I love reading with my eight-year-old son before bedtime. I especially love to read beautifully written books that share God’s story with him. One book we have enjoyed recently is Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Jesse Tree – the story of a grumpy old man who is carving a Jesse tree (an ancient tradition which tells the biblical story from Creation to Jesus through symbols on a carved tree), and a young boy who keeps coming into the church each day to ask questions about the craftsman’s latest work and learns the stories of the biblical narratives in the bargain. It really is worth a read. McCaughrean is a master storyteller who makes these familiar tales sing.
One paragraph from the story of Joseph and his coat of many colours caught my attention. Joseph – having already annoyed his brothers with his dreams that they would bow down to him – has just brought his brothers’ tempers to boiling point by flaunting his fabulous new coat. McCaughrean writes,
“Joseph’s brothers did not want to look. No father ought to love one son more than all the rest – or if he does, he ought not to let it show. They hated Joseph for his coat and his dreams and his unfair share of love.”
And it struck me: This is how some Christian women feel about how they relate to and are valued by God compared to their brothers in Christ – as if men are the “favoured sons” and they are the lesser children. As if Dad goes to his son’s footy games but doesn’t watch his daughter playing netball, speaks proudly of his sons but patronisingly of his daughters and sends his son to a costly private school to fulfil his potential but thinks the local public school is good enough for his daughters.
Equal But Different?
“Oh no, you have it so wrong,” you may say, “Truly, men and women are equal in God’s sight! Equal, but with different roles. We don’t need to be the same to be valued.”
Well, you’re partially right (and sometimes, ideas which are only partially correct cause a lot of damage). Yes, men and women are equally valued by God and no, we don’t need to be the same to be valued by God. Every person on Earth is unique – difference is about so much more than gender! Here’s the problem – when Christians use the phrase “equal but different,” one sex receives the message, “you can serve God in any area of ministry that’s available”, while the other sex learns that, “there are some things you may never do, no matter how gifted, passionate, qualified and skilled you may be, simply because of your sex. People of the other sex can do those things, even if they are not gifted, passionate, qualified or skilled. Their sex is their primary qualification for service. This is how God planned it.” Then men and women are told, “Despite this, you are truly equal in God’s sight.” It’s hardly surprising that some people baulk at the inconsistency.
Being Who God Created You to Be
Those who take the “equal but different” approach often make the mistake of assuming that any woman who desires to fully use her God-given gifts for God’s glory wants to be “the same as a man.” Let’s set the record straight: a woman who wants to teach or lead doesn’t want to be just like a man. She simply wants to be who God has created her to be, living out what He calls her to do.
The messages heard in many Christian contexts leave some women feeling as if God clothes them in drab, grey, patched, hand-me-down coats, while men are clad in coats made of the finest wool, magnificently dyed in many colours, expertly hand-stitched and perfectly fitted. The difficulty we have is in separating our experience from God’s actual gift. The experience that has come to many women through the words and attitudes of others convinces us that we are not worthy of God’s best for us. (Hint: that’s a lie. A really, really big lie.)
See Yourself Through God’s Eyes
Put those voices aside. Listen instead to God’s truth about your worth. You are one of God’s hand-made treasures – fashioned by His deft touch and eye for detail whilst you were still in your mother’s womb. You are so much on God’s mind that your name is engraved on the palm of His hand. He is the Potter who has shaped and moulded you, making you into a vessel designed perfectly for His purpose for you. He looks at you – yes, you! – and says, “It is good.”
Your desire to serve Him – He put that there.
The skills with which you serve Him – He gifted these to you to be used to the full.
Your love for Him, others, Scripture and service – He delights in.
Your Many-Coloured Coat
So reach into God’s wardrobe and pull out the coat He has lovingly woven for you. Put it on. Feel its perfect fit. Enjoy its rich colour and warm cloth. Don’t just save it for a special occasion. Wear it wherever God may lead you, as a symbol of your pride in God’s glorious workmanship. Don’t be shy to wear something this good – it’s evidence of the Father’s great love for you and of your value in His sight.