What Is Biblical Womanhood?

What Is Biblical Womanhood?

What does “Biblical womanhood” look like to you? When you hear those words, what comes to mind?

Do you picture a woman tucking her kids into bed, cleaning her sink? Maybe you see the Proverbs 31 lady rising before dawn.

Maybe Jesus shows you a picture of yourself, right where you are, in the very spot and season that you’re in.

The picture you see might be heavily influenced by the denomination you grew up in or the current culture you find yourself in now.

The image of a devoted, Christian woman is unique and subjective to each person, right?

I am a homemaker. I don’t have a profession outside the home; I raise children and homeschool them and make sure they have happy, full bellies and hearts.

To some, that image may be their view of biblical womanhood. We say prayers at bedtime, I read my children bedtime stories, I teach them about the heart of Jesus etc. I make a safe, cozy home for the next generation.

On the flip side of this coin, I have a friend. She is not in a season of her life where she wants to have kids or be married. She is a “career women” being used in incredible ways in the field God placed her in. She loves the Lord and serves Him at her church and loves her community hard.

Is she a Christian woman in right standing with the Lord?

Who gets to decide that?

I’m seeing a trend in faith-based media that worries me.

I love being a wife, and I love being a mom, so please hear my heart in that. I just don’t believe those are the only callings God has in life for women.

If a woman is led to be a stay at home mom, I absolutely stand behind her. Obviously, that’s my life!

But if God has designed a woman with the aspects needed to be a brain surgeon, who are we to say that’s not what the Lord wants her to do?

Or, is this only a topic for debate if the job isn’t white collar, but is ministry focused instead?

Is it fine for a woman to work outside the home for a noble cause, just not leading a ministry? Is it okay to save a man from cancer but not lead him to Christ?

Just this week I read an article in the New Yorker about evangelical women in their “linen sundresses.” I won’t lie, I do love a good sundress!

What an observation of current Christian social trends right now, they sure do have us pegged haha… Linen and wicker and thrifting, oh my!

Listen, if linen dresses are how you outwardly express your femininity, that’s wonderful and should be enjoyed.

But in no way does that make professional suit pants and a sharp blouse any less feminine. Or the Carhartt another woman wears to care for her livestock.

In light of eternity, none of that matters.

We need to stop anchoring womanhood to an aesthetic, because it goes far deeper than your fashion or home decorating style.

I’m seeing this Instagram glamorized homemaking image that does not serve all women that –hear me out– might lead to even more dissension in the Body of Christ.

Here’s why: You can be a devoted woman of God and work outside the home. You can love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and not be a mother.

Your worth in the Kingdom, your calling to “go forth and make disciples” will not look like everyone else’s. We MUST stop this glorification of personal preference or conviction to be the convictions of ALL women.

All of this *waves broadly at social media* does not define your womanhood.

That page you follow is someone’s life portrayed online, the captions are their opinions and perspective, their lifestyle might be something they enjoy or even something they’ve been called to do…

But if those pretty little squares and practiced-to-perfection reels make you doubt where the Lord has you– that’s a stumbling block, dare I say it.

I am seeing women bicker online about “well women shouldn’t do this, women can’t say that, here’s where God designed you to be” etc and truly, it makes me sick to my stomach.

“Well God may have called Deborah, but you’re not a Deborah.” Who is anyone to speak for the Almighty God and tell a woman her calling isn’t as powerful or huge as Deborah’s? Because it doesn’t look like your domestic view of womanhood, and that makes you uneasy?

Let me be the one to free you right now, someone else having a different calling or a different conviction to how they live does not mean your calling is wrong, and it doesn’t negate your personal convictions.

And if you feel uneasy or threatened that a woman is living differently than you and calling herself a Christian, that doesn’t mean she’s disobeying God; you need to take that to Jesus.

We waste time arguing about Scripture and context and translation and it is the resounding annoying sound of clanging cymbals.

We can nitpick Bible verses till we’re blue in the face, debate whether it was written to all of Christianity or a specific church, but is that going forth and making disciples?

Is that healing the sick and casting out demons?

I don’t recall any of Jesus’ dialogue at the end of Mark and Matthew being gendered. “These signs will accompany those who believe.”

People debate online about a few Bible verses about women, but neglect the many directives and statements made about the body of Christ that don’t differentiate male or female. It’s the Bride as a whole.

Scripture can be twisted and used for any agenda or perspective, but I wanted to throw a few things out there before I share the core of Biblical Womanhood.

Women were in the room during Pentecost.

“All these were continually united in prayer along with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.”  (Acts 1:14) When the day of Pentecost came “they were all together in one place.” The Spirit fell on all in the room.

When Peter stands before the crowd mocking them for speaking in tongues, he quotes Joel-

In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

Still, I see other women downplaying the female prophets and ministers, telling women that they can’t “preach” because people take a few stories “out of context.” Yet they will also take a few verses out of context to make it seem completely unbiblical for women to lead ministries.

I have linked an indepth list of all the female prophets (Old and New Testament) by Marg Mowczko, a theologian with both a theology degree and a Masters specializing in jewish and Christian culture. You can read her full post on the female prophets here.

(When Paul listed ministries and spiritual gifts, he also did not mention gender. In fact, he writes about women prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11, and does not silence them. He is often misunderstood for being against women in ministry, but he knew several. You can read more about Paul’s writings + women here.)

We don’t gloss over the biblical stories of men with little detail and completely write off their worth or existence. So why do we invalidate the stories of church leaders like Phoebe, Lydia, or Junia, simply because their mentions are brief? (Just the beginning of the ladies I’d love to write about in this space.)

Paul often refers to people in his letters as diakonos, which translates to “brothers and sisters” and “servants” but also “ministers.” Paul also uses diakonos to refer to Phoebe in Romans! Same word he uses to refer to Timothy. Brothers and sisters in ministry.

Another female theologian I respect recently shared a post that checked my heart. She essentially said we get so hung up on female heros of the Bible that we aren’t paying enough attention to Jesus.

So while I share the names of female prophets and ministers in the Word, my heart behind it is this:

Women are feeding right into the divisive hands of the enemy by using platforms to argue and debate what a woman can do, rather than just focusing on pointing people to a Savior.

It’s all for naught if we aren’t showing people Jesus.

Ultimately, biblical womanhood is rooted in ministering to others and leading them to Jesus.

We are all in ministry, whether yours is a titled position in a church, raising the next generation, showing up like Jesus at work, or launching a podcast to share the gospel.

But the Great Commission is clear and ungendered. Go and make disciples!

How do you make disciples? Learn together. Teach through life. Talk about theology over dishes with your kids, tell your neighbor how God healed your knee, share with your subordinate the testimony of your salvation.

Dear women, sweet sisters in Christ, can we not get caught up in vocation as the core of our femininity? Our identity cannot be founded in earthly titles that shift in seasons.

I hate to sound cliche, but our identity is above all—redeemed daughter of the King.

Our calling is to point others to Him, and disciple them to grow as they become like Him. Just as we are still growing to look like Him!

Even if this post has not changed your heart on women’s biblical role, we can agree to disagree on theology/doctrine/translation… Can we agree on this?

The never ending debating and division on social media, in church buildings, in family living rooms– none of this points people to Christ.

A house divided can’t stand, so why would someone look in through the murky windows of a divisive faith and want to stay?

Telling women on the internet HOW they should minister in their obedience to God is wasting time that can be used to disciple and glorify God. We can’t hypercontrol what other people hear from God.

Instead of using an internet platform to berate women who might stand on a physical platform, point your following to Jesus.

Let us seek connection and a unified Bride in our pursuit of Jesus and making Heaven crowded!

Motherhood is a beautiful gift unique to women. Likewise, fatherhood a unique gift to men. We can take pride in those roles! Here’s the thing though… Not all people will be parents.

To make blanket statements towards women that motherhood is the greatest vocation you can have is a sharp slap in the face for the woman who can’t conceive. It’s presumptuous towards the woman God has called to celibacy, like Paul.

There seems to be a war in our faith both of identity and value. I have value as a stay at home mom or I have value and I work outside the home. My identity is homemaker or my identity is single.

It’s all a distraction!

Every single one of you is doing Kingdom work!

And your worth, value, and identity is not found in your vocation or marital status.

If you are a homemaker your season is amazing; pouring into your home, using your creativity to foster growth and warmth and giving your all to support your husband and kids is incredible. You get to show them Jesus.

If you are a single woman putting herself through grad school, your season is amazing. The connections you’re making for the future, the people God is giving you community with… You get to show them Jesus.

If you are a divorcee working with your kids in therapy to overcome trauma, I see you. This season might be hard but it sure is holy as you get to lead your kids towards wholeness and healing. You get to show them Jesus.

The list is neverending! Wherever you are in life, your role in womanhood is glorifying your Father.

So here’s my request for you:

Take pride in where God has you, and celebrate your sister who is somewhere else. This is not a competition.

Ask Jesus to highlight a woman to you, who may or may not be in a different season of life or vocation, and pour into her heart this week. Pray for her, lift her up with some encouragement, and ask how her heart is.

Point her to Jesus.

Hi friend! Thank you for reading today! If you feel led, I’d love for you to consider sharing this post. I’d also love to connect with you! You can contact me here on the blog, subscribe for new posts, or come hang out with me on Instagram. I hope we can chat soon!

When Shame Writes The Story

When Shame Writes The Story

If you’ve participated in a church community for any length of time, you’ve likely heard the story of the woman at the well. The beautiful story is found in John 4 and usually has these highlights:

Samaritan. Adulteress. Unworthy. Woman. Sinner. 

Shame. Shame. Shame. 

Anytime I hear or read the word “shame”, I get that scene from The Princess Bride in my mind of the old woman screaming “Boo! BOO!” at Buttercup as the sweet girl makes the best decision she knows how to make, even by betraying her one, true love.

As I was reading Without Rival by Lisa Bevere a few years ago, the story of the woman at the well was retold with more cultural context and with the lens of a loving, compassionate Savior.

Let’s dig into more of this story, exposing the traditional lens of shame it is recounted in, with a lens of love – and see what more important truths we can glean.

I’ve often thought it interesting that many teachers highlight that she was a Samaritan, without going into too much of what that would have meant to Jesus and his followers.

In the biblical setting, Samaria, also known as Palestine, and Israel were basically in a race war. The territory of Samaria is found in land allotted to the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim when the Israelites conquered the Promised Land (Joshua 16 &17). Samaria was the capital of Israel when the country split. 

The biggest issue evident in Jesus’ time in this century old conflict was they practiced their faith differently. Samaritans even went as far as to create their own version of the five books of Moses.

Israel, being way more judgey than they should be, looked down on the Samaritans for their overt mixing of Jewish practices and pagan, settling non-Jewish practicing people in their land and claiming that Mount Gerizim should be the home of The Temple instead of Jerusalem.

Unresolved conflict and removing love from interactions had caused generations to hate, literally HATE each other. The fact that Jesus marches directly into this region brings the utter surprise of the disciples into context and begs so many more questions of the later parable of the Good Samaritan. 

Different faith. Different culture. Different skin color. 

Shame. Shame. Shame.

The term “adulteress” frequently visits the retelling of this story from our modern-day pulpits. Why would this woman have had 5 husbands, the most recent she was living with but had not married?

In the first century Samarian culture a woman was unable to initiate divorce from her husband, since they practiced a version of Judaism. The insinuation that she was an adulteress woman is very likely far from true.

Laying down those lenses of condemnation and picking up the lens of Love, we can explore a few other possibilities that showcase Jesus’ heart in meeting this woman in an even greater way. 

First, she could have been widowed.

Since a woman’s worth in that time and place was only determined by who she was married to, can you close your eyes and imagine what that grief and fear would have been like to lose not only your husband, but your position in the village, the security of food and shelter, the very home you had established…four times over?!

Can you open your heart to the fear of being handed off again and again to the “next in line”, likely without your consent, the stigma of death following you everywhere you go in your village? 

Another possibility is that she was divorced or cast away by her husbands.

Causes for divorce in this time and culture could have been a physical defect, infertility, incurable physical or mental illness. When your only job in society is to marry, please your husband, care for your household and raise as many children as you can produce, I can not even begin to fathom the shame this situation would have produced in her heart. 

Some scholars have speculated this immense burden of shame is why she was at the well gathering her daily water in the middle of the day, when no one else was around. At the high heat of the day she wouldn’t have to worry about hearing all the hushed whispers or comments. She could just be alone. 

No good. Unworthy of love. Cast off. 

Shame. Shame. Shame. 

One undeniable aspect of this story is that Jesus was speaking to a woman. This part always makes me cry. Even now, as I write this I’m crying.

Growing up, as this woman did, in a culture where women were second rate citizens has immense impact on one’s heart and mind.

Knowing no matter what, your life is second thought. Your life is a negotiation chip of interests and property. The knowledge of how powerless you are to initiate change infuses every choice, every day. 

It is from this place of utter hopelessness, that the unfathomable beauty of the heart of our Father shines. It shows His heart to see each woman, just as He sees each man, different, yet equal.

Both powerful, with different strengths. 

I don’t believe for a moment that Jesus got a word of knowledge about how many husbands she had to provoke shame in her. He wasn’t trying to keep her in her place or remind her of her status. There was no desire to pour salt in the wounds of her broken heart.

He had no desire to see her turn red and hang her head. That is not how He operates. That is the voice of the Accuser of the Brethren.

I believe Jesus spoke the word of knowledge to her to let her know that even though she was a woman, from a conflicting racial heritage and her marital record was rough, He was speaking to her. Jesus saw her, knew her and wanted connection to her heart.

What happens next in the longest recorded dialogue between someone and Jesus in the New Testament blows me away. Jesus and this woman embark in a lengthy theological discussion! This would have been unheard of in their time.

Yet, this woman holds her own. She knows what her faith culture believes as well as Jesus’. In a day and age when women were separated from men in the temples, she knew her Scripture! 

In the progression of this theological debate, John 4:26, Jesus reveals Himself as the Messiah to this woman. Jesus’ profound compassion on her and His gently delivered prophetic word bring about transformational belief. She knew in her heart that what this man spoke, that the love and gentleness, the equality and patience He showed her set Him apart from any other rabbi.

She knew He was the Messiah. 

The woman is then catapulted by Love into the role of the first missionary we see in Scripture. No fancy schooling. No big ceremony.

Jesus trusted this woman to proclaim Him. She delivered a simple Gospel, “He saw me. Messiah has come.” 

Many in the town believed because of her testimony which exemplifies her as an apostle…all this before Jesus’ death and resurrection. He had yet to even reveal who He was to His 12 Disciples and only one of them actually figured it out (Matthew 16). 

The invitation of this story is not only to watch Jesus wipe out shame from a life but to watch Him rewrite the narrative. Shame is really great at telling us who we aren’t. Jesus is really, really incredible at reminding us who we are in Him.

We lose so much when we stop a story, just like we would lose so much if we stopped at the death of Jesus and never followed the story of His Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, etc. Continuing what we know of the story of this incredible mother of the faith is vital to grasping the glorious story of redemption and restoration.

So who did this famous “woman at the well” become?

Early church historians tell us she followed Jesus’ ministry through His death and resurrection and was one of those 3,000 baptized at Pentecost, along with 5 of her sisters and two sons. It was at this momentous occasion that she received the name Photini.

Photini was known for the boldness that she preached and eventually it gave her the opportunity to share the Gospel with the dreaded emperor Nero in Rome. After sharing the Gospel, Nero tried to severely torture her, hoping she would turn from Christ, but instead Photini succeeds in sharing the Gospel with Nero’s own daughter who choses to become a follower of Jesus. 

Nero ordered Photini to death by fire, which she survived for 7 days, then to death by poison, which she also survived. Her faith was supernatural. Her determination was evident. How can one meet Jesus face-to-face then deny Him existence?

Photini had been captivated by a Love stronger than life. She is revered as a martyr and in the eastern Church she is “equal-to-the-apostles”. 

Where does shame live in this story now?

So many times we let shame tell our story. Something terrible happens and we let that write the narrative of our life. We push back on invitations of healing or cover up the needs of our heart in the searing aloneness of the noonday sun.

Handing our power over to the loudest ridicule, we let the cycle of lies about us tell the story in our mind and weave madness about us in the minds of others.

Your race, faith, gender, marital status, don’t get to hold your value. Jesus does.

The Lover of your soul who sees it all and speaks to you. The Living Water who gave this woman a ravenous hope is not limited to one redemptive story.

Photini says in John 4:15 “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” I like to imagine her saying this, “Jesus, make it stop hurting. Nourish my heart and soul. Give me life. I don’t want to strive for existence anymore. I don’t want shame to write my story.” 

A hallmark of shame running the show is running and hiding. Adam and Eve did it in Eden (Genesis 3) and Jesus invites us into this incredible shame free life in John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The greek word for truth in this verse is alētheia and can be appropriately translated naked or transparent truth.

You can’t give true worship with a naked, transparent heart if you are wearing the dress of shame. 

Shame doesn’t get to write your story, my friend. Jesus died for that shame and in the words of Graham Cooke, “Quit taking that back for yourself. (Jesus) wants that back.” 

Be free, indeed.

SOURCES:

Without Rival by Lisa Bevere

History of Samaria

Women’s Ordination Online – The Samaritan Woman At The Well

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

The Good Shepherd – St. Photini and her Almost-Forgotten Apostolic Family


Shannon is an incredible friend and wealth of wisdom. She is about to graduate ministry school, and is a powerhouse momma to four boys! You can find her here on Instagram!