At a recent presentation I shared a quote from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein): “The world doesn’t need what women have; it needs what women are.”
One woman asked me to explain what that meant. Here’s my humble attempt.
First let’s define two key words. Have and Are.
Have is something that we possess, own or hold. This could be material goods, time or even personality traits like a sense of humour. Haves can change over time and we can have more or less of something.
To have is fluid. It’s logical to think that if we have something it’s also possible for us not to have something.
Are is the present tense plural of the verb Be. Be refers to something to have identity with. Identity is something that Is or Am. Identity is not something that can be changed or taken away. Identity Is what it Is. Recap: Are = Be = Is = Am.
Now that we’ve defined Have and Are let’s revisit St Teresa’s quote.
“The world doesn’t need what women have…”
Women have many wonderful aspects they share with others. These include; talent, time, material goods, and even great personalities. Women share what they have when they have it.
Sharing what we have is what women do for others and this is a good thing. But St Teresa Benedicta didn’t say “the world needs what women have“. She said “it needs what women are“.
In order for us to know what women are it helps to say what women are not. Women are not trees. Women are not horses. Women are not basket cases of emotion. Women are not baby production plants. And women are not men.
“…it needs what women are.”
So what is it about women that defines them as such?
Well, through direct observation of woman created by God we learn that through the biological make up of femininity and the act of sexual intimacy between man and woman the feminine creature has the capacity to receive that which can bring forth life.
More directly, through sexual intercourse femininity (inheritor) receives from masculinity (initiator) semen (life-giving seed) that has the possibility to inseminate an egg and conceive a distinct and unique human being (benefactor).
No other created thing or human being (masculinity) has this capacity. This great capacity to conceive human life is exclusive to woman with the self-donation gift of man!
This unique capacity is what defines a woman as a woman.
But there’s more …
The creation of woman reveals to humanity the great mystery of who God is in relationship to humanity. Why is it that God is revealed through scripture as masculine? Why is the Church revealed through scripture as feminine? It is precisely because God is the initiator of the gift of divine life. The Church and creation is the inheritor of God’s gift of life and love!
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
God’s grace is the seminal seed that is freely given to humanity for humanity’s benefit. Through co-operation with God, humanity can freely say YES to the gift of grace which enables them to give life and love to each person they encounter.
Woman is an essential element in the story of God and His people.
Women are created for a special purpose.
Women are to reveal God’s beautiful story of life and love.
Women are called to teach others about this profound story.
And women are called to give life and love in aspects of human life physically, when she bears children, and also emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, and spiritually with each person she is in relationship with.
Just as God so boldly declares His identity to Moses, “I am who I am.” Exodus 3:14, women can, with humility and reference to the Creator, affirm their identity, “women are who women are”, made in the image and likeness of God, female He created them.
Do you know the incredible gift of woman you are?
Do you believe God has a special purpose for you? Share below how this message resonates with you. Consider passing this article along to women in your life who may be asking themselves this fundamental question too.