Over the next few weeks we will take a look on both sides of the blog at how we — as both youth ministers and parents — might love and disciple our boys and girls well and with prayerful, thoughtful intention, within their God-given genders. Last week, we looked at boys; this week, we will continue with a look at girls.
I have one stepson, one son, and one daughter. They are each unique persons who possess their own particular gifts, talents, demons, and struggles. In my experience as their parent, they have been from birth wonderfully encapsulated in a gender. This makes sense because God created Adam male in a particular way, and then he created Eve female in a different particular way.
So, do our daughters require a different sort of parenting than our sons require? Given the Biblical clarity that God created us male and female, do we as parents love and nurture our sons and our daughters in a respectful acknowledgement that they are one and not the other?
In full disclosure and with no more parental experience than shared in my first sentence, as each of our kids grew (and struggled) in understanding what it meant to be a boy or a girl, none of them wished their gender was different. I know that this is not the experience of all parents, including Christian parents who read the Rooted blog. There is only one perfect child ever born, and he is the second person of the Holy Trinity. For those of us who stand under his cross, we walk together in the assurance of things yet to be. We walk in faith and not by sight.
I am sure that because of this, my sons and my daughter tested my notions of how boys and girls should be. My son, from his earliest days until today at age 26, showed no interest in anything that had to do with a ball. Or a bat. Or a hoop. Or a field. I clung to the belief, for too long, that if he came upon the right sport, he would wake up from his lack of interest and aptitude and he would be a “regular” boy. His big brother was! I could not sign that BOY up for enough baseball camps. Surely this second BOY will come around. We even tried swimming, then cross country, then wrestling: all sports without a ball. No aptitude there, either.
The truth is my second male child wanted to play video games, ride his bike up and down the driveway, read Goosebump books, and strum a guitar while listening to music through his ear buds. His presentation as a boy did not match my expectations. I confess that I did a lot of fretting.
My daughter, while not quite so confusing to me in her unfolding girl-ness, was likewise not interested in being in “the box.” At the tender age of 4 she had a Jericho standoff with me on Easter morning when she refused to wear the handmade hair bow perfectly matched for the handmade dress. She was going to wear, however, her neon indigo blue clogs and not the white mary janes. She was forging her own expression of who she was, and just as important, who she was not. My GIRL won that battle, and many more to follow.
Psalm 144:12 says, “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace…”
This verse gives us two beautiful metaphors inviting our interpretation and application. What I desire for my sons and my daughter is the same thing: that they would know and serve the Lord with their whole hearts and minds. So, what does it mean to wish for our sons that they be like plants full grown and for our daughters that they be like cornerstones of a palace?
The Psalms, such gifts to us, are earnest appeals to God first prayed and sung by agrarian people. A plant full grown would be a valuable source of fruits, grains, sustainable nourishment. It would provide sustenance for the livestock. A full-grown plant is the mature result of a seed planted intentionally in a fertile place where as it grew the farmers of the land tended to it, protected it, and pruned it. A healthy grown plant provides for many, many seasons.
The image of a palace speaks to the architecture of ancient Israel. A palace was a rare and beautiful structure admired and entered into with respect for the king who resided in it. It was made of rough stone polished smooth and literally held together, held upright, by the corner pillars cut into a shape and size that would bear tremendous weight and join walls together.
These metaphors are counter-intuitive to common stereotypes of gender while making clear that our sons and daughters are created differently. This verse prays that our sons bear fruit and our daughters hold walls together, which reverses the expectation that girls are associated with fruitfulness and sons with strength. We as parents are in the business of raising mature, strong, well-tended, relational, polished sons and daughters by applying the same values, the same scripture, and the same encouragement to both, all the while acknowledging and honoring that they are either a boy or a girl. In God’s perfect design we are liberated from stereotypes and worldly expectations for how we are to be as male and female.
The way we parent one sex differently from the other is in the way we teach them about the other sex and how God has designed us to be the Body of Christ together. The primary example is of course Christian marriage, but also male and female friendships, workmates, church staff mates, brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, etc. God has divinely created us male and female (Gen. 1:27). Our genders serve Him and society well when they work in partnership and are valued as part of His good plan.
Our sons are not from Mars and our daughters are not from Venus, even though there are days when either one of them can seem like an alien to us. They share the same planet, created by the same good God, who fearfully and wonderfully made them in His own image.