Earlier this year, I underlined this passage out of Jonalyn Grace Fincher's book, Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home:
"We say we want Christ to come in and make us new all the way to the center of our souls, but we really don't let him change this weight on women. We just settle for the feeling that this is our lot in life, hoping for better, but expecting the never-ending struggle with our identity and place as women" (page 180).
After rereading it, I added "really?" in the margin. It might have ended there, if Jonalyn wasn't one of our Gifted For Leadership contributors. But since I kept wondering what this meant for women in leadership, I emailed her. Her answers to my questions follow:
Caryn: You make an interesting point, and in many ways I agree. But as I kept thinking about this, I wondered what you were really saying here. Do you really think we WANT this struggle, this fight?
Jonalyn: That's a great question mainly because of the tension between the two hyped-up responses, "let go and let God" and "take up your cross and follow Jesus." Can I point out that the first one isn't in Scripture? Sure God says to "be still and know I am God" but this means we recognize his power, not abdicate our wills or desires for the sake of letting him operate without us.
God loves strong-willed women. He wants us strong enough to take up our cross and follow. He also wants us to work out our salvation with him alongside. He wants to be present in the new life in us, but this doesn't mean we surrender our capacities to be fully human. In fact, I'm not certain the idea of surrender is even biblical or taught by Jesus. He wants our submission, not our surrender. These are such different concepts.
Caryn: Go on?.
I see submission without surrender in the way Jacob wrestled with God, in the way Ruth sought out Boaz, in the way Anna waited for the Messiah in the temple. The mess and strain of wrestling with God is key to being a godly woman. I think too many women have given up wrestling; they've given up their wills and they think it is somehow God-honoring.
The identity most Christian women live with is that they just have to deal with the Genesis judgment: the pain in childbirth, the pain of having their husbands rule over them, the pain of wanting more from your man than he can give. We feel this is our bitter pill. Jesus becomes the savior that helps us swallow our bitter pill, but he cannot save us from the pill.