One of the first rules of Appalachia is never mess with a drunken redneck.
I was reminded of this just a few days ago. It was Sunday evening around 6:30 and my husband and I had decided to take our kids up to the playground of their elementary school. Normally, we’d be at prayer meeting at this time, but today was Homecoming Sunday. We’d already spent the majority of the day at church, enjoying worship, dinner on the grounds, and homegrown music. Everyone needed the evening to decompress, and the playground and walking track sounded perfect.
As we stepped out the door to get in our van, we noticed a rusty, white Ford Explorer parked on the edge of our property. A solidly-built man in his mid-to-late forties was walking around one of our trees and seemed to be sizing it up. He was wearing cargo shorts, a dirty cut-off t-shirt, and somehow managed to have a long, straggly ponytail and a shaved head simultaneously. He was accompanied by a younger man, a copy of himself, minus the ponytail.
Moody Publishers recently released Hannah Anderson’s first book, Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. Hannah is a familiar presence here at SI, having written articles for us in the past and often sharing her blog writing with us as well. She was happy to take the time to answer a few questions for me about the book, related themes, and writing in general.
Q. When did the idea to write about imago dei come to you and why this eventually become the focus of your project?
A. The vision to write about imago dei came because I saw a lot of young women struggling to make sense of their lives and their Christian experience. They were not rebels, but they were struggling to find fulfillment in roles and family structures alone.
Many women’s discipleship programs are framed entirely around gender. By sheer weight of conversation, these women were being taught that sanctification means becoming a certain type of woman, not being conformed to Christ’s image. The more I explored, the more I realized that (1) We were starting our conversations about calling and identity in Genesis 2 and (2) We were parsing the sum total of human experience through gender.
Any woman who has been part of organized women’s ministry knows that sooner or later you’re going to encounter Proverbs 31. This passage is a mainstay for discussions about Christian womanhood; and in our consumer-driven culture, it graces everything from Bible covers to handbags to refrigerator magnets.
But recently, several women have been challenging a typical approach to this text. At the recent Q event, Women and Calling, progressive blogger and author Rachel Held Evans reiterated her long-standing concern that we tend to misuse this passage, making it more of a “Pintrest page come to life” than the poem it is. Sarah Bessey makes the same point in the recently released Jesus Feminist. She writes:
Some evangelicals have turned Proverbs 31 into a woman’s job description instead of what it actually is: the blessing and affirmation of valor for the lives of women… It is meant as a celebration for the everyday moments of valor for everyday women, not as an impossible exhausting standard.
These women have a legitimate concern. How many Mother’s Day sermons or Bible studies have turned Proverbs 31 into a checklist? How many times have teachers used it to reinforce their private applications of gender? How many times have you felt defeated from just listening to such sermons? So let me go on record as saying that I agree with Evans and Bessey. With one caveat.
This past week I found myself cuddling the newest member of our church—a sweet, Dreft-scented little girl named Hope. As I held her in my arms, I have to admit that I felt the ache of maternal longing well up inside me. The memories of my own children at that age and the sheer wonder at new life were almost too much. And yet, my husband and I are not presently pursuing any new members of the family. For us, as it is for many couples, the question of when and whether to have more children has been a complicated one, one that has forced us to wrestle through desire, calling, and limitation. On the other hand, for an increasing number, the question is not when or how many children to have; the question is whether to have them at all.
In August, Time magazine explored this phenomenon in their cover story entitled, “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.” And then earlier in September, Emily Timbol wrote a piece for Her.meneutics, a blog of Christianity Today, explaining why she and her husband do not intend to have children (and why she’d appreciate you not judging her for it). Now, couples choosing to not have children is nothing new; but what I do find interesting is why they are choosing this. The current argument seems less rooted in the classic appeal to overpopulation or the desire to commit oneself to extreme callings or even a worry about bringing children into a terribly broken world. Instead, it seems that more and more couples are choosing to not have children in order to pursue certain lifestyles and careers unhindered. And while it’s easy to chalk this up to Millennial selfishness, (see here for a piece that rightly challenges the temptation to make Millennials the scapegoat for every societal ill), I don’t think it’s that simple. At the same time, the question of whether to have children is going to be increasingly pesky one for Millennials for a couple of reasons:
Those of you who are regular readers may have wondered where I’ve been recently. If my estimate is correct, this is the longest I’ve been away since I first started blogging over two years ago. The reason is simple: life, over the course of these last three weeks, has been epic in every sense of the word. It has read like something Solomon himself could have penned. It’s literally been
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to mourn and a time to dance…(Eccles. 3:2-4)
In the last three weeks, we’ve seen babies, death, weddings, work deadlines, gardening (which, we all know, waits for no man), family vacation, and now once again, we’re counting off the days until school starts as the wheels of time have continued to turn, turn, turn. And more than ever, I feel my immortality creeping in. Yes, you read that right, my immortality.
Often, when we’re caught in a busy season of life, when the days blur and blend into weeks before we even realize it, our first impulse is clutch at the passing moments and try to harvest every drop of meaning from them. We scamper and scurry like little field mice desperate to collect our winter stores before it is too late. Rush, rush, hurry, hurry. Winter is coming. Life is passing you by.
Last month, Edith Schaeffer passed away at the age of 98. Despite the potential to have been overshadowed by her husband, Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer, she held her own as a writer and thinker, delivering a message of joi de vivre and teaching a generation of women that there is power in the small moments, that even things like mothering and domesticity are an expression of God’s image. She taught us that when God takes up residency, our homes will be filled with His nature—filled with art and music and beauty and wonder and hospitality and joy.
But something’s happened to Christian women in the subsequent years—something that I’m not sure even Mrs. Schaeffer herself would approve. Over the last several decades, we’ve flipped the paradigm; instead of seeing womanhood (and all that comes with it) as an expression of imago dei, we’ve come to see our womanhood as an end in itself. We’ve come to believe that our core sense of self rests in our gender and our ability to conform to certain paradigms. And in doing so, I’m afraid we’ve developed a bit of identity myopia.
This idea has been rolling around in my head for a while now, but I didn’t quite see it clearly, didn’t quite have the words to speak it, until one day. It was the same day that I resolved to start blogging. It was the same day that I realized that my daughter was growing up.