While watching How to Train Your Dragon 3, I realized the movie includes a great example of Biblical femininity, specifically of Biblical submission. As women in a society of independence and equality, we don’t like the idea of submission; the old-fashioned ideal of a subservient wife clashes with our vision of female strength. As Christian women, we must realize the Biblical image of femininity, even in its call to submission, is actually an image of strength and a reminder that God has created women with unique capabilities.
Yesterday morning, I finished reading Biblical Femininity by Chrystie Cole. Near the start of the book, Cole discusses the creation of Eve and explains that in the original Hebrew text, Eve is described as ezer kenegdo, which Cole defines as an essential counterpart or corresponding strength (22). She explains that women have been entrusted with the task of reflecting God’s role as a helper and ally (22-23). This task is fulfilled through a woman’s capacity for inviting (welcoming others into community), nurturing (caring for and encouraging others to grow), and partnering (coming alongside others to help them succeed). Our calling to invite, nurture, and partner extends beyond marriage and family relationships, as we are also called to care for friends, coworkers, neighbors, employers, and other believers.
One section in the book which struck me was Cole’s description of Biblical submission. She describes it as an extension of partnering. Using the example of marriage, Cole explains that in submitting to her husband, a woman is choosing to support her husband. Their relationship is not one of dominance and subservience, but of equality carried out through humility and trust, just as Christ, though equal to the Father, submitted to the will of the Father.
This kind of partnership is exactly what I saw in How to Train Your Dragon 3 when I went with my brother to see it yesterday afternoon. In this fantastic sequel (10 out of 10 would recommend), Astrid and Hiccup, though not yet married, have a very close relationship. As Hiccup is leading the people of Berk, Astrid comes alongside him and lends him strength in his leadership of the village. Even when she does not totally agree with his decisions, she trusts Hiccup’s judgment and supports his endeavors. She voices her concerns to him but publicly backs him up when the people are uncertain. Astrid is no less the wise, independent warrior we saw in the first two movies, but her powerful presence is used to strengthen Hiccup as he attempts to care for the people of Berk. When he begins to doubt himself, it is Astrid’s encouragement that pushes him to succeed.
When Astrid submits to Hiccup, she demonstrates that women can be just as influential and important when they are following as when they are leading. The kind of submission she demonstrates can apply to other relationships as well as marriage. As women partner with friends, parents, mentors, and employers, they are placed in situations where they have the opportunity to humble themselves and defer to the wisdom of others. Submission becomes a conscious decision to trust the judgement of another. In doing so, we help empower those who are leading us. We offer support and come alongside the people we care about in order to help them succeed. Biblical submission is not weakness but is part of our calling to be an ezer, to be an essential support to those around us. Women were designed to uniquely reflect our Creator, and as such, we should never be afraid to live according to that purpose.
Cole, Chrystie. Biblical Femininity. Ambassador International, 2013.