My mother-in-law is a woman of virtue, and she has raised four daughters and influenced many more women who are also women of virtue. As I read in Proverbs 16, verse 32 stood out to me.
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
It’s the day after Father’s Day, and so men get to back up and realize what makes them truly manly. For me, of course the LORD is at the center of it all. As Daniel Porter preached about at Chapel in the Pines two Sundays ago, as believers we are called and commissioned to GO and MAKE disciples. This excites us, particularly as men, to get out there and see the mission of Jesus come to its fruition through our families! The women in my life, however, are so instrumental to living out this great commissioning from Jesus. My mother-in-law is a great example of what I mean by this godly influence as a woman of virtue.
In our cuture, women have been challenged to put on their big boy pants and make this world woman-friendly. I’ve completed two books recently that I think see women’s issues from two totally different angles. One is called “Women Living Well” by a godly woman named Courtney. The other is called “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by a success story woman named Sheryl in the corporate world. Both women have my attention because they have both been extremely successful in their own right. Courtney has reminded the world at a national level that womanhood is beautiful and being a Christian woman in the home with one’s husband and children as the top priorities besides God is influential and is meaningful at the deepest levels. Sheryl is the COO at Facebook and reminds women how much has gone into seeing women treated with R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Sheryl defends her intensity and has been criticized and praised at extreme levels in national media. I believe a godly Christian woman lives somewhere between where Courtney lives and where Sheryl lives. I don’t think many women would fault me for saying this. However, where we run into challenges is where between these points should women land? If I, as a man, encouraged it to be more in the direction of where Courtney stands, I’d quickly be in some sharky waters. If I encouraged in the direction of where Sheryl stands, I’d be in similar waters.
My mother-in-law, Carol Jackson, beautifully seeks to understand women’s challenges in our modern world. Her decision has been to go back to God’s Word and rest there at the Savior’s feet. She hasn’t tried to argue that she has a perfect understanding for every situation or for every woman, including her daughters and close friends. She is known for two things in particular, living a virtuous life herself, joyful before the LORD, and for pointing other women to be in God’s Word to find His intentions for “women living well.” This is where I really do appreciate the tendency that Courtney has to “lean in” to God’s will for women’s lives.
My wife and I have wrestled through the Word time and time again, both being high-octane people, both being drivers, both owning our own businesses, both seeking to be effective in our realms of influence and loving together as a couple, as we’ve become parents, as we’ve sought to be involved in our community as a family. We’ve received plenty of criticism and praise. We definitely do tend to be “conservatives” in how we land on our feet as a Christian couple. I lead and love; she submits and helps. I submit to the LORD, including listening to her wisdom for our home as she grows in life experience and in listening to the Master as He lovingly leads her in His Word. “Submission” has U.S.A. red flags all around it right? In our home, we are learning one year at a time what godly submission looks like. For us, it’s an active thing. It’s aloud to look like feedback and even brake pedals as we fondly call Carrie’s hesitancy and concerns. I admittedly can lead us with some degrees of intensity, and Carrie has been my helper, regularly being willing to hang in there with me and share her concerns and encouragements. Naturally, I’ve received more encouragement the more submitted to Christ I’ve been and more concern the more resistant to Christ I’ve been. Neither she nor I live this out perfectly, but we’ve been mentored well and have sought to apply this biblical wisdom in our home.
As I’ve shared before, gentle honesty is very useful in marriage. It’s also useful out in culture, friends. I would gently argue that women of virtue are the most influential women of any era. If you look at Jonathan Edwards, you think of a Christian pastor and philosopher, a man of culture and influence in all realms. Sarah, his wife, was exceptional to hang in there with him. He apparently was a difficult and precise man. He had his aims and actions and was as probably far better at getting back to the fundamentals of Christian living than any “fundamentalist” would like to claim for themselves. As influential as he was, Sarah is praised time and again for being, humanly speaking, the reason he had any long-term stability. CLICK HERE FOR A BOOK ABOUT THEIR MARRIAGE. As they say, or I should say as they use to say more frequently, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Today’s version would probably be, “Next to every great man/woman is another great man/woman.” Men get in trouble if they abdicate their leadership, and women get in trouble for taking leadership. If you read the history, many women of influence in history were not influential because of being like men. This is actually one of the points in “Lean In,” that women need to remember that beauty is still a wonderful trait in women! You don’t have to compete with men and “man-up” in order to be effective. I’d argue the opposite. Work with the men in your life, and you’ll find in the spirit of gentle honesty that you, in your virtue and beauty, will have far more influence in the long-term than any woman who is simply trying to “take some of the stage” from men. Ultimately, none of us should be looking for stage life as our definition. Men and women must be looking around and realizing that we all together have an audience of One, our One God. He is the One we look to for our definition and He is the One we seek to follow together as men and women, sons and daughters of the King.
Let me land on the ground as I wrap up. When we walk out biblical womanhood as communities, both as men and women observers and commentators and beneficiaries of this conversation, we find in God’s Word and in natural revelation that… surprise, surprise… women are notorious for being life-givers. Women are often the ones sustaining a given endeavor. Women are the ones who make a home a home. Women are the ones who bring joy and hope and faith and love ultimately into our conversations. Men would fall apart if we didn’t have the women in our lives. Men do need to step up our leadership and love in particular. We do need to step into our homes and into our businesses and into our cities and lead more often than we are, but we have to stop and thank and serve and support and pray for and “praise her in the gate” more often when it comes to the women around us.
Instead of living in a world where men and women compete, maybe, starting here in Tuolumne County, we can be amazed by God’s grace working through the men and women around us. Let’s complement one another instead of living in a one-up-man/woman-ship world.
Father God, thank You for the women of virtue in our community, whatever their activity and gifting and roles in our community. I pray for them, that you would give them encouragements from the men in their lives but also give them complementarian interactions with the men in their lives. Please give us men the courage to stand and lead and love the way we are called to live. Please give us, as men and women, a co-heirs of the Kingdom perspective, seeing that in all aspects of our culture and society, we are called to complement one another and work together, hand-in-hand. We’re on the same team. Thank You for the virtue you are developing in men and women alike. Thank you for how beautiful this makes women and how courageous this makes men. Thank You for the strength in each, the love of God displayed in us as Your body. In the name and character of Christ, I pray all of this. Amen.
Dear friends, please know that Carrie and I are working through all of this just like you. Also know that I’m not only speaking to married men and women. This is a wrestle of a topic, but it’s extremely timely to wrestle with here and now. As we do this, we will learn to praise and encourage one another more consistently, not thinking that as a woman a man is odd if he comes up to you and complements you, thanks you for what you do, and asks you how he can pray for you, not thinking that a woman is odd if she does the same. We must care for one another and look out for each other across the board or we will become isolated and lonely and ineffective in God’s ways. He designed Christian life, so let’s celebrate it and dive in together to out-do one another in love and good deeds.
In His friendship,