The Biggest Issue Women Face Today
What do you think is the top issue women face today?
I think the answer is going to surprise most of you, but please, do remember who you are asking. This has actually been something I have been thinking about ever since we began the Scandalous Facebook group for women a little over a year ago. In our group we talk about everything, and I do mean everything! Topics have ran the gamut from the typical church girl discussions of modesty to how and what to shave - I’ll let you fill in the blanks on that one. But beyond that we have discussed how we feel about our lives, our marriages, our boyfriends, our kids, our jobs, our bodies, and what formed the thoughts that drive those emotions. And sadly most of those thoughts and emotions are painful, causing us to doubt our values as women and our ability to be women in the manner we think is demanded of us by our culture, society, and the church.
And this poses the biggest challenge for me, because addressing those issues often takes the form of discussing mechanics, the how to’s of sex and sexuality, because that is the answer that so many of us want - practical, actionable wisdom and advice. In all honesty, it makes getting to the core of a matter difficult. Because while I believe that we do need to be having those type of brutally honest and, yes, practical discussions, I believe they fall short of providing the answer that speaks to the root of the problem. I suppose one way of saying this is it is easier to treat the symptoms instead of the disease. Don’t get me wrong, the symptoms sometimes have to be alleviated before we can move on to addressing the bigger issues. After all isn’ t that why hospitals give pain relievers before they start stitching you up?
I do not think there is just one defining issue that women face, but the good news is that so far I only have two on my list. And I believe every other issue can trace their roots back to these two things:
- A bad or incomplete theology
And since I am feeling logical today, let’s take apart number one first. I know that theology is not something that springs to mind when we think of women’s issues, but that is because most of us have a wrong understanding what theology is. We think of it as something that academics and religious muckety-mucks do, something that the average person does not need to concern themselves with, but the truth is we all do theology. And as I read somewhere recently, the only question is, how well do we do it?
Theology is the study of God, and contrary to popular belief study does not always revolve around books. Study is happening any time we direct our attention to something. We might study our children at play, the shape of the clouds over head, or that weird little hair that keeps growing back on your big toe no matter how many times you pluck it. Now in good study, the object you are studying has your full attention. In bad study, you might have the book a laid out before you but you aren’t actually reading the page. You know, like your high school math book when you were doing a better job studying the cute guy one aisle over than the proper recipient of your attention.
So we are all doing theology, and the term is nothing to be afraid of.
The problem is that so many of us have a theology that is rooted more in cultural conditioning than in the actual Word of God. And so often people slide over into either extreme on this one - they are either terrified that God is some angry thunderbolt wielding bully who is just waiting for a chance to zap them or they have placed so much emphasis on his love that they have failed to make room for his other attributes like holiness and justice. Both of these ideas reduce God to less than he is and in doing so reduces our view of ourselves and our place within his creation.
A proper theology helps us orient ourselves according to God’s design and desire for our lives. It provides with the proper sense of worth and value while hindering egos that grow in direct proportion to our hidden self doubt and fear. A proper theology guides us in wise and healthy decisions for our lives and helps us avoid many nasty, but natural consequences, of abusing our sexuality or allowing our sexuality to be abused.
Two examples of how good theology impacts our sexuality:
If I understand that I am a unique and beautiful creation of God, I will recognize that abuse is a violation of my identity and his intentions for my life. I can find the strength to stand against my abusers because I recognize that I am worth more.
If I understand that God has placed me one this earth to be a steward of all he has entrusted me with and all I have is ultimately his, then indulging my sexuality without restraint is not an option. I will desire to please him by honoring his design and intent for this precious gift through reserving the expression of it for the proper context of marriage.
Can you see how many of the questions that tear at a woman’s heart are resolved within the context of good theology? There is not debate or attempts at rationalization that lead to doubt, fear, or false bravado that propels us deeper into harmful acts.
The second issue: Isolation. Women are crazy busy these days. Between the kids, their jobs, and all the stuff they need to do at home, socialization seems like a luxury that just costs too much. To make matters worse, venues for creating a community are limited. I know someone is thinking just go to church, but I want to remind you that sitting in a pew is not building community, chit chatting over coffee is not building community, and playing all pretty and proper at women’s events is not building community. Sure these may be starts, but too often that is where we stall out and leave people in a tailspin of loneliness and without a safety net of strong support.
The problem is isolation makes us feel as if our problems are uniquely original to us, that no one has ever experienced the challenges we endure on a daily basis. Isolation makes us feel less than, as if we aren’t good, funny or charming enough to deserve real friends, that if people knew who we really were they would like us. Isolation makes it easy to buy into the lies that we failing at being wife, mother, or just a human being of worth and value. Isolation leaves us with no one to trust when we have to confront the heavy and hard issues of our lives. So we just shoulder the load alone until we don’t know what it is like to stand up straight. Depression, anxiety, and chronic exhaustion are common among women who run themselves ragged for the good of the family but fail to put their oxygen mask on first.
Sometimes all we need from our community is to know that we aren’t alone that we aren’t the first mom to smash a plate in frustration and rage because it was better than screaming at the kids who have been little snots all morning. It reminds us that our husband’s struggle with porn has nothing to do with the fact you were too exhausted to shave you legs for week or that the pregnancy weight you just can’t seem to lose. Community encourages us when we see the people we care about and invested in fighting through the ugly parts of life to find something beautiful and it reminds us that it can happen for us too. It gives us a place to hear and speak the truths that we all need to be reminded of from time to time and place to rest when we are just too tired to try to get it right one more time.
And one of the biggest dangers of isolation is it lets us wallow in our bad theology. When we are all alone it is easy to believe the lies that we tell ourselves about God and who we are. And conversely, it is bad theology that taught us that we need to be self-sufficient, don’t need to or can’t rely on anyone other than ourselves, and eventually, this will bleed over into our views of God as not being trustworthy or reliable. Together bad theology and isolation create an almost inescapable vortex of fear, pain, rage, and misery that too many women do not know how to combat, because they tried it on their own and failed too many times to try again.
Now to identify problems without proposing a solution is just whining, and I can’t stand whining. So in order to avoid doing what I hate, allow me to offer these suggestions: Endeavor to find solid Bible teaching and make room for it in your life, no matter how unrelated it may seems to the mechanics of addressing your immediate situation, do not give up. God is faithful to reveal himself to those who seek him. Actively seek out friends. This is easier than the world would have you to believe. It is as simple as a phone call, an invitation to coffee, or if you don’t have time for that organize mutual house cleaning parties or whatever else is on your schedule that could happen over conversation. And don’t settle for shallow friends, make a bold and shocking confession about yourself, open up, share something funny or embarrassing, you would be amazed at how quickly others will follow suite because a lot of times they have been dying for someone safe enough to be weird around. I have faith in you, you can be that person!
Look, I know it is scary, and I know because that is how I accidentally wound up with so many friends in my life. And I mean real friends, the type that I can talk about periods and hemorrhoids with (don’t act shocked, I have two kids, so that couldn’t have been a secret), friends that laugh with me over the chaos of my life, and cry with me when my world falls apart. Why are they willing to do this? Because I am willing to this for them, because I cracked the door into my life first, and they returned the favor.
I really do believe that if we can tackle these two issues then we can prevent and help heal the wounds that so many women have endured. And I believe it because I have lived it.