My daughter and son-in-law are expecting their first baby and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We’re going to be grandparents! And if that weren’t exciting enough, we found out recently that it’s a boy – a grandson. When the ultrasound technician asked Paige and Lewis whether they wanted to know the sex of their baby, they responded with a resounding “Yes!” Well, actually, I think there was a fair bit of discussion before they decided to find out. But suffice it to say they are keen to know who this little person is, to prepare their hearts and home for the child that God has chosen for them.
I’ve got to admit that we were all a little surprised when we found out it was a boy. Between my daughter’s terrible morning sickness and her intense cravings for sweets, most of us felt sure she was having a girl. But we were wrong, for right there between his legs was… the evidence. No doubt about it, this baby is a boy, and we’ve got the pictures to prove it!
It got me thinking about this whole gender debate and what the idea of gender actually means. We’ve come to use the words ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ interchangeably, as if they’re the same thing, but it turns out that’s not actually correct. According to the American College of Pediatricians, “No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex.”1 A person’s sex is determined by chromosomes, hormones, and other observable physical characteristics. Gender, on the other hand, is our perception of ourselves – an awareness of being male or female, which can be influenced, or even “derailed,” by a whole host of factors.2 We live in a fallen world and sadly, this is one of its consequences. Our relationships, along with our views of sex, sexuality, and gender, are often distorted.
Interestingly enough, before a baby is born their sex is pretty much all we know of them. Yet even this most basic revelation is significant. Though their identity will remain mysterious and hidden for some time, we begin to imagine them – to know them and love them already. Even after being born, the child is virtually unaware of himself – not even sentient, as my husband would say. He doesn’t even realize that he’s a separate entity from his mother for quite some time. Babies must discover all this – not only the world around them, but their very identity.
Scripture says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 14). Why fearfully?? Because the human body is mysterious and holy, intricately designed in the image of God himself. “God reveals our meaning and purpose through the construction of our bodies. He created us male and female with significant and complementary differences between the two so that each could, in a sense, complete the other.”3 Now even if you’ve heard this idea before, you might not fully realize what it means. Pope John Paul II described the underlying theology of our bodies – the fact that we were made for union, for communion. We long for completion and fulfillment; at the heart of it, we long for God. And we come to understand this truth through our sexuality. “… Sex isn’t just about sex. The way we understand and express our sexuality points to our deepest-held convictions about who we are, who God is, the meaning of love, the ordering of society, and even the ordering of the universe.”4
God’s plan for us, and for all creation, is wonderful and purposeful, never accidental or incidental. When God saw that man was alone in the Garden, He created woman – to be a helpmate and companion.5 Only then was creation complete. The fact that men and women are different confirms an essential truth: that we were made for one another, like two pieces of a puzzle, or a lock and key. Our bodies reflect this connection, this desire for wholeness. In God’s plan, the ultimate meaning and purpose of our lives is to love and be loved.
Not surprisingly, though, men and women demonstrate and experience love in different ways. For men, love is expressed through their masculine spirit. They fulfill their particular role and mission in life by being protectors – warriors or knights…even superheroes.6 What little boy doesn’t want to “save” someone? To wear a cape, or wield a sword? Our world today offers a very different view of masculinity, but we know better. Strength isn’t about the size of your biceps; it’s about what’s inside – the strength of your conviction. Even if a man may lack physical strength, he’s still capable of tremendous inner strength. It’s the stuff of superheroes and saints – what every man aspires to.
These are important lessons that my grandson needs to know – that all men need to know. The desire put into a man’s heart to serve and to save is a godly one, as long as it’s approached with good intentions – with a humble and contrite heart. Christ came to redeem us and restore order to our fallen world. By loving others the way He does – truly respecting their dignity and worth – we become co-redeemers and participators in His mission and begin to understand our own dignity and worth.
When it comes to our sexuality, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, to be sure. But there’s also objective truth. We can know who we are in the sight of God. Each of us is important, a unique and unrepeatable creation in His divine plan. Again, we were fearfully and wonderfully made – God makes no mistakes. Yet He also doesn’t see us as another one of His ‘creatures.’ We are His children – sons and daughters given a share in His divine life. If that doesn’t make you feel like a superhero, I don’t know what does.
– Kelley Holy
1 Michelle A. Cretella, M.D., Quentin Van Meter, M.D. and Paul McHugh, M.D., “Gender Ideology Harms Children,” American College of Pediatricians [website]; originally posted March 21, 2016; Internet; accessed 6 June 2016; available from
http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children.“Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept, not an objective biological one. No one is born with an awareness of themselves as male or female; this awareness develops over time and, like all developmental processes, may be derailed by a child’s subjective perceptions, relationships, and adverse experiences from infancy forward.”
3 Scott Hahn, Many Are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood, 2010 (New York: Doubleday), 111.
4 Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to Pope John Paul II’s Sexual Revolution, 2004 (West Chester, Pennsylvania: Ascension Press), 1.
5 Cf. Genesis 2:18
6 Cf. Jason Everts, Theology of His Body, 2009 (West Chester, Pennsylvania: Ascension Press), 6.