True womanhood without limitations
It is noteworthy that today there were a record number of women sworn in as members of the 116th Congress of the United States. While work toward gender equality is certainly not finished, it is encouraging to recognize every step of progress.
Progress in the equality of opportunity comes from a lot of hard work and dedicated effort on the part of both women and men. But at the base of such progress, I feel there’s also a leavening of humanity’s thoughts about womanhood itself. In particular, many have gained a new sense of womanhood based on a better understanding of the nature of God. Over the years I have enjoyed pondering Bible references in conjunction with my study of Christian Science that depict the nature of God as both masculine and feminine, Father and Mother. It has helped me to better understand the infinitude of God’s nature and therefore the boundless nature of each of us as God’s image and likeness. For example, there’s this passage from Isaiah that conveys a sense of God’s motherhood when He promises to care for the entire people of Israel: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).
Christian Science has helped me see more clearly that true womanhood is expressed in spiritual qualities, and is not materially defined. True womanhood includes the integrity and strength of selflessness, especially when difficulties arise, and the ability to perceive the power of God to overcome evil in whatever form or circumstance it appears. These spiritual qualities bring wonderful blessings to human experience.
An inspiring biblical example where the qualities of true womanhood are on full display is that of a woman named Abigail, described as “a woman of good understanding” (I Samuel 25:3). She was married to a surly man named Nabal, who for no obvious reason refuses food to David, who would later become king, and his men, even after they had showed kindness to his shepherds. After this rejection, David’s anger is fueled, and he is set on killing Nabal and all his men.
When Abigail hears of this, she gathers food, drink, and even sheep as gifts and goes out to meet David. Regardless of her husband’s bad character, Abigail appealed to David’s higher nature and pleads with him to show mercy to Nabal and spare his life. David yields to Abigail’s appeal, and recognizes the action she took as a great blessing to him and his men.
Today the expression of noble qualities such as unselfed love, forgiveness, and mercy couldn’t be more needed – in our homes, communities, governments. Undaunted by cowardice and timidity, individuals who have learned to assimilate such qualities show mercy even when it seems undeserved – because they discern goodness as the true, spiritual nature of every man and woman. Through their knowledge of divine Love’s care and protection for everyone, they help others rise to this true goodness and do the right thing.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, yearned to lift the consciousness of both men and women to the true sense of manhood and womanhood based on the truth of God and of God’s creation. As a woman of the 19th century, what she herself overcame and accomplished went far beyond the traditional role of women of her time. She discovered Christian Science, and with persistence, trust in God, and great courage and spiritual strength, she faced every imaginable obstacle while she explained and demonstrated the spiritual essence of Christ Jesus’ teachings and pointed the way for all of humanity to follow his example. And she established the Church of Christ, Scientist, and founded this newspaper.
Stressing that both men and women truly include the complete spiritual reflection of God’s motherhood and fatherhood, Mrs. Eddy wrote in her primary book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity” (p. 517). Her deep understanding of God as Love enabled her to lift human consciousness to the perception of true womanhood; and both her example and her ideas have helped to lessen stereotypes and limitations placed on men and women, showing that such limitations have no basis in Spirit.
A knowledge of the womanhood – and manhood – of God’s creating gives us dominion in human experience. As I’ve prayed to see the feminine and masculine qualities of God as constituting the spiritual individuality of myself and others, I’ve begun to see more clearly that these qualities are immortal and thus are as limitless as divine Spirit. The expression of spiritual qualities cannot be limited or restricted by age, gender, economics, or rank. No condition of lack or oppression can block their expansive influence where there is the desire to be and do good.