Well, to say that I am out of my league with this post would be an understatement. Trying to articulate the right idea of femininity is very difficult when only knowing the reality of masculinity (and though having a wife, we are still a majority "boy" house since I don't have any girls, and two boys, as children). But, since you are reading this blog, it appears that I am somewhat stupid enough to tackle the subject (speaking of "somewhat stupid" - is that possible? Isn't it akin to saying things like "I'm slightly drunk" or "I barely killed him"?).
There is plenty to be said about femininity - and I'm not going to say much of it. It seems that descriptors of femininity (softness, sensitivity, understanding) aren't what are at the root of femininity. In fact, I think femininity needs to be defined in a different way, so I am going to say something that may be a bit stark, but I will try to explain myself.
Femininity should also be defined by Jesus. Now let me explain.
The first chapter of the Bible reminds us that God created humanity "male and female" and that both were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Thus, masculinity and femininity are both important to the full complement of understanding the image of God. God is beyond gender in His being ("God is Spirit" according to the Scripture), but God is not beyond being described in gender terms (Jesus reveals God as Father). Within the gender descriptor framework, God also speaks of Himself in feminine terms on occasion (see Isaiah 66:13 as an example, and also note Jesus using this as well in Matthew 23:37). So, we need to understand that in the original intent of God's creation of humanity, male and female represent the image of God.
What we should keep in mind, however, is that God has revealed Himself very specifically in Jesus. Jesus was obviously a man. And Jesus was/is God. So why is this so important to our discussion? Because Jesus is the perfect representation of God to us - in the fullness of His image (Colossians 1:15 states "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation"). Thus, femininity should also be defined by Jesus since He is the completeness, and fullness, of God in human form.
If you are still tracking with me, then that leads me to what I think might be the way to approach biblical femininity. Instead of looking at the descriptors of femininity like I mentioned at the outset, I think we look to Jesus and what He fundamentally displayed to humanity as the basis for real femininity. So what would that be? How would we characterize Biblical femininity?
Humility and Servanthood.
I know. It's the same as what I said should characterize masculinity. But that's because Jesus is the source for true masculinity and femininity, since He is the exact image of the invisible God, and it takes masculine and feminine to fully complement the idea of creation in the image of God. So how do these aspects of Jesus play out in the context of femininity?
Well, let's start with humility. The woman who has a genuine humility before God demonstrates characteristics that have a God-saturated nature to them in the context of femininity. For instance, modesty in dress and speech would flow from humility before God. Purity in sexual expression would flow from humility before God. A woman's identity would be shaped, not by Madison Avenue, but by her God that she lives in humility toward.
And take servanthood. Servanthood is the basis for nurturing, one of the beautiful characteristics of God ordained femininity. Servanthood would also be the foundation for respect, which Paul speaks of as key to the marriage relationship demonstrating the mystery of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:33).
When we flip these characteristics of humility and servanthood upside down, we see the corruptions of femininity. We will reserve the next post for that discussion.