Protecting our Women: A Challenge to Any Man for Any Woman

Yesterday I wrote about how women need to fight for our men, whether they are our spouses, dads, brothers, uncles, neighbors, friends. Today, I’m taking the Y chromosome out of the picture and adding back in an X.

When I was twelve years old, my dad was away at school in another town and my mom was out getting groceries a few miles down a lonely, west Texas road. A storm was pushing across the plains (which was nothing abnormal for early summer in west Texas) as I kept my ears to the weather radio and my eyes on my little brother, I knew we needed to take shelter. A tornado was moving our way.

As my mom pulled into the driveway, the tornado was moments away. We escaped to safety with moments to spare, baseball-sized hailstones pounding at us as we ran.

Tornado that went past my apartment

The next morning, the San Angelo Standard Times featured our property on the front page of the paper. We lost most of the windows in our house, a decent sized storage building, my dad’s library, a considerable part of the roof, and the oddest casualty was the satellite dish.

Our yard was a perfect square with 3 rows of 3 trees each. The dish from our satellite was covering one tree and a across the yard, the pole was pulled out of the concrete, thrown several yards away, and wrapped like a twist tie around the tree.

I was twelve when that happened, and every week or so until I was almost 31 years old, I had nightmares where a tornado was coming and I had to save the people in my dream. Thankfully, with some counseling, the nightmares have stopped, but the message of I have to protect myself stayed with me (and still hangs around) for the rest of my life.

My heart shattered when I went through my divorce, and the walls around my heart doubled in size. There were only a couple of people – and even fewer men – I felt I could trust; that I felt had my best interest in mind.

What does protecting women look like? Do women even need it? Is that a husbands’ job? Or any man’s job?

First, for me, I took the verse Proverbs 4:23 as my shield: above all else guard your heart…

What I didn’t realize is that God was my ultimate protector. As I lived life with that in place, I found it easier to let men enter my life (in appropriate ways) who truly wanted to protect me: spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.

Once when we had a crazy snow storm in Nashville, my dear friend Brian drove me to a Starbucks. Brian is one of my closest friends. We both needed some hangout time and he knew there was no way in the world I’d be able to safely drive in the bad weather. He drove across town to get me, and we sat outside Starbucks in the cold, simply with each other. Even when I moved miles away, Brian was a safe person.

Women aren’t always the best at receiving protection and love from men. I sat in a classroom at Hope College last year and we were always one desk short. A guy and girl walked in at the same time, and the girl sat on the floor. The guy insisted she take the desk. She refused. The professor looked at him and said,

“I understand. It’s tough being a gentlemen these days.”

Because of the culture shift I wrote about yesterday, it’s hard for you guys to love us like sisters in Christ. But please, don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to show us you are watching out for us. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or single, if the girl is your wife or your mother. My brother bought my mom flowers randomly a few months ago. Why? Because there aren’t many girls in this world that don’t like getting flowers.

bouquet

Show us that you’re trustworthy. Follow through with us. Keep your promises. Watch out for us in the physical realm by taking the side of the sidewalk closest to the road, getting the door for us. No, we aren’t helpless creatures, but at least in my experience, these tiny gestures help us open our hearts.

All this may sound old fashioned, and maybe that’s partially due to the fact that I’m wired in an old fashioned way. I thought I didn’t need a man (whether a husband or not) to make it in life, but in the last few years of opening my heart to the men who were stepping in and protecting it in a variety of ways, I realize just how much I did need their protection. Fatherly advice. Friendly support. And eventually, a husband, Tim, who protects me fiercely and graciously.

I really do believe if women take to heart how to believe the best about men (who sometimes feel like boys) and if men can take on the challenge of protecting women (who sometimes feel like they’re all alone), we can live holy, beautiful, generous lives enjoying who we are in Christ, male and female, brother and sister.

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Protecting our Women: A Challenge to Any Man for Any Woman

  1. I appreciate your voice. It’s always authentic with well-portioned honesty and pedagogy. But I also have to say I am compelled to really push back against these gender-prescriptive qualities and roles.

    I can understand women like yourself who truly do feel a sense of wanting protection, care, and male leadership just as there are men who want to be “the head,” to be seen as strong, to rescue & protect. But not everyone feels this way! Or should. The problem is when we take our own experiences and universalize them. Or when we take the experience of the majority and make it prescriptive for everyone. For example, I don’t think all men need to be cast in the protective role and I’d say often enough our male desire to be the protector has *much* more to do with our egos and sense of importance than a genuine compassion and care for another person.

    I wish we could view ‘protection’ and ‘openness/vulnerability’ (the male and female stereotypes respectively) as characteristics desirable in ALL humans, regardless of gender. All of our protective instincts should be used for the vulnerable, whether they’re female or not. All of our risky, hearts-opening-up behavior should be extended to trustworthy people, regardless of sex. I think this view leads to a more inclusive, more human, and more divine world.

    • I certainly agree with your last paragraph but after exploring some text in Genesis, I do think there is a strong vocabulary indicating the beauty of our gender differences and expression. Will it be universal?; nothing on this earth is…

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts Anne. Especially this one as a followup to the last one for women. I believe that your experiences through this CAN be universalized without being blown up…true some men do have problems with the ego thing, but if we as men, will be MEN, not egomaniacs…be Christ-like…men of honor…then we can take the protector role with our wives, our daughters, our sisters, even our single, and married-friends (to a very limited point)…to step in protect and be there when needed. Thanks for the article and the challenge!

  3. Hi Anne, i appreciate that you’re open to dialogue on this one.

    i felt like i couldn’t relate to this piece- it was too hetero-normative. i’m a woman, but i don’t need or want a man to protect me. And your example of the Hope College students- to be honest, i would’ve been content to stay on the floor. Or, i would’ve been one to offer that last seat to the other person, even if it was a guy. i guess what i’m really trying to get at is… as a lesbian, i totally don’t identify with any of this. Granted, i don’t know your views on sexuality or gender roles/expression but do you think any of this is applicable to the LGBTQ community? Are gender roles truly that central to who we are and how we relate to others?

    Thanks.

    • I personally believe so. I think it’s less about a woman needing a man or vice versa and more about how we, as women, support men and how men protect women. So more about giving the act of service than the need for it. And I do believe men and women are generally wired uniquely and that should be celebrated, regardless of expression.

  4. Think you said a mouthful there, Anne – a good one. When I first met my wife she used to talk a lot about who were the “givers” and who were “takers” in her church young adult group. Which one you’ve grown to be – or choose to be – makes such a huge difference in any relationship, married or not.

    But in my experience it DOES take two “givers” to make it work. Then, it almost always does. But I’ve seen too many examples of one “giver” and one “taker.” No unity – no happiness – for either person. Those relationships usually failed, unless the “taker” grew up and became a “giver.”

    One true example? My kids worked with a young woman who was pregnant with her 5th child. One winter day she collapsed at work. She had severe lung pain and a temp of 103. The ER diagnosed pneumonia. But her boyfriend was an extreme “taker.” (Who, unfortunately, are all too common in the “oil town” where we live.) He insisted the housework was her job and she had to do it whether she had pneumonia or not (don’t ask me how he thought she could). So when she got home from the hospital she found he’d thrown her and the other 4 kids out. All their clothes were lying outside in the snow! Unbelievable, but it happened.

    Seeing that was one of the big reasons I came to believe that the things Jesus said about “serving” apply just as much to the way men treat women as the ways women treat and serve men. My wife’s been sick a lot in her life. I’ve had to “serve” her a lot. It’s not a problem. It’s worth it. Because I love her.

    And I’m glad to see what you said about “serving” in this blog.

  5. So glad you are writing again and so glad you have let those walls down. I have experienced a similar mechanism with protecting myself and The Lord showed me Isaiah 26:1-2 which states that, “our city is strong (Judah in the future or to me- me now) and we are surrounded by the walls of Gods salvation”….

    He showed me that He surrounded me and that allowed me to let my makeshift walls come down a bit, slowly, day by day, moment by little moment.

  6. This is so good! You are a very wise person.

    I admit, I become discouraged when women behave like the girl did in your class, but your words give me encouragement to be, not just a gentleman, but a better Christian man. Thanks!