Let me be a woman.

May 9, 2009

Yellow FreesiaThe gospel story begins with the Mystery of Charity.  A young woman is visited by an angel, given a stunning piece of news about becoming the mother of the Son of God.  Unlike Eve, whose response to God was calculating and self-serving, the virgin Mary’s answer holds no hesitation about risks or losses or the interruption of her own plans.  It is an utter and unconditional self-giving: “I am the Lord’s servant. . . . May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).  This is what I understand to be the essence of femininity.  It means surrender.

The gentle and quiet spirit of which Peter speaks, calling it “of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4), is the true femininity, which found its epitome in Mary, the willingness to be only a vessel, hidden, unknown, except as Somebody’s mother.

Femininity receives.  It says, “May it be to me as you have said.”  It takes what God gives–a special place, a special honor, a special function and glory, different from that of masculinity, meant to be a help.  In other words, it is for us women to receive the given as Mary did, not to insist on the not-given, as Eve did.

Perhaps the exceptional women in history have been given a special gift–a charism–because they made themselves nothing.  I think of Amy Carmichael, for example, another Mary, because she had no ambition for anything but the will of God.  Therefore her obedience, her “May it be to me,” has had an incalculably deep impact in the twentieth century.  She was given power, as was her Master, because she made herself nothing.

I would be the last to deny that women are given gifts that they are meant to exercise.  But we must not be greedy in insisting on having all of them, in usurping the place of men.  We are women, and my plea is Let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is.  No arguments would ever be needed if we all shared the spirit of the “most blessed among women.”

(Elisabeth Elliot, “The Essence of Femininity,” Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, page 398.)


7 Responses to “Let me be a woman.”

  1. courtneychow Says:

    Yes… Elisabeth Elliot puts it so well. Thank you for sharing!

  2. moonchoi Says:


    Thanks so much for sharing. If anything, one of the biggest thing that I’ve struggled with since becoming Christian is men’s and women’s roles. It’s through Lighthouse that I’ve been learning what God’s Word says about what a woman ought to be and through the example of older ladies (like you!) who have exemplified it for me.

  3. letitia Says:

    Court: The good thing about sharing stuff like this is that, unlike food or most other things, it doesn’t diminish in quantity or quality as it gets passed along ;] Not that I wouldn’t share my food with you ………… hahaha.

    Moon: You’re definitely not alone in that struggle; I’m still not out of it, especially in practice. And I might be older, but age definitely isn’t a prereq for setting an encouraging example — you’re one for me, too. ❤

  4. David Says:

    Another example is the hymnwriter Frances Ridley Havergal, whose hymn “Take my life and let it be…” ends with “Ever, only, all for Thee”. Not specifically just for the ladies to aspire to though!

  5. letitia Says:

    David: Frances was the woman! :]

  6. Marisa Says:

    AHHH. Maybe I misunderstood this part…”fem. receives while masc. is meant to be a help”…
    Lord help me with that one cause it seems plain sexist. =)
    Oh Tia…I completely trust the study you do and your beautiful beautiful beautiful heart…but my unstudied heart, however, is so cold to this subject.
    Hope you are well. Can’t wait to see you regularly on Sundays and Thursdays. You are a beautiful Christian woman.

  7. letitia Says:

    Marisa, there’s a whole lot of the “love covers” principle conveyed in your words; thank you. It’s hard for me not to read some of these things in Scripture without societal or cultural undertones (or overtones) of sexism, too — whether man-spiting feminism or woman-spiting chauvinism. Sin has ruined so much, but our Redeemer lives. He has a lot to do in my heart in regards to these things, too … let’s study and pray over some of these things together when you’re in town. Love you girl.

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