Chapter: “Better Questions”
If there are no atheists in a foxhole, there are definitely no atheists in a birthing room. No woman can hold a gasping baby to her chest, a brand new human still warm from the temperature inside her own body, and not marvel at the painful wonder of the miracle she just witnessed. No man can look over the face of his offspring and not feel that primordial weight of fatherhood, the godlike responsibility over this thing he’s helped create, the internal tug of duty.
Something broke open in me when I gave birth to each of my children, a tender vein of humility and faith as I bled and cried at the act of giving life. Each birth gave me pause, made me glance up and lock eyes, if only for a moment, with something holy, something big, something more grand than I will ever be. It was then that I began to ask questions about what being a mother meant to my faith; but beyond that, what being a woman meant to my faith. What had I found in that birthing room that changed me so? Why did the effect of the birth seem so different for me than it did for my husband? Why did giving birth mean something spiritual, not just to me, but to every woman?
And even in the act of not giving birth, in the reality of lost babies, in the supposed “shame” of infertility, in the decision not to have children at all, and in the monthly bleeding and preparation a woman’s womb knows to do without prompting; what is it about our physical bodies that calls to something deeper, something sacred, something that makes us glance up and cry out, even if we don’t think anyone is listening?
And really, why did being a woman make me different than someone who is a man, especially when so often my particular strengths, traits and weaknesses didn’t seem “female” at all? And for that matter, does a man’s interior life lead him to wonder about deity or eternity? Does any part of the male body make him glance to the heavens? What glimpse into eternity belongs to the male body, and not to mine?
This is why I don’t think there are real atheists, because all people inhabit a physical body. And our bodies, in their processes, strengths and failures, are vessels of faith. And our gender is paramount in this design.
Take a second to think this through. You were born. The doctor or midwife held you up, announced your presence and declared your gender, because it was the first thing they looked at and it was the question everyone was about to ask. We accept this, that we are born with chromosomal differences that determine our gender; that is inarguable. Then we spend our lives living out that distinction, with our families, friends, and society telling us how; as in, this is how to be a man. This is how to be a woman. Or we hear, those people are wrong about femininity, and those people are destroying masculinity, and so on and so forth ad nauseam.
And while the current debate around gender and all its intricacies argues that it might not be so simple as a doctor’s declaration, and people who love Jesus are wondering how to enter this conversation with kindness and wisdom, or perhaps wondering what the conversation means at all, I have something to tell you:
We are missing the point.
We are all missing the point.
That’s why it feels so confusing.
That’s why it feels so contentious.
Because we are speaking a language we do not understand; we are talking about gender in a way that builds walls, when we could be running together under a bright blue open sky. We need ask better questions if we want to find better answers.
So here’s the better question: Not what is your gender, not how does gender define us, not does gender matter, but rather: Why were you born male? Why were you born female? Why am I female instead of male?
Is gender assigned in the womb by divine lottery, when nature simply says yes to a Y chromosome or chooses only X’s, or in which God chooses to bestow on each baby male or female based on some sort of global balance, because each gender requires equal representation for continued human existence through procreation?
Am I female because my cells said so? Am I female because that’s what the current count required?
Let’s suppose otherwise. Let’s suppose this: Your gender is on purpose.
You are not an accident. And neither is your chromosome count.
Why would your gender, the essential determining factor of your biology and your physical presence in a physical world, be an incidental decision by a perfect and purposeful designer?
Here’s the truth; here’s the better answer. Your gender is part of God’s ultimate plan to rescue you and bring you back to his perfect love.
That is the only fundamental truth concerning the difference between a male and female person. There is only one universal difference, and it is the way in which God uses a male body and a female body to save a person’s soul. Any other opinions about gender, any assumptions or expectations- they are fads, cultural, temporal, heavy-handed and often poison to the human heart.
If we believe in a God of purpose, a sovereign being who uses all things in our life for our good and to bring us back to His love, then why would our gender, that deep-rooted truth about ourselves, one which we did not have a say in choosing, be any different? It can’t be. It has to matter to our souls, or we have to rethink what we believe about God. And if our gender informs our redemption story, then we need to ask why.
Why does it matter? And HOW does it matter?
There is more to our gender identity than our physical beings, than our sexual preferences, than our tendencies and personalities and stereotypes. We know there is more because we feel it. Across humanity. We know we are more than biology. And, most of all, if we believe in a designing God, then we have to believe in an intentional God. He is intentional in a way that wraps all of the past, all of the present, and all of the future into one extraordinary story line. He does not write with the carelessness of Chekhov’s gun, with loose ends and wandering narratives; every line of every sentence bears witness to his presence in our lives.
Including, and perhaps especially, our gender.
This is a birth story. This is an adoption story. This is you grappling with the fact that you look just like your Heavenly Father, who also happens to be Mother, and how God did everything possible to bring you life and peace – including when he chose your gender – and how in finding that truth, you will find peace.
So let’s stop building walls. Let’s lay beside each other on the grass and marvel at the depth of the blue in the sky. Let’s wonder- What do we know about how God makes man, and what do we know about how God makes woman? And how exactly is He saving us through our gender? These are essential questions. This is ancient territory, back to a garden and a lie and the familiar sting of broken hearts. But these answers won’t feel new; they will feel like chords of remembrance, faint strains of a song you already know, but forgot how to sing.
Let’s remember the song together.
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