What It Means to be a Woman
About the Guest
Defining a woman’s role isn’t as easy today as it was 30 years ago. On the broadcast today, Dennis Rainey and his wife, Barbara, talk with noted author and pastor Dr. Robert Lewis about what it means to be a woman in a changing and often confusing culture.
Defining a woman’s role isn’t as easy today as it was 30 years ago.
What It Means to be a Woman
Bob: How would you define what is the essence of womanhood? Maybe a better question is how does God define what's at the core of femininity? Here is Dr. Robert Lewis.
Robert: I really feel like today's woman, with all that's going on, the frenzy and the pace of life, is not really clear about what they should hold with absolute conviction at the center, and so I think for a lot of Christian women what they have is pieces. They are choosing a traditional view, or they're choosing a wounded view, or they're choosing a worldliness view because it feels right at the moment, but it didn't have any influence with a biblical worldview to shape that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 21st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to have a conversation today with Dr. Robert Lewis about what is at the core of authentic biblical womanhood. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, we've talked many times about the challenges men face in the culture today, understanding what it means to be a man, living that out, but I don't know that we've ever really dug into those same challenges for women, and you have to think that if we're feeling it, as guys, our wives have to be feeling that at some level as women, don't you think?
Dennis: No doubt about it, and we've got a guest here on FamilyLife Today who has – well, isn't he the most frequent guest out of …
Bob: I think he is.
Dennis: Over the past 15 years?
Bob: I was just trying to run through the list in my mind.
Dennis: There you go, Bob, do that real quick, would you?
Bob: And yes, he is.
Dennis: Several hundred guests – Bob just reviewed it. That's how fast his mind is, folks.
Bob: [makes a computer calculating sound] yes, yes.
Dennis: Dr. Robert Lewis joins us on FamilyLife Today. Robert, welcome back.
Robert: Thank you, I feel very much at home here.
Dennis: Yes, and also my wife, Barbara, joins us because we're going to talk about women and how we can equip them and help them in their call in life, we decided it better not be three men in a studio …
Bob: … talking about that.
Dennis: Talking about that subject.
Barbara: I think that's a good call.
Dennis: I think it is, sweetheart, and you definitely make the studio more beautiful. This is pretty grim, just looking at Bob all the time, no doubt about it.
Robert has written a book called "The New Eve," which is about this subject. Many of our listeners know Robert from "Raising a Modern Day Knight," Men's Fraternity, they are also aware he was a pastor for more than 30 years, in fact, still is a pastor-at-large for Fellowship Bible Church, but he's giving leadership to a new ministry called Life Ready, which is being developed in partnership with FamilyLife, and he's the president of that initiative, equipping churches to have biblical marriages and families and, Robert, for a number of years, you have led men's fraternity, as I mentioned, and that really became the avenue through which you entered in this discussion about women and living fulfilled lives, isn't it?
Robert: It is. The whole path with men has been an interesting path, seeing guys who have needed here, at the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, some kind of guiding center for their lives that orient their lives. You know, they say one of the greatest hungers for the humanity is for orientation, which is an interesting concept – to know where I'm going and why I'm going there.
And I think, for men, in this turbulent time, especially after the gender revolutions of the '70s, men have felt disoriented, and so the journey with Men's Fraternity is to help men, Christian men, get a better biblical orientation to their lives, and I've seen a lot of energy, spiritual energy, flow out of that. And as it has, it's naturally impacted their wives and their families and then that got a response from the wives asking me for some information and maybe help about a woman's orientation.
Dennis: Well, actually, what happened with Men's Fraternity, wasn't it that you had, literally, tens of thousands of men across the country going home and beginning to really act like men, and the wives said, "Wow. This is cool."
Robert: They said, "This is good," and, I'll tell you, that's been one of the great pleasures of my ministry is to see not just the men get excited but the women, in particular, pull me aside at a mall and – I can think of numbers of occasions, women pulling me aside at a mall or at a restaurant or at the library saying, "I don't know what you're doing with my husband – keep it up."
Dennis: No doubt about it. Well, in the process of that, you began to develop material for women, and thus your book, "The New Eve."
Robert: That's right. I think that what happened, especially at our church, is I had a number of women who kept asking me, "Can we do something along the same lines of Men's Fraternity?" I did not feel qualified to do that. I think primarily because I'm not a woman, but I do think I have some theological ability just to mind the Scriptures on a general outline for womanhood. I think anybody could do that, male or female, and women asked me to do that, so I began to explore that, and then that ultimately resulted in the book, "The New Eve."
Bob: I want to ask you a question, but I want to ask Barbara to answer it before you answer it. You know, we observed in the '90s and even in the first part of this new century, men with some confusion and some questions about what it means to be a man. I'm wondering if you think that there is an observable hunger in the heart of women today in the same way that we've seen it with men, or is it more pronounced with men? And before you answer it, let me ask Barbara what you think – do you think women today are consciously confused about what womanhood ought to look like?
Barbara: Yeah, I think we are. I think there are so many changes in the culture, at least for my generation, I know there is confusion. Because most of the women in my generation saw a different model in our mothers and in our grandmothers, and that's where you get your pattern, your initial pattern, and so when you see the culture saying one thing but you're experience was different, you're trying to figure out which one is right, which pieces are right, how do I fit it all together, and how do I make it work? So, yes, I think the answer is clear that women are confused as to what their role is and how they do it.
Bob: And I'm guessing you're not going to disagree with Barbara on that answer, are you?
Robert: No, I've got pages of comments from women in some of the seminars that I've done that have said exactly the same thing. I think, for men, there is maybe, in some ways, a deeper identity crisis with the social revolution having taken place, so they are trying to recapture, in some ways, a more fundamental definition of masculinity. For women, I think the hunger is what Barbara just said – it's more around "How do I make it all work? There's a part of my identity I feel okay about, but with these new freedoms, these new opportunities that have swept over my life and other women's lives here at the end of the 20th century and now at full bore in the 21st century, I can't make all that work. It's not working. I keep hearing from the media and others that this is a great time to be a woman, and it's celebrated." Women are kind of on the forefront of the culture today, and yet there is a general unrest women women's hearts and souls and, in some ways, almost a shadow of unhappiness that they can't explain in light of all of the freedoms and opportunities.
Bob: Now, some women are saying the reason for that is that we still haven't achieved those feminist goals that we set out to achieve in the '70s if we – we've got to fully realize that, and then we'll have the happiness and the rest you're talking about.
Robert: It kind of sounds like the apple to me in Genesis. And yet that apple has not brought fulfillment because the truth of the matter is is that as you look across the social spectrum, much of the objectives that feminists desired in the '60s and '70s have not only come to fruition, they've succeeded beyond their expectation, and now we're entering the 21st century where women are going to be on the forefront of everything.
We can talk about that in a minute – some of the statistics that are rolling in are absolutely astounding, because the first half of the 21st century, at least in American culture, is going to be a culture of women not men. And yet even as they achieve those pretty outsourcing benchmarks, they are not paying off the way they were promised, and that even creates a deeper confusion because it's like the person who always wanted to have wealth their whole life, and then one day they stand up and they've got all the money they've ever wanted, and yet it doesn't feel right, and they're not sure why.
And that's why I go – when I think about women, I say to myself they're like men in this one sense, they're looking for a guiding center, and they don't have, and so they don't have anything to balance the freedoms and the opportunities that are just sweeping over them in bucketloads.
Dennis: Robert, I think it's unique today that we've had a generation of women who have really been told they could be powerful around a certain template, and it's back to what Barbara was talking about earlier – they sure didn't see it in their parents, but the culture is sending this message overwhelmingly. Where do you see them getting their cues about what this plumbline or this center for them – where does it come from? What are the worldviews women have today?
Robert: Well, generally, I think there are four major worldviews that we all operate out of. I think women operate out of them as well. One is just the traditional worldview, and that is I'm going to do it the way I grew up with it. And so what I received growing up made sense to me, it seemed to work. I've been thrust into this global wired world, and it's scary for me, and so I tend to look back and get my cues from what I experienced growing up, and those could be, many times, very pleasant things. They may not be the right things, but I just simply rehash what I grew up with.
Another viewpoint is to grow up in what I call "a wounded worldview," and I think more people today grow up in that worldview than the traditional worldview, and that is where I grew up and Mom and Dad split apart. My mom was powerless in the home or was just simply a servant to my dad. There weren't opportunities afforded to my parents and especially my mom, and so I saw abuse, I saw abandonment, I saw hurt, I saw all these things. I doubted if there was even love, and so what I did is I decided to formulate my worldview in life off of what I was wounded by.
So I've become the opposite and maybe even an extreme opposite. That's where you see so many of those who hold what I call more of a "strident" feminist perspective. If you look in their backgrounds, you are going to see a very extreme woundedness, in particular, around men. And so their worldview becomes shaped as a reaction to somehow solving that.
A third thing is just what I call a "worldliness" worldview, and the Bible warns against that. I mean, it's one that is an abiding kind of seduction where you're conformed to this world, everything that's in the now becomes something you chase after. It's this continual seduction to whatever is in is the best and, of course, that lasts for a season, and you chase another whatever is in.
And then the last worldview is what I'm proposing in the book, "The New Eve," and I call it a "New Eve" worldview. It's really a biblical worldview, but it's specifically tailored to women, and that's a worldview that shapes its philosophy, its life, its values, its priorities, its passions off of those things that I think the Bible sets forth for women that really bring a life of reward rather than a life of regret. The other three eventually prove to be either a dead-end, short-sighted, or painful.
Bob: Well, aren't most Christian women, though, going to automatically default to that New Eve worldview? I mean, they think to themselves, "I want to be a godly woman," right?
Robert: Honestly, when I listen to women today and when I've had these opportunities through the New Eve seminars to interact with women …
Dennis: You're speaking now of women in the church.
Robert: Yeah, Christian women.
Robert: I think of one seminar I did with 600 women in Chicago, and it was actually on a retreat, and so many women came up to me afterwards talking about the fact that they had – although they'd been a part of a good Bible church or a good church that teaches the Scriptures, the idea of formulating a feminine vision for their life that works was totally left out of their spiritual resume.
There were, what I called, certain practices, biblical practices, that they had pursued but a more comprehensive direction and one that would safeguard them against wrong choices, they were clueless. And so I think for a lot of Christian women what they have is pieces. It's like pieces of a puzzle, but they don't have the actual puzzle borders to build the puzzle within. They lack that, so they've got something over here in finances working maybe right, something over here in purity working right, but a strong directional sense they lack, and one that helps them shape their life so that when the everyday decisions and even some of the more life-changing decision points come into their world, like on who to marry or whether I should take this job or do this or how I should order my priorities and my purposes and my marriage, they don't have a compass. They lack that compass.
And so they'll chose, as best they can, but sometimes what they don't realize they're choosing is they're choosing a traditional view, or they're choosing wounded view, or they're choosing a worldliness view because it feels right at the moment. But it didn't have any influence with a New Eve view or a biblical worldview to shape that.
And so they then they end up with a mistake or a regret or a short-sighted direction that then they have to backtrack from. But I don't find – I really feel like that today's woman with all that's going on, the frenzy and the pace of life, is not really clear about what they should hold with absolute conviction at the center.
Bob: Barbara, as you hear Robert talk about that, and you think about your own life, your own journey as a wife and a mom, do you think you've been aware that you needed a compass or you were looking for a compass or you helped your daughters with a compass, I mean, does what he's talking about resonate with you?
Barbara: Yeah, it makes sense. I'm not sure that I could have put it together, as he was talking about, with a framework. I'm not sure I could have listed off what the four or five things were, and in that sense that might have really been helpful, if I could have articulated in four steps or five steps or whatever what that looked like.
But, for me, what made all the difference in the world was knowing what the Bible said about what it means to be a wife and what it means to be a mom, and even though I didn't come into our marriage with a real clear sense of what that was, I knew that was the answer. And so even though I couldn't have articulated it to you, I knew that I needed to follow what God said, and that was the only way I was really going to find success.
So, yeah, I agree with what he says. I think there are a lot of women who don't know what that framework is and couldn't articulate it. But I know enough about what Robert has written to know that's what he's saying the answer is. That's what the worldview he was talking about, the biblical worldview. That's the anchor.
Dennis: In our marriage, we spent a lot of time talking about this, I mean, as we started out, I don't think I knew what it meant to be a man, but as I began to discover that, some, obviously, Robert, through your teaching in Men's Fraternity and in the church, which you pastured for a number of years, I was better able to leave Barbara and interact with her, but we had a lot of discussions around this subject early on in our marriage that have continued on to this day because your role continues to change as you go through the different seasons.
Now, there's a core role that stays the same, but it gets expressed differently.
Robert: Well, the fact that we, all around the table, have such a passion for family is because we did get some of that guiding center, at least a piece of it, on marriage and family, and we believed it, and we invested our life in it, and it's had a rich payoff.
Dennis: Can you give us just a real quick – and I know this is going to be a challenge, Robert, because you'd like to comment on all of them, but a real quick definition of true biblical femininity. In other words, what does it mean to be a woman and not a man?
Robert: Well, we do that in "The New Eve," and the way we do it is a process of comparing, I think, the two women who most have marked femininity, and that's the first Eve, and then what I call the New Eve of the New Testament, Mary, to see what were their distinctives.
But out of that comes a definition that I just simply summarize it this way – is that what a real woman would be, a real biblical woman, is one who embraces her core callings. Those come from Genesis, and we talk about that in the book. Then out of those core callings, she chooses wisely because she's always keeping those in mind, and as she chooses wisely, she's going to be confronted with situations that are going to challenge those choices. So, at points, she's going to have to live courageously, that's the third mark of true femininity, and then in doing that, and living in courage at moments of her life, then she's expecting, by faith, that that ultimately is going to be a life that's rewarded by God. So she's expecting God's greater reward over a lifetime.
So that becomes this real simple definition that helps them think about their life all through their life of how am I going to achieve these core callings in their fullest sense, and they balance their life with that over a lifetime.
Dennis: You know, this is something I want for all the women in my life, because I love them, and I was listening to you kind of click off the essence of a biblical woman and the new Eve and the embracing God's core call, choosing wisely, living courageously, and expecting greater reward, and I was thinking when I was single I had a checklist of a woman I hoped I'd marry. Now, after the fact, having married Barbara, I was listening to those four, and I was going, you know what? Barbara does pretty well on all four of those, and she obviously doesn't do them perfectly just like I don't do the man's core calling.
Bob: She just winked at you, did you see her winking?
Dennis: I saw her wink, I winked back at her, too. That's all right.
Bob: All right.
Dennis: Okay. But it's really cool, because I think where Barbara got that is from her study of the Scripture, which is what you're talking about.
Robert: That's exactly right.
Dennis: And gleaning the essence of that over a lifetime of study and of being a woman of the Word, and that ultimately is what your book is really trying to do, "The New Eve," is to call women back to that biblical blueprint, a comprehensive blueprint, of what it looks like to be a woman today.
Bob: Yeah, and I love what Shaunti Feldhahn said in the foreword to the book. She said, "I never thought a book written by a man could give me such an eye-opening picture of who I should be as a woman," and the reason that you, as a man, can write a book that provides this kind of help for women is because it's coming from the Scriptures, and God understands what a woman's assignment is supposed to be, what her role is, and that's what you've capture in the book, "The New Eve," which we've got in our FamilyLife Resource Center. And I really appreciate the fact that you've put in the back of the book the DVD that offers 10 discussion starters for small groups, so that if women want to get a copy of this book and go through it together with other women, there is a DVD to help facilitate that group discussion, and that comes with the book.
You can go to our website at FamilyLife.com and find out more information about how you can get a copy of "The New Eve," by Dr. Robert Lewis. When you get to the home page at FamilyLife.com, on the right side of the screen you'll see where it says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," it will take you to the area of the site where you can find out more about the new Eve. You can order a copy of the book online. There is also information about Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock's helpful book, "Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God." You may want to get both of these books and use them together either for personal study or for group use.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, click the box on the right side of the screen that says "Today's Broadcast," and you can order these resources from us off the Internet, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you contact us, someone on our team can get you more information about how you can have these resources sent to you.
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Well, tomorrow Dr. Robert Lewis is going to be back with us. We hope you can be back as well. We want to talk about how many women today are feeling that being a woman today is harder than being a man, and some women, I think, resent the fact that God made them women. We're going to talk more about that tomorrow. Barbara Rainey will be back with us as well and, again, we hope you'll be back.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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