Can I get real honest for a bit? There have been times when I really hated the fact that I am female.
Times when I’ve felt like my bold personality was perceived as annoying or bossy because I am female, yet would have been totally acceptable—and even valued—if I were male.
There have also been times when I have felt shunned by most of my female peers because I don’t like all the activities typically associated with females, like cooking, dressing up, tea parties, or shopping. Given the choice between a mountain adventure or a trip to the nail salon, I’d choose the mountains every time.
Don’t get me wrong, I never wanted to self-identify as a man. I knew that God didn’t make me a girl by accident (nor does He make mistakes with other people’s gender).
But I grew up in a rodeo family with a strong background in agriculture. Now, I don’t know how much time you have spent around horses or livestock, but nearly everything that goes into caring for, training, and competing with them takes strength and grit—qualities we usually associate with masculinity instead of femininity.
My mom and grandma, and all of my “adopted” rodeo moms, are women of incredible strength and grit—which I LOVE.
But since I associated their qualities with womanhood, I had a tough time connecting what I saw and admired at home, or in my field of passion, to the ideas of femininity that the church or the world seemed to be championing.
I was a strong, gritty girl who wanted desperately to love Jesus with everything that I had. But the women in my church seemed more interested in the latest gossip or shopping than the wild adventures that my soul craved.
I felt left out and misunderstood. I desperately wanted to see that women could be strong, gritty, godly, and celebrated in the church.
It wasn’t so much that I lacked confidence in myself, it was that I lacked confidence in myself as a woman.
Deep down in my bones, I didn’t fully understand God’s design for women, and consequently I didn’t see how being a woman uniquely gifted me to fulfill my calling. I wanted something that answered the deep longing of my own soul, the resounding question of what it means to be a woman. I wanted a place in the Kingdom of God that I could give my life for. But the tea parties, shopping sprees, and catty, shallow things I saw were not it.
I wish I could tell you that everything changed in an instant, or share a story here about how my life was miraculously turned around in a day. But the reality is that, growth takes time, especially when it comes to uprooting erroneous ideas about our identity.
Allow me to walk you through two major shifts that happened in my heart and thinking that have moved me closer to understanding God’s heart for women:
1. If I am to accurately represent God on this earth, it must be as a woman.
Genesis 1:27 says,“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” I believe that if we are created to be image bearers of God, then it stands to reason that we would do so uniquely as a man or a woman.
God creates each of us with distinct and beautiful personalities, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. He is a creative and intentional God. I realized that it really was totally okay that I didn’t like pink fru-fru and tea parties. Those were personal preferences, not the core of what it means to be a woman.
Conversely, for me to feel like I could do the rough-and-tumble, mountain-climbing, rodeo-winning things better if I had been a man, was just as narrow-minded and limiting as someone saying that I had to like pink and baking if I was a girl.
So, if pink fru-fru, cooking, and tea parties were not the essence of femininity, then what was?
2: God’s design for women is to be lifegivers and lifesavers.
In the Bible, names were given very intentionally and prophetically. I discovered that in the Hebrew, the name Eve means “life, living or lively, or famous bearer.”
Being a lifegiver sounds closer to the deep longing in my heart, but it was not quite enough. . .
*I must give credit up front to John and Stasi Eldredge in Captivating. I have indicated where quoted directly, however, much of my thought process regarding this was spurred by their writing.
In Genesis 2:18 NIV “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Other common translations of this phrase ‘ezer kenegdo’ (translated ‘helper’ in the NIV) say “helper, help meet, or companion”
I’m not gonna lie, being described as a helper, or a help meet kind of makes me want to throat punch someone. NEVER in all of my days has being a “helper” been my great big dream or lit a fire in my soul. This cannot be all that God has for women. After all,HALF the body of Christ is women, and we’re just supposed to be a companion? An addendum? I don’t think so.
But Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, finds a deeper meaning in “ezer kenegdo”
He translates Gen 2:19 to say “I shall make him a sustainer beside him.” Noting that “the Hebrew ‘ezer kenegdo’ … is notoriously difficult to translate. The second term means ‘opposite him.’ ‘a counterpart to him.’ Help is too weak because it suggests merely an auxiliary function, whereas ‘ezer’ elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone, especially in military contexts, as often in Psalms.” Scholar Richard Elliot Friedman states that “The Hebrew phrase 'ezer kenegdo…may very well mean "a corresponding strength.”
Psalm 20:1-2 is a prime example of when help would be desperately needed. According to Charles Spurgeon, “This psalm was written to be a national anthem to be sung at the outbreak of war.”
“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.”
The ezer kind of help that comes from God in this situation is divine, “From the Holy of Holies where the [glory of God] and the Holy Ark rest, from there Divine aid will emanate.”*
In Captivating John and Stasi Eldrege define it best: “The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And, in every other instance, the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately… if he is not ther beside you… you are dead. A better translation therefore of ezer would be “lifesaver”
This was what my heart needed to hear. That I am, as a woman, uniquely endowed by God to be a lifegiver and a lifesaver.
And this, this was something that I can give my life to and for.
And then I realized, my mama and grandma and rodeo moms possessed a finesse, intuition, meekness, and a lifegiving ability that, in most cases, enabled them to work with livestock in a different way than most of the men around them. They were able to bring more talent out of the horses that they worked with—because they did so as a woman, a lifegiver, and a lifesaver.
Yes, they were strong and gritty, but it was their feminine heart that set them apart in their calling. They were able to call forth life in seemingly bleak situations and walk as lifesavers to so many hurting and broken people in their world. It was their feminine heart that brought something to the table that few men could bring.
I also found several other Jesus- and dirt-loving women who encouraged me in my faith. Perhaps even more importantly, as I learned that the essence of godly femininity is to be a lifegiver and a lifesaver, I began to look for these qualities in the women around me and discovered that it doesn’t always look the way I imagined—and that’s okay.
I learned to appreciate the gift of God and the lifesaving heart in my female mentors whose hobbies and personality might differ from mine. My pastor’s wife might love a day of shopping more than anything else, but her resolve to embrace and serve our church for 40 years is certainly lifegiving. And more importantly, I’ve learned that regardless of whether you lean more towards a rough-and-tumble form of femininity like me, or take great delight in serving others through cooking and baking, we are all essential in the Kingdom of God.
What does it look like to walk in my calling as a woman?
The more I have learned to delight in my femininity, the more my gifts have flourished, and the more I am able to bring life to those around me. I no longer look at my feminine physique as something that gets in my way. Now I look in the mirror with awe and wonder at God’s creativity and kindness.
I am able to encourage and speak life to others in a way my husband and brother cannot. My female heart, combined with my strength and grit, has earned me the trust of more than one “impossible” horse, or deeply hurting friend. And by embracing myself the way God created me to be, I can better connect with the teenage girl who would rather play football than wear a dress, and I can encourage her to serve God confidently as a woman as well.
Because I now understand that I am a lifegiver and a lifesaver, made uniquely in the image of God, I can boldly walk in my calling as a woman. And that is exactly what my world needs.
So what if you are also someone who might not identify the stereotypical female roles, likes, and strengths? I encourage you to take inventory of qualities you admire in other women. Think about the things that you are really good at, the gifts that God has given you. Are you stellar at making the lonely kid feel included? Are you fantastic at designing sturdy structures? Look for ways that you can bring life to someone else with those gifts. Search for ways that you can help speak encouragement, purpose, and love to someone’s heart.
Sisters, you and I are uniquely endowed with gifts as women to serve those around us in ways that onlywe can. The world needs you and me to walk boldly in our femininity–it needs more lifegivers and lifesavers, women who refuse to succumb to darkness when they carry the Light of the world inside.
*Kesuvium/ The Writings With a Commentary Anthologized from the Rabbinic Writings