“Do you know what you’re having?”
It’s got to be the most popular question asked of a pregnant woman! Why? Well it’s obvious isn’t it? There’s a difference! Even at this early stage, gender matters. By the time I had my third son, I was sick of baby blue, royal blue and navy blue boys’ clothes. Red became my son’s signature colour! And although I was happy to give my boys a doll to play with to show them how to look after a new baby, somehow they gravitated towards balls, bats and cars. By the time our daughter was born, I thought I had it all sorted. I rejoiced in pink clothes. And dolls and kitchen sets were a welcome reprieve from the world of trucks, snakes and dirt, dirt, dirt!
But these gender considerations were just the tip of the iceberg!
Like other Christian parents, it’s my heart desire that my children trust Jesus to forgive their sins. And that in response to His love for them, I want them to grow up emulating Jesus. I train both my sons and my daughter to be patient, kind, loving, sacrificial and so on. So far, so good. But, the feminist skeletons in my closet were given a good shake when I confronted questions like – ‘Does being a boy or a girl make any difference to how children live out their godliness?’ ‘Does the Bible’s teaching on gender differences apply to children or does it just kick in as they become adults?’ ‘If God has designed men and women to be different and this design is good, how do I train my children to live this out and prepare them for the various ways God calls them to complement the opposite sex?’
Here’s how the issue started to weigh on my mind: when couples are preparing to get married, my husband and I work through various passages from the Bible including God’s instructions that husbands are to be the heads of their families, leading them with sacrificial love and wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. More often than not, if the woman has been raised in a Christian family, there is general acceptance of this teaching. Putting it into practice isn’t so easy. I have countless conversations every week with women of all ages, from all sorts of backgrounds, struggling to live out their desire to submit to their husbands. Husbands struggle too. The sacrificial headship modelled by Jesus is often overwhelming for men so they struggle to put their wives’ interests above their own and still lead the family.
But it’s not just in marriage that gender distinction is hard to live out. The transition from workplace relationships to fellowship in the church is also a struggle for many men and women. The majority of workplaces and educational institutions forbid, at least at the official level, distinction that excludes someone on the basis of their gender. This means women in positions of authority over men often find it hard to make the transition from the workplace to the church community where God wants them to submit to male leaders, refrain from teaching men and holding positions of authority over them (Bible refs). And vice versa, men sometimes struggle to exercise the kind of servant hearted leadership that Jesus modeled, which is so radically different to the kind of authority they are encouraged to exercise in the workplace.
I know that sin is the underlying problem – sin by both men and woman. But here’s my dilemma. How can we expect young adults to know how to live as Christian men
if we fail to teach them and train them from a young age? Is there a place for teaching children about gender specific godliness?
In my next post, I’ll share some of my observations about how the home, the education system and the church are contributing to the problem at hand. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts.