “feminine”?  I know a number of Chrsitian women who are plain-spoken, assertive, resolute, and skilled leaders.  They have jobs as architects, firefighters and lawyers.  Does this make them “masculine”?

 

My husband likes to bake and garden.  He’s a whiz with the sewing machine – a contraption with which I’ve never been enamored.  An inactive U.S. Marine Corps Infantry officer, he also enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, orienteering and rock-climbing.  So do I. 

 

To reiterate what I said in prior posts, my point is that whether she fits the Churchianity model of “feminine” or not, every woman is a unique, distinct and multi-faceted individual created in the imago dei, an “image bearer” of the God who creates with infinite diversity and originality.

 

Look around.  Take in a sunset off a Maui beach.  The thundering roar of Niagara Falls.  Darting gazelle, zebra or wildebeest in the Serengeti.  Check out the massive splendors of the Rockies, delicate Monarch butterflies or the exquisite water lilies on a Monet canvas.    Hear the startling phrases of a Mahler symphony.  Doesn’t creation evidence a creative author?  Then why do so many Christians – men and women, Bible studies, sermons, seminars, curricula and ministries – insist on a one-size-fits-all approach to biblical womanhood or Christian femininity? 

 

As I’ve indicated previously (like a zillion times), I wonder about those who reduce “Christian woman” to a To Do list, a pool of supposedly feminine “traits,” or even one or two chapters of Holy Writ (Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 are well-worn standards on this topic).  Certain feminine characteristics may surface across the centuries.  While reducing femininity to an absolute, inviolate list of “essentials” for every woman may be handy, is it necessary – or accurate?  Belonging to a certain group based on some generally shared characteristics is one thing, but forcing each member into inflexible models and total conformity in order to “fit” is another. 

 

To illustrate, imagine a visit to the local swimming pool.  Look around at the women in the pool.  They have all sorts of traits, some shared in terms of basic anatomy and build.  But look at the differences.  Some women are tall, short, thin, or husky.  There are differences in hair and eye color, and voice as well as personality, interests, swim suits, and yes, swimming strokes.  But they’re all in the pool.  They’re all swimming.  These women may look and talk differently, swim with different strokes or distances, and select different styles and shades of swimwear.  Some of these “traits” may even overlap.  But again, they’re all in the pool.  Does it make any sense to try to force each woman into an Esther Williams lookalike – or Tarzan’s Jane, or June Cleaver, or Suzy Homemaker – before they can dive in?

 

As Amy Simpson says in Gifted for Leadership (August 28, 2007): I don’t mean to undermine the importance of women’s ministry, or trivialize the effective ministry that’s happening in many churches. But by and large, I believe our churches are running shallow, one-dimensional programs that miss important opportunities to minister to many women.

Here, here.  Especially when it comes to curriculum, courses, Bible studies and retreats that begin and end with the infamous “Proverbs 31 woman.”  More on that later.  Stay tuned!

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