I've been intrigued by some discussions over at the True Womanhood blog lately, and various ideas have sprouted in my mind and, like my tomatoes, overgrown into rather different areas than intended, refusing to confine themselves to comments on any one post. This is why I have my own blog. What I have to say is meant in the spirit, not of a rebuke, but just a different angle to remember.
I very much value Christian women being free to think and speak and not arbitrarily confined to unscriptural gender roles. I do not appreciate rigid dress codes. I do not tell my daughter she can't like trucks or math or climbing trees. I have never been known to play dumb merely to salve the egos of less-intelligent men. And I do think there is a place for pointing out where such things are done or promoted wrongfully.
At the same time, it may well be that what is wrong for someone else to do, is not wrong for us to receive. That is a large part of what the love and humility of the Christian life is about. It may be bad for someone else to obsess over hemlines; it may be quite good for me to put on a longer skirt so we can both focus on Christ instead of wardrobes. It may be wrong for a church to prevent women from contributing to a discussion; it may be right for me to learn that God can work even when my mouth is shut. It may be wrong for a man to think a woman can't correct him; it may be good for me to learn a little humility, myself. If God could use the martyrdom of Christians to His glory, He can surely use some minor inconveniences.
Many discussions about women's roles focus on the danger that women might be thwarted in using their God-given gifts. That is a valid concern. But I don't think it is anywhere close to God's primary concern. God values all work done in His name and for His glory, but He commends by name the work that requires no gifts: giving a cup of cold water, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick. Looking for a place to use my God-given talents lives uncomfortably close, in my heart at least, to looking for ways to glorify myself.
Rigid gender roles may have repressed women in the past or even now; but not nearly so much, I would think, as life itself represses everyone. We will never know how many great poets died illiterate, or how many brilliant business managers spent their lives making mud bricks. If we find ourselves thwarted in our dreams and gifts, whether by life circumstances or false customs, we can hardly think ourselves unusual.
Nor, do I think, should we consider ourselves without hope. God has not made us for this world, but for another one. There--and only there--we can all serve Him fully, with our whole selves, with everything He has given us.
In the meantime, we lay all the things we have and want and are and can do before Him, ready to take up or lay down as He orders. He may be more interested in what we can learn by not using our gifts than in what we could accomplish by using them. Or He may ask us to do something we had so long given up we are afraid to touch it again. Either way, the slogan of the cross is not "Be all that you can be," but, "Come, follow Me."