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Archive for the ‘Men and Women’ Category

Lighthouse-in-Fog

Amidst political correctness and national worship of the god Tolerance (who desires all men to know him by the name “Acceptance”), how is the Christian parent to guide the little ones at their knees?  As Dana has said, in these darkening days, the world will do what the world will do, but the Church will have to decide what it believes and who is Lord.  We will certainly need to parent counter-culturally and we will necessarily look peculiar to the world around us if we are to shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, among a crooked and twisted generation. (Philippians 2:15-16)  

In her July 15th blog post, Luma Simms offers a guidepost for naturally and purposefully training our children in those first lessons of gender, or “heart identities” as she calls it, before the conflicting messages of our day have opportunity to present themselves.  Her post is included below in its entirety. 

Training Heart Identities in Boys and Girls

Boys are different than girls. It’s plain in the Bible and plain in our everyday experience as parents.

I have five children. The first three are girls; the last two are boys. They are different! There is no question that each child is unique. There is no question of the heterogeneity in temperament, interests, skills, gifts, weaknesses, areas of sin, areas of obedience, and more. Yes and amen. God is not in the business of creating a monolithic people. But from birth, the boys, as boys, were intrinsically different than the girls.

My husband and I parent on many levels. There are places where our parenting is the same across the board (no one is allowed to say “shut up” to anyone else). Then there are aspects which are dependent upon personality (the child’s personal strengths and weaknesses). And then there are areas which are dependent upon the specific sex (the boys can play dolls with their sisters, but they need to play roles as boys or men).

Cultivating Identity

The aim is to deliberately parent our children in such a way that reinforces their gender and gives them contentment in how God created them.

Now it does not mean we make shallow, meaningless rules like girls can’t climb trees or boys can’t play house. We are living every day in the thick of parenting girls and boys. Reinforcing their girlhood and boyhood is a heart issue. It is not necessarily what they are playing; it is what identity they are cultivating in the play.

Helpers and Protectors

Our kids’ play has proven to be a great opportunity to reinforce the beauty of God’s good gift of gender.

When my husband gets on the floor and pretends to be a dragon, he asks our oldest son to protect his sister. This is a way to train the boys to protect and guard. But he also turns it around so that sister can have a chance to defend herself and come to the rescue of her brother. You may wonder what the difference is. It’s subtle and inward. The difference is in the heart role we encourage them to take: When a sister is saving the brother and helping to kill the “dragon” (their daddy), she is doing it from the intrinsic identity of helper. She is helping her brother by coming to his rescue, and she is exercising dominion over the “wicked dragon” by slaying him. However, when a brother is coming to the rescue to save his sister, he is doing so from the intrinsic identity of protector.

There are times when the same outward action is properly motivated by completely different inward thought and heart orientation. The brothers and sisters can both do the same thing, but do them from different motives and self-understanding. And teaching this is part of teaching gender identity to our children. This is part of what I mean when I say we reinforce who God created them to be. It is about heart orientation (see Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 7:21; 12:34).

From Deep to Deep

If we want boys and girls to be content in their gender — content in who God created them to be — the answer isn’t about what they can and can’t play with or whether or not they should get a different kind of education. It is heart training that will help our boys grow up to be men and our girls grow up to be women, both of which are two distinctly glorious realities in creation. Therefore, what this comes down to is a heart orientation that is intrinsically tied to each gender. Why? Because gender is an intrinsic, objective reality that comes from deep within our personhood. Gender, either masculine or feminine, is spiritual, psychological, physiological, and emotional. There is a feminine glory and a masculine glory — both God-made for his glory. It is this high aspiration that we want our children to increasingly grasp.

Therefore, training their heart to orient properly to the things around them will help them, by the grace of God, to understand the masculine and feminine qualities of creation, to understand their sexuality as adults, and seek a marriage union which is compatible spiritually, intellectually, and physically. It is a matter of the heart that will help them understand true equality before God and labor side-by-side with others and their spouses to bring the light of the gospel to those around them. Heart training is what equips them to identify and exercise vocation, value family life and children, and above all, follow robustly after Christ, their Creator and Redeemer.

The Beautiful Genius of Creation

Such heart training should not be heavy-handed. Our little boy doesn’t get scolded immediately for putting on his older sister’s high-heeled shoes. We aim to parent with grace and reasonableness. We gently guide that little toddler toward an appropriate pair of big shoes he can play with and take that opportunity to remind him that the other ones belong to his older sister.

Given the empirical evidence that faces me from sun-up to sun-down every day, there is no other logical and intellectually honest conclusion I can arrive at: Boys and girls are different. This intrinsic diversity, alongside its amazing harmony, is fundamental to the beautiful genius of God’s creation of his image-bearing human race. Especially, in our age of gender confusion, we want to give special vigilance to our boys and girls understanding who God made them to be.

Our parenting, we hope, is neither stifling nor obtuse. Quite the opposite. Within the life-giving boundaries God has placed in creating girls and boys, our children can enjoy their gender and wield their identities for God’s glory and their everlasting joy.

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As a collector and reader of vintage etiquette books, I often pine for the days of thoughtful manners, the days when rules of etiquette were carefully taught and practiced at home and were considered necessary for a polite society.  We sacrifice so much with the “like it or lump it,” ego-centric attitude that seems to prevail in our culture today.

I think this is part of my attraction to old black and white movies.  Watching these movies, my husband and I will often remark about the days “when men were men and women were women.”  What we really mean is when women acted lady-like and men acted like gentlemen.

Perhaps contradicting myself, our family has always been big fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (especially, the Joel Hodgson years), being introduced to MST3K by my sister, Heide, who worked as business manager in those early years at the Best Brains company while they were producing the show.  We particularly enjoyed when a feature movie was not quite long enough for the time slot and needed to be padded out with a short, as they were called.

The short was usually about a ten minute, black and white educational film produced in the 50’s, meant to round out a student’s education with topics related to health, social skills and character development.  The films seem cheesy to us today (as the MST3K lampooning attests), but they were instructive in their day.  If we can get past the overacting, we catch a glimpse of a more polite time in American history, when thoughtful niceties and common courtesies were the norm, not the exception, and adults took the time to teach and re-teach these lessons to the next generation.

I share the following black and white short as a window to a kinder, gentler time…when men were trained to be gentlemanly and nice girls aspired to be lady-like.  Enjoy!

 

[Black and White title photo is from the movie, The More the Merrier, starring Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea; a personal favorite of mine.]

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Carolyn McCulley is the consummate modern woman—author, business woman, public speaker and entrepreneur. So you can bet I took notice when she wrote in a recent True Woman blogpost, “Over the years, I’ve talked to many women about whether or not they should pursue a career. My answer is a qualified no.” I held my breath for a moment until she answered her own question, “So should women work? Absolutely!”

I have to agree with McCulley’s assessment that our modern idea of career is a self-centered one. “It’s ultimately about self-fulfillment and self-definition—how you are defined by what you do.”  Although I desire both of my own girls to find meaningful, fulfilling work to do in their lives, I have never desired their chief identification to come from a “career.”

McCulley echoes my heart for my girls in my wish that they will spend their lives in God-honoring and God-glorifying occupations, “Women should work and work hard every day. As Christ-following women, the Bible calls us to work for the glory of God. But the location of where we work is neither the definition nor the measure of our productivity.

“We may be wives or mothers, but as important as these are, they are roles that end in this life. We continue on as children of God and sisters to those who have been rescued by Christ. We may work in highly esteemed professions or we may not be paid for our daily labors. Those roles are not our identities, either.”

McCulley would challenge women to find their identities through the many opportunities God gives them in their lives. Certainly we are responsible for the use of our talents and interests, which we may or may not be paid for, but we are equally answerable for our relationships, our children, our time, and the myriad of tasks, urgent or mundane, that fill our days and years. “Whatever God gives us in terms of relationships and opportunities, He wants multiplied for the sake of His kingdom.”

Our career, if we must, is to be good investors of these opportunities and to steward them to the glory of God. And that is no mean life-work.

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Douglas Wilson has written thoughtfully about marriage and family in the past and his newest book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Thomas Nelson, 2012), tackles such weighty subjects as masculinity, marriage, fatherhood, and authority.  I am gleaning from excerpts compiled by Tony Reinke in “20 Quotes from Father Hunger”.

Wilson’s definition of masculinity is surely counter-cultural.  Simply put, he defines masculinity as “the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.”

He asserts that a “man who assumes responsibility is learning masculinity, and a culture that encourages men to take responsibility is a culture that is a friend to masculinity. When a culture outlaws masculinity, they soon learn that such outlaws are a terrible bane to them, instruments that destroy civilization with their mutant forms of masculinity. Every society needs masculine toughness, but it needs a toughness that lives and thrives and is honored within the boundaries of the law. And if we want this kind of toughness in the men, we have to teach it to the boys, and cultivate it in them. Like a concrete foundation, masculine toughness has to lie underneath masculine tenderness. (51–52)  When masculinity is not taught and disciplined, boys grow up thinking that it means selfishness instead of sacrifice.” (53–54)

This concept of masculine toughness reflects that glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.  Lest the reader fails to apply this to life’s biggest decisions, Wilson drives the idea home by stating, “A man who takes a woman to the altar is going there to die to himself.” (126)  This sacrificial view of masculinity necessarily redefines the concept of authority.  “Authority flows to those who take responsibility. Taking responsibility is the foundation of all true authority. This means that reestablishing authority is accomplished by taking responsibility. (208)

This strong but safe masculine authority is fully aware of his responsibilities in all his spheres of influence including his call to fatherhood.  “What are fathers called to?” he asks.  “Fathers give. Fathers protect. Fathers bestow. Fathers yearn and long for the good of their children. Fathers delight. Fathers sacrifice. Fathers are jovial and open-handed. Fathers create abundance, and if lean times come they take the leanest portion themselves and create a sense of gratitude and abundance for the rest. Fathers love birthdays and Christmas because it provides them with yet another excuse to give some more to the kids.”

But the masculine man is no mere Santa-figure.  He knows his authority is a call to other forms of responsibility.  “When fathers say no, as good fathers do from time to time, it is only because they are giving a more subtle gift, one that is a bit more complicated than a cookie. They must also include among their gifts things like self-control and discipline and a work ethic, but they are giving these things, not taking something else away just for the sake of taking. Fathers are not looking for excuses to say no. Their default mode is not no.” (158–159)

Men may wish to embrace this type of masculinity, but lack a model or mentor; women may wish to find such a masculine man who exhibits sacrificial responsibility, but they’ve never seen it from the men in their lives.  To these, Wilson shares his own father’s advice.  “Suppose that someone is converted to the Christian faith, and he wants to be a good husband and father. He thinks of it as a good thing, and so he is all for it. The only problem is that his father ditched when he was only two, and he doesn’t have a good grasp of what fatherhood is even supposed to look like. My father has often told young men and women in this kind of position to read through the gospel of John, taking special note of everything that is said about God the Father. We learn what tangible fathers are supposed to be like by looking to the intangible Father. And we look to Him by looking at Jesus, the one who brings us to the Father.” (200)

It is God’s good pleasure to split his image into two genders.  It is also his good pleasure to place his creatures in families.  Although almost any man can become a husband or a father, it is by the Holy Spirit that men are directed to their proper, God-given purposes of masculinity, responsibility, authority, and sacrifice.

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What is the difference between lust and love?

Simply put…

Lust is me-focused and will seek an object (or present itself as one) to fulfill its desires.

Love is other-focused and will look for and protect what is good for the other, often to his or her own hardship or loss.

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A quote from Douglas Wilson’s new book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Thomas Nelson, 2012), caught my attention:

“When a man opens the car door for his wife, he is doing far more than just getting the door open. It is not a matter of utility. It is not a question of pragmatics. Granted, we could save energy all around if both individuals opened their own doors. But he is making a statement in addition to getting the door open. He is disciplining his own heart and soul, which need it, and he is honoring his wife, who is glorified by it. The role of the man here, if we may speak this way, is not just to get the door open. His central role is the liturgical act of saying that women everywhere should be held in honor by men, and that he adds his amen to this, as everyone in the parking lot at Costco can now see.”

At some point in the past, my husband began opening my car door for me.  I must admit that I’m often uncomfortable with it to varying degrees.  I often feel uncomfortable because it does seem inefficient and it causes my husband to be inconvenienced and to endure poor weather longer as he waits for me to get in.  At the risk of sounding self-effacing, well…I am.  I tend to aim to be inconspicuous in public and do not usually seek public attention.

What Wilson helped me understand is that my husband’s gesture, makes him conspicuous and declares to believer and unbeliever alike a created order.  This stood out to me yesterday.  It wasn’t Costco, but the local movie theater.  My husband opened my door as usual.  Just a few seconds later a young man and woman and a couple children got out of the car near us.  I was keenly aware that it couldn’t help but be obvious to this young couple that despite women’s “liberation,” despite the new casualness, despite the hardening of the womanly spirit in our country, here was someone who displayed a manliness not often seen anymore and demonstrated his acknowledgement of his creator’s order…and His grace to womankind.

 

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

 

[Illustration: Tom Lovell]

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