“It’s good to be out where others can see you, so you can’t be your ghastly, spoiled self. It forces you to act slightly more elegantly, and this improves your thoughts, and thereby the world.” – Anne Lamott
This quote from Lamott’s bookGrace (Eventually) made me laugh. Am I the only one who sees myself in this? I need to be out among people so I’m not my natural, ghastly self!
I’ve recommended the Mars Hill Real Marriage sermon series before but, hey, here I am recommending it again! I’m happy to say Mark Driscoll agrees with me about spouse/child priorities. Peter and I watched the Men and Marriage sermon and today I watched the next segment, titled “The Respectful Wife”. Part of me didn’t want to watch it. I didn’t want to listen to another sermon telling me to submit to my husband, to let him make decisions, to be a Proverbs 31 wife. But I did watch and I’m really glad I did.
In all honesty, I struggle with this. I believe in the Bible. I believe that it is God’s word and that it tells me how He wants me to live. I follow some instructions better than others but I still agree with them. What the Bible instructs me as a wife – that’s what I fight against, what I kick and rebel against.
I was born right smack in the middle of the ’80s. I have lived my whole life in a society where women have the right to vote, to own property, to take birth control. We’ve had a female Prime Minister, Governor-General, and Premier. I’m university-educated, as are the majority of my female friends. Sometimes I feel like the only place that tells me I’m not equal to a man is the church. So I struggle with this and I’ve cried over it and fought against it because I know that God values me. I know that God loves me and I don’t believe that God loves me less because I’m a woman. And, honestly, that isn’t what the Bible teaches. Unfortunately, it is sometimes what the church teaches.
The first time I heard a sermon on Ephesians 5 (that’s the chapter that contains this infamous verse: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”) I thought, “No way. I have to respect my husband if he decides we should be neo-Nazis?” Right there, that’s me making excuses – Peter is never going to put a swastika up in our house. But more realistically, what if he does something I don’t agree with? What if he advocates something that I believe is contrary to what God wants? That’s where I really appreciated Driscoll’s sermon. He makes a point of saying that a wife can disrespect her husband bynotspeaking out. My husband is not my god and if I confuse the two I do a great disservice to both. In fact, it’s a sin. Both Peter and I are instructed to submit to the Lord and my role as a wife is to help Peter do so. Now there’s that help, that Genesis 2:18: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.”Helper. There’s another word I’ve fought against. I’ve felt for a long time that this word makes me secondary to a man. As if Peter is the one out there conquering the world and I’m just along to carry his bags and bake cookies. Again, Driscoll’s sermon helped me here by pointing out that the Holy Spirit is given to us as a helper. (John 15:16) So why is a word that describes the Holy Spirit not good enough for me? Jesus isn’t talking about a servant here, he’s talking about a companion, someone who will change the disciple’s lives and enable them to do things they never could before. That’s awesome.
Let me quote the rest of that passage in Ephesians.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot of wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
Here’s what I have figured out: God loves me equally to how much he loves my husband or my brother or my father or the security guard at PriceSmart. My gender doesn’t come into the equation of how much God loves me. I am as valuable as any man. I can be a CEO, an astronaut, a parent, a politician. (Okay, I can’t be an astronaut or a politician but it isn’t my gender stopping me there.) All that said, my husband is the head of our household. This is what the Bible tells me so I know that it’s true. And I still struggle with that. I’m blessed to have a loving, God-fearing husband who desires the best for me. And, really, that’s what the Bible is talking about. Husbands are called to go so far as to die for their wives, just as Christ died for the church. That’s some major love right there.
I want to be clear that I don’t think the Bible advocates abusive relationships to any extent. At all. Being the head is not about control. My husband doesn’t tell me what to wear, what to write, or what to read. But you know what, if he asked me not to write about something or not to wear a certain skirt in public, I would listen to him. I respect his opinion and I think he knows what he’s talking about – that’s why I married him. I expect the same from him. He doesn’t cook much with tomatoes anymore because he knows I don’t like them. I respect his opinions because he doesn’t control me so when he does make suggestions, I know he’s thinking about what’s right for both of us. There is nowhere in the Bible that you are going to find excuses for a man hitting a woman, forcing himself on her, or degrading her. That isn’t what headship is about.
I really encourage you all, men and women, to listen to Mark Driscoll’s sermon. Even more so do I encourage you to read what the Bible says about marriage and about men and women. The Bible is not anti-women and I think many of us (myself included) need to learn how to balance being a feminist and being a woman of God. I firmly believe both roles can co-exist. I will continue to pray over this because it isn’t something to be solved as easily as listening to a sermon or reading a blog. I know that God loves me and I don’t think He minds at all that I bring this to Him.
Here’s another quote on marriage from Anne Lamott to end this.
“A good marriage is supposed to be one where each spouse secretly think he or she got the better deal” – Anne Lamott
P.S. All the Bible verses I quote are taken from the English Standard Version. Just so you know.