“I wonder what they are going to name her,” my wife said.
“I have no idea, but if we were expecting a daughter, I would first consider Elizabeth, Jael, or Abigail.”
Elizabeth, because of my mother. A godly daughter of her own mother, she is an embodiment of the Proverbs 31 wife and mother whose son has grown up to praise her (Proverbs 31:28). She labored for years as a single mother, sacrificed more than can be told, and is, in my eyes, one of whom the world is not worthy. When I sat down to pen a poem to her for Mother’s Day, I entitled it after Timothy’s mother, Eunice, who passed her sincere faith to him (2 Timothy 1:5).
Jael, in the time of Judges, welcomed the wicked King Sisera into her home after he fled from Barak. She beckoned the fugitive ruler inside, gave him drink, covered him, grabbed her hammer and a tent peg, and nailed it through his temple (Judges 4:17–21). Although not a soldier, she fearlessly did what needed to be done, as was foretold of her (Judges 4:9).
And Abigail, after my beloved wife. While pursuing her for marriage, I often described her to my brothers as “one who breathes gospel fire.” She is as strong and industrious as any woman I know and utterly fierce in the things of the Lord. Her boldness and love for the church continue to challenge me. The Bible says of her that she is “discerning and beautiful” (1 Samuel 25:3) — just another proof of its inerrancy.
Add to this list my sister, Hannah — intelligent, funny, fragrant with the aroma of Christ — and you have the women I love most deeply.
The Days of Snow White
It saddened me, therefore, to hear of a misunderstanding that took place over a recent article — a misunderstanding that, if true, would insult and exclude the women noted above. I listened as a few Christian women whom I greatly respect shared their confusion.
The anti-feminism, anti-women-in-combat main point of the article did not bother them — they too shared a distaste for the interchangeability propagated to our daughters in the name of equality. What they wanted to understand was what I thought about biblical femininity. Did I believe that women in Christ were like trophies resting upon banisters, only to be defended while collecting dust? Was the ideal of biblical women to be found in 1950s classic Disney movies?
My response to these dear saints: Unequivocally no.
Lineage of Godly Women
No one who knows Proverbs 31 could imagine that a biblical woman is inactive. “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:31).
No one could demean women as being less valuable than men, for “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
No one could say that the ideal of womanhood is weakness. “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. . . . Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” (Proverbs 31:17, 25).
No one can say that she is not industrious and productive. “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16).
No one can say that she is any less an heir of grace. “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).
No one can say that men do not need women. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). “In the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman” (1 Corinthians 11:11).
No one who has read of Esther, Rahab, Deborah, or Mary could deny women have played the heroine in chapters of God’s story. And no one could deny that women play a key part in significant turns in redemptive history (Matthew 1:1–16).
We ought to celebrate women of courage and godly conviction like Sarah, who had the kind of spirit God calls “imperishable beauty” (1 Peter 3:4); Shiphrah and Puah, midwives who defied a king and saved Israelite children; Hannah, who dedicated her beloved child Samuel to the service of the Lord; Deborah, who served as a judge in Israel and gave inspiration to Barak and his soldiers; Esther, who risked her life to save God’s people; Priscilla, who, along with her husband, helped the likes of Paul and Apollos; Ruth, great-grandmother of King David, who stuck by Naomi and trusted her God; Mary Magdalene, a notable follower of the Savior; and Mary, the humble, obedient mother of God.
And we ought to celebrate the God-fearing women in our history and the God-fearing women in our own homes and churches. More sons and husbands ought to rise up and call them blessed.
Womanhood, according to God’s purpose and plan, ought to be championed, especially when it is so frequently under attack.
Many men of the world pressure women to look like a Barbie doll, show more skin, and cross more boundaries. Some women of the world tempt our daughters to see the cultivation of the home as a career failure, motherhood as a backup plan, and submission to a husband as unquestionably intolerable. The spirit of the age tempts them to trade gentleness for roughness, refinement for crudeness, diversity for homogeny. Even their awesome ability to give life to new humans has been despised as a burden, rather than prized as the unsurpassed glory it is. In serpentine fashion, God’s design is questioned into unbelief and tragic rebellion.
But the beauty of godly femininity must not be abandoned. It is founded upon union with Christ, empowered by the Spirit of God, and runs its race looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–2). Woman too beholds the face of her Savior and searches his word to learn about who God made her to be. And her image, her person, is irreplaceable in displaying God in the world.
Bearing our similarities and differences is about God (Genesis 1:27), and the re-sharing of the gospel through different relationships like marriage and the church (Ephesians 5:22–33). We do not just happen to have different roles based on arbitrary cultural preferences. God made us fearfully and wonderfully different. Equal before our Lord (Galatians 3:28), complementary in representing him in the world. God could have made us the same in all respects, but astonishingly, he didn’t. We ought to praise his wisdom, agree with his wisdom, put his wisdom on display.
Inheriting a Name
Should Christian women, by the power of the Spirit, be industrious, fearless, courageous? Unquestionably. The godly woman is no pacifist concerning her soul — she too must dress in the armor of the Lord and make war against her flesh, the world, and the devil (Ephesians 6:10–20). She too will win souls and disciple them. She too has a divine call to fulfill. She too risks for the cause of Christ.
She too feasts on the word, prays for the world, overcomes obstacles, and becomes more like Christ as she beholds him (2 Corinthians 3:18). And when she wears the silver crown, she teaches the younger women what is good, “that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3–5). Mature manhood and womanhood overlap in our common humanity and Christian virtue while remaining distinct in our callings. We do not apologize for the differences. We glory in them.
Should God ever bless my wife and me with a baby girl, I pray she will grow up to be a woman of God, fearless, faithful, and feminine according to God’s word, like the woman whose name she would bear.