Image & Identity

Joanna Meyer

Recently I discovered an Instagram account that has become the most horrifying, life-giving part of my day. @danaemercer is a journalist and eating disorder survivor whose goal is to “help people feel normal” by reminding women why they should never compare themselves to someone online. Mercer reveals the tricks social media influencers use to create the image of a perfectly toned, cellulite-free body. It’s astonishing what good lighting, the right poses, or a little “boob tape” can do!

What’s equally astonishing is how hard it is for me to see through these techniques to maintain a healthy perspective of my own appearance. Every day I’m bombarded with idealized images of how my body, home, hair, and recreational pursuits should look, which makes it difficult to remember what is right, good, or true. It’s hard to remain content or optimistic about my life when my daily reality is so far from the world’s “ideals”.

In similar ways, it’s hard to maintain a healthy perspective of my identity and purpose as a Christian woman when influenced by significant relationships in my life or the faith communities that formed me. I need frequent infusions of truth from Scripture, but when it comes to understanding my place as a woman in God’s Kingdom, that can be hard to come by. I suspect I’m not alone when I say it can feel like women play a peripheral role in Scripture. Not that it’s true, but aside from the occasional stand-out woman like Mary, Martha, or Esther, women can seem like bit players in God’s story.

This concern brought authors Eric Schumacher and Elyse Fitzpatrick together to write our book club selection, Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women. They argue: “Many women have been brought up in the church and have read the Bible, but never seen the way that the Holy Spirit speaks stories of God’s cherishing love for women throughout redemption history…Perhaps what [women have] believed about themselves and the Lord is not the truth and that there is welcome and love in Him for them” (emphasis mine). In this comprehensive overview of Scripture, Schumacher and Fitzpatrick piece these bits together to offer a powerful, compelling vision of the role women play in God’s grand story. Along the way, they point out dynamics in the Church, or their own faith communities, that they believe deviate from Scripture. Their conviction: a richer understanding of women’s worth, as illustrated in Scripture, will increase our delight in God. I couldn’t agree more.

So let’s get started! Discussion questions for Chapter 1, 2, and 3:

1.Describe your experience of the relationship between a man and woman. How were men and women treated as equal or unequal, celebrated or disparaged in:

  • The home you were raised in?
  • The faith community you were raised in or attend now?
  • Your workplace?
  • Your marriage?
  • Your friendships?

2. In what ways might our present culture (in the world, work, church, the home) diminish the Image of God in one gender or exalt it in another?

3.Women often chafe at the cultural connotations of the word “helper.” How does the biblical meaning of helper (ezer) differ from these assumptions? (To learn more, about the meaning of ezer, read this excerpt from Carolyn Custis James’ book Half the Church.)

4.Chapter 2 identifies a number of misinterpretations of the Fall that can have negative consequences for women. Have you ever seen any of these misinterpretations applied in your context (if so, how)? What were the results?

Editor's note: Interested in more content like this? Sign up for our September 2020 book club for weekly emails and an invitation to a private webinar with Worthy authors Eric Schumacher and Elyse Fitzpatrick.


Joanna Meyer

Joanna serves as Denver Institute’s Director of Public Engagement, hosts the Faith & Work Podcast, and founded Women, Work, & Calling, a national initiative that disciples women for godly influence in public life. Prior to coming to the Institute, Joanna worked in global telecom, nonprofit consulting, and campus ministry with Cru. She served as associate faculty at Denver Seminary and as a sewing instructor at Fancy Tiger Crafts. A third-generation Coloradan, Joanna appreciates both the state’s innovative culture and its cowboy roots. She has an MA in Social Entrepreneurship from Bakke Graduate University and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She also completed a certificate of Women in Leadership through Cornell University.

She is the author of Women, Work, & Calling: Step Into Your Place in God’s World (IVP, Fall 2023) and is a contributor to the multi-author book, Women & Work: Bearing God’s Image and Joining in His Mission through our Work (B&H Publishing, Spring 2023).