Husband & Wife Articles


 

Different in Body and Soul

God relates to women in a unique, interior manner

By Carrie Gress

While it is perfectly clear that men and women differ physically, there is another difference that may not always be so apparent: in women’s spiritual lives and the way God communicates with us.

Philosopher and saint Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta), writing in the early 1900s, said that women are fashioned, body and soul, not to fight and conquer, but to cherish, guard, nourish and preserve. These actions, she explained, were part of a woman’s maternal yearning. This insight applies not only to the physical bearing and birthing of children but also to the spiritual realm.

Jesus recognized the differences in women, as shown by two scriptural passages in which Jesus instructs women directly, engaging them in conversations unlike any he had with men. In one, Jesus corrects busy Martha for not seeing that Mary had the “better part” in being present to Christ (Lk 10:38-42). In the other passage, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well about “living water” that will never leave her thirsty again (John 4:7-26). He tells her to seek this water within. “But whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14). Both of these passages point to the deep interiority available to all believers in the spiritual life, but particularly to women.

Often there will be a time in a holy woman’s life when she says something like, “The Lord put this on my heart. I spent years praying for it, struggling with it, and eventually it all came together in a more beautiful way than I could have imagined.” In a way analogous to physical childbearing, God will often plant a seed within a woman’s heart that is known only to her. Over time, she will nourish the seed as it grows, until it comes to the fullness of reality. Like giving birth to a baby, spiritual growth is a very interior experience of first knowing, then growing, then finally realizing the fullness of God’s plan.

Women have been made for a deep interior life, to dwell in the “living water” of Christ. God speaks to us there and plants the seeds that, with our cooperation, he will one day bring to fruition. And yet none of it can happen if a woman never finds silence. Edith Stein said that women collect their forces in silence. It is important for husbands to understand this unique relationship, and to help their wives carve out swaths of silence in their busy schedules. Without it, the entire life of the family will lack the critical foundation that comes from a woman’s deep connection to God.

Carrie Gress holds a doctorate from The Catholic University of America and is a philosophy professor at Pontifex University. She is the author of Nudging Conversions: A Practical Guide to Bringing Those You Love Back to the Church, and Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood. A homeschooling mother of four, she and her husband, Joseph, live in Virginia. Her website is carriegress.com.