I’ve been a long-time disciple of author William Paul Young. It started with his first book, The Shack, which radically reshaped my thinking of God. Through it, I no longer saw the idea of God’s love for me as an abstract concept difficult to grasp but rather a tangible and personal experience. Then, there was his book Eve. I’ll let Young summarize the book but Eve really did a number on me. It catapulted me into the start of my journey to loving myself, a journey I didn’t know I needed. More specifically, it revolutionized my thinking on my femininity.
Per biological standards, I was born a female. There have been moments I felt like I was given the short end of the stick. Like when I was in elementary school — why did girls have the cooties? Or when I was in middle school — why do girls have to bleed and cramp every month? Or when I was in college — why did that guy think it was okay to touch my behind without permission just because I was wearing leggings? Or when I joined the workforce — are my bosses concerned about hiring a young female that may get married, get pregnant and leave? Or when I got married then pregnant — why am I guilt-ridden for asking for twelve weeks of unpaid maternity leave? Or when I gave birth — holy crap, why is there so much pain? Or when I became a mother of two — when do I ever get a break?
The biblical narrative of the female as I interpreted it didn’t help either. Eve, the female, caused the entire downward spiral of the human race (Gen 3:12). So that makes us the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7). Since that’s the case, man is to rule over us (Eph 5:22). Also, since we don’t know better as evidenced by our deceit in the Garden, we’re not allowed to be heard (1 Tim 2:12). The cramps, the labor pains, the subjugation is all warranted because the female messed up. There’s nothing left but the short end of the the stick.
I can trace this all back to my origin story in that Garden where a guilty sentence was pronounced by the male after God confronts him for eating the forbidden fruit:
“It was the woman you gave me… (Gen 3:12).”
This guilty sentence has echoed throughout history and has been at the core of the tense gender dynamics — Patriarchy, Toxic Masculinity, Toxic Femininity, Feminism, #MeToo.
It’s a false conviction. That’s why the female is angry. The conviction must be appealed and I’ve come to realize the male must take charge in doing so. Young is a prime example of that. He’s taken my case and shown evidence that the female was not responsible for the fall of humanity as explained in his seminar. The fall occurred before the female came to be a separate entity.
Vindication is what I feel. But beyond that, Young’s book and studies have pointed me to my feminine purpose, something absolutely worth embracing. The feminine is soft, tender, attracted to beauty, nurturing, relational, intuitive, life-giving. These aren’t just stereotypes. The feminine, no matter what the physical form, is a facet of God’s character. The feminine was brought out of Adam, a male and female, and embodied in the form of a woman to redeem Adam. The feminine purpose is to point man to return to a relationship with their Creator.
I can’t help but feel…pride. If I’m being honest, it’s easy for me to take it to the next level and feel a bit superior to the masculine. After all, as per Solomon, the woman embodies wisdom. We just know better! But just like embracing true femininity, I’ve also learned to embrace true masculinity. Especially now that I’m a mother of two sons that may be inclined to the masculine, I want to embrace masculinity in spite of the surrounding conversations I hear focusing on its toxicity.
The masculine — protective, rational, courageous, strong, self-reliant, confident, assertive — no matter what the physical form, is also a facet of God’s character. The masculine purpose as I see it is to, well…lead. That screams patriarchy which is a system that does not have the best connotation or track record to say the least. But I think we can reclaim the word.
A look at the etymology of the Greek word patriarchy splits it into the prefix “patri” meaning father and suffix “-arkhe.” I’ve found that the suffix “-arkhe” bares the weight of the interpretation of patriarchy. The primary meaning of “-arkhe” is “beginning, origin, first cause, source of action.” It’s only by extension that it may mean power, authority, command, or dominion. Power, dominion, authority, command removes choice. Leadership becomes selfish and self-serving.
In light of that, here’s what I submit the gender dynamics could look like:
What if instead of a binary system of masculine and feminine strictly defined by physical form, we viewed masculinity and femininity as a beautiful spectrum that we are all individually dancing on? Most importantly, it’s a reflection of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, both masculine and feminine (Gen 1:27). What if the goal, as exemplified by Jesus, is individual balance between our masculinity and femininity? What if the balance comes in human relationships between the masculine and the feminine? The masculine initiates, leads, protects, and gives. The feminine responds, follows, receives, and multiplies. When I think about it, that’s the only way love can exists; one must initiate and another must choose to respond.
So femininity is not the short end of the stick. Masculine, feminine, our sticks are equal. We love differently but the goal is the same: we use our sticks to point each other to the Patriarch, the one who first loved us.