Madeleine L’Engle’s poem, “After Annunciation” speaks of Mary’s vulnerability. “This is the irrational season/When love blooms bright and wild/Had Mary been filled with reason/ There ‘d have been no room for the child.” The virgin birth of Jesus – when God became a man, being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin teenager – is beyond our rational comprehension. “The earth was void and without form when the Spirit appeared; just so Mary’s womb was a void until the Spirit of God filled it with a child who was His Son” (Raymond Brown). Mary’s response was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Like Mary, men need to learn to respond willingly from their hearts, rather than from their minds.
Mary is a prime example of the feminine response to the voice of God. I agree with Leanne Payne that “the essence of masculinity is initiation, and the essence of femininity is response.” For men to have a healthy expression of the masculine, they need to cultivate the feminine complement. In the creation story we read, “Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness” (Gen 1:26). “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). When God created human beings in his image, he created them male and female. This was before the separation of Eve out of Adam’s body. The implication of creation is man (as a human being) is androgynous (male-female) in his origin. When these are in balance, there is the healthy expression of the masculine. So what can men glean from Mary’s example? Don’t neglect your feminine side.
First and foremost, we need to remember and continually be aware of the need to cultivate the complimentary feminine response in ourselves. For each man it will be different, because of personality type, gifting, and background. However, appreciation of the feminine is especially vital in a day when the feminist impulse has so maligned the masculine. As followers of Jesus, men need to set the standard in our embrace of feminine vitality in our culture. For too long the feminine has been overshadowed by the masculine. But with the rise of the strong feminine voice, many men have lost the true sense of their masculinity, having retreated into a kind of sickly, weak state, caught in the throes of passive suffering. Many don’t know how to act as men. And many are afraid of the distorted feminine response in radical feminism.
Second, be assured of your God-given masculine nature, and allow your heavenly Father to bestow upon you a recognition and affirmation of your masculine self. Christ himself will help you find the proper balance of the masculine and feminine in your life. This will only come about when you open your heart to the Spirit of Christ, allowing God’s healing word to call you forth as a man.
Third, celebrate and do all you can to enhance the true feminine in the lives of the women you influence, especially in your wife and daughters. When men are secure in their masculine and embrace the feminine complement in their own lives – and the godly strength of the true feminine in women, there is no need to be defensive, insecure, or silent in our witness. “A culture will never become decadent in the face of a healthy, balanced masculinity. When a nation or an entire Western culture backslides, it is the masculine which is first to decline” (Leanne Payne).