By Aylin Merck
Recently my husband, who is much taller than I, drove the van that I usually drive. He adjusted the rearview mirror to his height. My almost 3 year old daughter, Maia, who sat behind the driver’s seat could no longer see herself in the mirror. Her comment was, “Where’s Maia? The mirror is not working. I can’t see myself.” We chuckled.
That comment, though, left me thinking. Are there ways that we, as God’s image bearers, are not working properly? Are there ways we are not fully reflecting who God is? Is the mirror between God and man working? In Genesis 1: 27, we read: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In her book, Made for More, Hannah Anderson explains it this way: “While each of us [man and woman] is fully in the image of God, none of us can fully reflect and represent God alone. Instead we reveal the nature of God together.” 1 This is true not only in the home but also in the church. God’s glory is most clearly displayed when men and women work along side in the church, each one according to their design, regardless of their marital status.
As men and women intentionally labor together for the cause of the gospel, we point to something about the character of God that we can not do as well on our own. When women are not living out their design as image bearers in the church, the church suffers, and the world gets a skewed view of Christ.
Think a minute about the theology behind a woman’s design in the image of God. God created Woman to be a helper (ezer is the Hebrew word). God calls himself our Helper/Ezer throughout the Old Testament. As our helper, he defends, sees and cares for the oppressed, supports, shields, protects, delivers from distress, rescues the poor, weak and needy, and comforts (Ex. 18: 4, Psalm 10: 14; Psalm 20: 2).2 Women were particularly designed to image this aspect of the character of God. While men also image God, the Bible emphasizes women, not men, imaging him particularly in his role as our helper (Gen 2: 18).
At first, as a single woman, these truths brought sadness to my heart. I had a deep desire for a husband. Who was I to help? I felt incomplete. But as I kept learning more about our design, there was another truth that captivated my heart—God created woman to live out her design in the context of the people to whom God has bound us with His blood. Because God has bound Himself to us through His son, we are also bound to those He has adopted and made part of His family (Eph. 2: 19-22). Who are the primary beneficiaries of this strong help, this building up of community with the compassion I have been given as a woman? The people of God, especially the local church with whom we have a covenant relationship.
Women nurture and give life when we are helpers. We see this pattern in the New Testament. In the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles, we see women who care for His body and build it up out of their love for Jesus. In the gospels, we find women serving Jesus and the disciples, using their resources to minister to them (Luke 8: 2-3). In the epistles, we read about women whose homes served as a place for worship for believers (Romans 16:3, Colossians 4:15); who were fellow workers with Paul (Phil. 4:2); and who worked hard in the Lord (Romans 16:2).
Joy flooded my heart when I began to understand these truths. I didn’t have to wait for a husband. I could live out God’s image in me as a woman in our church. I could nurture life even if I couldn’t at the time physically bear children.
God’s image in women includes defending, protecting, and nurturing those in our care. There are many facets to supporting and caring for the people of God. It may involve teaching the Word to other women, helping to defend them from doctrinal error or from worldly lies about their identity. It may take the form of a woman discipling another woman, helping her connect the dots from the gospel to her daily life.
This broken world gives us many opportunities to channel Christ’s compassion to those who are hurting in our churches. Counseling another sister, sitting in silence with those who grieve, or cleaning someone’s home are all examples of the ways we reflect God’s heart for those He loves. In doing so, we are being life givers and breathing fresh hope into Christ’s body and bride.
The gospel gives us the framework we need to consider our helper/ezer design. We have no power in ourselves to lay our lives down to nurture life in others. But as Christ transforms us, we see more of the glory and beauty of the Savior who gave himself for us. As our hearts grow deeper in love for Jesus, He in turn grows a deep affection in us for those He redeemed and owns.
Dear sister, I pray reading this encourages your heart as you serve your church. Every opportunity to show mercy, tenderly care for others and model the gospel in daily life– from visiting a widow to mentoring; from teaching others to preparing a meal for the sick; from hosting small group in your home to writing an encouraging card–is used by God to strengthen His church with hope. So much joy and fullness is found as we live out our womanhood, whether we are single or married.
Dear pastor, I encourage you to equip the women in your church to live out God’s image in them in your community. Enlist them to teach and counsel other women (Titus 2:1 – 5); train them to know how to study and teach God’s Word. Seek their insight and perspective. Let them know the life-giving power of their ministry in the church.
And as we all labor together may the mirror between God and His children reflect the multifaceted glory of God in ways that make His people glad.
1 Hannah Anderson, Made for More, p. 37
2 Thanks to Susan Hunt and Ligon Duncan for first pointing me to this teaching in their book, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church.