A fellow blogger Leslie has posed a few questions on her blog related to a book she is reviewing by Cynthia Tobias. She also is running a poll on her side bar related to this topic. Many of the questions asked are about how we as women see ourselves and how others perceive use...as strong willed or not. This is a quote form the book.
"There are so many strong-willed women whose hearts and souls long to know Christ but whose self-sufficient natures won't even consider the possibility of surrendering their hard-won independence. These are women who can and will change the world--one way or another--and it's never been more important to find a way to recognize and validate their worth in the kingdom of God." Cynthia Tobias
First, I think we have to define a strong willed women. Is it a biblical term or simply a cultural one? I would lean toward cultural. There are women who are opinionated, articulate, brave, direct, confident and in control of their emotions, these are those typically assigned the strong willed label. Does it mean if you aren't those things you are not strong? Being willful is often a negative term. It's seen as a pushing against the rules and a fighting mode. Will simply means to have the power of making a reasoned choice or decision or of controlling ones own actions. It doesn't mean being pushy, overbearing or unsubmissive. Any of those things in any person, man or women, would be considered self serving and sinful. I have learned that with great strength and will comes great restraint. Restraint means control of emotions, impulses and liberty. It is not a denial of my thoughts, ideas or giftings but a wise thoughtful restraint in how they are communicated. Am I serving and building up or am I tooting my own self righteous horn? Am I using the ability to make reasoned choices and think clearly to help someone or show how smart I am and control a situation?
The quote above bothers me. She seems to be saying that we (I assume she means the church) are missing out on all these assertive and "strong" women who can do much for us and the world. And we are loosing out because they don't want to loose their independence. Submission and interdependence is a biblical mandate for every believer. It isn't about women or men. Yes, the women's role is different to men but of no less value. When women struggle to be the helper it is simply sin in their hearts...in my heart. I personally don't want to follow any women who isn't interested in submitting herself to others or to letting go of being independent. This self-sufficient nature started in the garden of Eden. We as women have to be on careful watch for this creeping into our lives. I am not saying you become a doormat but strength in submission is a beautiful and I believe biblical thing. The best example is that of Christ on the cross, taking the wrath of God for us when he had every ability to do as he pleased. He submitted his strength, gifting and will to the father. Are women called to any thing different? Are men for that matter? Are we looking at the label strong willed women through the lens of the gospel or of our church culture.
I would be considered a strong willed women by most people I know. Being independent is about control if I am honest with myself. I feel good when I call the shots and have constant ideas. I feel smart. In light of this, being independent is not my friend. I don't need someone to find a place for me in my self sufficiency...I need someone to show me my self righteousness and arrogance. Does that mean I don't contribute my ideas and take initiative where it is appropriate....absolutely not. Having been made this way comes with much responsibility to be careful and on watch. I have to be interdependent in order to use what I've been given for His glory and not my own.
The road of being put in this category has not been an easy one. I have been so quickly judged in the past but also have discovered that there was often a bit of truth to the criticism. If serving in the church and coming to Christ make women feel they are loosing their self -sufficiency isn't that a good thing?