My Journey to Complementarianism
As a young girl, I always hoped I would grow up to be a wife and a mother. I had other aspirations too, including becoming a singer-songwriter or maybe a novelist. But being a wife and a mom were at the top of my list. I wanted those things because I grew up in a home where I saw them as valued and esteemed roles. My own understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood would be further developed in college and afterwards as I read good books affirming distinct gender roles. But it was in my formative years where I first saw the beauty of God’s design for marriage and family. And my heart longed for it.
Growing up as the only girl sandwiched between two older and two younger brothers, I was “blessed” with an understanding that boys and girls, though similar in many ways, are also quite different. Some of my favorite things to do were building forts in the woods, digging up vintage bottles we found stuffed in old chimneys and barns on the acres of nearby farmland, and jumping from the perfect tree branch in our backyard into a sink hole of South Carolina “pluff” mud. But while I loved keeping up with my brothers, I was also aware that I was different from them. It was me (not them), who turned the clump of trees in our front yard into a playhouse and pretended that my husband was off “fighting in a war.” It was also me who lined the shelves of my bedroom with teapots and teacups (as opposed to shark teeth and bottles). Running through the woods playing manhunt with my brothers one afternoon and holding high tea the next did not conflict in my childhood mind. And even now, I don’t think they should. Although girlhood and boyhood may be defined at times by pretend play, those things are only linear representations of a truth about manhood and womanhood that is wondrously deeper than toy guns or porcelain cups.
GOD MADE YOU A GIRL
“God made you a girl.” I don’t remember the first time my mom told me this, but I never forgot it. Those five words were an anchor even to my childhood heart. I was not a girl by chance. God created me to be a girl. My parents taught me Psalm 139:13-14 and told me that God was knitting me together even in my mom’s womb. My life was not by chance. Knowing God made me to be a girl allowed me to run free in the woods and get dirty in the mud. I could not mess up what God had made firm. Understanding God’s specific intention in creating me was particularly comforting during my adolescent years. I remember blurting out once in frustration, “I just wish I were a boy!” My mom’s words were there to steady me, “GraceAnna, first, being a boy is also hard. But second, God made you a girl.” Sometimes I wonder what confusion might have entered my life if she had not been there to point me very simply to God’s truth. It wasn’t complicated, but it set me free.
BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD IS STRONG
When my brothers and I were young, my mom was intentional about making our home her main ministry. As a pastor’s wife, she turned down many speaking and ministry opportunities, and I heard her say often, “My kids are my greatest ministry.” She modeled for us that it is a strong woman, not a weak one, who is willing to truly live out the principles of Titus 2. I grew up knowing motherhood was a good gift that took every ounce of a woman’s mental and physical energy.
I saw biblical leadership and submission modeled in my parents’ marriage, too. My dad is a pastor and a man of firm conviction. My mom is full of spunk and wisdom. I know this is one of the many things my dad loves about my mom. She helps and encourages him. It was always clear who the leader in our family was, and my mom consistently affirmed my dad’s decisions and was faithful not to disagree with him in front of us. “Your dad and I are on the same page,” “We are a team,” and “God has placed your dad as the leader of our family” are all phrases that still echo in my mind from my growing up years. My parents modeled for us that leadership and submission are not in conflict or competition with each other, but are part of God’s harmonious design.
Now, as a mom of two little girls myself, I am humbly aware that I am the first example of a wife and mother my daughters will see. By God’s grace, my husband and I hope to model before them what it means to walk as redeemed sinners in our marriage relationship. One day, they will have to ask the question for themselves, “Is God’s design good?” I pray they will believe his Word more than anything we will ever do or say. I also pray they will remember me looking into their eyes and telling them the same thing my mother told me, “God made you to be a girl. And that is good.”