God created us uniquely, men and women, but both in His image, to compliment each other, so that together we reflect the fullness of who He is. I know that not everyone in Christendom would completely agree with that statement, but it’s not my intent to have that debate here. I really want to explore the unique aspects of how women experience life-change and growth. How are we motivated differently? What are the struggles unique to women? What are the ramifications of Eve’s gene pool in our soul and our spirit?
It’s been said that the core need of a woman is to be wanted and pursued, as opposed to men, whose core need is for respect. ( His needs, Her needs by Willard F. Harley Jr., among others) Some would say that’s a result of the fall and the curse of Eve to “desire after [her] husband” (Genesis 3:16). Others would say that it’s because God created us with that need – to be wanted, pursued, and treasured, in order that He might draw us to Himself by meeting that need. I think it’s probably both. Regardless, if it is by design or default, the result is that women in almost every culture and age have a greater felt need for emotional connection and intimacy in relationships, and—apart from the ramifications of sin in the world and their lives—most are motivated to find that connection with a man.
That need is the white noise of a woman’s life. It’s always there. It’s what we think about when there’s nothing else to think about. It affects how we hear everything else – at least this is true for women 18 to 24, really newborn to 104, but for purposes of our discussion it’s definitely at its peak in the age range of our students. It’s the backdrop against which all other life factors are measured, experienced and tried. The presence of, lack of, hope for, rejection by, bitterness toward, fear of, scars from – men or a man - is the context in which we live life. For some the background is a very definitive hope - a tall, dark handsome husband, 2.5 children and an SUV, while for others it’s much more abstract, the idea of “happily ever after.” Whatever the backdrop, it is, of course, tainted and colored by our own family and life experience – both positively and negatively. For almost every woman there is this ubiquitous and overarching assumption that whatever else life may bring, it will fit into the context of a life partner. I don’t care how independent and self-sufficient a woman is, the idea of who they will share their life with is somewhere in the mix. In most cases the “who” far outweighs the “what” of life.
Before you get on your feminist high horse, I do acknowledge that in this day and age, many, yea even most women, expect and desire a career – but very few, if any, pursue that career to the exclusion of at least the hope of a husband and family. Granted it does sometimes cost them that, but I’d say rarely is it a conscious choice. We want both and if one has to choose one over the other – apart from the consequences of sin in the world or in the lives of women scarred by abuse, divorce or any other number of factors - at the most gut level, women first long for a life companion.
Ironically, even as I’m working on this article, the Today Show just did a story on a recent study measuring “happy quotients” for women and the overwhelming result was that “women measure happiness by company kept rather than money made.” Certainly there is enough evidence in the secular world that this is a driving factor. The number of Meg Ryan films alone is a strong argument, not to mention the billion dollar romance novel industry. Often it’s been said that what pornography is to men, romance novels are to women – again, the longing to be wooed and wanted. We’ve gone from 90210 to Friends to Sex in the City to Desperate Housewives. The common theme to every show is the search for the right intimate connection. I’m sure it was the same before that, I just don’t remember ….Three’s Company? And why is it that in the history of music, 82% of every song ever written is about a romantic relationship? Ok I totally made up that statistic, but it has to be close to true – take out hymns, nursery rhymes, national anthems and college fight songs and you’re at least at 98%. We can all relate to a sappy love song. You have to admit that you’ve sung along with Celine Dion at some point in the past decade.
Even within Christian circles nothing draws a crowd like a relationship talk. I happened to attend Denton Bible Church when Tom Nelson fist taught the Song of Solomon series. Attendance went from averaging 400 to over 1200 by the end of that series and that was only limited by actual space. There were people sitting on cushions on the stage every week, because there were not enough chairs. Even recently at my church in Austin, we showed the extremely outdated video version of that series to our singles group and consistently drew 300 singles each week, in spite of the big hair, bad suits and the VHS quality of the tape. Anyway… you get the point.
What few people say out loud is that this longing or desire is perfectly normal. Kudos to the writers of He’s Just Not that Into You, Liz Tuccillo and Greg Behrendt. They are one of the few popular secular voices who make such a blatant statement, “There is nothing wrong with wanting to get married. You shouldn’t feel ashamed, needy or ‘unliberated’.” Often such a desire is perceived as a weakness. But truth be known, that is how God made us – with a very real and valid need to be wanted, to be pursued, to be treasured, to live in tandem with soul-mate.
However, where this longing goes awry is in the why. Women, especially in the secular world, but even within the confines of conservative Christendom, have come to believe, either consciously or unconsciously, that marriage is the purpose of life. Everything else is icing. It’s one of the many manifestations of the “all about me” gene innate to all humanity, both male and female.
It always Comes Back to That
I know, enough already, this is not new news. You’re thinking what does any of this have to do with discipling women. It is and has been my experience that it has everything to do with it. I don’t care what the topic is that you’re teaching, but the application of the principles will come back to men, dating, relationships and marriage- whether it’s a group of women who have been married for 30 years, a group of newlyweds or singles young or old. That’s where we live, as much as we/I hate to admit it. It’s where the proverbial rubber meets the road for us.
Nothing has the potential to stop a woman who is growing in the Lord like a new relationship. We’ve all had “chickie” in our Bible study who was showing such promise and then the guy shows up and we never see her again. There’s something about the immediate gratification and tangibility that is so much more satisfying …apparently. As frustrating as it is after years of working with women, I can’t say I don’t understand it. What woman hasn’t cried herself to sleep mumbling something about wanting “Jesus with skin on him.”
Because it is the backdrop of our lives, influencing our perspective and value of everything else, then it’s the one thing that we need to hold in a right and true perspective. It affects our view of God, our view of our own body, soul and spirit, our willingness to trust God, our willingness to be obedient. At the most practical level it can determine whether or not a woman is motivated to go to a weekly meeting or go on a project and leave her could-be-the-one-boyfriend at home or if she’s willing to settle for the not-so-godly guy. The good news is that God does work all things together for his good, even our poor motives. I know many a staff person, both men and women, who as students showed up at a weekly meeting solely for macking rights. And look at them now.
The truth is that God created us for one purpose – to know Him. The Old Testament is filled with God pursuing his people. Over and over again there is the phrase or some variation of the phrase “ I’ve done [this] so that you will know that I am God” or “know that I am the Lord” or “that you will know me.” The Psalms are filled with great promises for those who “know Him.” One of my favorite passages is Isaiah 43:10 that says “I have called you to be my witnesses so that you will know me and believe me.” So often we think we evangelize so that others will know Him, but really it’s about our own relationship with Him. The book of Ezekiel is a long list of warnings of what will happen to his people if they don’t return to a relationship with him. Over 50 times he says that such and such will happen and then “they will know that I am the Lord, their God.”
The New Testament is a revelation of who Christ is, Jesus drawing us into a relationship with Himself. The book of John alone is a great picture of Jesus revealing who He is. He wants us to know him as Paul describes, counting “all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.” ( Phil. 3:8) That’s the whole point of life – “to know Him and make Him known.” (who was the first to say that? very clever)
Marriage is one of the most profound means to that end. I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect that the bride/bridegroom-husband/wife relationship is the most common metaphor in scripture for our relationship with him. The books of Song of Solomon and Hosea are great metaphors. Psalm 45 is all about the King’s wedding and Isaiah 62:5 promises that “as the bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.” In the New Testament Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom in Matthew 9 and then there is the parable of the virgins waiting for the bridegroom in Matthew 25. John also refers to himself as the rejoicing friend of the bridegroom in John 3:29. There is Paul writing to the Corinthians expressing his godly jealousy “for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” and in Ephesians 5 there is the direct comparison of a husband loving his wife as Christ loves the church. Then the grand finale of Revelation and of the age is the ultimate wedding feast.
A marriage relationship is the most intimate of any, and it is just a taste of the intimacy that God desires to have with each of us. I think it’s even his greatest gift by which we begin to understand his love for us, but certainly not the only means. Unfortunately, as the ramifications of sin in the world grow exponentially, the idea, purpose and context of marriage has been warped and distorted - undervaluing the vow and overvaluing having one’s needs met. So much of the world has missed out on the fullness of what God intended in marriage.
Part of thinking about it rightly is to place it in right relation to God’s purpose – knowing Him. If we truly value that as the purpose of our lives – the destination, the goal, the whole point - then marriage is not the focus, but a very fun and challenging means to that end – a fabulous by-product. But the truth is, not everyone will take that route. Most will, but some won’t. And for those who do take that route and do believe it to be the end rather than the means, I guarantee marriage will be painfully disappointing. But amazingly God uses that, too, to draw us to an intimate knowledge of Himself, just as he can use singleness to do the same.
Excerpt from the book Fantasy available through New Life Resources 1-800-827-2788
Rick JamesPrintable View