“My mom is the strongest woman I know,” Janine shared, “I admire her so much.”
“I know what you mean,” Selena agreed. “My mom’s tough. She’s never shown a moment’s weakness.”
From across the room, Janine wondered how Selena’s definition of strength could be so different from her own. When is a woman truly strong? Is it when she stands firm in her “toughness” or when she flees from her own weakness?
Janine and Selena are not alone. While most Christian women are well acquainted with the biblical model for womanhood, worldly standards often subtly invade the lives of even the most mature believers. Indeed, the world’s expectation for women is hard to avoid – or turn down. With an attractive message of accomplishment, independence and self-assurance, it beguiles women eager to influence and achieve on a godly mission.
Kimberly Wagner experienced firsthand how worldly standards may invade a godly woman’s life. In the midst of serving as a pastor’s wife, leading women’s ministries and mentoring others in their marriages, reliance on her own strength was poisoning her marriage, her relationships and her Christian witness.
Wagner shares in a video on her blog at www.kimberlywagner.org: “I thought the helper role was you help your husband improve. I would criticize; I would question decisions he made as a pastor. I didn’t do that publicly, but I would do that at home, and I didn’t realize I was emasculating my husband. Before long, my husband LeRoy began to experience an actual crisis of faith because he would see me every day on my knees in prayer and yet I was a shrew to live with. We settled into a marriage where we were more like roommates, remaining married only because of our commitment to Christ.”
Fierce and loving
In an interview with AFA Journal, Wagner went on to explain how during a solitary weekend at a cabin, preparing for a women’s conference where she would be teaching on biblical womanhood, she was convicted by a well-known passage of Scripture:
“What opened my eyes was Titus 2:3-5, where it describes all the things women are to do: loving their husbands; being pure; being kind; taking care of their homes and showing hospitality – and then verse five, tells why we’re doing those things – ‘so that the word of God will not be blasphemed.’ That’s strong language! It means we’re to be living so that the watching world will not mock the word of God. We’re to be living our lives to bring glory to God, showing that His word is active and living and able to change people’s lives.
“All of a sudden I made the connection: loving my husband is connected to giving God glory, and I knew my marriage was not where it should be; it was not glorifying God.”
In this respect, Wagner’s message is not just for women, for God has ultimately given men and women the same mandate – to bring God glory, although they have very different roles from which to fulfill that mandate. And in marriage, as a partnership of those distinct roles working in cohesion, both men and women have tremendous responsibility to act for God’s glory.
Today, Wagner’s own marriage has been restored, and she leads other women to a better understanding of God’s design for them. A frequent speaker on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ Revive Our Hearts radio program and a blogger for the True Woman movement, she recently authored the book Fierce Women: the Power of a Soft Warrior.
Fierce and beautiful
While the word “fierce” typically has negative connotations, Wagner explained that her meaning is far different from the “destructive fierceness” that nearly destroyed her marriage.
“What I’m promoting is the ‘beautifully fierce’ woman whose source of strength comes from Christ,” she said. “Her identity is locked into that relationship with Christ; that is her source of life. She is driven by a heart of loving God and loving others. God’s agenda is her agenda. Conversely to that is the destructive fierce woman: She looks to herself for strength. Her motive is to get all she can for herself. It is a selfish agenda; it’s all about her.”
In Fierce Women, Wagner provides a self-evaluation checklist that describes a woman far removed from the fierce woman the world promotes:
• Her identity and value are rooted in her relationship with Christ rather than with a man.
• She’s filled with gratitude for God’s good gifts. Her heart is ruled by the peace of contentment.
• She courageously faces her fears rather than running or hiding in shame.
• She’s passionate about things that matter rather than living for the trivial.
• She loves God and others. She’s more focused on giving love than getting love.
• She’s willing to battle for a worthy cause rather than shrinking in defeat.
• She’s honest but kind.
• She protects and defends the helpless rather than using her strength to bully others.
• She is known as a sincere encourager.
• Others seek her counsel.
• She embraces God’s Word as her ultimate authority rather than voices in the culture.
• She faithfully confronts by speaking truth in love rather than enabling sin by keeping silent.
• She walks in confidence and humility that flow from her recognition of Christ’s work of grace in her life.
• She has the power to influence and inspire because she lives under the Spirit’s control.
• Her life is lived all out for God’s glory rather than the smallness of self.
• She grabs the hem of God’s will and doesn’t let go.
As one who “lives all out for God’s glory,” the fierce woman acknowledges her weakness and flees from the destructive fierceness of her flesh; instead, she exhibits total submission to Christ and tenacious obedience to His will. And that, as Wagner explained, is the key to strength for a Christian woman.
“Grabbing onto the hem of God’s will means hanging on while He leads, moment by moment,” she said. “Whatever God calls you to do that day, be obedient and rely on that source of strength. That is how we show the work of Christ in our lives, the way that we demonstrate the power of the gospel. When we are tempted to live in our flesh, to react in destructive ways, and yet we pause and ask God for grace to apply the truth that we know, and then we do it – that is the choice of a beautiful fierce woman.”
At its core, the Bible’s message to women, while it does give them a clearly defined role and definite standards for their behavior, is essentially a clarion call for undivided allegiance and obedience to Christ. It is an invitation to examine one’s heart, and to repent of any sin found there – “so that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
And, as is made clear by the analogy comparing the husband-wife relationship to the relationship between Christ and the Church, it is a message to be considered by every Christian, man and woman, as they seek to fulfill God’s mandate to glorify Him.