by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here >
“I always thought I was extra specially sinful because I was a woman.
I never realized that I thought that about myself.”
Those words, texted to me from a friend, encapsulate in two short sentences a confusion that I see all too often in my sisters in Christ. Sure, they’ve read John 3:16, they know God loves them. They believe that Jesus died for their sins. They believe he rose from the dead for their justification (Rom 4:25). But, at the same time, they also experience a sense of shame simply because they’re female. Like Eve before them, they feel the need to hide, to cover up, to try to avoid what they assume will be the frowning face of God.
Sure, they know that they’re responsible for their own sin, for failing to do what the Lord has called them to do. But…there’s something more here. Something more than a sense of sin that needs forgiveness. There is shame, and shame isn’t about failure. It’s about identity. Guilt is about what we do. Shame is about who we are. And many of us are ashamed that we are women.
There is the sense that my friend felt, that because we are women, daughters of Eve, we’re “extra specially sinful.” We think we’re the cause of all the trouble in the world…and all the trouble in our own lives. And the disturbing truth is that we didn’t come to this conclusion all on our own. When we gaze back at Eden’s sad scene, we don’t only find the woman confessing her failure, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen 3:13). No, we also find Adam, the one who had recently sung her praise accusing her, “The woman you gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate” (Gen 3:12). Why do so many women think they are of such little value? Because men have been echoing Adam’s refrain for thousands of years: “It’s her fault. She’s super sinful. It’s the woman.”
Two falsehoods about a woman’s identity are routinely told to and about women that create this flawed identity and sense of shame. The first is that women are out to usurp male authority. Those who hold to this misperception embrace a particular translation of Genesis 3:16, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (ESV), even though the Hebrew doesn’t call for this translation. This misperception distorts a woman’s identity because she will always doubt her own motives, especially when she perceives that something is wrong or needs to be changed. She’ll always have to assume that she’s just power-hungry—instead of perhaps, wise or insightful. Maybe, she thinks, if I were more spiritual or submissive, I wouldn’t feel this way. And so she is silenced when perhaps she should speak.
The second untruth is that women are easily deceived. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that lie and assumed it was what the Bible taught. But, that’s not taught anywhere in Scripture. Of the people who are called out for deceptive teaching in the New Testament, not one woman is mentioned. Yes, Paul says that Eve was deceived (1 Tim 2:14), but deceivability is nowhere attributed to all women. If that were the case, it would be difficult to understand why Paul repeatedly affirmed women, partnered with women, and entrusted women with important ministry tasks, told them to teach other women and children, and commended Priscilla for teaching Apollos. In fact, aside from one or two examples, all the major cults and false religions in the world were founded by men. If women accept that they are “easily deceived” then they will always be second-guessing their thoughts and desires to serve the Lord. Maybe, she thinks, I can’t discern truth or error here. I’m probably deceived. She’ll feel ashamed and silenced, rather than boldly speak the truth God is teaching her.
It's time for the daughters of Eve to begin to see ourselves the way that the Lord sees us. Even at the beginning, He didn't shame Eve and tell her she had no worth. Instead, He gave her a most precious promise: That through her—the woman—would come the One who would rescue humanity and crush the head of the deceiver. He didn't say the Savior would come through man, who hadn't been the first to sin, who hadn't been deceived, but rather through the woman! And in doing so, God lifted shame from Eve and all her daughters. God has forever proclaimed our worth to His Kingdom! Let us rejoice in His call and walk confidently into the life He's called us to.
Elyse Fitzpatrick lives in Southern California with her husband of nearly 5 decades and her kids and grandkids. She’s got a Masters degree in biblical counseling, has written two dozen books, and loves to speak on the intersection of the gospel of grace and women’s lives. She is co-author of Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.