The following is an excerpt from Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis' new book The Life Ready Woman (B&H Publishing Group, 2011).

There is a distinct and clear difference in how men and women are designed. Every branch of science from neuroscience to anthropology now confirms something the Bible has laid out all along. Of course, we believe that those differences are good and there for a reason: God has an intended framework for what a man should be and what a woman should be. And every part of our identities will be affected by how we live out that design.

Most of us today would agree that yes, men and women are different, and move on. But without a clear biblical definition of manhood and womanhood, without a clear vision of how they are different and why, both men and women have trouble separating life-giving pursuits from mistakes and mirages. There is nothing specific to aspire to, strive for, or check ourselves against. “Am I a good woman?” “Did I behave like a man today?” If God really has created us male and female for a purpose, those are absolutely essential questions. And the only place the life-giving, encouraging answers can be found is in a biblical understanding of maleness and femaleness.

We learn in Genesis that of all the things God created, none is more meaningful than humanity. Men and women stand as equals at the apex of God’s created order. In Genesis 1: 27 we read, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Here we learn that women and men were designed to reflect God’s image over the rest of creation. But just as important is what lies at the heart of this design. Of all things it is gender: male and female.

The thing we must first decide is whether we’re going to believe this central tenet. This is a crucial first turn in the maze, the divide for living life. Did God create us special, and is one’s gender purposeful, or are we all merely a product of random chance? Our decision here has huge ramifications for how we proceed in life and view masculinity and femininity. Of course, you can choose to believe that everything exists by pure accident and that nothing has a fixed purpose. If that’s the case, then you are left to create your own definition of manhood and womanhood. On the other hand, if God created the universe as Genesis says He did and you believe it, then you find yourself called to embrace a breathtaking dignity and fixed meaning to your life and your womanhood. You are purposeful, designed, intentional, and God has put you here because He is out to achieve something in the gender He wrapped you in. The same is true for men.

We'll delve into the specific callings that are unique to women in the next chapter, but for now let's take a look at what makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman.

Biblical Manhood

How does the Bible define a man, a real man? We find that a vision of manhood is inspired by history’s two most influential men. Both are called Adam the Hebrew word for man. Both have left indelible marks on the human race. At times Scripture plays them up as opposites – two men who made radically different choices and pursued equally different lifestyles. But when they are brought together as men, they provide us with a way to envision and define biblical manhood.

The first of these two Adams is the Adam of Genesis. He was divinely fitted for masculine success. Strong, intelligent, favored by God – the whole earth was his to rule and subdue. He was set for a great adventure. All he had to do was get three things right: