Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh, Precious is Aunt Flo

! Warning: The following discussion regarding menstruation may be uncomfortable or offensive to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.


Growing up, I was exposed to some very negative attitudes about menstruation. It was common for me to hear menstruation referred to as "The Curse" and I was regularly encouraged to view my period as an inconvenience. Specifically, a woman's monthly period was presented to me as a messy but necessary evil. It contributes to her emotional and physical discomfort, and it interrupts various activities in one's social life, like swimming at the beach or having sex. In essence, I was indoctrinated like millions of other women to despise a natural function that God created. But the Bible tells us that everything God created is good. Surely there is a reason God gave us menstrual cycle, but perhaps it is more than just biological.


During menstruation, the uterine lining (endometrium) is shed if fertilization has not occurred. When mammals menstruate, the endometrium is either absorbed by the body (covert menstruation) or it is expelled (overt menstruation). While there have been recorded instances of other mammals experiencing overt menstruation (i.e. blood loss), the research appears to show that in all of these species, the loss of blood is a non-event compared to the situation in humans! Is it mere coincidence that humans are the only creatures to experience significant bleeding during menses?

The Bible says that human beings were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and that the creation itself attests to God's existence (Romans 1:20). He bled to give us life. Is it any surprise that He would also make creatures in His own image that would bleed to bring forth life? The most significant thing that Jesus accomplished on this earth was to bleed and die for our sins. His blood is the doorway to eternal life. In the same manner, blood is the doorway to physical life. Most health experts hold the view that during menstruation, the body rejects the blood when pregancy has failed. However, I like to look at menstruation this way: the body retains the blood when pregnancy is a success. Why? Because the baby needs to live off that blood while it is in the womb. The Bible says the life of a creature is in the blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11-15, Deuteronomy 12:23). When a woman menstruates (and when she suffers pain during that cycle) her very nature is reminiscent of the bleeding and suffering of Christ. And just as a newborn baby is covered in blood when he comes into the world, a newborn Christian is brought into the Kingdom of God covered in blood.

But what about all those scriptures declaring a woman "unclean" when she has her period? The Bible openly refers to this time of the month as a woman's "impurity" (Leviticus 15:19-30, Ezekiel 36:17). Many people (particularly women) view this concept with smug indignance. They are offended that God would declare a woman "unclean" during her menstrual cycle. They are deceived into thinking that this is just another sign that God is a misogynist. That is exactly what Satan wants them to think. But nothing could be further from the truth.
First, let's remember that all discharges, whether vaginal or penile, were considered unclean. God did not discriminate against women. Secondly, many of the old testament laws forbid contact with blood at all. As noted earlier, blood is sacred because it represents life (Leviticus 17:11). The value placed on blood would naturally call for certain activities surrounding blood to be forbidden.

Finally, let's not forget that the most unclean thing of all is our sin. The Bible says that all of us are unclean, and that our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). What is the dirtiest rag you can think of? I think it would be fair to say that God is actually making a comparison of our righteous deeds to menstrual rags in this verse. The function of a menstrual rag is to "soak up" the mess. When we present our good deeds to God, acting as though our righteous acts are going to absorb our bad deeds, it is like presenting God with a dirty tampon. What God desires is a brand new, unstained cloth. Our rags of righteousness are so stained by our sin they can hardly be considered pleasant to Him. So when God calls our menses "unclean" we should not get offended, but instead remember that our sin is more repugnant to Him than any of our bodily fluids could ever be.

That being said, let's go back to the original discussion regarding how menstruation is presented in our culture. It is largely considered a time of inconvenience. Women curse their menstrual cycle because it is viewed as an interruption in their regular activities. They also complain largely over the suffering that takes place during that time. (Incredibly enough, I have experienced both deep emotional turmoil during my period as well as physical pain in my head, hands, and feet! At other times I just feel intense fatigue, as if my limbs are a heavy weight I can no longer carry.) Like Christ, we endure this suffering because it is necessary to sustain life. However, unlike Christ, who never opened His mouth, we sometimes can complain very loudly about the suffering we experience. Some women have such painful or emotionally difficult periods, they would give anything to reduce their suffering. And our enemy is only too glad to help.

There are several new forms of "birth control pills" that are designed to reduce menstruation to only four times a year. While it may sound enticing to reduce one's menstrual "inconvenience" by 75%, could we be deceiving ourselves into rebelling against God's holy design by doing so?
From day one, Satan has done everything in his power to bring life to a halt. His attack on life has been both spiritual and physical. He deceived the woman into eating the forbidden fruit, in the hopes that she would then eat of the tree of life, thus sealing her fate as being dead in her sin forever. But God thwarted that plan (Genesis 3:22-24). He tried to block the Messiah from giving life by having all the babies His age killed (Matthew 2:16). He tried to disqualify Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 4:1-11). Where he is unsuccessful preventing eternal life, he compensates in promoting physical death by waging war on the womb. In addition to the gross slaughter of the unborn through abortion, Satan has achieved great success in convincing women to voluntarily induce amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) through self-induced eating disorders such as anorexia and submitting to unnecessary hysterectomies.

My period is not exactly what I'd call fun. But now when I wake up in the morning to find a brilliant splotch of red on my bedsheets or I feel like there is a knife in the small of my back, I try to make a conscious effort to refrain from complaining. When I feel as though there are spikes going through my feet and temples, I take two Advil and a hot bath. Then I remember the One who bled for me, and give thanks to Him for making me in His image.

If you are interested in further reading, here is a wonderful resource that describes some alternate biblical views on menstruation.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jen, I am absolutely blessed by this . I have never heard it explained before in a way that made me see how BEATIFUL it really is. What a wondeful way to have now,to view the various pains and suffering of menstruation. I'm actually looking forward to it now kinda.... lol

Thank you very much! :-)
~Sherri

Jennifer said...

Hi, Sherri. I owe a lot of this perspective to Dr. Dan Hayden who did a great Bible study on the human body and how it relates to the Bible. He did not touch upon the reproductive system, but after going through his study regarding the entire human body, I can definitely see how menstruation bears the signature of God. How awesome is the Creation!

Geraldine said...

Jen, i too was really blessed by this post! I have some months where i suffer terribly with pain. Everything just comes to halt on those days. Looking at it from this point of view and seeing, as you put it, the signiture of God' in it makes it that much more bearable. Maybe those times could be used to reflect on the work Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross.
BTW...coming from a wifes perspective i can say i have the most wonderfully understanding husband. He knows when i have the bad months and will have the hot water bottle ready!!! I thank God for him :-)
Thanks Jen!

Natasa said...

wow... I never look at this issue like that...

Grace Abounds said...

That was great! Thanks Jen! I've been studying why we suffer so in these days compared to women of old. We've become so "advanced," using chemicals like chlorine on our pads, bleach in our laundry and such which is causing millions of ladies to suffer PMS (and PMDD) and thousands of unnecessary hysterectomies. I don't know of any other time in history (yet??) where we used these xenoestrogens and called it "normal." I do know that people used to use certain herbs (phytoestrogens) to cause abortion which is so sad and must break our Father's heart. My research is extensive about current information to help women, but I want to move into history and what the Bible has to say about our menstrual cycles, so I enjoyed the last link you provided and hope to get that Women's Bible Commentary someday! What a great resource. I appreciate your openness and hope to read more of your blog. I thank the Lord for you, Jen. Tamara

Jennifer said...

Tamara, I am glad you mentioned these things because I think it also ties into the whole picture. It is NOT "normal" for women to have conditions like PCOS but it seems like EVERYONE I meet has it. God does not create dysfunctional bodies and I do believe we are doing things in society to create these illnesses. For example, all these hormones they put in food to make bigger chickens or induce cows to produce more milk is not normal, but seen as progress to the food industry. We ingest those hormones and that's why girls as young as eight years old are menstruating and growing breasts.

But most of all, I think the estrogen dominance that many women suffer from makes them gain weight and feel weepy all the time. How in the world is a woman supposed to be a blessing to her husband when she feels lousy all the time? Then we are told that it is okay to blame our bad behavior on "PMS". So we take lots of liberties with that and complain with great freedom, but it puts a strain on our marriages/courtships. (I believe PMS is very real and we all suffer from it but I think we are also deceived into thinking this is a license to snap at people or be disrespectful to husbands, etc.)

We need to get back on track with a proper sleep, diet, and exercise regimen to reduce these abnormal female medical conditions we're all seeming to suffer from in epidemic numbers, and ask the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and grace to bear any natural pain or discomfort we would experience normally.

Thanks for visiting!

Grace Abounds said...

Jennifer, I agree. We aren't supposed to be having things like PCOS and such. We call it normal and just "part of life." We should call it "abnormal," but doctors are stumped. Try to tell them that we are estrogen dominant due to our natural progesterone being blocked from working and you'll be considered psychotic! I'll give you two of my websites you can read:

www.Women4Balance.com/GoodNews
www.BalanceForLife.vpweb.com

The latter is my story which is still ongoing of course. I've been studying this stuff for a while, diagnosed with bipolar, a personality disorder... all kinds of things which weren't true at all! Well, just read that second link and it will tell you (it needs updating on what the Lord is doing in my life and what I'm taking re: vitamins and all though).

You mentioned 8 year olds growing breasts. Did you know that because of the phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens, that... ready for this? Some babies are coming out with pubic hairs and some boys "parts" never become "man" size, but stay like little boys. Makes me want to cry.

Every woman I meet has many, many symptoms of estrogen dominance too, like you said. We've just bought into the lie that this is supposed to happen. You know in other countries, menopause is looked upon as a great thing? Scientists have studied other cultures and found that it's mostly American and European women who have the problems and that in other countries, there isn't even a word for "hot flashes"... they don't even know what they are talking about...amazing!

I'd recommend we all read the book, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause" by Dr. John R. Lee. I have a couple of his books and some others on this subject and boy, are they eye openers!

On top of all this, we are feeding our bodies synthetic hormones in a couple ways. One is through "the pill" or Premarin (pregnant horse urine) and the like and also eating meat that is pumped with growth hormones and antibiotics. Then we buy the fruits and veggies that are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides (both xenoestrogens which disrupt hormone balance). I ask people when we go through why they feel so bad, "If I had an apple in my hand to give you, but right before I handed it to you, I sprayed a pesticide all over it, would you eat it?" Uhhhhhh, no! Then why do we eat the fruits and veggies that are not only sprayed with this stuff, but the soil that is being used is depleted of the necessary minerals and tons of chemicals are put in the soil which feeds the root of the plant which in turn feeds the vegetable... which in turn feeds you? We just don't think about it. It's taking its' toll on women mostly, especially in the hormonal area and then we are put on anti-depressants, bipolar meds, anxiety meds...

In all this, while our bodies are healing (if the Lord grants that), we need to have faith in Christ while going through the PMS, PCOS, PMDD, overtoxification, etc. I've struggled so much to see God in this mess I'm in, but He is here!!! I praise God that He is opening women's eyes to see what's happening to us.

This earth is cursed, we know that. What man has done, showing its' love of $$$ is really just revealing their hatred of Him and His good ways of doing things. One day though, we will have a new earth... looking forward to that day!

(Sorry for such a long post... I'm pretty passionate about helping women on this issue :)

Tamara

Jennifer said...

That is horrible about the babies being born with mature parts! I had no idea! What have we done to God's creation?

I really appreciate the information you have left here and I am probably going to feature this post somewhere on the site where women can see it without having to dig for it. It's really good stuff you've shared with us. Thanks!

Betsy Markman said...

This is an interesting topic. I used to get depressed when I would read the parts of Leviticus that dealt with female issues. Having been raised by a rather misogynistic father, I took those passages as proof that God hated women too. After finally coming to Christ and experiencing His love, I could no longer believe that view of things, but I was still left with troubled feelings. Why would God make both sexes unclean for things that were natural parts of themselves; things they had no control over?

Then the Lord showed me such a simple, beautiful reason for it, and it has provided comfort ever since.

Because of these laws, no proud Pharisee, no stringent lawkeeper, could ever keep from being defiled. These laws are a perfect illustration of "total depravity," showing us the truth that sin is part of who we are, not just a thing that we do. We can't help menstruating, and we can't help being sinners, even though we can stop certain sins. Though true believers are clean (positionally) in God's eyes, in our day-to-day walk we still are unclean. Sin still taints even our best efforts, no matter what religious hoops we jump through. The inevitable periodic "uncleanness" of our bodies reminds us of this vital reality, and should help us stay humble.

Think about it...before I saw things this way, my attitude was resentful. "How could God declare me unclean just because of THAT, and it's His fault I do that anyway!" I didn't even see my own sinfulness enough to realize that I would still be unclean even without periods. Total depravity wasn't really part of my vocabulary yet. Now that it is not just in my vocabulary, but firmly entrenched in my doctrine, I can't resent any declaration of uncleanness any more. I can only agree with it and use it as a reminder to thank God for His cleansing, "though my sins be as scarlet."

I remember that I almost laughed aloud when God showed this to me. It took something I hated and turned it into a wonderful illustration of one of the main tenets of Reformed Theology, which I was learning to love!

Jennifer said...

Betsy, wow. What an incredible contribution to this discussion, and something I never thought about. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. It adds so much to the amazing clues to God's truth that are inherent in the creation (Romans 1).

JJS said...

I once thought that not taking Tylenol to ease the pain was a way of experiencing the pain God intended for me. I felt it was an honor to experience the pain, just a very small part compared to Jesus suffering. Thank you for the reminder.

Daughter, Arise! said...

The knife in the back thing...I totally get that. God is good- all the time, even during THAT time. Thanks for this article. I loved it!