Endangered Words

The price we’re paying for vanishing masculinity and femininity

When I was young, my mother used to tell people she had two and a half boys and two and a half girls. I was the iffy one. Let’s just say I was naturally unfrilly. I loved math and wasn’t that interested in dolls. Maybe that seems common for girls these days, but it wasn’t then.

I don’t know how old I was when this happened, but I remember consciously deciding at some point to choose womanhood. I felt I could go either way, but this was my choice. Had I been born in today’s environment, there’s a good chance I would never have ended up where I am today—a healthy and contented grandmother.

We live in a bizarre world where we’re told that we can choose whatever sexual identity we like, and at the same time we have no option but to go with our intractable attractions. But behind this, there is the quiet but insistent message that classic masculinity is toxic and classic femininity is really masculinity restrained. Or something like that.

As everybody knows but few people seem to admit, words mean something and matter. In my estimation, few words are as maligned, and yet as precious, as masculinity and femininity. No wonder the enemy of our souls is hellbent on their obfuscation. Even though science, history, and even evolutionary theory would protest, we are being deceived into thinking these words are ours to refashion however we will.

I would propose....no, let me say it this way. If I was somehow given the chance, I would shout from mountaintops: “These words don’t belong to us! They belong to our Creator!”

For the past 50 years I have been watching the world, with my Bible in hand, as the astonishing pattern God designed for men and women is gradually but inexorably being dismantled. I think if it had happened quickly, someone would have noticed. But I’m old enough and have enough memory to discern at least in part what’s gone on.

So let me share what I’ve come to believe is true, with the prayer that perhaps it will make sense to at least a few of you. The key to what I’ve learned is that everything about life needs to be viewed with God, rather than ourselves, at the center. Thus with regard to human sexuality, we need to ask first how it matters to him, and only secondarily how it matters to us.

Why does it matter to God? Well, for starters, he wanted the human race to continue, and that required men and women to do what men and women do. He also intended families and the communities they populate to be stable. That required lifetime marriages.

But I really think there’s something more profound at stake, and that’s where the words masculinity and femininity are especially significant. You see, men can actually be both masculine and feminine. Same with women. These aren’t physical aspects, although to a very real extent they’re connected to our physical bodies (or at least they should be).

Masculinity and femininity are essentially defined by what might be called roles, although I prefer the word assignments. More specifically, they’re assignments that find their meaning primarily through relationship. Said another way, masculinity and femininity in their fullest sense depend on each other. Masculinity expresses itself as the protector, provider, initiator and leader of someone else. Femininity expresses itself as the responder, grateful receiver, follower and admirer of someone else.

Now before you go ballistic with my definitions, remember that we’re centering this discussion not on ourselves, but on God. The Bible clearly describes Christ as masculine, based on the above characteristics. It also describes us, his church, as feminine. Thus as I see it, God intends the proper relationship between human husbands and wives to serve as a visible representation of the divine/human relationship.

If we accept this paradigm, then my point that men can be both masculine and feminine makes sense. Men are masculine in their relationship with their wives but feminine in their relationship with Christ. Women are feminine in relationship to both their husbands and Christ, but masculine in their relationship with their young children.

While all this describes the ideal, I’m old enough to know it gets more complicated in our fallen world. I mean, who admires someone who gives them little or nothing to admire? Who wants to follow a leader who’s heading in a bad direction? Or from the other angle, how can someone lead a person who doesn’t want to follow?

But let’s think reasonably about this. Is the solution to our brokenness to give up the ideal—or maybe even to push things in the opposite direction? Or might it be possible that if women intentionally became more feminine, men just might find it in themselves to be more masculine, and vice versa? I would quickly add that having the Spirit of God enabling us to obey our assignments can make an enormous difference.

Yet even without him, individuals and societies have experienced greater flourishing when men and women followed their inborn instincts toward being masculine and feminine. Notice, I didn’t use the word attractions. What we’re witnessing today is a tsunami of forces that are intentionally crafted to throw our libidos off course and at an ever-earlier age. You know what I’m talking about.

If these were simply theoretical categories or theological principles, we could spend more time drawing finer and finer lines. But I think the day for that is past, and we’re now in emergency mode. Little children are being permanently damaged. Boys have literally no idea how to grow up to be men. Marriages have become war zones that fewer and fewer people want to enter. But worst of all, God himself is all too rarely respected, let alone worshiped. And whether we realize it or not, that’s what matters most. 

I’m fully aware, dear reader, that it won’t be easy to live out authentic masculinity or femininity in your current situation. But what I truly hope will happen is that these thoughts and ideas will seep deeply into your mind and heart, not only to give you some defense against the lies, but also to provide a more solid grounding as you make those incremental decisions (like I did so long ago) to accept your assignment as a man or a woman, and thereby discover the joy of becoming aligned with the amazing design of our wise and good Creator.


is a homemaker who lives near Centerville, Tennessee. Her website is www.bereansnotepad.com.

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