How big is your brave?

This is adapted from my ladies’ class with the same title. It is about equipping godly women with strength and courage. Dare I say, empower? It is rather long, I know, but it is meant to be a thorough and careful examination of a serious topic.

Recognizing someone else’s power does not diminish your own. ~ Joss Whedon

What this is and isn’t and a woman’s role in the church

Many months ago, I was approached by a young woman interested in studying attitudes toward women in the church. Interestingly, my four daughters and I have an ongoing dialogue about topics related to women. Knowing that others were also concerned encouraged me to begin an in-depth period of thought, prayer, observation, and study.

The advent of social media enlightened us—views became transparent and ignorance was constantly revealed. I have observed a generation of young men who speak of women in ways that disturb me and a generation of young women insecure in their roles. The result of adhering to various ideals became evident to me as I observed the fruit of the teaching manifested in younger generations. I have taught publicly and privately on women’s roles and come to quite different conclusions in the past…conclusions that deeper study revealed to be false doctrines and teachings of men. While I understand that women will have differing ideals and opinions about this, I am concerned with the issue of binding opinions on others where God does not.

Consider some of the verses that address a woman’s role in the church.

1 Timothy 3:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

1 Corinthians 14:34 The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.

1 Timothy 2:11-14 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

It’s critical to acknowledge that there are two basic things we ought not to do as women of God: leading in public worship and usurping authority over men. The first is self-explanatory, but the second is wrought with controversy. What exactly *is* usurping authority over men? What aspect is clearly defined and understood and what is left up to our individual consciences? Are we binding rules that God does not bind? Teaching isn’t always usurping authority. Usurping authority is always about behavior and attitude, not necessarily about position and circumstance. Think about Deborah who judged Israel, Philip’s daughters who prophesied in the early church, Jael who killed Sisera, or Abigail who spoke out to David.

I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves. ~ Mary Shelley

This sums up my point concisely. This is not about women having authority over men, but over themselves. This is not about women abandoning the home and leaving their children in the sole care of others. Yet, this is also not about women being relegated to the home in every season, unable to live in the world or stand on their own two feet. This is about equipping women to flourish in every season of their lives: childhood, young adulthood, single women, married women, mothers and grandmothers.

The idea that women are *only* suitable for marriage is not scriptural. This teaching has countless women from 18-40 and beyond waiting and waiting. Is it wrong to desire the role of a wife and mom? Certainly NOT. It is a God-given desire. Yet, it will NOT be a reality for every woman. Women who have not found a spouse should not be pining away, they should be embracing whatever season they are experiencing. They should be content in their own reality.

I don’t want to be waiting my whole life. I want to live my life. (Britney Piner—a single twenty something who would love to be a wife and mother, but who is flourishing in her season of single-hood)

Don’t think for a minute that this is about raising daughters who don’t want to be wives and mothers, raising daughters who don’t value the role of a wife and mother. This might be about what happens in the ‘waiting period’. Yet, for some it might not be a waiting period—it might be a lifelong reality. It’s a season!

Addressing topics surrounding our perspectives about women is about moving past the rhetoric surrounding these issues and understanding that the truth often gets lost in translation.

Equality is a basic human right or is it?

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

What is equality? Basically, it is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. Equality is almost always used positively, but often what we all *mean* by equality is a very different thing.

While, in most circles today, women are considered equal to man, the devaluing of women is neither fabricated nor relegated to the pages of history. It is not a scriptural concept, but it is often a part of false doctrines (i.e. consider the laws in the middle east where women were *just* granted the right to drive in the fall of 2017.) It is imperative for our sakes and especially the sake of our children that we teach our daughters and sons the difference between women being given a different role in the home and in the church, and women being subjugated to the whims of society and the doctrines of men.

How far have we come from this attitude exemplified in a quote from 16th century French literature?

When I say woman I mean a sex so weak, so fickle, so variable, so changeable, so imperfect, that Nature — speaking with all due reverence and respect — seems to me, when she made woman, to have strayed from that good sense with which she had created and fashioned all things. I have pondered over it five hundred times yet I can reach no solution except that Nature had more regard for the social delight of man and the perpetuating of the human species than for the perfection of individual womanhood. Certainly Plato does not know into which category to put women: rational animal or irrational beast. ~Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (16th Century French Literature)

Today, many of us understand the basic concept of gender equality, but too many still have attitudes that demean women. Consider the following kinds of people who are alive and well today.

  • Misogynist: person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.
    synonyms: woman-hater, antifeminist, (male) chauvinist, sexist, hater, male chauvinist pig: woman-hater, antifeminist, (male) chauvinist, sexist, hater, male chauvinist pig
  • Sexist: relating to or characterized by prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
  • Chauvinist: a person displaying aggressive or exaggerated patriotism. n irrational belief in the superiority or dominance of one’s own group or people

Far from the whims of society—which have both placed woman under the heel of men and elevated women to rule over men—God has designed women to be equal to man. Men like Rabelais have no concept of God’s design for women or of the inherent value of women. Though religion is blamed for the oppression of women, the scriptures neither teach nor imply that woman is beneath man, or that it is appropriate for woman to be oppressed by man. Neither do scriptures warn that equality for women means inequality for men.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 

God created woman as a helper for man and chose man as the spiritual leader in the relationship. God didn’t designate man as a dictator to rule over woman. He clearly gave a context to their relationship and included a mutual authority over one another. This relationship may look differently in different marriages, but it is clearly one of mutual honor and submission. A husband and wife must work together to find a godly balance in their relationship. What works for some marriages, may not work for others.

Things get sticky is when we add unbiblical words to the mix and strive over them. The following two words have the same root word, but evoke entirely different responses when used to describe women. Many of us are immediately okay with being feminine, but would cringe at being called a feminist. That’s thanks to the rhetoric, not the true meaning of the words.

Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminine: Having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.

What if feminism was only about true equality? What if it was seen as only women having the same rights as men and not more rights? Are there any today who truly believe that women are not equal before God? Have you ever noticed how equal is always followed by, equal but different?

Empowering ourselves and our daughters to embrace the seasons of womanhood

Embracing the seasons in our lives will empower us to be women of God! The desire to equip ourselves and our children (particularly daughters as that specific to our topic) with strength and courage to EMPOWER (YES. Empower!) them to hold fast, stand firm on their convictions, and to be godly examples to the world is neither ungodly nor demeaning to the biblical role of a wife and mother.

Empower seems to be an inflammatory word, but should it be? Is empowering our daughters somehow a spinoff of radical feminism? Does empowering our daughters mean we are taking power from our sons? What exactly does empower mean? Basically, it means to give authority, to permit, equip, enable.

A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given. A woman is human.~ Vera Nazarian

Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.~unknown

Does giving rights to women somehow emasculate men? Are men somehow less if women are more? For many years, it was the norm for men to marry down academically, however in the past few decades it become more common for women to marry down. Why does this have to be an ‘up or down’ situation? Humanity is full of amazing talents—academics, skilled laborers, artists, musicians—jacks or jills of all trades—why are we so inclined to make some talents or careers more and others less? Can we find a balance between education, intelligence, character traits and other factors? Being confident in our own strengths and weaknesses will EMPOWER us to be content in varying skill sets instead of the idea of marrying up or down—a concept that is (thankfully) less and less of a concern in this century.

In a godly marriage, both spouses will have different strengths and weaknesses. Marriage must be built on mutual respect, with husbands and wives submitting to one another—yet ultimately with husbands honoring wives and wives submitting to the spiritual leadership of husbands.

Like Aquila and Priscilla, godly husbands and wives work together side by side. Though many try to make the implication, there is no indication that Priscilla was a silent partner! Rather than being along for the ride, Priscilla was an heir to salvation with her husband. She was an equal partner—notice that ‘they’ took Apollos aside and taught him.

Acts 18:24-26 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Philippians 4:3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

1 Timothy 5:14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

Most of our daughters will eventually seek marriage and family, yet not all women will be wives and mothers. There is indeed a place for single godly women and it’s a shame that this is so often overlooked and undervalued. I Timothy 5:14 has a specific context for young widows. It does not mean that all women will marry and bear children. Embracing life as a single godly woman is absolutely critical to contentment.

A woman is responsible for her own heart, during every season of her life. She is the one who must believe with all her heart and turn her heart to God. While it is important for daughters to love and honor their fathers, we ought to have the same faith in them as we do our sons. They must indeed guard their hearts, but they are always in control of who they choose to give it to, only they can direct their heart to God. The idea that a woman must go straight from the authority of her father to the authority of her husband is not found in God’s word. Is there not a place for a woman to live independent of her father’s authority, under God’s authority, while not under a husband’s authority? The idea that a woman must “give her heart” to her father to keep until she gives it to her husband is not found in the pages of God’s word. This idea is ambiguous, but often well received because it sounds good. It gives parents a false sense of control and builds a protective, and potentially harmful, hedge around a child’s heart. This idea goes right along with the teaching that we must somehow follow a man made guide for courtship or purposeful dating…the idea that a woman is not suited for choosing her own spouse. It is no wonder that we have a generation of insecure daughters—we’ve somehow taught them that they are not equipped to make their own decisions.

Proverbs 22:19 Hear my son and be wise and guide your heart in the way.

Two of the most wonderful godly women I know are single women in their fifties. Both are career women who never married. Both value the role of wives and mothers and support many wives and mothers in their work. Both help the needy. Both encourage the fainthearted. Both are fulfilling their roles as women of God. Acknowledging single women have a place in homes and churches should, in no way, undermine the role of wives and mothers in the home. I know very few women—professional and otherwise—who do not agree that motherhood is by far the most difficult of the many choices before us. What other career path might we take in which our success and failure is so closely entwined with the free will of another human being?

Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary–it’s an act of infinite optimism.
~ Gilda Radner

Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. … To have been loved so deeply … will give us some protection forever.
~ J. K. Rowling

Proverbs 3:15-18 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

For all women in all roles, it is equally important to be equipped with strength and courage. Parenting is certainly not for the fainthearted. Encouraging brethren and holding up the hands of the weak is not for the fainthearted. Life is not for the fainthearted. Whatever role we are in, we will be called to serve and to love—to put other’s needs before our own.

Leaving behind false doctrines in the home school movement regarding women

Sometimes ideas seem right to us, sometimes they are pleasant and promising, yet in the end they are destructive. In two and a half decades of home education, I have noticed a disturbing trend. Like many others, I bought into a false doctrine that permeates the teachings of Bill Gothard (i.e the Duggars, Vision Forum and Quiverful). I tried to emulate ideas that sounded good to me, I followed a pattern that looked promising, I bound ideas that looked good on paper. Ironically, as I publicly mourned my attempts at “squelching” our older daughters, it was pointed out to me by a dear friend that in spite of my efforts to achieve this goal, my own strength and example undermined my misguided intentions. Oh, how my heart sung to hear that this one time I couldn’t truly practice what I preached because somehow deep down I knew what I preached was wrong.

Far too many home-schoolers purchased false doctrines with the blood of their children. We have now raised too many weak girls and misogynistic boys. We’ve overcompensated with our young men because we believed that they were being emasculated. Yet, even if society was somehow degrading husbands and sons in television and literature, degrading wives and daughters was never the answer. Too many sacrificed their daughters on the altar of patriarchy. The patriarchal teachings that permeated the home-school movement of the nineties brought us the ideas that daughters were only suited for training in homemaking. While they didn’t demean the roles of wife and mother, they presented them as the only scriptural options for godly women. The adherence to the doctrines of men only succeeded in making weak girls. Weak girls make bad wives and worse Christians. Furthermore, misogynistic boys make terrible husbands and contentious men. Weak women do not uplift and strengthen men. Weak men cannot love and honor women.

In our efforts to support the scriptures that teach that men are to be the leaders in the church, we have almost completely squashed women in the public realm. We have raised a generation of girls who are waiting. They are waiting for their *real* life to start. They are waiting for a season and often failing to flourish in their season of single-hood. We have created women who are afraid to be smart, afraid to teach, afraid to be strong because they fear their own courage emasculates men. We have forgotten Priscilla’s true role as helper and made her a silent partner to use her as a proof text.

Ephesians 5:22-25 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

1 Peter 3:1-6 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands.

It is a GIVEN that quarrelsome women and women lacking discretion do not glorify God (and this can also be said of men). This is often how radical feminism is portrayed. It is the pure call for equality that is appropriate, not ugly demands causing contention and strife. We are indeed to submit to our husbands, but we are also to submit to one another.

Ephesians 5:21 Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Proverbs 19:13 A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.

Proverbs 11:22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

Does your “brave” build bridges?

Let’s not be afraid of raising strong women. Empowering our daughters doesn’t have to mean we take that power from our sons. Empowering our daughters means that we teach them and guide them into becoming strong women. Women with convictions enhance the lives they touch. Steadfast wives bring comfort and peace to their husbands and families. Strong mothers are equipped to handle the constant demands of parenthood.

Weak women will discourage, they will bend, they will break. They will destroy homes instead of build them, they will fall and not get up. They will become discouraged, frustrated, and overwhelmed. They can follow, but not lead. They may learn, but they can’t teach. They can take, but they rarely give.

Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say

And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave ~ Sara Bareilles

Does your “brave” build bridges and tear down walls? It’s too easy to give into fear and squelch growth. Sometimes our daughters won’t fit our ‘perfect daughter’ mold.  They may choose a different clothing style or hair style than ours. They may want dyed hair, a piercing or (gasp!) even a tattoo. They may have different political views.

Our daughters need daily opportunities to learn and grow. We need to be brave enough to open discussions about current events, controversial issues, doctrinal convictions, scriptural subjects. We need to let our daughters ask hard questions, let them work through and build their own convictions, let them voice differing opinions, and let them establish their own faith.  We need to be very careful not to bind where God does not bind, and this is especially true when it comes to styles and personal convictions. We need to look past superficial things and look into hearts. Every different choice isn’t an act of rebellion. It is far too easy to transform differences into walls. Are you brave enough to build bridges instead?

Is your “brave”big enough to be a godly woman?

Are you brave enough to teach young women and model good behavior? Are you brave enough to train young women to love their husbands and children?

Titus 2:3-8 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

Are you brave enough to diligently care for the ways of a household that might include emotional, physical, and spiritual needs—demands that can sap nearly every ounce of your available energy.

Proverbs 31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Are you brave enough to help the needy? Godly women help the poor and needy. They look out for the good of others and seek justice.

Proverbs 31:20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.

Are you brave enough to show your faith? Are you brave enough to influence your family for good? Do you exemplify strong faith?

2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Are you brave enough to fulfill good works and acts of charity? Are you brave enough to give, to work and to serve?

Acts 9:36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.

Are you brave enough to serve the church, risk your life, teach the lost, work for the kingdom of God? Is your brave big enough to stand tall and steadfast in the face of depravity? Are you brave enough to reach out to the lost, even when their lives touch your life in uncomfortable ways?

Romans 16:1-16 Commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.  Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.  Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.  Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.  Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus.  Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus.  Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them.  Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Strong women, sisters in Christ, band together and stand strong—let’s show the world how big our brave is.

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down

By the enemy

Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing

Bow down to the mighty

Don’t run, stop holding your tongue

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in

Show me how big your brave is


Say what you wanna say

And let the words fall out

Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say

And let the words fall out

Honestly I wanna see you be brave


Innocence, your history of silence

Won’t do you any good

Did you think it would?

Let your words be anything but empty

Why don’t you tell them the truth?

~selected lyrics from Brave (Sara Bareilles)



Category: Musings
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