The Weaker Sex?

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Abigail Dodds, (A)Typical Women: Free, Whole, and Called in Christ (Crossway, 2019), 50–52:

A package came in the mail with the warning “Fragile: Handle with Care.” We fastidiously cut open the cardboard and were disappointed to find a few broken pieces inside. If only the fast-moving conveyor belts and jostling trucks could have read this helpful label. Then they’d have known to give it its proper consideration and value.

A glass chandelier is exquisite in its fragility. We could replace it with a wooden one, sturdy and functional, which would have a certain virtue to it but would lack all the things that make a chandelier what it is: the light that twinkles off the multifaceted glass, the gentle, high chinkling of pieces as they’re nudged, the suspended refinement that underscores a necessary sort of civilization. It would be a mistake to deem a chandelier worthless because it’s fragile. It misses the point.

Fragility isn’t a defect; it may be the defining worth of a thing. We see a similarity in women’s bodies. No, I’m not saying women are chandeliers. I’m not even saying they’re fragile. Have you seen a woman in labor? But they are physically weaker than men. How is it that God calls women to “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6) in one verse, and in the next verse refers to them as a “weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7)? We don’t often put fearless and weaker together.

What results from being physically weaker than men?

Should we feel insulted because we acknowledge this biological fact?

Or could our very nature as weaker lead us to the source of our fearlessness, a powerlessness resulting in trust in the all-powerful Father?

It helps to first acknowledge that what God says through Peter is true. We are weaker than men. Not less intelligent. Not less human. Not incapable of reason or achievement. Not emotionally broken. Not more sinful. And not even without great strength, as the Scriptures testify. But, as relates to our physical bodies, comparatively weaker. And yet many of us are, or have been at some point, uncomfortable with this because it’s inimical to the spirit of the age, and it’s an offense to our pride—so much so that we might stubbornly spurn 1 Peter’s verity, even as we take every precaution when walking alone in a dark alley.

Our being physically weaker by comparison—the fact that no matter how much time I spend in the gym, I’ll likely never be able to overpower an average-sized man or beat him in an arm-wrestling match—is not a sign of something gone wrong. It is something to be handled with care, because in it resides exquisite beauties, abilities, and feminine strengths, like the beautiful strength of thick beveled glass.

A pregnant woman is one of the most defenseless humans on the face of the earth. She can barely rise to her feet after sinking into a comfy couch. Yet who but the weaker vessel, called woman, can grow another human inside her body?

Think of the massive strength and endurance it takes to give birth, yet it is simultaneously a vulnerable type of vigor. A woman in a marathon labor of countless hours afterward sits up in bed, even as her body begins to hemorrhage, trying to feed and care for another person. Why did God do it this way? So that we would know that, like a mother with her nursing babe, he never forgets us, even as the blood drained out of his own Son on our behalf. It’s a fragile, mind-bogglingly valiant design pointing to bigger things to be honored and protected—not belittled by comparison with a man, but accurately understood by it.

It is good that God made you weaker; he’s put a resplendent design in two Xs. In Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, young Eustace tells Ramandu, a former star, “In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.” But Ramandu replies, “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.” We may be made of repeat chromosomes, but it amounts to so much more than the reductionism of what can be seen under a microscope.

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