Core Issues of Womanhood
About the Guest
Can a woman really “have it all"? Today on the broadcast, Dennis and Barbara Rainey talk frankly with Dr. Robert Lewis, leader of FamilyLife’s Church Initiative and author of the book The New Eve, about the core issues affecting women negatively today. Find out how many women are answering the question, “How can I be most powerful?”
Can a woman really “have it all”?
Core Issues of Womanhood
Bob: Is it possible for a woman to be successful in multiple areas of life and still be living according to God's design for womanhood?
Woman: Here is the problem, okay, in addition to working full time and maintaining my own business and website, you know, I automatically have this physical and emotional respect towards my children, and that's 24/7, and then sometimes I look at my husband's life, and I just think it's just not fair. I mean, he has lunch with his buddies, and he plays golf with his clients, and in the evening comes home and sits down on the couch and watches TV and watches sports on the weekends, and, for me, the work never ends.
Robert: That's what I hear all the time. In other words, life is unfair. The male does have the better road. You need to get out and be your own person. You need to forsake some of these core callings for something bigger and better to please you, and so it just creates this enormous pressure that I feel women are carrying where they never can say, "I'm doing okay."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 22nd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see if we can help give you a way to measure what real successful womanhood looks like according to biblical standards. Stay tuned.
[music "I'm a Woman"]
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I've been sitting here trying to think of the commercial that was on years ago, I haven't seen it in years, but the slogan was "Who says you can't have it all?" The whole idea that you can have everything that life has to offer, and if you're missing out in any one area, you're missing out on all of life, and you can have it all. I'm thinking I don't know anybody who does, do you?
Dennis: No, no, in fact, Barbara and I would go out on dates and, in fact, she joins us here on FamilyLife Today, Barbara, welcome back to the broadcast.
Barbara: Thanks, glad to be here.
Dennis: We'd go out on a date and talk about how everybody was pressing us to have it all and making decisions for us, but we constantly had to whittle it back to that which was achievable, and it took some tough decisions and, in many cases, hard negotiations between us.
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: As we talk about having it all, one of the subjects that we have a great passion here on FamilyLife Today for is the subject of femininity and helping our women in our lives be all that God intended them to be, and joining us again to help us get a biblical plumbline on that is Robert Lewis. Robert, welcome back.
Robert: Thanks, great to be here.
Dennis: Robert's a pastor has been in the ministry for more than 30 years; has written a number of books; been very involved in Men's Fraternity, he is the founder of that; "Raising a Modern Day Knight," a lot of our listeners have done that with their teenage or pre-teenage sons; he has four children and lives with his wife, Sherrod, here in Little Rock and been married now …
Robert: Thirty-five years.
Dennis: Thirty-five – I thought you were right up there with us on that. That's pretty cool.
Robert: That's right.
Dennis: Robert, you've written a book called "The New Eve," and part of what you've done in that book is try to disclose or uncover some issues that are impacting women today negatively. You list these volatile issues. Why don't you share those with our listeners?
Robert: Well, when we talk about an issue, an issue is different than a problem, and I think sometimes we confuse the two because you can be having a bad day, you can be feeling like, "I'm tired, I'm listless, I just need some more rest," that may be the presenting problem but behind that may be a deeper issue and that is you might have some life-threatening disease that you haven't discovered.
What I see with a lot of women today when I ask them, "What are you struggling with," they'll give all these symptoms that they think are the real issue, but I think there are deeper issues behind those symptoms that somehow they haven't identified so they keep trying to address the issue, but it's not the issue, it's just a problem springing from the issue.
Bob: Like what kind of symptoms are you seeing with women are they talking to you about?
Robert: Like, they'll say to me, "I just can't make my whole life work. I can't fit it in. I've tried to fit my career in, and I just feel guilty all the time with my family, and so I need to have a better time management plan." Or "I need my husband to understand me better," or those kind of things where the deeper issue might be that they're trying to pursue something in life that's really not God's best.
And because they haven't really lined up the right priorities, they are chasing things that are going to constantly create more problems for them. I find with a lot of women today, you know, there's even a guilt of "I'm not spending enough time with my job or my family" or those kind of things, but they can't decide between the two because they haven't decided what is the real issue of life here? Is it a job or is it my family? And because until they prioritize those things or come to a decision about what it's about, they don't have that guiding center in order to make decisions.
That doesn't mean they have to quit their job, but they might have to scale back on their job in order to cut those two, but the world is saying you shouldn't do that. It's what we said, you could have it all.
Bob: Well, and one of the things the culture is saying is you shouldn't have to do that because your husband doesn't have to do that. He's not having to cut back on his job. He can have it all. He can have the family, he can have the job. Why can't I, as a woman, if he can?
Robert: That's right, but those things can be myths as well, because he doesn't have it all, and like I said in the previous session, if there's anybody who is suffering from a gigantic identity crisis, it's the men of America today who, by the way, are rapidly becoming – and I'm going to use a term from the New York Times, "the second sex." Because they're falling behind in every sociological category, and it's a stunning turnaround here at the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century of where we are today within the genders, because we are going to have, at the first part of the 21st century, a woman-centered society.
Bob: Barbara, I've got two questions for you – have you felt the pressure as a wife, as a mom, as a woman, that real fulfillment would come if you could do more? That there are things – if you could just get to more stuff, you'd find fulfillment and then the second things is …
Dennis: We're looking and grinning at each other.
Barbara: I'm nodding. You can't hear my head nod, but I'm nodding.
Bob: Okay, talk about that a little bit, and then I'll ask you the second question.
Barbara: Well, I was thinking, as you were introducing this, talking about that commercial, "You can have it all." My interpretation of the commercial was not just you can have it all but you can do it all, and to me there's a difference in doing and having because the responsibility for doing is mine and having it all is different than doing it all. And I think the interpretation of that commercial and that mindset is that we feel not just that we can have it all but that we have to do it all in order to have it all.
And so it's that pressure of feeling like there just aren't enough hours in the day.
Bob: To do and be everything that you ought to be?
Barbara: Exactly – to do and be everything that you can be for your kids, because we all know we're supposed to spend quality time with our children, and we need to work on building their self-esteem and just all of these multiple issues that we're feeling so much responsibility for.
Bob: Did it seem to you, has it seemed to you, as you've watched Dennis, like, "Well, he gets to have it all, or more of it all than I get to have because he seems to be able to juggle all of this better than I can?"
Barbara: Yeah, definitely.
Dennis: Well, here's the think, you know, I'm at the office. I'm away from the house, and I am "doing and having it all out there," and I'm coming home. She's not seen my hassles.
Barbara: No, and most wives don't see the husband's hassles.
Dennis: She lives in her office, and it's not that she doesn't work because she does, she works all over the place there and also works and was working for a number of years with the kids in all kinds of realms, and so she's acutely aware of what she's not accomplishing, what she's not doing and what she doesn't have.
Barbara: Well, and the old maxim, "the grass is greener on the other side" applies between husbands and wives because it's real easy for me to look at my husband and say, "Well, life is so much easier for him because he has a secretary who can help him do stuff, and he gets to go out to lunch," I mean, I've heard women say that about their husbands, and it's that comparison from a distance. I can't feel the pressure that my husband feels. I feel my pressure, I feel my stress, I feel my burdens, and so that's where the tension sometimes would come because we carry it differently.
Dennis: And listening to Barbara, here, just is to Robert's point – if you haven't settled some core issues as a woman, it's going to make this more aggravating and back to your word "resent" – you can easily begin to resent your husband in this situation.
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: But, Robert, you list five volatile issues that if they are open and remain open, these can really undermine a marriage relationship, and as I look at them here, I don't know that we did it perfectly, but Barbara and I addressed them. We tried to open those issues up and explore them. Help women that they know how to do that with their husbands.
Robert: Well, even as I do that I just want to acknowledge what Barbara said because that's what I hear all the time, and in this particular generation there is a whole culture stoking that "you should not feel good about what you're feeling" as well. In other words, life is unfair. The male does have the better road. You need to get out and be your own person. You need to forsake even some of these core callings for something bigger and better to please you, and so it just creates this enormous pressure that I feel women are carrying where they never can say "I'm doing okay," because they don't have a way of being able to measure "I'm doing okay," because the world is constantly undermining that and highlighting what they think are the grievances and differences and inequalities and unfairness and injustices.
Now, whether those are real or mythical, the only way you can determine that is by having some kind of measurement process. Not only that, but the world has dramatically changed, I mean, dramatically changed here in the 21st century. I mean, it is a women-centric culture that's developing and is ever-evolving femininity and in the midst of that, a woman has got to decide – a Christian woman – what does it mean to be a woman under God?
Bob: And you're saying there are a set of – a handful of core issues that she's got to address and decide what's God calling me to in this area so that she's got a center she's working from?
Robert: That's right, and here is what they are – she has got to decide what it means to be a woman biblically. She's got to decide that. She's got to decide what is my supreme pursuit? Because what's happened in the last 50 years is the supreme pursuit of women has changed – I mean, the ultimate goal from a home and family and a husband to a career, and that is a profound exchange. It doesn't mean now – I'm not setting this up to say it's just one or the other. I mean, women are going to work, and most women do work today. We're not talking about that. We're talking about where it falls in the scale of priority.
The new supreme pursuit of women today is a career over everything else. It is the guiding center that makes the decisions for me. That's why we have Take Your Daughters to Work Day, that's why we celebrate that in the university and the academies for women to have this career. That's why so many young women today go out into the workforce and say, "I'm going to take the next 15 to 20 years and establish myself in a position of power. Then I'll think about marriage and family." The reason is because at the core is this new supreme pursuit.
That's led to another major issue, and that is in light of that new supreme pursuit what does it mean to successfully engage a man? Because now all the rules have changed, all the roles have changed, all the value systems have changed, and that's why you see more and more women having difficulty engaging a man.
I read in the New Yorker an interesting thing – a conversation with college students where a young girl from the South was talking about at her particular college they went out on dates on Friday night and all the Northeastern women were listening at that and were saying that "You might as well be talking about medieval knighthood and a princess because no one takes us out on dates." And that's because the roles have so dramatically changed.
What's going to happen in the next 50 years, in particular, is that women are going to have to become more and more comfortable with marrying down to men who have less power or the smaller wage-earner and have less initiative than they do.
Bob: Or not marrying at all …
Robert: Or not marrying at all …
Bob: … and having some relationship with a man. I'm thinking of Oprah and her 17 or 18-year relationship with a guy that she's not married to, and she's fine with that.
Robert: Which is now the major new trend. I don't know if you saw even today it came out in the paper that unwed motherhood is now at 37 percent. In other words, 37 percent of all births in America today are to unwed mothers, and the first thing my generation would think of is, "Well, we've got to start helping those teens understand sex" and that kind of thing, but the demographic …
Dennis: That's not who it is.
Robert: It's not – it's 20 and 30-year-old women who are now opting for motherhood before matrimony if they even consider matrimony. So now they're going to simplify their life by exiting the male, using him as simply a sperm-bearer but not as a husband, because he complicates my life and because of what I earn" and those kind of things, "I can work my way around that with the wages I earn, but I don't have to complicate my life with a man." So that whole issue of engaging a man is another major issue.
Then the last major issue that women have to deal with if they don't have a roadmap for is just the maze of unlimited choices. Everything is out there, and that's, in some ways, paralyzing to a woman because she's thinking, "If I choose this" – I've heard all these young women say, "If I choose this, that means I've given up on this, and so it's keeping my options to everything and that just continually puts more and more pressure on my life as I move into this next season."
Dennis: You know, it's interesting, a the bottom line of all this, it seems to me we have a generation of women who are asking the question, "How can I be most powerful? Where can I find my identity? What pursuit, what endeavor, how do I go about doing that?" And what you're saying is if you march according to the drumbeat of the culture, you're going to end up in a maze. You're going to end up in a situation that results in consequences that are really going to impact your life in a huge way.
Robert: Yeah, women are in a maze, and the golden apple that they are being offered is just what – you used the right word – it's "power," because power is protection. But, you know, if you listen to that, it hearkens back to an original book and an original chapter because what was being offered to the first Eve was power to determine my own future, and I think women today are being seduced – it's just Eve all over again in a 21st century context.
What's lacking is that authority, those eternal truths, those eternal goals, and that sense of connectedness with God and all of that, and Christian women, in particular, as much as they are in Bible studies and things like that, just like men, oftentimes don't have a clear roadmap of how they want to end up in life.
Dennis: I want Barbara to comment on this because you grew up in this era where this power was being offered to women. Why did you choose what you chose? Because you definitely decided you were going to pursue some other things other than what Robert was talking about that other women pursue today.
Barbara: Well, I think at the core, the reason that I chose the route that I did – I think there are two reasons – one is that that was the model that I grew up with. I grew up with a family where my mother was the primary one who cared for the children, my dad was the primary one who brought in the income.
But I think the second reason for why I chose it is because I did have a relationship with Christ, and I wanted to please Him more than anything, and I knew that if I followed God's blueprint, that was the greatest opportunity that I would have for success. And so as I grew as a Christian, and I was a young Christian when we got married, but as I grew in my relationship with God, I knew that was the only source for real fulfillment was to follow His plan.
Bob: Which doesn't mean that you knew exactly what to do or how to do it.
Barbara: That's right.
Bob: You just knew …
Barbara: That was the source.
Bob: That's where I'm going. When I'm struggling with these five issues that you've talked about, I'm going to go back to the book and see if they can give me some help on this rather than looking around and saying, "Oprah, help!" right?
Barbara: Exactly, exactly.
Robert: I also think that just for the younger listeners, female listeners, I think they need to know that at least we're aware, or I'm aware since I wrote the book, that it is a new day, and because it is a new day and because of all the things that women are afforded and all the time-saving devices that women have, they are going to work in different ways than Barbara and my wife's generation, they just are.
And so what we need to do, I think, as Christian leaders today is get a little more in touch with the fact that we are living in a new world where women are going to work in different ways. I don't know what all those are going to be, but women have always worked and worked hard, and so we need to understand that. But the way they work and the way they're going to engage society is going to be different, and they need to know that we're not trying to block that and create a 1950s model; that we really are wanting to be 21st century Christians. We're just wanting them to keep the roadmap solid, the guardrail solid, and I think that's what new Eve is trying to do. It's not trying to script your life, it's trying to establish guardrails for your life within which you can do a number of things and may create new ways of thinking and working that, quite frankly, would stun us if we heard them today. But it still allows you to accomplish those core callings that God called you to, and yet advance the kingdom in ways that would stun us, and we would be really cheering for you in.
Bob: And, you know, I feel like I need to say something because I've mentioned Oprah a couple of times here, and I'm not trying to be ugly toward Oprah, but she does represent women making different choices, modern choices, and that's really what we're trying to talk about here – what's the framework women are going to use for the choices they're going to make because they're going to be faced with these issues, and they have to decide where am I going to get my answers?
Dennis: It's not wrong for a woman to want to be powerful. I want to be real clear with our audience here – we're not trying to – well, I'm reflecting back to a comment I made at a PromiseKeeper's event at Texas stadium in front of 61,000 men, and the press moved forward on the edge of their seats because they thought they had me, but I knew where I was going with this. I began my message by saying, "You know, there are a lot of people who are putting down the men's movement today because they believe that we're trying to put women in their place, and we're trying to put them down. Well, I'm here to tell you we are trying to put women in their place – the place of honor, the place of nobility, the place of God's calling, the place of fulfilling all of what God had for them.
I'll never forget those men. It was like somebody sucked the air out of there when I said, "Yeah, we are to put women in their place," and then, all of a sudden, those men began to listen to those things that I think resonated within them, and that's why they began to applaud, they began to applaud at that point and an ovation saying, "You know what? We really want to know how to help the women in our lives be all that God intended. We want them to be powerful."
Bob: Well and, again, that's what you're trying to help women do and be in the book you've written, "The New Eve," which we've got in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if our listeners are interested in getting a copy of the book, they can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or they can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. I should mention that in the back of the book there is a DVD that features 10 discussion starters that you've put together so that women who want to use this in a small group setting or in a women's Bible study setting can use the DVD to get some discussion going on these subjects. That comes with the book, and the title of the book, again, is "The New Eve" but Dr. Robert Lewis.
If you are interested in getting a copy, go to FamilyLife.com. On the right side of the screen on the home page you'll see a box that says, "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to the area of the site where you can order a copy of Robert's book, get more information about it. We've also listed some other resources that we think would be helpful on this subject including Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock's book, "Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God," and if you're interested in getting both of these books together, we'll send a CD audio of our conversation this week with Robert Lewis along to you at no additional cost.
All the details of these resources are on our website at FamilyLife.com. Again, click the box on the right side of the home page that says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to the area of the site where you need to be for more information about these books and these CDs. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, someone on our team will make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.
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Well, tomorrow we want to talk about what happens in a culture if men don't step up to their responsibilities as men, and if women don't embrace their assignment as women; if they see those responsibilities as interchangeable. We'll talk more about that tomorrow with Dr. Robert Lewis and, again, with Barbara Rainey, and we hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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