In part 1 of my journey to gospel-centered womanhood, I recounted how I came to understand Scripture's instructions to women through the lens of the gospel. Apart from the gospel, the law kills. Presenting instructions to women apart from a thorough fleshing out of the gospel sets women up for failure.
The second part of my journey involved understanding the curse of Genesis 3:16 and God's answer to it in the gospel. I had a strong longing that only God could satisfy that I repeatedly looked for a man to meet. How do we get from Genesis 3:16 (her desire will be for her husband) to Psalm 73:25, "...there is nothing on earth I desire beside God?"
It's the same today as it was for the Psalmist – availing ourselves of the presence of God. The Psalmist entered the sanctuary of God, and that changed everything for him. For me, I can boldly and confidently access the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace for every need/desire/longing I have (Hebrews 4:16).
The Bikini Barista
Understanding how the curse has played out in my own heart has helped me understand my culture as well. On my drive to the grocery store, I pass a bikini barista coffee drive-through. I wonder what desires prompted her to take that job. Is it the affirmation she gets from a stranger leering at her as he orders his coffee? If so, how long do the feelings last, and how does she feel about herself when she goes to bed at night? Did she take the job simply for the money? Was her own view of her mind so little that she didn't think she had anything but her body to use to earn income? Chances are, that's just the tip of the iceberg of the ways she'll let men treat her. She stays chained to the toilet lapping up the waste with the water, either unable to free herself or unaware that there is anything better.
Adopting Coping Mechanisms
We have adopted many Christ-less coping mechanisms for dealing with these desires the curse predicts. Instead of finding in God love and affirmation that satisfies, we have in our craving apart from Christ repeatedly carved out cisterns for ourselves, “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). For some it's control and manipulation. I've been there, especially in my marriage. I thought if I manipulated things, I could get my husband to better meet my needs. But manipulation and attempts at control are as ineffective for meeting the needs in my heart as the bikini barista's are for hers.
The Pursuit of Independence
However, in my experience, the most often pursued Christ-less coping mechanism for the curse is independence. “Men are bad for me. My dad was bad for me. My boyfriend/husband was bad for me. My boss is a louse. I'm embarrassed by the ways I have craved after loser guys in the past, I'm embarrassed by the ways women still crave after and are controlled by loser guys, and now I am going to write men off altogether. I don't need them.” These women cultivate strength within themselves, but it is in the context of protecting themselves from dependence on men, not in the context of being a strong helper to a man.
Strong Women and the Church
I am thankful for those who first pointed me to satisfaction in God himself. God is our portion, our very great reward. No man can satisfy the longing in a woman's heart, as no woman can satisfy the man's. Misplaced desires set us up for failure in every relationship we have. But a woman in Christ abiding in her union with Him is equipped to eschew independence from man and stay engaged, strongly helping the man, not from a position of toilet lapping neediness, but secure in her identity in Christ. Such strong women are very good for the Church.