Revive Our Hearts Podcast

— Audio Player —

Womanhood Beyond the Stereotypes

Leslie Basham: If you’re learning to be godly and feminine, it doesn’t mean you have to fit a stereotype. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I want to be sweet, and I want to have a gentle and quiet spirit, but I can also be feisty! And I can do it—and so can you—under the control of the Spirit . . . or we can do it as rebels.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for June 19, 2018.

Back in 2008, Nancy and a team from Revive Our Hearts wrote the True Woman Manifesto and included the line, “We will embrace and display our unique design as women.” Who would know the gender earthquake that would come in the years since!? Nancy will help us compare popular opinion on gender with the truth from God’s Word. She’ll start by discussing a trend among many expectant parents.

Nancy: I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that gender reveal parties are all the rage today. I was on a website last night called “The Bump,” and it talks about fun and unique and creative gender reveal ideas. My goodness, some people are really creative!

There are gender reveal paint guns. There are gender reveal piñatas that explode with pink or blue confetti. There are gender reveal smoke bombs, of course in pink or blue. There’s gender reveal punch: pink lemonade or blue Hawaiian punch. There are gender reveal cupcakes (pink and blue, you know that), silly string, eggs (pink or blue “yolk” when broken . . . not real, just pretend). We know that, as you see a lot of those announced on social media.

Young women or moms, couples, are eager to find out whether it’s a boy or girl—whether that’s from an ultrasound during the pregnancy, or some who choose to wait until the baby is actually delivered. I have a friend whose husband serves in this ministry. She was pregnant with her third or fourth child, and the doctor told her all along that the tests and everything told her it was a boy. And she went in to deliver the baby and out came a girl! (laughter)

Sometimes the gender reveal is a big surprise, even to those who think they know which gender it is! The fact is, every person’s gender is established at the point of conception. Your gender is not a result of chance, but it’s a sovereign, creative, intentional act of a wise, good God.

What used to be obvious and universally recognized—such as what I just said—is not so much, anymore. One writer said this: “The spirit of our age does not delight in God’s good design of male and female. Consequently, confusion reigns over some of the most basic questions of our humanity.” 

And that’s not all new. Back in 1964, Professor 'enry 'iggins said, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” (My Fair Lady). I don’t know that he was trying to make some great big gender statement by that, but he was acknowledging that these are mysteries. And sometimes there is confusion or not understanding, from a man’s standpoint. “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Well, we’re glad she’s not, Professor 'enry 'iggins.

We see, sometimes, the blending or the confusing or the mixing or the celebrating of this dance—this male/female beauty. Sometimes we see it in ways that aren’t so typical, and it surprises us. I remember watching in one Winter Olympics this sport of ice dancing. This was the first time I’d seen anything like this brother/sister combo.

Near the end of their original dance the girl lifted her brother waist-high, balancing him on her legs as she leaned back while gliding across the ice. It was so unusual that I gasped, because you see the man doing this to the woman, not usually the woman doing this to the man. I had a few gals who were watching that with me that night, and we all gasped because we were accustomed to seeing men do the heavy lifting in ice dancing. And certainly, this move got the attention of the audience, who just cheered like crazy.

I came across an article on the Internet that tells us that: 

Gender is determined by a myriad of factors, and boils down to how gender is actually defined. Biologically, gender is defined by the presence of certain reproductive organs. More correctly, gender is defined by attitudes, behaviors and roles, defined by the society of the individual. Gender is mostly a cultural product, resulting from interaction between the person and their society. Following this line of thought, gender is and can be entirely determined by the individual. 

When we first wrote the True Woman Manifesto back in 2008, this way of thinking seemed bizarre—fringe, unusual, extreme—but now that way of thinking has become mainstream. It’s widely accepted. Gender reassignment surgery has become part of our cultural landscape—successfully changing body parts to that of the opposite sex. So, “transgender” and “transsexual”—these and many other words that a decade or so ago we hardly heard of—are now part of our vocabulary.

The Scripture has, of course, wisdom and moorings for us in such a time. Isaiah 45, verse 9–10 says to us:

Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, "What are you doing?". . . Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?' Or to a woman, 'To what are you giving birth?' (NASB)

You see, some of these decisions are really not ours to make, and when we try to, we end up quarreling with our Maker!

Now, we’ve been looking in this series on the True Woman Manifesto at some of the “We will” statements, based on series of affirmations that we considered over the past several months. So we’ve already affirmed things like this:

The creation of humanity as male and female was a purposeful and magnificent part of God’s wise plan, and that men and women were designed to reflect the image of God in complementary and distinct ways.

We’ve affirmed this, that:

We glorify God and experience His blessing when we accept and joyfully embrace His created design, function, and order for our lives.

And we’ve affirmed this statement:

Men and women are both created in the image of God and are equal in value and dignity, but they have distinct roles and functions in the home and in the church.

So now we come today to one of the “therefores.” We affirm these things . . . We’re asking the “so what?” about these statements? Here’s one of those:

Therefore we will embrace and express our unique design and calling as women with humility, gratitude, faith, and joy.

You see, to say, “Yes, Lord”—which is what this is all about, saying, “Yes, Lord” to God, to His will, to His ways—is to say “yes” to our God-created gender and to all that being a woman (or a man) entails.

It’s to agree that there are differences and that these differences are God’s idea. It’s to praise God for the wonder and the beauty of the way that He has designed us, to say that my gender—my sexuality—is not a mistake, it’s not by chance.

Psalm 139, beginning in verse 13, reminds us: “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.” I didn’t have anything to do with this. And so, what’s the “therefore”? Verse 14: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

To say “yes” to the Lord, to say, “Yes, Lord” is to embrace each season of our lives as women with humility, gratitude, faith, and joy.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that some seasons of a woman’s life are easier to embrace than others. Some are harder to embrace. There are physiological changes that take place in our bodies at different times—at puberty, during child-bearing years, and menopause—there are hormonal changes that take place. Sometimes you think, Why did God make me a woman? Yet, to say, “Yes, Lord,” is to say, “I receive and embrace my womanhood with humility.”

These seasons, these changes, remind me that I need God in every season of my life and that I receive these changes, these differences, these aspects of being a woman—physiologically and otherwise—with gratitude. I say, "Thank You, Lord." For some in your season, for that monthly reminder, thank You that You made me a woman.

To say, “Thank You for the challenges of PMS, the change of life, difficult things." This is all part of saying "yes" to my calling and my design as a woman.

To say, “Yes, Lord,” is to say “yes” to my helper role and to remember that from creation God stamped us with a helper design. Eve was made from the man, made for the man, given as a gift to the man. This is not as a punishment but as a privilege.

Of course, as we’ve talked about through this series, this is not to say in any way that women are inferior to men, that they don’t or shouldn’t have influence. As I’ve taught before, that the word “helper” in the Scripture is most often used to refer to God as our Helper. So in fulfilling our helper role, we’re reflecting His image.

To say, “Yes, Lord” is to embrace motherhood, whether biological or spiritual mothering, nurturing, to be bearers and nurturers of life. And we’ve talked about this in the Manifesto.

It’s to embrace domesticity. That’s not a very common word today, but the making of a home—a climate—where people can be nurtured, where they can flourish, where they can grow, where families can be blessed.

I’ll just remind you that domesticity, or some of these other aspects of our womanhood, look different in different seasons of our lives. For me, today, domesticity looks different than it did when I was a single woman all those years. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t domestic as a single woman, it just looked different. There were different ways of applying that. If you have a lot of small children or you’re an empty-nester, your domesticity may look different.

To say, “Yes, Lord” is to embrace and express femininity (we’ve talked about that over the past few months here)—responsiveness, receptivity, gentleness of spirit. I’m thinking of an email—speaking of femininity—that a man wrote our ministry. Now, I don’t know anything about this man. I’m just going to tell you what he said.

He said how he was longing to go out with (what he called) a “real” woman. He said,

Modern women seem so aggressive, controlling, loud, overbearing, obnoxious, unfaithful, disrespectful. I miss the strong but feminine, delicate, romantic, caring, loving, helpful, good mother, good companion, sentimental woman of years gone by. 

Now, we’re not calling women to go back to some previous era. God has put us in this era, He has made us to be women in this era—strong but feminine, raising daughters who will be that for young men coming up.

To say, “Yes, Lord” is to embrace God-ordained roles in our homes and in the church. Throughout Scripture we see that God’s created order involves distinctions between men and women.

As true women, we want to recognize those distinctions, to preserve them—not to resist or resent them—and to reflect God’s image in that way. We want to remember and remind ourselves that we did not “get the short end of the stick” because God made us women.

Our womanhood is a calling of God for unique purposes. And so Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 7, verse 17: “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord!” This is not up to me to determine my gender or how I will live out my womanhood.

And it’s not for me to say what it will look like in every other woman’s life. We need to be careful about that. This is not a cookie-cutter type of Christianity. The true woman doesn’t look like some image that I remember having as I was growing up—of this woman being docile and quiet and sweet.

Now, I want to be sweet, and I want to have a gentle and quiet spirit, but I can also be feisty! And I can do it—and so can you—under the control of the Spirit . . . or we can do it as rebels. We pick which, right? Joy comes from embracing our calling—whether as a woman or as a man—recognizing those differences.

The great theologian John Calvin said, “God is the source of both sexes and hence both of them ought with humility to accept and maintain the condition which the Lord has assigned to them.” “Yes, Lord!”

Another one of my favorite old-time authors (you’ve heard me quote him perhaps in the past), John Angell James, in his book Female Piety, says, 

He that created you is best qualified to declare the intention of his own acts, and you may safely, as you should humbly, allow him to fix your position, and make known your duties.

You see, God is the Creator of life, right? He wrote the instruction manual. And who better knows how we can best function? Joy, fulfillment comes when we say, “Lord, what did You design me for? That’s what I’m going to embrace! That’s what I’m going to express—my God-created design for Your glory and for the advancement of Your kingdom.”

Now some of you earlier today were referencing Elisabeth Elliot, whose program Gateway to Joy was the predecessor to Revive Our Hearts. A woman said earlier today, “She was my spiritual mother.” I’ve met many women who feel that way about Elisabeth, who’s now with the Lord. Elisabeth Elliot said,

[Femininity] is a gift, a divine gift, to be accepted with both hands, and to thank God for. Because, remember, it was His idea.

Now, I want to do something for the next several moments that I almost never do here on Revive our Hearts. I want to read to you a lengthy excerpt from an article that Elisabeth Elliot wrote many years ago called, "The Essence of Femininity."

This is something she thought long and hard about. It’s something that is needed as much today as when she penned this decades ago! I’ve just excerpted from the article. We’ll post the entire article on ReviveOurHearts.com. You can go there and get a PDF of this article.

Let me just read to you a segment from Elisabeth Elliott on "The Essence of Femininity." She says: 

Sexuality is a mystery representing the deepest mystery we know anything about: the relationship of Christ and His church . . .

We cannot at the same time swallow the feminist doctrine that femininity is a mere matter of cultural conditioning, of stereotypes perpetuated by tradition, or even the product of some nefarious plot hatched by males in some prehistoric committee meeting. Please do not misunderstand me . . . 

And I want to emphasize this; it needs to be emphasized today even more than when she wrote it. 

We must and we do deplore the stereotypes that caricature the divine distinctions. We deplore the abuses perpetrated by men against women—and, let us not forget, by women against men, for all have sinned. I am not here to defend stereotypes of femininity, but to try to focus on the Original Pattern. The first woman was made specifically for the first man, a helper, to meet, respond to, surrender to, and complement him. God made her from the man, out of his very bone, and then He brought her to the man.

When Adam named Eve, he accepted responsibility to "husband" her—to provide for her, to cherish her, to protect her. These two people together represent the image of God—one of them in a special way the initiator, the other the responder. Neither the one nor the other was adequate alone to bear the divine image.

God put these two in a perfect place and—you know the rest of the story. They rejected their humanity and used their God-bestowed freedom to defy Him, decided they’d rather not be a mere man and woman, but gods, arrogating to themselves the knowledge of good and evil, a burden too heavy for human beings to bear.

Eve, in her refusal to accept the will of God, refused her femininity. Adam, in his capitulation to her suggestion, abdicated his masculine responsibility for her. It was the first instance of what we would recognize now as "role reversal." This defiant disobedience ruined the original pattern and things have been in an awful mess ever since.

But God did not abandon His self-willed creatures. In His inexorable love He demonstrated exactly what He had had in mind by calling Himself a Bridegroom—the Initiator, Protector, Provider, Lover—and [by calling] Israel His bride, His beloved. He rescued her, called her by name, wooed and won her, grieved when she went whoring after other gods.

In the New Testament we find the mystery of marriage again expressing the inexpressible relationship between the Lord and His people, the husband standing for Christ in his headship, the wife standing for the church in her submission. This Spirit-inspired imagery is not to be shuffled about and rearranged according to our whims and preferences. Mystery must be handled not only with care but also with reverence and awe.

The gospel story begins with the Mystery of Charity. A young woman is visited by an angel, given a stunning piece of news about becoming the mother of the Son of God. Unlike Eve, whose response to God was calculating and self-serving, the virgin Mary’s answer holds no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans.

It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: "I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). [By the way, my life verse!] This is what I understand to be the essence of femininity. It means surrender. [Yes, Lord!]

Think of a bride. She surrenders her independence, her name, her destiny, her will, herself to the bridegroom in marriage. This is a public ceremony, before God and witnesses. Then, in the marriage chamber, she surrenders her body, her priceless gift of virginity, all that has been hidden. As a mother she makes a new surrender—it is her life for the life of the child.

This is most profoundly what women were made for, married or single (and the special vocation of the virgin [the unmarried woman] is to surrender herself for service to her Lord and for the life of the world).

And that’s why, ladies—let me just parenthesis here—for all those years as a single woman, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t fully reflect the beauty and the glory of Christ and the gospel story. I knew that as a single woman it was my privilege, my joy, to lay down my life for Christ and His kingdom and the sake of others. So married or single is not the issue here. She’s just talking about how marriage and motherhood illustrate our parable of God’s created purpose for our womanhood. Elisabeth Elliot goes on to say:

The gentle and quiet spirit of which Peter speaks, calling it "of great worth in God’s sight" (1 Peter 3:4), is the true femininity, which found its epitome in Mary, the willingness to be only a vessel, hidden, unknown, except as Somebody’s mother.

Femininity receives. It says, "May it be to me as you have said." It takes what God gives—a special place, a special honor, a special function and glory, different from that of masculinity, meant to be a help. In other words, it is for us women to receive the given as Mary did, not to insist on the not-given, as Eve did.

We are women, and my plea is, "Let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is. 

That’s the essence of our femininity! So if we don’t embrace it, if we don’t receive it, if we don’t express it, what do we do? We ignore it, we resist it, we resent it, and we miss out on so much that God has for us! And what’s at stake if we don’t receive that gift?

Theologian and author, Dr. Albert Mohler, has said it this way:

When the stable fixtures of manhood and womanhood are rejected, ridiculed, and reduced, chaos inevitably follows. This level of gender confusion and sexual rebellion can only be explained by looking at its root cause, a rejection of gender identity and sexual morality as defined by the Creator.

So what happens? The world misses out on the picture that God designed to showcase the redemptive story, the gospel—the picture of a Savior who initiates, who woos, who lays down His life for His Bride and of a Church that responds, that receives His initiative, and that surrenders to His leading.

And so we say, as women who want to be true women of God, we will embrace and express our unique design and calling as women with humility, with gratitude, with faith, and with joy.

Are you grateful to be a woman? Have you accepted that He made you a woman and that your design and your calling are unique, in many respects, from that of men? Are you seeking to understand and to fulfill your calling—yes, as a child of God, yes as a human being created in the image of God—but also, yes as a woman!? Do you agree with Scripture that this matters?

One of my favorite women, Susan Hunt—who has spoken many times at our True Woman events, who has written books that have been such a blessing to so many—says it this way:

It is time for women of biblical faith to reclaim our territory. We know the Designer. We have His instruction manual. If we don’t display the Divine design of His female creation, no one will. But if we do, it will be a profound testimony to a watching, needy world.

And, oh Lord, may it be so! May we, from our hearts, say, “Yes, Lord! I receive the gift You have given me of representing You as a woman. Help me to do it with humility, with faith, with joy . . . to do it in a way that makes the world want to know Jesus!” We pray in His holy name, amen.

Leslie: God is an amazing artist! We get joy when we live our lives the way the Artist intended. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us how to do that. You can get even more help from Nancy by going through a series of three booklets she wrote.

We’re calling this "The True Woman Essentials Pack." These booklets would make a perfect tool for you to use in a small group discussion or in your own quiet time. You’ll get the booklet, "A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood." In this booklet Nancy lists several biblical truths that are relevant to women’s lives, and then she asks a series of questions to help you evaluate whether you’re living those truths out by God’s grace.

You’ll also get the booklet, "Portrait of a Woman Used by God: Lessons from the Life of Mary of Nazareth." And you’ll get "Becoming a Woman of Discretion: Cultivating a Pure Heart in a Sensual World." We’d like to send you these three booklets when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size.

We’re calling this the True Woman Essentials Pack, and you can ask for it when you call with a donation of any amount. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

How do you make wise moral choices without turning into a rules-following Pharisee? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth will talk about that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you understand and embrace your God-given design. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Support the Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Darkness. Fear. Uncertainty. Women around the world wake up hopeless every day. You can play a part in bringing them freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness instead. Your gift ensures that we can continue to spread gospel hope! Donate now.

Leave a $5 gift

About the Speaker

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 …

Read More