Friday, November 21, 2008

When Perfection is Un-Human

There is a raging new interest in vampires this weekend, at least for those inclined to go see the new movie, Twilight, Stephenie Meyer's story that in book form sold 1.3 million. These 'paranormal romances' or 'urban fantasies' spin around human females falling in love with supernatural beings (vampires, gods, fairies, werewolves) .

The Perfect Man
I have not seen the movie, but I'd like to point out that a common theme exists in these vampire romances. The heroine is captivated by the perfect man: lovely body, rich, well-dressed and someone better than her, a man both strong and consuming. This is a formula the Bronte sisters introduced in the characters of Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights) and Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre). Men who were passionate, gifted in lifting their beloved into irrational, but sumptuous heights of erotic love. Men who were powerful, rich, darkly handsome, mysterious, even controlling sometimes cruel, but so dang sexy. They were irrisistible.

Old-Fashioned Romance
And so is the vampire of today's tween and teen fixation. Laura Miller in the Wall Street Journal's article "Real Men Have Fangs" notes that vampires offer "old fashioned romance in the arms of an alpha male." Vampires are permitted some old-fashioned controlling and overprotective vices. Vampires are centuries old (this was news to me) and perhaps haven't adapted to the modern notions of equality between the sexes. And they are, after all, superhuman, so they can offer and demand more than a 'mere' human male should or even could now a days. Vampires let women enjoy a romance from the era of Jane Eyre, while living in the 21st century. As Laura Miller admits "the nagging longing to be plucked from the ashes and exalted by an exceptional, masterful man remains hard for contemporary women to exorcise."

The Daughters of Eve
Miller's words point to something that still plagues the daughters of Eve. "Your desire shall be for your husband and he will rule over you" (Gen 3:16). As modern and updated as we look, we still slide easily into living this reality. As I've said elsewhere, if this is a judgment of God then we do not need to enforce it. We'll find this state of things everywhere we look: women longing for their man and men ruling women, and neither interested in fixing the problem.

I have a theory that popular literature (be it Captivating or Twilight) feeds this zeitgeist by (respectively) dressing it up with Bible verses or entrancing us with eroticism. Both underscore our conviction that this is just the way men and women behave, these are the longings we have been dealt--and God means us to live this judgment. (For my argument against this conviction see the last chapter in Ruby Slippers).

Unequals

Deep down I believe most women struggle with a desire to be exalted by a man mysterious and otherworldly (be it Lydia's Wickham, Jasmine's Alladin or Bella's Edward in Twilight), a man worthy of joining, uniting to, a man stronger, better than us. The female captivation with men who are "out of our league" tells me more about the state of women's souls, than the reality of the number of good men on planet earth. It tells me that we're more in love with our version of romance, than we're in love with a real man of flesh and blood and soul.

My concern, here, is that these longings are not worthy of the image-bearers of God that we are. We cannot dream of a romance between "unequals", and then expect a marriage of mutual love and respect, of partnership, unity, sexual satisfaction and enduring warmth. If we expect that a man with the prowess of a Mr. Rochester or a vampire-powered Edward will appear in our lives, we can safely assume that 20 years into our marriage we will find ourselves much more like Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice than Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy.

The Perfect Woman
Across the Pacific Ocean, Japanese women are less concerned with concocting the perfect male hero and more attracted to embellishing the perfect female form. The latest fashion has women idolizing the old-world styles of European royalty, leaving their homes be-decked in fully costumed princess attire, frilly dresses, stiletto slippers with ribbons, tiaras, elbow-length gloves, huge bows embellishing their long, dyed hair curled in Pre-Raphelite ringlets. This style, hime gyaru or princess girl, can cost $1000 per outfit. Princess use tricks of the trade like speaking in soft chirpy tones, applying mascara to fake eyelashes and curling hair both outward and inward to get more volume. The appeal: a bit of escapism from the stress of work coupled with the longing for a happy-ending fairy tale. This style is for those who want to be, in the words of hime model and salesperson, Keiko Mizoe (pictured above), "perfect, gorgeous and feminine."

This is the femininity of style without the femininity of soul.


Beyond Human

You might guess that after endowing your own look with so much precision and premeditation, you would not deem most men worthy of a second glance.

So dress the part and this makes you worthy of a prince? (Similar sentiments float in our world during prom dress shopping) As one aspiring Japanese princess says of this style, "Their cuteness is beyond human, I'd like to be like them."

Interdependence
If we want feminine to be as simple (and complex) as elaborate embellishment, if we crave male heroes who make us feel bewildered by their perfection,prowess and masterful "handling" of us then we do not know what Man and Woman were created for in the first place. If we think the dance between the sexes is about our moves and clothing and the endless flirtation, then we forget that Woman was created to Help and Man created with Need.

We are interdependent in a way that will always speak of our vulnerability, not a game of cat and mouse, not a party to dress up for, not a seduction to dabble with but a created need that cannot be filled unless we acknowledge it with sobriety and grace. For the sake of men and women everywhere, we cannot lose touch with what our humanity, our gender, our sexuality means. "In the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman" (I Corinthians 11:11).

Our Real Selves
The Christian mystic, Thomas Merton, writes in his preface, No Man is an Island that "the life of the spirit puts us in the fullest possible contact with reality--not as we imagine it, but as it really is." True spirituality makes us aware of our real selves, and places these real selves in the presence of God.

What becomes of the women that Jesus wanted to redeem when she shrouds her body (and even her soul) in fashion that minces her steps? I have seen how woman's visions of romance limit her gifts being used in the body of Christ. I have watched my own dreams of a princess-type marriage breaking the community between two equals into a hierarchy of the leader and the submissive one. I believe much of our adolescent hankering for a man of perfection leads to the embittered comments of wives who've found they've married a mortal, a human, a man.

Whether you be 17 or 73, let's get into the fullest contact with reality, not as we imagine it, but as it really is. If you are united to a man, let's rejoice that he is human, and not superhuman. If you have crazy messy hair and wear jeans and sweatshirts (as I do tonight), rejoice with me that I am fully human--walking into my full humanity with Jesus as my companion.

A Litmus Test
Let me offer a final test to ponder on in the days to come. If a fashion, idea or romance mocks either the limitations or realities of our humanity, it is not worthy of imitation. Jesus never mocked our limitations, instead he embodied them, so that being human would be, once again, something glorious.

31 comments:

tiffany_wismer said...

Hi Jonalyn,
Great article. I always assumed that women (and men) craved an idealism in the other gender as an expression of our longing for the Otherworldly, that is, a longing for God. I mean, we are unsatisfied, in that sense, by whatever we find here on earth, and I think that's okay - if we can accept the truth. But when we stubbornly believe (or even simply desire) that the Otherworldly can be found in the world, and we pursue it in human males (or their literary counterparts) we wind up unsatisfied. And I think your article points that out nicely. At the same time, your words rub up against something raw in the female soul - at least in mine. Anyway good job. ;)
Tiffany

Fiona L Cooper said...

Thank you for this, Jonalyn, I love your insights. It is refreshing to read someone who is fighting against the prevalent attitude of "finding your Prince Charming."

I'm listening to the audiobook of Ruby Slippers at the moment and I'm really enjoying re-thinking what my femininity is all about. As a 35 year old single, I have lately been wondering what it means to be feminine and what I'm supposed to do with my sexuality, without a man in my life.

So thank you for helping me on this road. And I love your reading voice - so expressive!

Anonymous said...

this is so refreshing. i've been reading your posts for awhile and a lot of what you say rings true to what i've been struggling with in being a woman, a human, and setting ridiculous goals to meet a "mr. rochester". :)
i think i have lots more i'd like to ask you about this topic...but i need to let it simmer a bit more! But i did want to say how much i enjoy your perspective on the ideas of femininity and christianity and equality and such...it is highly needed!
Coryn :)

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Tiffany,

I'm so glad you commented... good to hear you resonated with this. Hope the rawness gave you new insight into places Jesus wants you to heal.

Fiona,

You're the FIRST to write me and let me know someone is listening to Ruby Slippers. I'm thrilled you've found it enjoyable and helpful! Thank you for writing and sharing... hope to hear your thoughts again!

Coryn,

I spent many years looking for my Mr. Rochester, and when I found him, I got engaged to him and planned our entire wedding... only to find that I had wanted my idea of this man, more than this man himself.

our engagement was broken off, and I was broken... that was the first time I got to see God use broken pieces to make beauty. You can hear a little bit of that story in the column above left "Read and Hear More" it's located through the link "Biola Chapel" a talk called "God Wants the Broken."

Thanks for writing in!

Anonymous said...

Jonalyn,

Your site gives me a royal headache whenever I try to sign in. I'm the gal who's exchanged e-mails about publishing, etc.

I have lately been counseling a woman I've known since high school--an ultra-romantic, she finally jumped into a marriage for the wrong reasons. I knew it would be abusive, tried to caution within what she would allow, and prayed for better. Within months she had to run away from him. There have been attempts at Christian counselfing. A year later they only see each other fleetingly and volatilely. She still has hope for the marriage, although the hope still seems to be that he could still become her powerful but beneficient "Boaz." It is a hard one to gingerly unravel. I am NOT one for divorce, but it can be confusing to decipher what she is holding onto and why, especially when she is a continent away. She has also always gone for much older men (father figures/inherently putting them in some sort of higher place of wisdom or something so that it is easier to look to them for the presumed role), almost marrying one guy about 25-30 years her senior and finally marrying one 15 or so years older. So mostly I just listen and pray and affirm those points of growth where I can agree. To me listening to her is not just about this marriage but about the paths we've taken for the last decade and the more general motivations and thoughts of women. She is in some ways a very daring and strong woman, but she has been injured really by this ultra-romanticism of her family and the lies and skirting reality that come with it. Now I am for romance but one that is real and about equals.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

From Mary Tickel:

I wanted to say thank you for your blog! I found it through Molleth's "Adventures in Mercy".

I've read some interviews with Stephenie Meyer-- She cited "Wuthering Heights" as a favorite (if I remember correctly), and the book itself plays a role in one of the "Twilight" sequels. Also, I think it no coincidence that she named the vampire "Edward"-- Mr. Rochester's first name.
RE: "Jane Eyre". Strange that the world sees Rochester's pride as a good thing. It wasn't until he was spiritually broken and redeemed that Jane went back to him.

Sincerely,
Mary Tickel

timeheldinsepia.livejournal.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jonalyn, I will check that out :) Coryn

dramaturge said...

Perhaps the problem isn't that women desire a perfect/ideal man. Perhaps the problem is that we place those expectations on men instead of constantly choosing to recognize that only One Man can fulfill that hope and expectation. We are made for a Perfect Match, just not a finite one.

And actually, Edward is far from perfect. He is in many senses Epic and larger-than-life, but he is conflicted and flawed as any human. But that isn't truly the point since the conflict in the heart of a woman to be swept away by the Ideal is still present and can still only be answered by placing expectations in Christ and not in significant others.

adventuresinmercy said...

GREAT post! Yeah!

Anonymous said...

"Unequals
Deep down I believe most women struggle with a desire to be exalted by a man mysterious and otherworldly (be it Lydia's Wickham, Jasmine's Alladin or Bella's Edward in Twilight), a man worthy of joining, uniting to, a man stronger, better than us. The female captivation with men who are "out of our league" tells me more about the state of women's souls, than the reality of the number of good men on planet earth. It tells me that we're more in love with our version of romance, than we're in love with a real man of flesh and blood and soul.

My concern, here, is that these longings are not worthy of the image-bearers of God that we are. We cannot dream of a romance between "unequals", and then expect a marriage of mutual love and respect, of partnership, unity, sexual satisfaction and enduring warmth." - quote from Jonalyn's blog

I think this really hits the nail on the head, at least for me. I know I've struggled for so long under the teachings of what a Christian wife/mother/woman is supposed to be and I cannot tell you how often I have felt simply crushed by the feeling that my value is essentially in how well I perform these "duties" and knowing that, no matter how hard I tried, I kept failing (still do, by those standards). In my head, I knew that my value was based on the fact that I was created in the image of God and the Lord Jesus Christ loves me so much He came to die in my place to redeem me. In my heart, I felt not only unworthy but worthless because I did not measure up to the standards I'd always heard preached in and out of the pulpit and for being dismissed as "feminist" or "wanting to be a man" by most people I tried to talk to about it. I wondered, am I wrong?....Feeling somewhat plain, "undesirable", and insignificant, it was easy to get pulled into romance novels ("Christian" ones or Jane Austen and her type)and indulge in the idea that some "great" man will come along and really "love" me and see in me the worth others did not. My life would be so much richer and joyful with such a man loving me and if I couldn't have that myself, then I could at least enjoy experiencing it through fiction.....But, it's not true and, I've learned from experience, that it is very damaging to your marriage because you find yourself with unrealistic expectations that no one can meet. How can you really love a man that you are continually, even if unconciously, comparing to your fictional ideal?...Fortunately, I am married to a wonderful man with whom I can openly discuss these issues. He has been very supportive, even when he doesn't seem to really understand, and has encouraged me in my search to cut through all the confusion and get to the heart of Biblical truth regarding women's value to the Lord. He recently bought me "Ruby Slippers" (I just started it) and has encouraged me to read some things by Amy Orr-Ewing and some others regarding women and the Bible. Not only that, but he reads them, too, and we discuss them. When I think of how he tries to support and encourage me, I wonder why I ever wanted a "fantasy" man....By the way, I've given up the romance novels because I feel it's safer for me to do so. I'd much rather cultivate the relationship with my very real, flesh-and-blood husband who loves me, warts and all.

----Um, I went a little long and opened up a bit here, more than I normally do with the reactions I have received for some of my questions and all. In fact, this is the first time I've ever commented on a blog....I only hope it may help someone else to know that others struggle, too.....I'm sorry if this doesn't really make sense and for going on so long. - Sheri

Kate said...

I really enjoyed this post. You had a lot of great points and things to think about. Plus, I loved the connection to Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite books!).

Kim said...

Jonalyn,

As a Believing husband and one who counsels other husbands, I really, really appreciate your insight in this post.

This speaks to me of the need for husbands to truly represent Christ to their wives. If self-sacrificial love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control were more of a reality than a romantic notion in a wife's life, it certainly couldn't hurt Christian marriages.

If you would be interested, I'd love to hear your (and your reader's) take on my post here:

http://preparation4eternity.blogspot.com/2008/07/p4e079-princess.html

Keep in mind that my blog is specifically directed at Christian husbands and especially those who are struggling in their marriages, as I have.

Keep up the wonderful work. My wife is reading Ruby Slippers.

Peace, Kim

Gem said...

I haven't read nor seen Twilight, and its been years since I read Bronte so I skimmed right by this in my RSS feed, but when I saw the discussion on Complegalitarian, I was intrigued and came over to read the whole post. Very thought provoking! :)

I have read "Captivating" and found much healing in the words therein. The Eldredges are not trying to feed unhealthy expectations but rather point women to the ONE who can satisfy. The message of "Captivating" resembles your message. There is a desire in a woman's heart to be treasured, loved, and valued. In reading "Captivating" I became convinced that I am extravagantly and passionately treasured, loved, and valued.

Gem said...

oops wrong link, your post is quoted at the new complegalitarian site:

http://complegalitarian.wordpress.com/

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Dramaturge,

I loved your point about how we are created for an infinite relationship with God.

However, I think we desire not just a perfect man, but a man who will make us feel a certain way (we call it being romanced) and this encourages us to construct images out of our imagination (or worse) remake the real human man before us who we are called to know and love.

Sheri,

I loved what you wrote, your openness and realization helps me and reminds me of the good in watching carefully who I am comparing my husband to, rather than becoming a scholar of his personality, his body, his soul. Thank you for sharing your journey into healthy womanhood. I'll be curious to hear how you're enjoying Ruby Slippers! What books by Amy Orr-Ewing are you reading? She's a friend of mine :) though we don't entirely agree I love her mind and concern to defend the gospel!

Kim,
Good words, I appreciated your post, too!

Gem,
I appreciate how Captivating helps women find the ONE who can satisfy their longings. I'm really glad it has helped you.

What I disagree with is how the Eldredges assume some longings are good without analyzing them for the pockmarks of the fall. For instance, I'm not certain the desire to be romanced is a good desire. Many of our desires are not essentially good, they actually point to deeper wounds that need healing and a new orientation. The Eldredges theory of gender is rather problematic in my mind because it is based on analyzing women (and men) in their fallen state, not taking into account the ways all our desires are warped by sin. I do not find the longing to be romanced or captivating a particularly God-honoring longing, nor do I find it in Scripture, nor do I find it to be a virtue in women. But the Edlredges write that since we long to be romanced or be captivating, these longings are given by God and therefore, good and longings that God will fulfill.

I do believe women (and men) long to be loved, but I think that is different from romance. Perhaps a post drawing a line between the two would be helpful. Perhaps I am mis-interpreting what you mean by romance. How do you define the word?

Gem said...

Hi Jonalyn,

I don't think longings are good or evil. Was it Augustine who said that we all have a "God shaped vacuum"? People try to fill that various ways. Any other way but Jesus is idolatry IMO (and that includes christian PC ways like family, marriage, church, success, etc).

When I first started recovery from various childhood wounds, I was embarrassed about the unprecedented and radically intense way I experienced intimacy with God. I thought maybe I was going crazy... Then I read about others who sounded like they UNDERSTAND! :) - first in "Sacred Romance" by Curtis and Eldredge, then in "Sex God" by Rob Bell, then in Beth Moore "Believing God" both herself and a quote from CS Lewis, etc etc... In response to your question, I put the label 'romance' on 4 excerpts from these writers which you will find here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jonalyn.
Honestly, I was a little nervous and uncomfortable sharing that but I feel there are others who feel as trapped and unhappy as I did. I have, by no means, fully entered into "healthy womanhood" but I'm working on it. Not only is my own well-being at stake, but also that of my three lovely daughters and I believe my husband's as well. My husband, Greg, says I'm improving. Now, THAT'S encouraging!!:)

I haven't read a lot of Amy Orr-Ewing's writings but I did read the chapter dealing with Is the Bible Sexist? in her book "Is the Bible Intolerant?" (I plan on reading the rest when I get a chance.....I am teaching my girls at home and it takes up a lot of my time.) I have read a few devotionals she has written through RZIM's "A Slice of Infinity" and we have her presentation from RZIM's "Foundations of Apologetics" dvd series. In case you couldn't tell, we rather like RZIM. In fact, that is where we heard Dale. I bought Dale's book, "Living With Questions" for Greg because of hearing a message he gave through RZIM." We aren't trained in apologetics but find it interesting and very helpful not only for our own faith but in trying to help others we know with the questions they have. We try to use some when it is our turn to teach in our church's youth activity, "Kingdom Club", and we try to use it with our girls some. (The oldest is nearly 8.) We feel the Church has not done a very good job teaching and training its people to answer the tough questions, even in the face of their own doubts. I could go on, but.....

So, if you are speaking to Amy, and I cross your mind, please let her know that my husband and I have enjoyed and learned from what we've read and heard of her and, so far, I have enjoyed "Ruby Slippers". For both her and you, it is an encouragement to me to see intelligent, well-spoken women standing up and teaching. Such a thing would not be permitted in my church, I'm sorry to say, though our pastor is more open-minded than many in the congregation or our previous pastors. It is difficult for me to know just how far to go in speaking with the children or young people or many others in our church. In teaching the children, I do not wish to go against what their parents teach them so I must be careful. Greg and I have talked with our oldest daughter about some of these issues and I have told her that it is very difficult to stand up for what you believe when all those around you disagree and both sides believe they are following God's Word. The important thing is to deal with each other in love and with respect and to ask the Lord to lead you in truth. I hope we can influence our girls and those who attend Kingdom Club to think, search the Scriptures, and be willing to question and challenge themselves to know what they believe and why....That may sound like we're "great apologists" and we're not...We're just trying to do the best we can in our little corner and praying the Lord will work.-Sheri

Gem said...

Jonalyn,

I was thinking about your question about the longings of women. Do you take "your desire shall be for your husband" (Gen 3:16) as a negative prediction? One does not have to take that as negative- the text doesn't say.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Sheri,

I'm so thankful for your willingness to share your journey and walk toward freedom and loving God with all you can. I'm so saddened to hear of the way the current church you are in shackles women. Why have you chosen to stay there?

If I run into Amy soon, I will mention your kind words. Thank you!!

Gem,

Yes, I believe everything in Gen 3:14-19 is negative, a judgment or a "curse" changing the reality of humans and the "serpent" lives from good perfection to corruption and evil.

I think everything in the woman's judgment changes her life for the worse AND affects the man's life, too (e.g. it's not pleasant to have a woman demanding that you be ALL to her).

In regards to desires/longings in general, I think that our longings are oriented toward what WE want, not toward what God wants. Yes, as Pascal said, everyone has a longing for God... but this is not to say that ALL our longings/desires are good.

Desire, as Dallas Willard says, "is the impulse toward possession or experience of its object". Desires taken by themselves are inherently chaotic (see James 4:1-3) and deceitful (see Ephesians 4:22). This is very different from full-fledged love that God wants to grow in us.

I believe woman's desires were warped during the Fall, but I believe Jesus re-orients, redeems us. This is the focus of the last chapter in my book on womanhood: Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home.

I feel the Eldredges definitions of romance are not helpful, nor can I agree with their theory of gender (I've found that men also long to be "romanced" in terms of being passionately, deeply loved), though I do understand what you mean about finding intimacy and your desire fulfilled in God. This is amazing and I'm really glad the Eldredges, Rob Bell and C.S. Lewis have helped you in this journey.

What did you think of Lewis' The Four Loves?

Gem said...

Yes, I believe everything in Gen 3:14-19 is negative, a judgment or a "curse" changing the reality of humans and the "serpent" lives from good perfection to corruption and evil.

"Unto the woman HE [God]said,
I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Gen 3:16

so, Jonalyn, I am assuming that when you say EVERYTHING in Gen 3:14-19 is negative, that you do not view a woman "bringing forth children" as negative?

One down ;0

God said HE would "multiply thy... conception",

Is increased fertility negative?

This "DESIRE" of Gen 3:16 is mentioned in the context of two references to pregnancy (in just this one verse!). Its got to have a component of sexual passion. And the very same Hebrew word for desire is used in Song of Solomon 7:10 "I [am] my beloved's, and his desire [is] toward me." (not a case of negative desire).

what changed with the Fall? what does God mean when HE says HE will multiply her conception. Looking at mammalian biology, other mammals are only interested in mating when they are fertile and their "season" of fertility is generally much more rare than that for human females (who are interested in "mating" even when infertile)...

Pre-Fall, we do not even know if the first couple had sex. The text does not say. They did not conceive nor give birth. Perhaps they had lots and lots of great NON sexual intimacy :D They were after all, mere children in age. We know God intended them to "be fruitful and multiply" so I am not suggesting that the woman's possible increased sexual desire is negative (although it can be extremely negative awakened before its time as Song of Solomon says in a repeating refrain)

The fruit of sexual desire, frequent childbirth, and the toil/labor/pain/ sorrow of childbirth will render a woman quite dependent upon her husband for provision and could enable her husband's fallen propensity to "rule over her". Nevertheless, there is sweetness amid the pain(likewise for male toil, I suppose).

You have probably already noted that nowhere in this account does GOD ever CURSE the woman or the man. The only CURSES God pronounced were upon the serpent and the ground. This may seem trivial, but after a lifetime longer than yours of assuming God CURSED his children, it made a HUGE impact upon me to realize that God is not like an abusive earthly father, that these predictions, or consequences are totally bathed in divine love that we may someday be drawn back to walk with God in the cool of the day in intensely intimate garden of Eden intimacy.

In answer to your later question, I haven't read CS Lewis's four loves, but I take note of the recommendationfor for future reading. Beth Moore quoted him in her "Believing God" study. I have your book, but I haven't read the whole thing. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to read some more before I gift it to my 16 year old daughter who is very bright and thoughtful (and just got Oz Dorothy style "Ruby Slippers" in the mail TODAY from target :) ).

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Gem,
I think a distinction would be helpful here. I think that great good can come out of God giving humans grace in the midst of these judgments (and yes, it is a good point that no human is “accursed” in this passage, though in the sense of curse = a change or altering of the current state of things, then humans were cursed, your distinction that encouraged you to find that God had not cursed woman is part of the reason I put “cursed” in quotes above), but I do not think that any of the judgments are good.
The judgments, as I understand them are:
1- Pain in childbearing
2- Pain in labor (possibly including pain in childrearing)
3- Unrestrained desire for husband
4- Rule of Man over Woman

The fact that God brings joy in childbearing, even though there is pain, or joy in sexual satisfaction, even though women are often demanding, passive aggressive, insistent upon worshipping their husbands does not mean that the original judgments is good.

Now, I believe all of these are lightened, if we allow Jesus to help. But for the vast majority of women, experience them as judgments i.e. painful.

Interesting thought that Adam and Eve may not have had sex before the Fall. I cannot help but disagree, I think they made love beforehand. I think they didn't dally around about following God's instruction to be fruitful. :)

I hope you'll be able to finish my pair of "ruby slippers" before passing it along :)

Gem said...

“Unto the woman HE [God]said,
I will greatly multiply thy sorrow [painful toil] and thy conception;
in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;
and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband,
and he shall rule over thee.”

Gen 3:16

multiplication of painful toil--> negative

multiplication of conception-->blessing

desire for husband-->(mixed) blessing

he shall rule over you-->negative

The same word for "painful toil" is used of the consequences upon the man:

Gen 5:29 and called his name Noah, saying, "Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the *painful toil* of our hands."

WORK is good. Adam(human) was assigned WORK before the Fall, but the Fall brought painful toil.

CONCEPTION and PREGNANCY is good. DESIRE is good. But the Fall brought painful toil and husband rule.

GOD is a GOOD Father. He increased her fertility and her sexual desire for redemptive purposes. The painful toil of both will serve to drive them to the ONE who can deliver them from this body of death.

"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in HOPE" Rom 8:20

I don't know if they had sex or didn't before the Fall, but Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born to Eve (Gen 5:3) and wasn't he only the third child? Apparently there was not very much sex, the sex was "infertile", or they were literally children when they left the garden. To this day, children can be together "naked and unashamed" (and without "DESIRE").

Gem said...

and Jonalyn, the same very rare word for "desire" is used in Song of Solomon 7:10

I belong to my lover,
and his desire is for me.

Who was closer to the image of God? Adam and Eve or those who had lived through generations of corruption? How do we think "desire" is BAD and EVIL for Eve but GOOD for the lover of SoS (who could not possibly be promiscuous Solomon, but that is another topic)? I think we look at Adam and Eve and think they were totally rotten and horrid and angry GOD PUNISHED them with awful things, when they were really a whole lot closer to perfection than we, and they had a memory of such purity as we will never know this side of heaven and their lot in life was a mixture of painful toil and great blessing and pleasure (like every human since).

Anonymous said...

Jonalyn,

There are a number of reasons that I continue to attend my church. Firstly, the churches that I know if in my area hold to the "submission/rule" doctrine as, or perhaps more, strongly than my church does or do not hold true to the Word of God in the way of salvation and other matters. (That being said, there are a couple that I don't know a lot about and would have to look into more deeply should my husband and I leave our church.) I can openly discuss the issue with our pastor. He is still formulating his understanding, just as I am mine. That is encouraging to me. We attend a very small church and most of the congregation (except the children, of course) are older than I am and some of them are quite adamant about following what they've always been taught. However, women are very much involved in making most of the decisions of the church. Like in many churches, the women teach the children's and youths' Sunday school classes and prepare and direct the church programs, but we also have Kingdom Club. The nice thing about Kingdom Club is that it is an opportunity to teach in a way that we do not do for Sunday school. We encourage those in attendance (mainly children but there are adults present as well-those who bring them as well as those involved in K.C.) to ask questions and we try to teach them to really think about what the Bible says and what they're taught. My goal is for them to know what they believe and why they believe it. In answering one of the questions*, and also in teaching one of my lessons, I talked about the way women were created, as equals to men with God giving dominion to both Adam and Eve, how they were treated in Bible times (uneducated, as property, no rights, would not even be spoken to in public unless necessary), and how Jesus treated them (as people, with dignity, taught them, spoke with them, etc.). At one point, one of the older, more staunch women pulled out a pew Bible to look up what I was saying. So, I feel that I am making a difference there. I may not be able to teach an adult Sunday school class with men in it or be a deacon (I don't know that I want to, anyway), but I can still teach the next generation to really search the Scriptures and not be afraid to question their understanding of them. I can also perhaps get some of these adults thinking, too, and that's a good thing. I guess I would also say that, all in all, I like it there and I don't feel "called" to leave. I believe I'm where I'm supposed to be, at least for now. I do not know what the future holds.

-Sheri

P.S. Interestingly, my pastor once remarked to me that he considered me one of the leaders in the church. When I expressed my surprise because of my being a woman, he said that a person can have influence and lead even without having an official title of leadership.

*We have a Kingdom Club "question box" for anyone (children or adults) to put questions in. I periodically empty the box and put the questions on a list. Any question can be asked. In our planning meetings, we choose questions to answer either in our lesson or in addition to it. We answer at least one question each time we get together.

Gem said...

Just occurred to me:

JESUS was conceived apart from "DESIRE"...

I know some of the early church fathers had a very negative view of sexuality and a woman's "DESIRE" and they exalted virginity. I don't agree with them. Nevertheless, I think this is a significant piece of the puzzle that JESUS was conceived apart from "DESIRE".

Gem said...

Sorry for my sloppy punctuation... Lest I be misunderstood, here is a correction:

Nevertheless, I think this is a significant piece of the Gen 3:16 "DESIRE" puzzle: that JESUS was conceived apart from "DESIRE".

"DESIRE" in the Advent Hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel" got me thinking about DESIRE, the Virgin Birth, etc.

"O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace."

I dug out your book and I'm taking it on the treadmill now... :)

Anonymous said...

Gem and Jonalyn,
Just a note, and not to butt into your discussion, my reading of Genesis indicates that Seth would not have been Adam and Eve's third child because it seems Cain was married when he slew Abel (Gen. 4:17) and Seth was born after that tragic event (Gen. 4:25). Since Adam and Eve were the only couple at the beginning, it follows that his wife would have been a sister.....I hope that helps. :)
-Sheri

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Complegalitarian post with my post along with great comments

Ally said...

Jonalyn! You must remind me to share some emails with you. My friends are OBSESSED with the Twilight books, and vampires (mind you, they're all 25, not 13). This blog totally reminded me of these emails that actually made me want to go find out about this vampire character :)

Anyhow, hope you're enjoying the snow and cold, we're actually awaiting a big storm here as well. I, for one, can't wait! I'm headed back there in a few weeks and would love to catch up!

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Sheri,
Your work at your church sounds like an amazing glimmer in the lives of many of the youth and children there. You are sparkling the image of God's in man and woman. I'm glad they have you and your husband!
Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jonalyn, for your very kind words. They actually left me speechless. I am thankful that we attend a church with a warm and caring church family who are supportive of the Kingdom Club.

From my family to you and yours, we wish you a truly blessed Christmas and New Year.

Sheri