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Biblical Womanhood in the Home

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

In 1990 Time magazine devoted an entire special issue to the subject of women.1 The managing editor's column began:

As roughly half the world's population, women would hardly seem to need to struggle for attention. Yet struggle is precisely what they have been doing in the final decades of the 20th century. Their endeavors deserve no less a word than revolution--in expectations, accomplishments, self-realization and relationships with men. It is a revolution that, though far from complete, promises over time to bring about changes as profound for men and women as any that have occurred in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union in the past year.2

The eighty-six-page special issue included articles on such revolutionary developments as "the road to equality," the psychology of growing up female, the changing roles of women in the workforce, women as consumers, changing views

on marriage and family, and the hurdles women face in pursuing political careers.

One section featured profiles of "10 tough-minded women" who have combined "talent and drive" to become "successful" in their careers: the police chief of a major metropolitan police force, a baseball owner, a rap artist, an AIDS activist, a rock climber, a bishop in a mainline denomination, a fashion tycoon, a saxophonist, an Indian chief, and a choreographer. These women were lauded chiefly for their success in their chosen vocations.

Conspicuous by its absence throughout the issue was any recognition given to women who have succeeded in ways not tied to careers--women who have successfully stayed married to the same man or who have succeeded in bringing up children that are making a positive contribution to society. Not surprisingly, no bouquets were handed out to women for being reverent and temperate or modest and chaste or gentle and quiet, for loving their husbands and children, for keeping a clean, well-ordered home, for caring for elderly parents, for providing hospitality, for acts of kindness, service, and mercy, or for demonstrating compassion for the poor and needy--the kind of success that, according to the Word of God, is what women should aspire to attain (1 Tim. 5:10; Titus 2:3-5).

I was struck by the fact that though Time's coverage featured women in many different roles and settings, there were precious few references to home. (The few references to marriage and family highlighted "single women who are choosing to be unmarried ... with children,"3 stay-at-home dads, divorced moms, lesbians, and working moms--all evidence of the pervasiveness of this revolution that recognizes all lifestyles as equally valid choices, except perhaps those women who choose to center their hearts and lives around their families. Women readers who have chosen a career as "home-makers" could easily have been shaken by the solitary sidebar article on "Wives" entitled "Caution: Hazardous Work." The subheading read: "Looking for lifelong economic security? Don't bank on homemaking."4)

My intent in this context is not so much to address the issue of women and careers as to point out the extent to which the identity and value of women has come to be equated with their role in the community or in the marketplace. That is how their "worth" is defined, measured, and experienced. By contrast, relatively little priority or value is assigned to their role in the home.

As I read commentaries such as that provided by Time, I feel deep sadness over what has been forfeited in the midst of this revolution--the beauty, the wonder, and the treasure of the distinctive makeup, calling, and mission of women.

It should come as no huge surprise that the secular world is confused and off-base about the identity and calling of women. But what I find distressing is the extent to which the revolution described above has taken hold even within the evangelical world.

We see the fruit of that revolution as prominent Christian speakers, authors, and leaders promote an agenda, whether subtly or overtly, that encourages women to define and discover their worth in the workplace, in society, or at church, while minimizing (or even at the expense of) their distinctive roles in the home as daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers--as bearers and nurturers of life, as caregivers, as those privileged and responsible to shape the heart and character of the next generation.

The feminist revolution was supposed to bring women greater fulfillment and freedom. It was supposed to make us feel better about ourselves; after all, "You've come a long way, baby!" But we see the poisoned fruit of the revolution in the eyes and pitiable cries of women who are drowning in the quagmire of serial divorce and remarriage and wayward children; women who are utterly exhausted from the demands of having to juggle one or more jobs, function as single parents, and be active at church; women who are disoriented and confused, who lack a sense of mission, vision, and purpose for their lives and who are perpetually, pathetically shrouded in woundedness, self-doubt, resentment, and guilt.

Yes, the revolution has come to church. And when you add up all the gains and losses, there is no question in my mind that women have been the losers--as have their husbands and their children and grandchildren--as has the entire church--as has our lost, unbelieving culture.

Some years ago a fresh sense of mission began to stir within my heart. Since that time, the sense of pessimism and hopelessness, of being swallowed up by the revolution, has been replaced by rich hope and excitement.

A study of the development of modern feminism (feminism itself actually dates back to the Garden of Eden) impressed me with the fact that this massive revolution did not begin as a massive revolution. It started in the hearts of a relatively small handful of women with an agenda, women who were determined and intentional in their efforts; it started with a few seminal books and speeches; it spread throughout the living rooms of America (which is where women were at the time) until it became a groundswell; it spread by painting for women a picture (deceptive as it was) of their pligh