A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood (Part 4) - Nancy Leigh DeMoss

How should we understand womanhood biblically? And why are we so confused about it, anyway?
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A Woman After God's Own Heart 
Day 4 of 5
Guest:                        Nancy Leigh DeMoss
From the series:       A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood
Bob: If someone told you, as a woman, that your life should be about servanthood, about serving others, would it cause your back to stiffen a little bit?  Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy: For us, as women, to be willing to give our lives – that's the whole message of the cross – it's a pouring out of my life, it's a laying down of my life, it's being willing to spend and be spent on behalf of others.  There is no higher role in the kingdom of God than to be a servant, and we need to lift it back up to its exalted state.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 19th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  When it comes to assuming our responsibilities as men and women, it often means we have to live in a way that doesn't come naturally.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  We're looking this week at what the Bible has to say about femininity and how we can understand biblical womanhood by looking at what the Scriptures say about what it means to be truly feminine.
Dennis: And, at this point, I feel like a pastor friend of mine who gave a message on this one time, who held up a sign at the beginning of the sermon that said, "I love women."  He walked out and held it up and said, "I am about to teach what the Bible says here, but understand this – I love women."  He said, "I'm married to one, and I have daughters, and I have friends."  And he just wanted the ladies in the audience to know that this wasn't from a heart of wanting to put down anyone but, indeed, exalt. 
And to help us do that here in the studio for a fourth day is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  Nancy, welcome back.
Nancy: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: And, Nancy, we've been talking about the picture of what a true woman is and what she does, and we've talked about being a responder, a helper, a cheerleader, and one of the things you talk about in this portrait you've painted is that a woman is a servant.  How so?  How is she uniquely a servant?
Nancy: You know, Dennis, it's interesting to me that in the New Testament when the Scripture speaks of service being rendered to Jesus while He was here on this earth, that every time that service is rendered by either an angel or by a woman, and there is no question that Scripture teaches that all of us, as believers, are to have servants' hearts, and that we are never more like Jesus than when we're serving.
But I believe there is a distinctive role for those of us as women, as helpers to the men, to be in a serving role.  It's interesting that in 1 Timothy, chapter 5, where Paul is talking about what qualifies a widow to be cared for by the church, to have her needs met by the church, she has to have lived a certain kind of life before she was a widow.  And in verse 10 of that passage, 1 Timothy, chapter 5, Paul lists the things that must have been true of her while she was a married woman if she is going to qualify as a widow to be cared for by the church.  She has to have brought up children, she is to have lodged strangers, provided hospitality, she is to have washed the feet of the saints, served the people of God in practical ways, she is to have relieved the afflicted.  
I think we see in this passage a pattern for all of us, as women, whether married or single, that there are roles and ways that we can practically serve those in the body of Christ and those outside the body of Christ, in ways that, by many women, have been considered demeaning or insignificant but when rendered in the name of Christ, they become extremely significant.
Dennis: I like what you're saying here.  You're saying that we need to be looking at this list that Paul speaks about here and be training our daughters to have hearts that are enlarged for God to be creating good works on behalf of others.
Nancy: You know, one of my favorite women in the Scripture is a little-known woman known Dorcas who, as you remember, lived in the town of Joppa, and she died, and when she died, all the widows of the town began to weep, because she had spent her life not leading some massive organization, not being a crusader or a campaigner, but she had lived her life making clothes and providing for the physical material needs of the widows in the town.  And it's interesting that Peter the Apostle took time out of his busy schedule to come to Joppa to perform a miracle and raise her from the dead and, really, all we're told about her is that her contribution was to minister to the needs of these widows.  That was why she was loved, that's why she was appreciated, that was the influence, the impact, the power of her life, was in that serving way.
Dennis: And you're saying that she was uniquely being a woman at that point?
Nancy: She was and, again, not to say – and there is so much emphasis today on men being servants to their wives and to their children – again, this is the heart of Jesus who stooped to wash the feet of his disciples.  But, you know, it's politically correct in the evangelical world today for us to talk about men serving their wives and children.  But when we begin the talk about wives who are distinctly made by God to be helpers to their husbands, wives coming into the role of servant – well, that kind of rubs the cat the wrong way, and it shouldn't.
Dennis: You mentioned that in one audience you got a standing ovation when speaking to a Christian group, and in another part of the country when you mentioned the same truth, there was a deafening silence.
Nancy: I've had women say to me, and we've heard it, and all of us have thought it, all of those of us who are women have thought, "I'm not going to be the slave around here.  I am not going to be a doormat."  Well, I'll tell you, a doormat has a function and a purpose; it has a design, it is useful.  And for us, as women, to be willing to give our lives – that's the whole message of the cross – it's a pouring out of my life, it's a laying down of my life, it's being willing to spend and be spent on behalf of others.  There is no higher role in the kingdom of God than to be a servant and we need to lift it back up to its exalted state.
Bob: As you said that a doormat has a function, I thought to myself, what is that function?  As you come into a house, it's to clean feet.  And then I thought, what's the human equivalent of a doormat?  It's someone who would wash the dirty feet of people coming into the house.  And who did that?  Jesus Christ.  So in a very real sense, a foot-washer is a doormat.  It's fulfilling the same function, and Jesus said, "I voluntarily become the doormat for you."
Dennis: And yet today, if we went on this broadcast and said, "Wives, we want to encourage you to be a doormat," what would happen?
Nancy: You'd get a few letters.
Dennis: You'd get a few letters.
Bob: We might not be here for tomorrow's broadcast.
Dennis: If we said we want them to be like Jesus Christ, "Yay, we can agree with that."  But at the point when you start putting this down to a practical level where Jesus lived, and, Bob, you make a great point.  I think the world is crowding us in, and it's creating caricatures of Christianity where we need to be careful and say, "Wait a second.  Do we want to be Christlike or do we want to have self-fulfillment?"  I'm not sure you can have both.  I think there's a lot of encouragement of women today to seek their own rights, to seek their own fulfillment, to maximize their gifts and, certainly, I want Barbara's gifts to be maximized.  I want to help her to do that.  But she is most powerful when she is being God's woman, and I want my daughters to do the same.
Bob: You've talked about this servanthood and how it's uniquely fulfilled in the life of a woman in the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 5, verse 10.  Men are called to be servants, too, and yet the context for female servanthood, according to that list, seems to be a relational nurturing kind of context.  That's really a part of what's at the heart of being a woman, isn't it?
Nancy: It is, and I think a wonderful picture of that in the Scripture is that passage that we're so familiar with in Proverbs, chapter 31.  There we have a picture of a woman who does a lot of household tasks, a lot of specific serving responsibilities, but it's in the context of her role as a wife and as a mother; as a nurturer of life in that home, as the maker of a home.  You find in that passage there is only reference to her doing anything for herself and that's that she is dressing in a way that will be pleasing to her husband.  In that context, she is fulfilling these responsibilities not just to keep a clean house and to keep well-clothed kids, but to minister love and service and grace, to be a means of the grace of God flowing into the life of that home.
There is a distinctive call of the woman to be a nurturer.  It is the woman who is able to bear life, it is the woman who is able to nurse that infant child and as this is physically true, so there is a distinctive privilege that the woman has to pour that grace into her family.
Dennis: Nancy, you're not married.  You have not given life by virtue of bearing a baby and giving birth, but you are a nurturer and a bearer of life.  How so?
Nancy: I just believe God has made all of us, as women, to be bearers and nurturers of life, to encourage life to grow, to help create a climate where others around us can grow, and I have devoted my life, as a single woman, to investing in the lives of others – other younger women, children, and even the men that I serve within our ministry, investing in their marriages and their families and helping to create a climate where they are encouraged to be all God wants them to be.
Dennis: Practically speaking, how have you done that?
Nancy: I think if you were to talk with the families that I serve alongside of, they would tell you that they know that I pray for their marriages, that I pray for their children.  They would know that I am a friend to their sons and daughters.  I'll be leaving here today, Lord willing, flying back to Michigan to be at the volleyball game of the daughter of one of our staff to be an encourager, a cheerleader, there for her interest that she's developing.  And by having that kind of role in the life of that daughter, there is also the opportunity to have an inroad into her heart.
Bob: Every parent prays for those outside influences in the lives of their sons and daughters, whether it's another mother, a single person – you pray that there will be those folks who come along strategically, and we've seen it happen with our kids as they've grown up, and they'll say, "Boy, I sure like Mrs. So-and-So, she's nice.  I like hanging around with her."  And we go how grateful we are, because we know Mrs. So-and-So, and we know she'll be a godly influence in the life of a daughter or of a son.  
What a powerful, nurturing role a mom can have not only in the life of her children but in the lives of her children's friends.  What a powerful role a single woman can have by looking around at the children in her neighborhood, in her church, in her community and saying, "I'm going to assume some responsibility to be a nurturer to those kids even though I'm not the one tucking them in at night or the one who is driving them to school in the morning."
Dennis: And practically speaking, I'll brag on Nancy at this point.  Our family enjoyed dinner with her a couple of nights ago, and those girls were so excited about the arrival of Nancy at our home, and Nancy is modeling for them how she is investing in their lives by being interested in their pictures and what clutters their room, and the stories of their lives and a cheerleader and an encourager.  
When those girls become adults, I've got to believe at that point, Bob, they are going to reflect back on an older, single woman who stepped down and into their lives who believed in them and who loved them and encouraged them and didn't just do it at one point but stayed in touch through letters, e-mail, phone calls, little touches along the way, that says, "I love you and I believe in you, and I'm going to be a nurturer of life in your life."
Bob: We think of the nurturing function as primarily a mother/daughter or a mother/son kind of a nurturing, and yet Titus 2, as it talks about older women coming alongside and equipping younger women – that's as much a part of nurturing as bearing children, isn't it, Nancy?
Nancy: It is, and let me say that every woman is an older woman to some other woman.  The 18-year-old young woman is an older woman to the 15-year-old woman.  And now as approach my 40s, I find that there are some more women that are younger women, and that I have a responsibility to leave a legacy for the next generation; to invest in the lives of the next generation.
Dennis: And I'll tell you, I can't tell you how strongly I feel about this one – this is one of the areas where I believe the church is missing a phenomenal opportunity.  We have scores of women today in the church who I think need to have this portrait put before them and painted so that they can have a vision for the next two decades or three decades of their lives, even beyond the empty nest.  
I am getting letters from friends who are at the same stage of life as us, and they are saying, "What's our vision for us, as a couple, and my wife with the empty nest?"  And I’m going, "It's in the Bible."  And this is so valuable and you know what – it's not only so valuable, it's a necessity and one of the most powerful ways a mom can impress her daughters to do this is by modeling this.  
Bob: And, you know, we've talked about how a woman can be a mentor to younger women and fulfill a nurturing role or how she can be a friend to her children's friends and fulfill her nurturing function in that, and yet as I've talked with Mary Ann about all of those opportunities that are available to her, I have said none of those can ever crowd out or get in the way of your primary nurturing function at this stage of your life, which is Amy, Katy, Jimmy, John, and David.  You have five kids at home, and they're my kids,too.  We both have a responsibility but, as a mom, you have a primary nurturing responsibility.  Your top investment has got to be in the lives of those children.
Nancy: And, Bob, as a single woman, I want to applaud and affirm and celebrate those women who are out there today doing what God has called them to do – being mothers.  And applaud their willingness to have children in a world that has told us you have the right to control your own body.  And yet I thank the Lord that my mother was willing to have seven children.  At that time considered a very, very large family but for her willingness to lay down her life in giving birth and nurturing and rearing up a family; now children grown and following the Lord and reproducing her and my dad's heart in this world.
We don't think of Jochebed, perhaps, as a significant woman in her own right, but when we think of how God used her offspring, how God used her son Moses, to give to the world the law of God, then we have a woman who had an incredible impact in our world.
Dennis: Let me illustrate this from my own wife's life and brag on Barbara a bit here – we have a retreat that is away from the offices here in Little Rock, and it's a prestigious retreat that Barbara and I have been asked to go to, and Barbara was going to be on the program with me and do some question and answer and also be available to minister and encourage people, and she enjoys that.
But, I promise you, she enjoys being a mom even more.  And so Rebecca had not only been nominated for Homecoming Court, but she had made Homecoming Court, and guess which weekend it fell on – the same weekend as this particular conference.  Now, this conference and our commitment had been for more than a year, and it's unfortunate that it fell on a time when my daughter has made Homecoming.  But we're delaying her arrival by three days to this particular retreat so that Barbara can stay home, help celebrate and anticipate the moment.
I think that's the kind of commitment today that our daughters are going to remember when they become adults.  They're going to remember those special times with their mother.
Bob: Well, and I have to suppose, as well, Dennis, that if you could look around right now at the women you know who are 60, 70 years old, you can probably tell, just by their spirit, by their countenance, who invested their lives as nurturers and who didn't.  You would probably see, in the face of a nurturing 70-year-old woman a radiance that is not on the face of one who invested her life in something other than nurturing her own children, younger women, the children in the neighborhood, whomever.  Mary Ann, last night, was at an Owanna [sp] meeting with the second-grade girls, hearing their Bible verses.  Now, is that how she wanted to spend her Wednesday evening?  She could have probably picked a couple-dozen other things, that if she was picking for her own fulfillment, she would have chosen to do.
But she is building an inheritance that is an eternal inheritance and one that will provide her with peace and fulfillment in her later years.
Dennis: And it strikes me, Nancy, whether you're a single person, like you, investing in other people's marriages or their kids or in single women's lives – all those are statements of this feminine portrait that we're talking about here of being a nurturer and a bearer of life; one who helps to give life to others.  And if you start doing that when you're young, then as you grow older, you're going to do this naturally up until the time you die.  This is what it means to be a woman regardless of your age or regardless of your physical ability to bear children.
Nancy: And ultimately the joys, the rewards of a life invested that way cannot be compared with the rewards of a woman having had her own life, her own career, her own job.  The women who are reaping the blessing of God in their lives are those who have laid down their lives for their families and for the families of others.
Dennis: I feel like we've given women who listened to today's broadcast a beautiful portrait of being a servant, a nurturer, a bearer of life, so that their lives will be rich and full.  And I would just challenge you, if you're a woman, to find a way today to be an encourager of life in somebody's life – just step out and be God's woman, whether it be in your children's life and bringing life to them, or whether it be to a younger woman in your church or at work – come alongside them and perhaps take them out for lunch or spend some time over a cup of coffee, or give them a phone call tonight and just encourage another person – but to cultivate that feminine side that God created you to use as a woman.
Bob: And I think one of the ways a woman prepares herself to do that more regularly is by reading and thinking about and praying through the kinds of things we've talked about on today's program and by getting copies of some of the books that Nancy has written.  She has written a booklet called "A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood."  Of course, she's written the bestseller "Lies Women Believe."  All of the resources, all of the books that Nancy has written are designed to help women press these kinds of biblical qualities that exemplify godly womanhood into her heart, and we've got a number of these resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and a lot of these would be good resources for mothers and daughters to read through together.
I'm thinking of a book like the book Nancy wrote on surrender.  It's a great book for a mother and daughter to just read through a chapter at a time and say, "What did you think?  What did you see in that chapter that caused you to examine your own heart and say, 'This is an area where I need to grow.'"
Or get a copy of "Lies Young Women Believe," the new book that Nancy and Danna Gresh have written together, and go through that as a mother and a daughter.  Summertime is a great time to do that, and we've got these resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go online at FamilyLife.com.  If you click on the right side of the home page where you see "Today's Broadcast," that will take you through to an area of the site where there is more information about a number of resources Nancy has written.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and you want to click on the right side of the home page where it says "Today's Broadcast."  You can order any of these resources online from us if you'd like, or if it's easier to call 1-800-FLTODAY to request these resources, you can do that as well – 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  On our website, you'll also find information about the upcoming True Woman '08 event that's taking place in Chicago – a national conference for women happening October 8th through the 11th, and it looks like it could be a soldout event.  So if listeners are interested in coming, getting a group of women together and being at this national conference that features Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Pastor John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Barbara Rainey, Janet Parshall, other speakers – Keith and Kristyn Getty leading the worship – all of the information is available by going to our website at FamilyLife.com, and you can click through to the True Woman website and get details or register online for the upcoming True Woman '08 conference.
Let me encourage you, when you do get in touch with us, to keep in mind that FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported ministry.  Your financial support of this ministry with occasional donations is what keeps us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.  And this month we are saying thank you to you when you support this ministry with a gift of any amount by sending, upon request, a CD of a message from Stu Weber on the subject of biblical masculinity.  We've been talking about biblical femininity today.  This message, from a retired Army Ranger and Green Beret, Stu Weber, is a message that helps us understand the biblical balance between being a leader and being aggressive as a man, and yet being tender and being compassionate as a man.
And the CD is, again, our gift to you when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  If you are donating online at FamilyLife.com, you'll come to a keycode box on the donation form.  Just type the word "Stu" in there, s-t-u, and we'll know to send you a copy of this CD.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and ask for the CD about manhood or the CD from Stu Weber.  Again, we're happy to send it out to you, and we appreciate your financial support.
Tomorrow we want to talk about how a woman in the 21st century ought to view subjects like modesty and chastity and purity.  We'll have that conversation tomorrow with our guest, Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  I hope you can be here for it.
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 back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today. 
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