Using Your Gifting
Abigail Dodds, author of "(A)Typical Woman," says that despite the culture's depiction of women as warriors, women's bodies were made to do something very different. To understand a woman's role, you have to study how a woman is made. Men have 50% more body strength than women. Women, on the other hand, are softer, and have the capacity to bear children. Dodds explains that just because a woman is created differently than a man doesn't make her inferior. A woman's fragility, like a crystal chandelier, only increases her value.
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Abigail Dodds says that despite the culture’s depiction of women as warriors, women’s bodies were made to do something very different.
Using Your Gifting
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 1st. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. Men and women are clearly biologically different. Should we understand some deeper reality as a result of that, or is it just simply a matter of anatomy? We’re going to talk about that today with Abigail Dodds. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, I’ve got a—I’ve got a fastball to throw—
Ann: Oh no!
Bob: —to start today.
Ann: Throw it toward Dave!
Bob: No; I’m going to throw it toward our guest. Do you think that’s mean to do?
Dave: Yes; that’s the way to do it. Throw it toward our guest.
Ann: She can handle it.
Bob: Abigail Dodds is joining us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Abigail: Thanks for having me.
Bob: Do you feel comfortable with the fastball coming your way?
Abigail: I’ll do my best.
Dave: Fastballs, you know—baseball, Bob.
Bob: They can hit them out of the park.
Dave: You can hit them out of the park.
Bob: That’s right.
Dave: Curveballs are a little harder.
Bob: —a little harder.
Dave: Is this a fastball or curveball?
Bob: I think this is probably a fastball.
Bob: Okay? But—and I’m going to have you guys chime in on this as well.
Bob: So, this goes back, maybe, ten years; and this kind of erupted into an online controversy. Here’s the story: A guy and a girl meet at church, and they get to know one another. After they met one another, the guy says, “Do you want to go to lunch after church?”
I’m waiting to see if Abigail’s going to smile because she knows this story I’m getting to. So, on their way to the lunch, they’re talking; and he finds out that she’s a six-degree black belt karate champion. In the meantime, he’s kind of—he’s just not as outdoorsy, or as athletic, or as fast; right? Somebody jumps out to mug them. [Laughter] Should the guy get between the attacker and the girl?—or should he say, “You’re the black belt!”?
Now, where did that illustration come from? Are you going to tell us?
Abigail: Well, I’m pretty sure that came from Pastor John Piper.
Bob: Yes; it did come from Pastor John Piper. He had an answer for that; right?
Bob: What was his answer?
Abigail: His answer is: “Man, step up there!”
Bob: You remember—
Abigail: And if she wants to give some assistant kicks, all the better. [Laughter]
Bob: Do you remember how many people—
Abigail: Yes; there were—
Bob: —shrieked at that?
Abigail: —people really upset about that; yes.
Ann: Were they?
Dave: —What were they upset with?
Bob: If she’s the one who is trained and capable, and she’s got the gifting to do this, the guy should get out of the way and say, “You’re better at this than I am.” To not do that is to dishonor and devalue her.
Dave: I want to hear what my wife would say.
Ann: Well, my first thought was—if the guy is bigger and weighs more, then he has more of a chance in some ways.
Bob: Let’s turn it down. Let’s say he is a small, skinny guy like Dave; okay?
Dave: Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! [Laughter] That was good, Bob. Let’s go right now—you and me.
Ann: My man could always protect me, Bob. I think that Dave would step into that situation in spite of his size or his skill because I think it’s part of who he is, as a man. For Dave, he would step in as my protector.
Bob: So, that’s the point John Piper was trying to make—that that is what men ought to instinctively do.
Dave: I mean, I know me. I would have said, “Let’s go,” with my wife. I’d be like—I’d step up, and I’d grab the guy and say: “You take him out. I’ve got a hold on him.” [Laughter] But I would have done it as a team—I really would have.
Bob: You’d have teamed up to do it.
Dave: As a man, I know I would have aggressively moved; but I would have wanted to use her assets in the same way.
Ann: Well, it’s interesting—
Dave: Unless she wants to not be a part of it. I’ll protect her if she wants to run away, but I’m guessing she’s going to—
Bob: She’s got a few kicks in her!
Ann: But as a woman, even if I was skilled, and if my man hid behind me; I’m not sure I would have that respect.
Abigail: No; thank you.
Ann: What would you feel, Abigail?
Abigail: No; thank you. [Laughter]
Dave: You’re not going to lunch with that guy; right?
Abigail: Nope; nope.
Dave: That’s the end of that.
Abigail: Yes; that’s so interesting. Here is one little thing that I would pick up on—just in that conversation you guys just had about it. I think you said something like, “I’d want him to step up because he would be bigger than me, probably even if I was trained.” Bob, you said, “Well, let’s just pretend he wasn’t.”
Abigail: Bus see; now, we’re getting out of reality because reality is—he probably is bigger because—
Bob: Most guys are.
Abigail: —almost all guys are bigger. In order to make the situation even work, where he shouldn’t do it, you have to willingly disbelieve reality, which is that men are bigger than women; and they were made to do those kinds of things. I don’t care how many hours I spent practicing arm wrestling; I’m probably not going to beat an average-sized man. I can’t do a single thing about that—God calls that good.
Bob: The reason we decided to throw this fastball at you, and let you take a swing at it, is because Abigail has written a book called (A)Typical Woman: Free, Whole, and Called in Christ. Abigail writes for Desiring God, so I picked a good John Piper illustration; because she’s not going to disagree with John Piper on—
Abigail: Not planning to—not on any of my good days. [Laughter]
Ann: I have a problem with some of these movies—and I know some women will be really mad today—but these movies today are depicting women—I believe women are warriors; I believe that we are strong; yet, we have these movies where women are kicking guys’ butts. I’m not sure—I’m like: “That could never happen!
Ann: “She’s just too…” She could be really skilled; I’m sure there are many women who will disagree with me, but—
Dave: Yes; but do you think many women are excited about these movies, like—“Finally, there are movies where the hero is a woman”?
Bob: Oh, I’m reading stuff—I mean, that’s—why do you think they are making—
Bob: —female-hero movies? Because there is an outcry. There are a lot of people, who want women glorified as the warrior woman; right?
Bob: Is that wrong?
Abigail: Well, I don’t think it’s a good trend. Here is why—in order to say, “Right,” or “Wrong,” I’d probably want to look at some real specific case; but in general, like we said, we cannot get outside of what reality is. Now, the reason why movies are a little bit difficult to talk about in that realm is because, usually—
Bob: —they are outside of reality.
Abigail: —they are not inside the realm of reality. A lot of them are not even—they are fantasies—
Abigail: —literally. So, you can make a case for that one way or another.
Bob: Wonder Woman does not exist in the real world.
Ann: I do believe that I see myself as a warrior in my role. In my God-given gifts and strengths of what God’s called me to do, I see there is a fierceness in me that I won’t deny. Yet, physically speaking, I’m not that warrior.
Abigail: Because it’s not realm—
Abigail: —it’s not in the realm of physical power.
Dave: There you go.
Abigail: Yes; there is a strength to the woman’s spirit that ought to be there. I mean, and if you ask my kids, “Can Mom be a little warrior-ish?” [Laughter] I’m sure they would all say, “Yes; she’s got some spice in her,” because that’s reality.
I just don’t think that’s what we were made for. Women’s bodies were made to do something very different—they were made to nurture and grow life. That is almost the—that’s the exact opposite of what we are seeing depicted in these films, which is why I think it grates against the fabric of reality.
Bob: One of the big themes in your book is that, to understand womanhood and femininity, you should look at how your body was made.
Bob: Your physical being says something about what God made you to do.
When I wrote a book, years ago, called The Christian Husband—and I noted in there that men have typically 50 percent more upper body strength than women do—now, that ought to tell us/that’s general revelation—looking at the creation and saying, “What was the Creator’s design in doing that? What should that tell us?” It should tell us that, when something needs to be picked up, guys pick it up; because you’ve got more strength to do that, typically, than a woman does. It doesn’t mean—if there’s—
Bob: —a mom and a little boy, it doesn’t mean that the mom shouldn’t pick up because she’s stronger; but this the general sense of how our bodies were designed should say something about what it means to be woman/what it means to be a man.
Abigail: Yes; and even for that mom with the little boy, it still wouldn’t be a bad idea for her to say, “Hey, son, you want to give your mom a hand with this?”—not because the mom is too weak/not because she wants the son to see her as weak, but because it’s reminding him that he was made for something. He was given a particular body that is going to grow bigger than hers; and he has to already, at a young age, be trained to steward his strength.
Ann: —and to serve.
Bob: Somebody just flinched, though, when you said that—and say, “Well, I’m going to say to my daughter the same thing: ‘Sweetie, you want to give Mom a hand with this?’ because I want to teach her to be a servant and want her to be strong, too.”
Abigail: Absolutely; absolutely. But as the parent, you are there to help guide in those nuances. Yes; we’re all servants. Yes; I ask my daughters to do all kinds of things that are physically difficult. I mean, I’m the one who started out the conversation about the mom with the chainsaw. It is about strength; absolutely—and physically things like that—but it’s not about hard work. Our girls are called to hard work; they are called to sweat; they are called to serve; they are called to sacrifice.
But the way that plays out—especially in the interplay between a man and a woman or a husband and a wife—all those interplays will be different than just say, “We’re all going to buckle down and get this project done and work hard.” It’s a little different when you have those particular interplays happening. We have to help our children see that because one of the things that I do think is true is that there is a blindness that’s come over our age.
When I talk to young women, probably 40 and under primarily, it’s almost as though they’ve never considered that their bodies factor into their call. These are Christian women—and these are not immature women—they are wonderful women. I say it, too, as one who has experienced that same blindness—one who didn’t spend a lot of time contemplating how I was made and how that might relate to my calling in life—what I was made for.
We’re made differently: “Why are pianos made a certain way?” “Why is a bench a certain height?” “Well, why are women softer?” “Why do they have a uterus?” “Why are grandmas extra soft?”—that is not a fluke.
Dave: So, what do you think is going on in a women’s mind, or heart, or soul when they hear what we’ve been talking about?—a man’s upper body is stronger; it’s just biology—and they get upset?
Abigail: Yes; a little flinchy.
Dave: What’s going on inside that woman?
Abigail: Well, I think it’s the sense of: “Does that mean I’m not as good? Are you trying to say I’m a defective model?” I think there are two problems. One is that we have a sin nature—it makes everything into a comparison—so that is one problem.
Let’s say that piece has been removed; and let’s say we just have a very tender heart now, where that piece has been removed. They [some women] still slightly flinch about that. It could be that they’ve never been shown that women also have particular things about them that men don’t. We can talk about a man as having more strength as though: “Well, he got more.” Well, I’m sorry; but I don’t think either of you [Bob and Dave] can give birth—that’s a particular thing.
Now, again, not every man is going to be strong; there will be times when this doesn’t play out in the generalities that we are now using.
Bob: Right; right.
Abigail: There will be women, who have a womb, that doesn’t ever have a baby in it. These are all realities that we can’t be afraid of talking about. We can’t stop saying that this is generally true just because we know that there are exceptions, because these really are what are our bodies are and what they were made for.
Dave: Talk about this—maybe, I’m reaching too far. Either one of you two women: “Do you feel like any of that resistance from that woman I was talking about—that was: “Ooh, I don’t agree,” or “I don’t like that. I want to buck up against that,”—how much of that can be played out in their life from male domination?—men not respecting them/not treating them—there is a history. There is something that has gone on in the church/outside the church—you name it. How much of that is a part of their resistance to even wanting to know what God says?—“I just don’t like it.”
Abigail: That absolutely factors in, and it does no good to pretend like it doesn’t. It does no good to not deal with it because—if there has been someone who has been mistreated in some way; or sinned against in some way; or has been in a really unhealthy environment, where the relationships between men and women really are just silly caricatures—oh, goodness—we have to be willing to say that that is what is happening and say: “That’s not good. That’s not how it should be. We shouldn’t treat each other as caricatures, and we shouldn’t mistreat each other because of our differences.”
Again, that’s when it is so valuable to have that older woman come alongside and be able to give a bigger picture—and even be able to say: “You know what? Did you know that Christ and His church are not identical? Christ is perfect and will never fail you, even when the church, sometimes, does.” That’s where that conversation can be so helpful; and it can also be helpful in strengthening that woman, who might feel that way, to not lose hope or affection for her brothers in Christ when she might be very tempted to do that.
Bob: I’m going to read a Bible verse, and I want to see if either of you have just a little bit of flinch when you hear this Bible verse: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way showing honor to the woman as the—
Ann: — “weaker…”
Bob: —“weaker vessel.”
Dave: How did you ladies know that? [Laughter]
Bob: Does that make you flinch a little bit to read that verse, Ann?
Ann: It used to a lot. In fact, Dave, when you asked the question earlier, I really had a hard time with all of this. I was in a very male-dominated home, where I had brothers and a dad who applauded strength/competition. I remember looking at my mom, thinking: “You’re weak. You’re not celebrated.” My dad was a little more domineering; he wasn’t a servant leader, so I bucked against everything as a woman. I thought, “I want to be a man.”
I’ll never forget—I was in the ninth grade when I ran a 400 race in track. I ran with a boy/a guy that was the big 400 winner at our school. I thought, “I am going to beat this guy.” I had never been beaten by a woman/a girl or a guy. We ran, and I won by a hair. I ran straight off the track; I ran down into the bathroom, and I threw up because I gave everything. I thought—and I cried that night because I thought: “That is the last time I will ever beat a boy.” It’s not that I don’t have the work ethic. It’s not that I didn’t put in the practice. It’s that, physically, I am unable to be the champion. That grated with me.
So, that verse, Bob: “Yes, why I am the weaker vessel?”
Bob: So, does it still bother you today?
Ann: No; because I understand, now, who my Father is; I understand what He is talking about.
Even when it talks about, in Genesis, that we are to be the helpmate—I hated that word; I thought: “Where’s my helpmate? Why did the man get one and I didn’t? [Laughter] I need somebody to help me!” So, there’s this rebelliousness, where I thought, “I am the weaker vessel—that means I’m not as good.” Did you ever struggle?
Abigail: Yes; yes; I remember hearing that verse read and just being like, “What did they say?!” I think everything in us kind of shudders a little bit when we first hear that.
Abigail: The only thing I would hear when I heard that verse was the weaker part.
Ann: Yes; it’s less than.
Abigail: What I didn’t hear was: “Show honor—
Abigail: —“to her as the weaker vessel.” That weaker vessel status made me worthy of some kind of honor; and then the more you start to really think about it and press into it—the analogy that I use in the book is—and I know some people don’t like this because they are going to be people who don’t like it no matter how I say it—
Abigail: —I use the analogy of—
Bob: —a crystal chandelier.
Abigail: —a crystal chandelier—
Abigail: —that’s labeled, “Fragile: Handle with care.”
Well, why? Is it because it is not valuable?—no! The exact opposite reason: It is so valuable; and to just say that these bodies—yes, that are weaker—have to be honored because this is where life comes from. The human race ceases to exist without these bodies—so: “Would you handle them with honor, please? Would you value them? Would you be considerate of your wife?—because she may be having babies, and you’re going to need to really watch out for her.”
So, I just, now—oh, man; I love it; but God has to work, and there have to be people in your life to help you see those things.
Ann: And Abigail, what about the wife or the woman that never is able to have kids or never has kids? Does that disqualify her from—
Abigail: I’m so glad you asked that because this is a burden that I had when I was writing—and even now—is that I don’t want any woman to think that what validates your womanhood is that your body functions properly.
I have a son with disabilities, and his body doesn’t always function properly. He has a feeding tube, so does that mean that he is less of a man?—no! Because of sin and the curse, there are always going to be things in our bodies, in every single one of us, that break, or are broken, or will break. It is not a lessening of what He has made you to be.
The wonderful thing about Christ’s body—that’s where our healing comes, because the church is Christ’s actual body. It’s a metaphor, but we are His body. In that body, there are no barren women—none. No barren women in Christ’s body because we have spiritual children/spiritual family. Even when the physical reality breaks, the spiritual reality never breaks.
Ann: Or even if you’ve never been or will get married.
Abigail: That’s right; yes.
Bob: You know, I have been thinking in recent days about the fact that, at the end of Genesis 2, we have the completion of creation. Everything that’s been created God says is good, except for man to be alone. Then He fixes that and says it’s good. Now, we have His perfect, unmarred, beautiful, holy creation; and at the opening of
Genesis 3, it starts to get undone.
The interesting thing to me is that, as it starts to get undone, the attack of the enemy is back to everything God was doing in Genesis 1 and 2. It’s back to destroy marriage, which was the thing that God created at the end of Genesis 2. Then it’s back to start to destroy male and femaleness. You look at the trajectory of the culture we’re in, and you can see: “This is the attack of the enemy to say: ‘We’re going to take you back to chaos,’” which is where it was before God created anything. “’We’re going to undo the creation order that God did.’”
That’s why I think a book like this and a conversation like this is so critical in our day to say: “We don’t want to be a part of the undoing of God’s design. We want to be a part of the exalting of God’s design,” because the new heaven and the new earth is going to be even grander/even more glorious; and these elements that you find in Genesis 1 and 2 are going to be in Revelation 21 and 22 in even more magnificent ways.
Dave: And I would just add, Bob—we’ve been talking about womanhood all day; but I would say to the men: “So much of that is on us—
Dave: —“to treat women/all women with respect, and dignity, and value in a God-honoring way. The way God views them is the way we, as men, should as well.”
Bob: It’s the part before the “weaker vessel” in 1 Peter 3, where it says, “Treat her with honor.”
Bob: Yes; absolutely.
We’ve got copies of Abigail’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online to order a copy, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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And we look forward to having you back, again, tomorrow. Abigail Dodds will be here again. We’ll continue to talk about what it means to be an empowered woman. What does the Bible mean when it talks about that? We hope you can join us tomorrow for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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