Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A Battle in the Garden

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m sure you’ve heard of the “battle of the sexes.” It may seem to you that the competition between men and women has escalated over the past few decades. The conflict between men and women is really nothing new.

Just think about it: it’s at the heart of many of Shakespeare’s plays, and before that, ancient writers imagined warring gods and goddesses whose antagonism affected humans. To get at the heart of this conflict, you have to go back much farther—back to one man and one woman in a garden.  

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, November 6.

Today Nancy will explore how the battle of the sexes began, back in the Garden of Eden. Nancy’s talking with Mary Kassian. The two of them wrote a workbook called True Woman 101: Divine Design.

They’re talking about one of the chapters in that study—chapter 5, on the battle of the sexes, and they’re joined by their friends Carolyn McCulley, Dannah Gresh, and Erin Davis. Let’s join the conversation.

Nancy: Now, when I say “battle of the sexes,” what comes to your mind?

Carolyn McCulley: I think of that song, “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.”

Erin Davis: “No you can’t. Yes I can.” You know that song—they’re duking it out. It's men vs. women.

Mary Kassian: Men vs. women. “Let’s duke it out.”

Danna Gresh: It happens in my house sometimes (gasp).

Nancy: Tell us how.

Dannah: Do I have to?

Nancy: Yes.

Dannah: I don’t know, I feel like the culture has just created this competition, sometimes. “That’s a guy job; that’s a girl job.” We feel that tension sometimes in our relationship when we’re not anchored in God. This happens in the best of marriages, and it shows up in the smallest of things—who’s going to take out the trash and who’s going to do the dishes. It’s every day in my house. It’s an everyday battle against the flesh for us to submit to God’s plan.

Nancy: But I think it’s really popular—and okay—in the culture for women to tell men-bashing jokes. (But men can’t tell women jokes, at least when women are around.) Don’t you find that’s pretty common? “Oh yeah, he’s a guy.” “That’s just the way men are.”

Dannah: “Men don’t have feelings.”

Carolyn: We’ve talked often how every single commercial shows a man who deserves to be mocked—just the way that it’s cast. So it’s being played out. It’s being piped into our living rooms in every single reality show. It’s guy versus girl, or a bunch of girls versus one guy . . .

Mary: . . . or she shows him up. She’ll just get in there and show that girls can do it better.

Dannah: It’s a sad thing, because it actually shows up in the way that girls and boys are growing up. One of the pieces of research that I came across recently was, the great difference in the number of the boys that are in college in relation to the number of boys that exist.

Mary: It’s astonishing. The population is predominantly male. It’s not a huge difference, but statistically there are more males in North America. But there are exponentially more females entering college right now, because for years we’ve been telling boys that they’re dumb, they’re the reason for all our problems.

You can actually trace that back to about the eighties—and the seventies—when they really started to sink into that almost self-fulfilling prophecy of the feminist movement. The prophecy that everything good is created by women, and every problem is created by men.

You can see that in the educational systems.

Dannah: You can see it, too, in our view of teen boys. Do you remember back in the nineties when we were all afraid of the super-predator, because there was this little bulge of teen boys who were coming out that hadn’t been domesticated. So the violence was spiking and people were really afraid of these boys that were running in gangs.

There were big predictions about what would happen, and then the population kind of dropped off a little, and then we didn’t have the super-predator crime that they were expecting. But we were so afraid of teen boys.

This reminds me of a story. My son is a young adult now, but he was maybe in ninth grade—in fact, I know it was ninth grade . . . His assignment in his Christian high school was to do a random act of kindness. So he got together with three of his friends in his class—three guys—and they baked cookies at my house.

I got the boxes, they put the cookies in boxes, and they were just going to knock on doors, give these boxes of cookies and rake leaves for whoever was home. The first woman where they went opened the door and completely distrusted that four teenage boys were standing outside wanting to do a good purpose.

She had this alarmed look on her face and said, “There’s a mouse in the box, isn’t there? I know there’s a mouse in that box. Get that mouse out of here—I don’t want that mouse here.” They finally opened the box, and she said, “Eat one of those cookies.”

So they ate one of the cookies. Here, you have these four teenage boys that did a good act—they did end up staying and raking her leaves, but it was so sad that she distrusted them.

Mary: With my kids, my sons, it’s really something to be a man and to pass by a woman on the sidewalk and have her kind of cringe and expect something bad from you. “You’re not going to be for me, you’re going to be against me because you’re a guy and I’m a girl.” This battle, it just rages on so many fronts.

Carolyn: Even the disparaging remarks that are made: “Oh, boys’ eyes! You couldn’t find the socks! They’re right there on the floor!” There is just that sense that, “We girls can do things better.” All of us can make these jokes and not think about the implications of them.

Nancy: So what are some other ways we see that battle of the sexes playing out in women’s lives today, in their relationships. You just gave one example, Carolyn. What are some others?

Mary: There’s such a tug-of-war for control, really. I think there’s always just this pulling that goes on over who’s going to control. That often happens in relationships on a small level, but I think also on in terms of on a larger cultural level. We see this pull that there can’t be any disparity between how men and women are treated, because otherwise it’s not fair.

So we see, even in sports programs, they’re putting down a lot of men’s sports programs now because there needs to be an equal number of women . . . Or they’re taking women into courses when there are guys are more qualified—but we need to treat the sexes equally. There’s this battle and everything needs to be equalized so more women will be accepted in.

That’s been a frustration for a lot of the men that I know. 

Carolyn: I think it’s not just that women be treated equally, but there’s this feeling that women need to be treated better. So women have been winning the battle of the sexes, but in reality we’ve been losing.

Erin: I don’t think that the battle cry of women in recent years has been “separate but equal.” I think it’s been “separate but superior.” We’ve been trying to prove that we’re superior at every turn of the race. Now, we are the CEOs, and we are the biggest group of college students, and we are running our own homes—and it’s not the fantasy that we thought it might be.

Carolyn: When I became a believer, after investing a decade in feminism and the women’s movement, the thing that was revealed to me right away was in my speech. My words could undermine so quickly—and I wasn’t even trying to do that.

But I remember talking about a guy I was dating to some friends of mine who were a married couple. The man heard it and said, “I’m glad I’m not single, because you scare me, the way you speak about these guys.” And I thought, I was just telling the truth.

That was my first wake-up call that this ingrained attitude was so present. I was discussing somebody I was dating—I didn’t even think I was angry. I didn’t even understand then that it would probably fall into the category of gossip. But just to hear his feedback on my critique, the overflow of my heart. It stunned me to hear that because I wasn’t even trying to be mean.

Nancy: And you’re thinking, I really could be mean. . . I think sometimes there’s really not an awareness of how we’re coming across, how we’re communicating, because it’s become the norm. And then, where there’s conflict between men and women, invariably we’ve got to find someone, something, to blame.

What are some of the factors we—our culture—blames for the conflict between men and women?

Erin: Men. It’s pretty much just men.

Nancy: Men, men, men, men, and men.

Erin: Men get the blame for everything. Did we say “men”?

Carolyn: It’s not totally unjustified, though. You go back and look at—especially in the history of what’s happened to women in the Western world—there were some real injustices and some real crimes against women, some real sin in a large group setting.

Now we can see this root repeating itself in developing nations. You see this pattern where there’s inequality and there’s really bad treatment of women. Will we offer the same solution? Or will we come in with a gospel-based solution that will bring real repentance, reconciliation? That’s dear to my heart.

At the True Woman events we've met women who are literally being harmed by men. They’re not healthy relationships. Men are taking their role of leadership to a place of harshness and unkindness and cruelty and power and control and domination. It’s still happening today.

I’d like to say that we’ve grown as a culture in that, but it’s still happening.

Nancy: We’re going to talk more about that in this discussion. I want to roll back just a minute and say that if we go back to the first few chapters of Genesis—the creation—this battle between the sexes, this not being on the same side, this not pulling together, this blaming all goes back to the very first man and woman.

It wasn’t that there had been some awful, evil oppression in that case (though sin is oppressive and destructive). But here you have the man blaming the woman and the woman blaming the man, just blaming each other. She blames the serpent. There’s anything except personal responsibility.

We have this tension here. There are real injustices. There are things that need to be corrected and addressed. But from the time sin entered into the world, there was this brokenness in relationships. Let’s get back to what causes these conflicts, ultimately.

James talks about it, in the Bible: “Why do you have wars among you, why do you have battles?” It’s women and men against each other, women against women, men and against men—whatever. It’s something that’s going on in our hearts.

That’s why we go back to the Genesis account, to look at how all this got started. Here we have Eve who disobeys God, who makes a sinful choice. She goes her own independent way. And let’s just remind ourselves—what was Adam doing?

Carolyn: He was not doing anything. He wasn’t leading, he wasn’t informing, he wasn’t protecting. He was being passive.

Mary: He was passive. You know what’s really interesting to me? We’ve looked at the story of what man and woman were created to be. I think it’s interesting that Satan played to the weaknesses of male and female—not weaknesses in a bad sense, but vulnerabilities is a better word. With every strength comes a vulnerability.

The vulnerability for men is passivity; the vulnerability for women is stepping outside of that that God would have for us, and directing our own lives and responding to the wrong thing. I think Eve was such a responsive, relational creature. The serpent, when he approached her, engaged her in relationship, and she responded to Satan instead of responding to God.

So what she did, she did out of who she was as a woman. She was a responder, a relater—“Yeah, let’s connect, make relationship.”

Nancy: It's hard to imagine relating to a snake, however.

Mary: There was something engaging there, something very engaging.

Nancy: Have you ever questioned, why did Satan approach Eve first rather than Adam?

Erin: Because he was more crafty than any of the other animals in the garden, I think he understood, maybe, her desire to please or her desire to gain control ultimately.

Carolyn: And she wasn’t there to get the word. God told that to Adam and Adam told her. Now it was an opportunity to come and undermine that, and see. She thought, Maybe God is holding out on me, and that could have contributed to Adam standing by passively and thinking, Yeah, maybe God is holding out. Let’s just see what’s happening here. There was that lack of teamwork—checking in with each other when there’s spiritual opposition. And it led to this downfall.

I think the serpent came at her because she didn’t hear it first, she heard it from Adam. This is a very easy way to contort it and say, “Hmmm, are you sure you got that right?”

Dannah: I think Satan knew, inherently, some of their weaknesses. He had observed them. Scripture says in Ephesians that men are called to love and women are called to submit and respect. I’ve heard a pastor say—and this really resonates with my heart—that one of the reasons God issues those commands is because what’s difficult for a woman is to submit and respect.

You go see an office full of men or an army of soldiers of men, and they have no trouble with the hierarchy of authority. But you put women in that same setting, and you have some play for power, right? Certainly!

Erin: That’s a nice way of saying what would happen in that room of women.

Dannah: There are many office environments with this scenario. So, I think Satan had observed her, perhaps, and realized, “I know where I can mess with this hierarchy of authority and submission.” It wasn’t just Adam she wasn’t submitting to—it was God.

Mary: What’s so interesting about that is I think sin targets us sex-specifically, but also, when God gave judgment against sin, it was sex-specific. He didn’t just come in and give this blanket judgment. To Adam He said this . . . to Eve He said this . . . There are some differences in the way we’re impacted by the presence of sin.

Nancy: Let’s talk about what those judgments were. I think it helps us understand our calling, as women, and our fallen-ness as women.  Genesis chapter 3 is where you have the temptation and the sin. Satan did tempt them sex-specifically, and then you get to verse 16. Mary, why don’t you read that passage, Genesis 3:16–19, and see how this plays out differently to the sexes.

Mary: Sure.

To the woman He said [that’s the Lord talking], "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you."

And to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree that I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Nancy: What are the differences between these two consequences?

Mary: Well, you see the consequences of sin, the impact of sin, really touching male and female at the foundation core of who they are. Women are impacted relationally, meaning pain in childbearing, relationship with the man—male/female relationship with the husband. So women are impacted because of their ability to relate and bond.

Erin: And emotions, don’t you think? Can we talk about PMS?

Mary: And all the things that go along with being a woman . . .

Nancy: . . . at different seasons of life—not just when you’re having children.

Mary: And guys are affected in terms of their capability or their ability to be initiators or to affect the desired result. So everything they try and do, their work, their labor is going to be frustrated for them.

Nancy: Their calling to provide . . .

Mary: Yes, their calling to provide. So in a sense, it affects a woman’s relationality. It affects a man’s capability. It affects them at the core. Sin affects me. It affects who I am as a woman, and it affects a man at the core of who he is. I think we see this all the time.

Dannah: I have a note in my Bible for the verse, “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” My note says that the Hebrew language denotes a desire bordering on disease. It’s kind of like a violent craving. I look at the state of little girls, teen girls, single women, and see this violent craving that “I must have a man. I will not be complete.”

We saw it when we wrote Lies Young Women Believe. They felt they didn’t have value if they didn’t have a boyfriend. A lot of times these were girls who had never had a boyfriend. Single women struggle sometimes to the point where they lose their focus on their own value because they’re seeking this out—this violent craving.

Carolyn: Not only a craving for, but a craving to control.

Dannah: Yes.

Nancy: So once they get the man, there’s this powerful desire to be in charge of the man.

Dannah: The way the male responds to the female is also under the curse of sin—what was supposed to be so good and valuable and beneficial gets twisted into a domination and a rule that is very harsh and very, very hurtful. I can’t believe how much this passage talks about pain. It’s so painful. It’s pain for the woman, and it’s pain for the guy.

Pain in different ways, but we see that all the time.

Nancy: We need to remember that it’s not men who cause the pain, or women who cause the pain to men—it’s sin that causes pain. It damages—as we saw in this lesson—woman’s inherent softness and man’s inherent strength. So when we see this conflict, our tendency is to blame the other person for causing the pain, but we go back to Genesis and see, no, it’s our sinful choices that end up causing pain.

Erin: I think, as women, it’s important for us to remember we’re not the only gender in pain. Men are suffering as well. They may not be articulating it as freely or as often, because they’re not getting together and talking about the opposite sex as much as we are, but they’re suffering from the results of sin just as much as we are.

The battle is different than it’s been cast to be.

Carolyn: And you can’t talk about the roles in marriage without understanding this background, because if you just read Ephesians, it sounds weird and archaic. If you don’t see that it’s a redemptive quality of God restoring that broken lack of fellowship and teamwork, and saying to the woman to encourage and follow and support—it’s a redemptive picture of your independence.

Loving sacrificially for men is a redemptive picture of your passivity. If you don’t know that, then this does sound very oppressive and really weird, like a throwback. Whenever we talk about roles, we need to take it back to the gospel or it makes no sense.

Nancy: You know, Carolyn, when you were a new believer as a thirty-year-old women, the book of Genesis and this teaching on roles was one of the first things you encountered. You didn’t exactly have a positive response to that.

Carolyn: No, because I actually entered in at Ephesians. Our church was going through Ephesians, and I was reading along with them. I had never read this before, and I thought, What?Submission! It took some time and understand, “Here’s the gospel, and this is what makes sense.”

But I first reacted like everybody else: “You’ve got to be kidding me! No way!” I think that temptation is always present, and if you don’t see (as you all have so capably written in the book) it’s not about us, it’s about the Lord’s glory. If you don’t see that, it doesn’t make any sense.

Mary: If you don’t see that, it’s hopeless. If there was not an answer to this consequence of sin—I’d be a feminist. I’d be something, because there wouldn’t be an A plan. They don’t see the A plan, so they try to create their own B plan, their own C plan, and craft their own fig leaves.

And ultimately, it’s the same goal. What we want is to experience that mutuality and that harmony and the unity and the communion.

Nancy: That’s what God intended, that’s the way it started out.

Mary: You just don’t want to have a battle. You want it to be peaceable and harmonious, and that’s really the wonder of the gospel—is that Christ made a way to get back there, but it’s not the way that we think. It’s not by clamoring for the way we think it should be, but it’s by submitting ourselves to God’s plan that we actually begin to accomplish that.

I just think of the pain in the lives of women. We need to acknowledge that, because we cannot take that lightly. I do not take that lightly. I cannot tell you the number of girlfriends who I have ministered to who have been so broken at the point of their relationship with men. They have been abused, and just the atrocities and the brokenness and the pain of sin is so ugly. It’s just so ugly.

Leslie: Mary Kassian has been commenting on the hurt so many women feel, the hurt so many of our listeners feel. She’s been talking with our host, Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The two of them co-authored a workbook called True Woman 101: Divine Design.

They’ve been discussing chapter 5 of that book, on the battle of the sexes, with some friends. We heard from Carolyn McCulley, Dannah Gresh, and Erin Davis. As we just heard, the hurt in many relationships is very real and very serious. Tomorrow this group will be back to talk more about the hurt men have caused women and the hurt women have caused men.

We’ll see how men and women can avoid causing that kind of hurt, by being who God called them to be. Imagine having this kind of discussion about issues in your small group or a class at church. You can, when you tackle the eight-week study True Woman 101: Divine Design.

Here’s how it works: Each member of your group will go through their own workbook, then you’ll meet together to watch a video. It will feature a conversation similar to what you’ve just heard. Here’s what Heather Patenaude, a women’s ministry director, had to say about True Woman 101.

Heather Patenaude: True Woman 101: Divine Design is an eight-week study. Grab a group of girlfriends and understand what true womanhood is. The more I understand why God created me as a woman and how I am to function as a woman in the body of Christ, it’s changed my marriage.

I had a fabulous marriage before I went through True Woman 101 or went to the True Woman conference, but God has taken it to another level of amazing-ness, because I’ve come to understand my role as a wife, my role as a daughter of the King, and more.

Watching my husband respond to my changes, he always says to me, “If you want to go to True Woman, fine. You can go to anything Revive Our Hearts does, because when you come back you are a completely transformed woman.” So he is completely supportive of anytime I want to be involved with Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement.

Leslie: We’ll send you a copy of the workbook True Woman 101 when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit You can also order multiple copies the same way.

Tomorrow, Nancy, Mary and their friends will pick the conversation back up. Please be here for the next Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, With Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.