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Becoming God’s True Woman was originally a set of lectures from the March 2000 conference on “Building Strong Families in Your Church,” co-hosted by FamilyLife and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Nancy Leigh DeMoss compiled and edited the book. Its chapters are authored by DeMoss, Barbara Hughes, Susan Hunt, Mary Kassian, Carolyn Mahaney, Dorothy Kelley Patterson, and P. Bunny Wilson. An extensive biography of each woman is included. Each is an experienced author and active in ministry to women.
The book’s primary purpose is to encourage women in the face of feminism in the world—as well as feminist leanings in the church—to “repent, to return to the authority of God’s Word, to embrace God’s priorities and purpose for their lives and homes, and to live out the beauty and the wonder of womanhood as God created it to be” (p. 18). The “true woman” of the title comes from a chapter of Susan Hunt’s:
The dictionary defines true as “consistent with fact or reality; exactly conforming to a rule, standard, or pattern”…
The true woman is the real thing. She is a genuine, authentic Masterpiece. The Master has set eternity in her heart and is conforming her to His own image. There is consistency in her outward behavior because it is dictated by the reality of her inner life. That reality is her redemption. (p. 148)
Setting the stage for the rest of the book is Carolyn Mahaney’s chapter on “Femininity: Developing a Biblical Perspective,” which asserts that women are feminine not because of culture or anatomy, but because God created them feminine. She examines various important Biblical passages of instruction to women, both single and married, regarding being helpers, nurturers and homemakers. Carolyn’s next chapter on “True Beauty” contrasts Biblical versus cultural ideas of beauty as well as modesty.
Two of my favorite chapters—which are the “meatiest” as well—are by Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “Portrait of a Woman Used By God,” about Mary the mother of Jesus, and “Becoming a Woman of Discretion,” which discusses in depth the foolish woman of Proverbs 7. One quote from the latter chapter:
[The simple man and foolish woman] both place themselves in a setting (time and place) where they will be more vulnerable to temptation and sin.
This is why it is so important to guard our steps and our choices in the “little things.” The places we go, the books and magazines we read, the music we listen to, the entertainment we watch – these things either fuel our flesh or (our natural inclinations) or they nurture our spirit. By the time a full-blown immoral relationship has developed, a woman may have emotions she feels she can’t control…Chances are, those feelings were stimulated by foolish choices that she justified to herself and others. The foolish woman places herself in places, situations, and relationships where the potential for wrong-doing exists. (p. 84)
The inclusion of a chapter titled “Pruned to Bloom” by P. Bunny Wilson was a little puzzling at first. The chapter is based on John 15:1-2. Though being “pruned” is an essential part of Christian life and growth, I wasn’t sure at first what exactly this had to do specifically with Biblical femininity, but Mrs. Wilson did eventually apply it well. I winced at first at her three-and-a-half page anthropomorphic “parable” of vines at the beginning of the chapter until I remembered that the Bible employs the same device to a lesser degree (II Kings 14:8-10).
Other chapters by the various authors explore knowing and relating to God as a father, a wife’s responsibility to help her husband, submission, motherhood, raising feminine daughters, and older women mentoring younger women.
Particularly helpful to me in Barbara Hughes’ chapter “A Wife’s Responsibility to Help Her Husband” were thoughts in dealing with the world’s attitude that being a “helper” is “demeaning.” Hughes writes, “So why does our blood pressure rise at the mention of the word helper? It’s a cultural norm for us to associate weakness and even inferiority with the one who assists. No one wants to play second fiddle. But the fact is, without a second violin there is no harmony” (p. 118). After sharing an incident from her own life, she says:
This was the first time that I became aware of the powerful role I have as my husband’s helper. It was also at this time that I discovered something beautiful about gender roles. In John 14:16 Jesus comforts His disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit, referring to Him as “another Helper.” By addressing the Holy Spirit as a helper, Jesus forever elevated the position of the one who assists. Trace the Holy Spirit’s actions through the New Testament, and you’ll find the Spirit repeatedly encouraging, comforting, coming alongside, and helping. The work of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, is beautiful! And women are never more regal and lovely than when they follow His example, cherishing their responsibility as helpers. (p. 119)
In a chapter on submission, P. Bunny Wilson writes:
But what if your employer—or pastor or husband—makes a decision that is clearly a poor one? The real question is not if but when. No one is perfect, and mistakes are inevitable. However, when we operate according to the principle of submission, mistakes become blessings. Faith recognizes that God can make a straight line with a crooked stick.
Mistakes on the part of those in authority are our opportunity to say, “Because I am a Christian, I submit to your decision. I believe God can lead you in the way you should go. I also believe if you make a mistake, God can fix it. Now what can I do to help?” (p. 132)
Later she quotes a husband whose wife she was mentoring:
I remember the day my wife turned me over to the Lord. She didn’t tell me that’s what she had done, but I knew it had taken place. Before, when she would contend with me, it would allow me to justify decisions I knew were not pleasing to the Lord. But when she relinquished control, the only person I had to deal with was the Lord, and that’s an uncomfortable position. (p. 134)
Susan Hunt makes a good Biblical case for mentoring in her chapter on the subject, but the bulk of it is given to planning a formal church program for mentoring. If a woman or pastor contemplating such a program will find a multitude of details to pray over and consider. But to me, the prospect seemed daunting. I would have preferred to see more suggestions about informal mentoring, being available to help, encourage, and instruct younger women along the way or in our homes or theirs.
The conclusion of the book includes other recommended resources and study questions for each chapter either for personal use or for group discussion.
The conference this book originally came from probably had limitations on available time, but in a book that aims to cover the scope of Biblical womanhood, I would have liked to have seen a few more chapters: one for single women (though there is instruction for single women scattered throughout, I think they would benefit from a chapter specifically for them); one on women in the workplace, since so many find themselves there; and one on balancing home and ministry.
In my own years as a Christian wife, the pendulum in Christian culture has seemed to swing between wives and mothers who spread themselves almost too thin in ministering to others, to those who focus only on their home without any outside ministry. Since all of the books contributors are actively involved in ministry, they could have offered valuable insight on balancing home and ministry.
I would also like to seen a little more on motherhood in general (the two chapters on mothering deal primarily with nurturing and raising feminine daughters) and homemaking. On the other hand, each of the topics they did cover (as well as those they did not) could fill a book in itself, and the book does not claim to be an exhaustive encyclopedia of Biblical womanhood. As it is, the book contains so much good information that it is hard to determine how to condense an adequate representation of the book into a review. What the book does cover, it covers well, and it provides much food for women in any walk of life. I highly recommend it.
Barbara Harper has been married to her husband, Jim, for thirty years and has been a stay-at-home mother to three sons for twenty-five years. She graduated from Bob Jones University in 1980 with a degree in Home Economics Education and a minor in English. She enjoys working with the ladies’ and missions ministries in her church, reading, blogging at Stray Thoughts, writing, decorating, and various crafts.