On Being Fully Alive {Ellen's Pick Linkup}


This fall I was scratching out answers on a government form – name, date & place of birth. Standard stuff. Then, gender, to which there were five possible answers, plus an “other” checkbox. We are living in new times, friends. I’m still sorting out what I think about this, especially as the mother of a girl-child.

My friend Leanne recently told me “I believe everyone has their own theology,” and I think it’s true. I long for clarity and constructive conversation rather than conflict and confusion as I sort out what I really believe on topics my grandparents and great-grandparents never had to consider. When I first cracked the cover of Larry Crabb’s Fully Alive, I saw it as far more than a book on gender or feminism or theological debate. It was a truly compassionate, deep look (from a seasoned psychologist’s perspective) at how we might live out what Irenaeus originally wrote, “The glory of God is a human being made fully alive.” 

As an adoptive mom, people say a lot of crazy stuff to me, and that’s just the way things are. No big deal, most of the time. One of the most offensive things that anyone has said to me about my daughter was that she was “more like a boy” because she’s strong, active, busy and loves to climb and wrestle. Friends, that is how God made her. In His image. She’s also tender and nurturing and compassionate. She loves baby dolls and snuggles and puppies.  She is not a tomboy or a girly girl. She’s uniquely created and wonderfully made. She is who she is. The end. I hate that stereotypes – cultural pieces, not God-ordained – define what makes us feminine or masculine. I wrestle with figuring out how to teach her how to live fully alive, just as she is.

In short: I needed this book.

I was raised on the granola west-coast to be a strong female, just because that’s who I was. I was so fortunate to have parents that believed I could do just about anything and encouraged me to try (except sports or physics – that is not how I’m wired.) I’m realizing now how remarkable that really is. The late 70’s and 1980’s were not necessarily a time that understood what it means to be a truly feminine “ezer kenegdo”, or powerful, uniquely relational, companion. There was a slightly scary undercurrent of culture that communicated to me that women must be better than men and prove something. Anything. Something both fearful and fierce.

Now I live in a small town where a large portion of our community live in very specific gender roles, with a firm belief that they’re God-ordained. There are some very clear expectations around men and around women. It’s been interesting to see how shocked some have been to know that I can cook, sew and be president of a marketing agency, all at the same time.

Talk about confusing contexts to figure out a theology. Both offer such a disconnectedness – how do you live out a joy-filled marriage in either? It’s my experience that there is misery in always setting out to prove oneself, or in stifling deep callings.

What does it mean to be fully alive as a male or female for the glory of God? 

Fully Alive by Dr. Larry CrabbThankfully, Crabb offers a third way, the Fully Alive way, acknowledging gender differences, but not attaching a less-than or greater-than value to them. His words felt sympathetic and kind like he was wrestling right alongside me as I read. He addressed barriers to living Biblically feminine and masculine, with a counselor’s compassion and insight into human nature.

Larry’s story of his parents, fully carrying out their male & female stereotypical roles, but expressing feeling small, useless and insignificant in their senior years, is what drew me in. As some of the very special people in my life age, I’ve heard the same words from others. I wonder who they might have been, what they might have done, if they would have been able to or chosen to live fully alive, as image bearers of God.

I want to reach my senior years feeling like I did what I was created to do. I want my daughter to feel it even more so.

You see, ultimately, all I care about in my theology of gender for my baby girl – or for any of my friends and family – is that they have the opportunity to be who they were created to be. We are gendered, we are different, and we were meant to live fully. Created in the image of God, for the glory of God. We are His masterpiece – masculine or feminine.

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