A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood (Part 1) - Nancy Leigh DeMoss

How should we understand womanhood biblically? And why are we so confused about it, anyway?

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God's Woman in Today's Culture 
Day 1 of 5
 
Guest:                        Nancy Leigh DeMoss
 
From the series:       A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood

 

Bob: How should we understand womanhood biblically?  And why are we so confused about it, anyway?  Here is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
 
Nancy: Let me say that I think it is the nature, ever since the fall of man and woman, to chafe against God.  But, for me, the essence of femininity is to embrace the concept of surrender as a woman to become a receiver, a responder, and surrendered to the heart and the will of God.
 
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, June 16th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  How well does your understanding of womanhood line up with what the Bible teaches?  We'll talk about that today.  Stay tuned.
 
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  You know, for the last many years, there has been a movement in our country where a lot of men are looking around and asking the question, "What does it mean to be a man?  What does the Scripture teach us about authentic biblical manhood?"  And I think that while that's been going on, Dennis, there have also been a lot of women who are beginning to say, "I'm not so sure I know what it means to be an authentic woman biblically.  I'm not sure I know what the Scriptures teach about biblical womanhood," and that's what we're going to take some time to focus on this week.
 
Dennis: Yes, in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 27, it's clear – "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God, He created him – male and female, He created them."  And God's image is at stake in both men and women, and there has been a great deal of attention that has been given to defining manhood.  But at points it feels like there has been a little bit of a silence concerning a voice of trying to cast a portrait of what it means to be a woman.  And with us here on the broadcast is another man to help us define and paint a portrait of what it means to be a woman.
 
Bob: Hang on, that would be a serious error on your part, technically.
 
Dennis: Do you think that I would be flawed in my judgment, Bob, to bring another male species in here to do that?
 
Bob: I think three men could sit around and attempt to define femininity …
 
Dennis: And we would lose our entire female listening audience.
 
Bob: There would be a lot of women who would say, "I'm not sure you know of what you speak."
 
Dennis: Well, with us in the studio is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  Nancy is a great friend.  She's been on FamilyLife Today before.  Nancy, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
 
Nancy: Thank you, Dennis.
 
Dennis: She puts up with us a lot.  She just kind of looks at us and nods and says …
 
Bob: … rolls her eyes …
 
Dennis: … yeah, that's exactly right.  Nancy is a graduate of the University of Southern California.  She has a degree in piano performance.  Nancy, are you really that good?  I've heard you are.
 
Nancy: Well, that's kind of a past-tense part of my life.
 
Dennis: Oh, is it?
 
Bob: I know you haven't had a whole lot of time to do much piano performing in the last several years.  As many of our listeners know, Dennis, Nancy hosts a daily radio program that's heard on many of these same stations.  It's called "Revive our Hearts."  You've been busy writing a number of books including the bestseller, Lies Women Believe," and the companion now, "Lies Young Women Believe."  There has also been a trilogy of books on surrender and brokenness and holiness, and this fall you're going to be involved in a national conference for women in Chicago called "True Woman '08."  Joni Eareckson Tada is going to be speaking there; so is Janet Parshall, John Piper is going to be there, you're going to be there, Dennis; your wife, Barbara, is speaking as part of that conference, and if our listeners are interested in finding out more about True Woman '08 they can go online at FamilyLife.com and click on "Today's Broadcast," and there is a link there that will get them information on how they can attend this national conference taking place in Chicago.  And with all of that going on, there's not a whole lot of time left for piano playing.
 
Dennis: Nancy, we have laughed here early, but there is a great deal of tension when it comes to talking about what it means to being a man or a woman today, and a great deal of confusion.  What do you think has caused this confusion?  What's the greatest contributor to the confusion of what it means to be a woman today?
 
Nancy: Well, let me just give a word of personal testimony here and say that being a woman is not something that I have always embraced with joy myself.  I did have the privilege of growing up in a godly home and under the strong ministry of the Word, but I can remember, as a teenager and young woman, feeling a measure of resentment …
 
Dennis: Really?
 
Nancy: … even, at the fact that God had made me a woman.  And the reason, in my case, was that I so wanted to serve the Lord, had a passion for Christ and for ministry, and in my young thinking, it was men who were best able to do that.  And I had this quiet sense in my heart that if God had made me a man, then I would be better able to serve Him.  I would be able to serve Him more effectively.
 
Dennis: In other words, you viewed your womanhood as a limitation to being used by God in the way that you dreamed of being used.
 
Nancy: I did.  But I want to say that God has been so gracious as I've gone back to the Word of God and sought to draw my understanding from God's Word to see my life as a woman from His point of view, I have come to see that being a woman is a great gift.  I've come to embrace with joy what it means for me to be a woman, and I think part of the difficulty for many of us, as women, as younger women, particularly, is that we've been raised in a culture that is very confused and that has been deeply influenced by the world's way of thinking about what it means to be male or female.
 
Dennis: Well, that's what I was going to ask you.  Did you feel like the culture really contributed to you thinking less of being created as a woman?
 
Nancy: I think there certainly has been a great deal of confusion in the world, and there has been a concerted, intentional effort on the part of many in our world to redefine womanhood; to steal from us, as women, God's purpose for our lives, and I feel, as a result, that women have been robbed of the wonder and the privilege of what it means to be made a woman.
 
Bob: You're obviously not alone.  There are a lot of young women who looked at the landscape and saw it defined along male/female boundaries, and said there are things that the culture will not allow me to do because I am a woman.  And in the church, in the Scriptures, there seem to be indications that there are things that God has reserved for men to do and things that He has excluded women from doing.  
 
So, at 15, or whenever it was that you were saying, "I'm not going to get to do some of the things that it seems my soul longs to do."  That has led a number of folks to say there must be something wrong here.  God would not give me the strong desire to do these things and then exclude me through the pages of Scripture from doing those very things.
 
Nancy: I think the thing we have to remember is that things function poorly or not at all when they function contrary to their design.  We're sitting here in a studio, and there's a microphone in front of us, and this microphone works well when we use it for the purpose for which it was designed, but this microphone would not work well or at all if I tried to use it as, say, a book or a piano …
 
Dennis: … or a ball bat.
 
Nancy: It wasn't designed for any other purpose.  And Satan caused Eve to doubt not only the veracity of God's Word but also the goodness of God.  Has God put limitations on your happiness?  Has God put restraints on you?  Would you be freer and happier and more blessed if you operated outside of God's parameters?  And that is an essential deception, and so many of us daughters of Eve have listened since that day to the deception of the enemy and have begun to function contrary to the design for which God made us and, as a result, we have broken lives, broken hearts, broken marriages, broken homes, and miserable women in so many cases.
 
Dennis: And, you know, I think God gives us illustrations every day of how we are involved in this same kind of protection of others by placing limitations in their lives.  When we used to live in town, we lived on a pretty busy street.  It wasn't a main thoroughfare, but there was a good deal of traffic that flowed back and forth, and we would take our toddlers out to the edge of the road, and we would point to the curb, and we would say, "Do not step off the curb.  Do not go near the curb, do not get in the street, this is a no-no."  And invariably, our children would look at the curb, they would look at the street, and they would look at the yard, and they would look up at us, and they'd put their foot down on the street.  And, at that point, they were testing us to see if, indeed, the boundary was, a, real and, secondly, did I really mean what I said?  And at that point, they found out rather swiftly that there was some discipline behind that.
 
And I think, in the Garden, Eve found out very quickly what she lost when she stepped out from under God's design and disobeyed God.  At that point, she lost that created wonder, the beauty of femininity in its untainted form, unstained by sin and by selfishness.  And, you know, Nancy, I think what people are struggling to get back to today is what Eve lost in both men and women.
 
Nancy: It really is paradise lost.  I think of the verse in Genesis 5, verse 2, reflecting back on the Creation, it says, "Male and female, He created them, and He blessed them."  He blessed them, and as you go through the early pages of the book of Genesis, you see that God's intent was to bless His Creation, and we forfeit that blessing when we step out from the distinctions, the roles, the design for which He made us as men and as women.
 
Dennis: And I think one of the most practical things we can take away here at the beginning of this broadcast is, just as parents, that we must bless our children in their sexual identity.  It is within our power either to bless that or curse it or withhold blessing.  And what we're talking about here is a deeply profound theological principle, but it's intensely practical – very practical, as we raise the next generation.
 
Nancy: We live in a generation that has tried to blur and eradicate, even, the distinctions between male and female and, to me, as you said, Dennis, we have, as women, been stripped of some of our most precious treasures as a result of moving into a unisex generation where men and women think alike, dress alike, have the same kinds of jobs, the same kinds of roles, the same kinds of responsibilities.  We have not gained from these measures as women.  I believe we have been robbed.
 
Dennis: You know, this loss that you're talking about here, Nancy, hit me profoundly some time ago when we were watching the morning news with our kids, and it happened right before the big gathering they had in Washington, D.C. for Promise Keepers, and they had a pro-Promise Keepers speaker on, and then they had a nationally known feminist who was the president of NOW at the time, and we listened to those two go back and forth, and I had a deep sense of a profound sadness, as I listened to that representative from NOW who so wanted women to achieve and to be successful and yet she was doing it without a reference to God.
 
And when all the debate was over, we turned the TV off, and it was right before school, and we have prayer before we go to school, and I gathered my three daughters who were there, and I put my arms around them, and I began to pray for them.  I don't know when the last time I began to weep when I prayed was, but I began to sob.  I just had a profound sense of sadness that my daughters and other daughters are growing up in a culture that is attempting to find happiness and hope and success and femininity and womanhood without reference to God.
 
Bob: Nancy, I know, as you grew up, you talked about feeling limited by your femininity.  As you've come to understand what the Scriptures teach about womanhood, I'm sure there has been some of that that's been fairly easy to embrace and some of that that you've chafed against a little bit.  What has been difficult?  What has been hard to accept about God's portrait of womanhood?
 
Nancy: For me, the essence of femininity is to embrace the concept of surrender as a woman to become a receiver, a responder, and surrendered to the heart and the will of God.  I love the example of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  And, to me, she is a portrait of what it means to be a woman of God.  When the angel came to Mary and explained to her that she was going to be a mother of the Son of God, Mary's response was, "I am the Lord's servant.  May it be unto me according as you have said."  
 
And, for me, the difficulty – I think it's true for every human being – is to embrace what God has said.  Say "Let it be to me as you have said," and that means for all of us, male and female, that there are restrictions, that there are certain roles that we are not asked to play, that we are not designed to fulfill.  And, sure, my flesh has chafed against embracing those roles and those restrictions at times, but it's the enemy that causes us to see those as restrictions.  It's God's way to see those limitations as loving imitations, as wise limitations, and as a means of protection, even as you protect your children from the oncoming traffic by teaching them not to step off of that curb in front of the house.
 
Dennis: And, Nancy, I think you've hit it.  Our assignment as parents or the assignment of today's broadcast for a single woman or a married woman is to embrace God's design, receive it as Mary received that call upon her life to become the mother of the Savior and not listen to the voices that would muddy the clear call of God and pull back to the big picture and say, "Wait a second, where does life come from?"  Is the feminist movement really going to offer life?  Is it found where they say it's going to be found by seeking your own rights?  By trying to find self-fulfillment?  Their definition of success is around self.  A Christian's definition of success in the roles of men and women is around God and in surrendering to that which God has called him to be and to do.
 
And I wonder sometimes, Bob, even within the Christian community, how foolish we've become in buying into this trap as we raise our daughters, seemingly, to prop their ladders against the careerism wall just like we trained our sons.  It wasn't any more correct to do that for them but to turn around and take our daughters and to say that the goal of their education, the goal of their lives ought to be a career?  Wait a second – where is that in the Bible?  Where is the home here?  Where is relationships here?  Where is the next generation here?
 
Nancy: And let me say that because of the influence of the world's way of thinking in our generation, I believe we are faced today with an incredible opportunity to help women discover the means of true freedom, true liberation.  I've been, for some 20 years, involved in ministry to women, and women in the church primarily, and I've found that women today, by and large, are frustrated, in many cases, angry, hurt, wounded, and hardened, in some cases.  It's not difficult to convince women today that the world's way has not worked.  The world has promised freedom and success and joy, but it hasn't delivered.  And so what a time for us to hold up the standard of God's Word and say, "Here is what God offers.  This is the means to true freedom."
 
Dennis: And I know that most of our listeners are women, on the broadcast today, but there are some men who are listening, too, and I just want to speak to you guys for just a second.  It is our responsibility to protect and preserve our wives, to protect and preserve biblical femininity and womanhood.  
 
It ought not to be that our churches are filled with frustrated, angry women at a culture that's confused the issue.  Who ought to be stepping forward and helping define these issues?  It's men.  We ought to help.  Now, I'm not saying we're the ones doing all the defining and telling wives what they ought to be.  I can almost see those letters coming right now, but calling together some godly women who get in the Scriptures, and they look at it from Genesis to Revelation and begin to say, "What is God's design in the Scriptures for a woman?  Is it limiting?  Has God called there to be a distinction between male and female?"  And I believe it's clear.  It doesn't take a Hebrew or a Greek scholar to see there is a difference between men and women.
 
Nancy: Only by restoring the sense of those distinctions and showing how they must be protected and preserved and celebrated will we be able to rear a new generation who understand the joy and the blessing of fulfilling God's role for them.
 
Bob: You know, we're going to be talking this week about the portrait of femininity, what it means for a woman to be a woman according to the Scriptures, and just on the basis of what we've said today, I can imagine there are some listeners who say, "I hear it coming, and I already don't like it, because it's going to tie me up in such a restrictive knot that I can't function outside the home, I can't have any fulfillment in using my spiritual gifts except at a ladies' Bible study.  I've heard it before, I didn't like it the first time I heard it, and I'm not sure I want to listen this week, because I don't think I'm going to like it this week."
 
Nancy: You know, Bob, I can imagine a fish in the water feeling that it's limited by having to live in the water, and that fish, if it could speak, perhaps could say, "I'm going to get out of the water."  And the fish can get out of the water, but the fish can't live or survive out of the water.  And so many times they have men and women trying to escape from the realm, the sphere in which God created us to be blessed and successful.  We can get out of that realm, but we can't survive out of that realm.
 
Dennis: Nancy, I couldn't agree more, and as Bob was articulating what some are feeling right now, I couldn't help but think that the serpent had a good bass voice like that, too, and was saying, "Hey, shed the restraints.  You don't have to put up with these God standards any longer.  Get out from under it, find a new way, find a better way, you can be all you were intended to be without reference or without depending upon God," and, you know, life is full.  I mean, look in your neighborhoods, look around your community at what happens to people who ignore the Ten Commandments.  Their lives are destroyed.
 
And I just want to tell you, around this issue, this is a major issue for our nation, for our churches, and for every Christian family that is raising the next generation of boys and girls who will be the next civilization in America.
 
Bob: Yeah, there is massive confusion on this subject, especially among this emerging generation.  The whole question of gender has been muddled, and it leaves a lot of young men and a lot of young women questioning what it means to be a boy, what it means to be a girl.
 
Nancy, you wrote a little booklet a number of years ago called "A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood," and it's a booklet that we've got in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with a number of the books you've written.  In fact, I would just encourage our listeners, if you have resonated with what you've heard Nancy talking about today, get a copy of the booklet, "A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood," and then get Nancy's book, "Lies Women Believe," as well, if you haven't read that yet.  They are both in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can go online at FamilyLife.com and order copies, if you'd like. 
 
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, and when you get to the home page, on the right side of the screen, there's a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," it will take you to an area of the site where there is information about these books and other resources from Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  There are transcripts of the program that you've heard today, and there is a place where you can leave comments about what you've heard or about what you read in the transcripts.  Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, and you'll need to click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast" to get to the area where there is information about the resources from Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and there is a link there to the True Woman '08 conference that we've talked about today that's happening in Chicago October 8th through the 11th.  A great lineup of speakers, and our friends, Keith and Kristyn Getty are going to be there helping to lead worship as well.
 
If you'd like to attend the national True Woman '08 conference in Chicago in October, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and you can get more information.  Or you can click through and register online at the True Woman '08 website.  
 
You know, while woman are wrestling with this subject, there are a lot of guys who are wrestling with what it means to be a man biblically, and this month we have been making available to our listeners a CD of a great message from Stu Weber called "Applied Masculinity."  It's a message that looks at what's at the core of being a man, and how to keep masculinity in its appropriate biblical balance, and we'd love to send you a copy of that CD this month when you make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
 
We are listener-supported, your donations are what keep this program on the air here in this city and in other cities across the country, and you can make your donation online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation.  If you're online, and you'd like to receive the CD from Stu Weber on manhood, just type the word "Stu" s-t-u, in the keycode box on the donation form, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone and just say, "I'd like the CD on manhood."  We're happy to make it available to you as our way of saying thank you for your generous support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate you.
 
Now, tomorrow we're going to continue to unpack what is at the essence of femininity from a biblical perspective, and I hope you can be with us for that.  
 
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today. 
 
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