Being Who We Were Created to Be
“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”—George MacDonald
How much avocado toast did you eat this summer? Did your kids have fidget spinners that they were compulsively using last spring but have neglected lately as the fad faded? Every day the styles we like and the things we admire are influenced by our culture. Just as clothing styles change from decade to decade, attitudes shift. And sometimes we barely notice until, all of a sudden, something big happens.
The Question of Gender?
Currently, something big is happening with the very concept of what it is to be male or female. For many of us, being a man or woman seems like such a basic part of being human that it defies further definition. But that is not what the elites who form our cultural standards are telling us. In loud, strident voices and little alluring whispers, our society is revolutionizing and diminishing what it is to be a man or a woman.
Years ago when I was still a single girl, I arrived on vacation in New York City smack dab in the middle of the Gay Pride Parade. The outward contrast between my friend Kristine and me and the participants of the parade was almost comical. Neatly and modestly dressed, with just a hint of “come hither”, Kris and I rolled our suitcases along a crowded sidewalk and almost bumped into to a hairy man dressed entirely in fishnet—not an image one forgets.
However you’re picturing that, it was even more so. The men in the parade and those crowding the street were…ummm…flamboyant. I felt like a country cousin just in from the Methodist Camp Meeting while the drag queens romped about like caricatures of “glamorous” prostitutes.
Have you ever seen a prostitute in real life? They’re not glamorous. They typically look deadened by drugs and despair and maybe like they need to wash their hair. There is nothing glamorous about prostitution, and the garishly dressed—or rather undressed men—surrounding me made my heart sad. They wanted to look like women, but they sure didn’t want to look like me. Their inner hurt was vividly expressed by the very outrageousness of their attire, and I felt compassion for the brokenness that I saw that day, brokenness expressed vividly by them but shared by all of us in one way or another.
All of us need grace and healing, but often we pretend we don’t. We dig ourselves in deeper until, before gasping for hope, we finally look for redemption. At least that’s all too often my story.
The Impact of Blurred Lines
This summer I’ve discovered that people somewhat like the fishnet guy suddenly seem to be in charge of curriculum development at our schools. Programs such as “Welcoming Schools”, financed by the Human Rights Campaign, are commonly used to instruct our school nurses, teachers, and students in gender ideology. They are defining our society’s conversation about gender. Many of the ideas promoted in our schools are in conflict with basic teachings of Christianity, and that’s scary. But it’s even scarier to remember that kids don’t care all that much about what they learn in health class. It’s what they learn from their friends, music, and movies that really matters. What are those messages? Do we even know?
Recently I was watching a show called Reign. It’s popular among teens (TV 14 rating) and is set in Elizabethan France. Two of the characters, both nice young women, discovered a gross sexual fetish another character had. Both girls instantly said, “I don’t judge him for it.” Not judging someone for anything they do sexually is a most important modern virtue. Not judging can seem kind, but it normalizes things previous generations knew were immoral. If our kids don’t already have an understanding of their faith and values, many modern ideas will seem attractively compassionate or perhaps even temptingly edgy to our kids while we’re just standing by helplessly wagging a finger, red-faced and scared-looking while judgmentally sputtering, “No.” Our kids won’t realize that the “modern” ideas are just the same old lies that have been tossed around for centuries and that moral boundaries exist to protect us spiritually and physically.
Staying Steadfast in the Truth
Our kids need to have a heartfelt understanding of their identity based on who Christ created them to be. But many adults, perhaps even those standing next to you in Liturgy, no longer believe in Creation. Creation is not an optional belief. It’s not an archaic, dusty concept that all the smart people have long since gotten over. It’s foundational to our faith and never needs to be in conflict with scientific inquiry. How we came to be is the biggest mystery for all of us, but God’s hand in it, however that happened, need not be removed.
The theory of evolution has had a profound effect on our culture and beliefs. Like dominoes, once God was no longer relevant as our Creator, all kinds of associated beliefs started to fall from popular belief until we reach the present day when what it is to be human is questioned by technological and medical advances, along with the ancient, selfish, and sinful desires common to us all to be whatever it is we want to be rather that what God has made us to be.
Current theories such as the Big Bang Theory or the Multiverse theory remove us from the loving hand of a Creator. Instead, they allow us to be like our own gods. If we’re an accident of nature, then we have no deeper purpose for our lives. We also have no need to be defined by anything other than what we want. That is part of what’s behind the current gender theory issues that are starting to rock our culture. Without a Creator, whether we want to be male, female or neither is up to us.
It’s somewhat odd, given current belief, that male and female are social constructs, that hostilities between the sexes are still present. Recently, a writer for Teen Vogue tweeted, “Wake me up when men are obsolete.” So much anger and hurt is expressed in that tweet. It evokes a ‘men are the enemy’ construct which is very 1970’s-ish of this writer, because nowadays we know that being a man is just how you might feel one day. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter, we’re interchangeable—or are we?
Masculinity and femininity are not opposed, they are complementary. All of us have masculine and feminine traits, but we are (scientifically) men and women. We can’t change out being male and female like switching team uniforms. What are basic understandings that we as Orthodox Christians have of this concept?
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”—Genesis 1:27
The belief that God has lovingly created, not just humankind, but each one of us in His image as male or female transforms everything. It gives us value beyond measure both individually and collectively. God lovingly created you as uniquely you, but He created you in His image as female or male, and your task is to spend your time here growing into His likeness.
As Orthodox Christians, when we think of womanhood, the Virgin Mary comes to mind. She is a beautiful, revered, beloved example for all of us as people, but especially for women.
“The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”—Saint Irenaeus
Eve set an example for us of reaching to become something God has not made us to be. She wanted to become “like God” in her understanding of good and evil without waiting for God’s timing and permission. Eve wasn’t trusting God to care for her in the best way possible, so she took it upon herself to become something she wasn’t made to be. In doing this, Eve created a knot of disobedience, just as all of us have many times in our lives. We create little knots of disobedience which can only be loosed by God’s grace.
The Virgin Mary set an example for all of us of submitting her life to God, and then God fulfilled within her the means of salvation for all of us. Like Mary, when we each submit our will to God, then He can create within us something beautiful, beyond our expectations—ourselves as we were created by Him to be.
We need to understand this ourselves so that we can help our kids navigate the confusion that surrounds them in this world. Start conversations with your family about who they are in Christ. Don’t let the world tell them who they are. Be sure they know who they are, as boys and girls created that way in God’s image for a purpose, to love and be loved by Him, so they can be a light in the darkness of this generation. Something big is happening in our culture, and we should frame the conversation with the truth of light and beauty, knowing who we are in Christ.
“So that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.”—Philippians 2:15
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