Friday, March 28, 2014

Retaining Honour--Post 8

I believe God created us to be people, first of all, and then either male or female.  He also designed roles appropriate for each gender, and this is the part where people in the Western world, both believers and non-, erupt in your face like this old rooster we used to have, with terrible squawks and flapping feathers.

Things haven’t gone so well in our culture, family-and-relationship-wise, what with divorces and young single pregnant women and absconding fathers and cheating partners.  And an awful lot of chaos and unhappiness.

The Bible says that men and women are equal before God in terms of value but different in design and therefore different in the roles they fill best.

Maybe we should all try the Biblical pattern for a month and see what happens.

But this is not a specific how-to.

Many years ago I got married.  I realized that those Bible verses about wives submitting to husbands now applied to me.

Wow.  How was that supposed to work?  I was a Bible-believing Christian so I’d better get busy.

I asked Paul.  He said, “Huh?  I don’t know.  Don’t worry about it.”

But I did worry about it, which probably wasn’t very submissive.

One day I realized that the command was God telling wives to submit, not telling husbands to make sure their wives submitted to them.  So the issue was entirely between me and God.

I also came to realize that submission for me meant trusting God to work in Paul’s life and not me making it my job to nag, or to protect either of us from the consequences of his choices.

It also meant communicating.  I was a hinter but Paul was a guy who needed a two by four.

It eventually worked out to something of a four-step process.
1.      Tell Paul exactly how I think and feel, loud and clear.  One time.
2.      Be quiet.
3.      Pray hard.
4.      Watch God work.

Because there was plenty to watch.  It was astonishing, the things that happened when I communicated clearly and then backed off and prayed, stuff I could never have orchestrated on my own.  I took this as God’s blessing on my decisions.

Since I am that sort of person, I thought I would share this insight with the good people who read the Mennonite Sunday school papers.  I wrote up an article and Christian Light accepted it.

I thought I had made it very clear that this was my experience and I couldn’t speak for anyone else.

But women everywhere took it as some sort of new edict from above—Proverbs 32.  Ladies’ Sunday school teachers read it to their classes.  A woman from New Jersey wrote to me and asked for advice because she wanted to wear a head covering—which shows submission, you know--but her husband didn’t want her to and what should she do?

One woman I know hid the article so her husband wouldn’t read it.

And at a wedding in Missouri, an elderly woman buttonholed me and said, “I don’t know what to do!  You wrote that I should just tell my husband stuff one time, but he won’t take his vitamins unless I remind him several times!”

I was horrified.  “I am not married to your husband!” I said, and I thought, “Thank you Lord.”

I also said, “You have to figure out what works for you!”

Some time later, Lamp and Light asked to translate the article into Spanish.  I said yes, but added, “Make sure you make it clear this was my experience and I can’t speak for everyone!”

That’s the trouble with writing about gender and marriage.  Some people are all about formulas.  And having someone tell you exactly what to do in every circumstance.  And about taking a writer way too seriously.

You need to worry about what God says and what works for you.  Not what I think.

The Bible says a man’s role in the family is to lead, provide, and protect.  And to love.

A woman’s is to help and keep and submit.  And to respect.

You figure it out from there.

Both men and women are supposed to love God, pursue justice, love mercy, be reconciled, forgive, repent, be kind, remember the poor, be thankful, keep your vows, and about a hundred other things that apply to you regardless of gender or marital status.  If you are both doing all that, the lead/submit matter will not be a big deal in your marriage.

I never thought I would be in the same camp as Lady Gaga on any matter, ever, on this planet, but my fine son Matt just sent me this, adding, "Lady Gaga, of all people.":

"Yes, actually," the 27-year-old said. "He's totally in charge. I mean, when I am home, I am like, shoes are off, I'm making him dinner. He has a job, too, and he is really busy!"
"I'm in charge all day long, the last thing I want to do is tell him what to do," she explained. "It's not good for relationships to tell men what to do."

Frankly, she’s more submissive than I am.

Like I said, if this idea makes you angry, maybe you should try it for a month and see what happens.  If God blesses you for it, you might decide to keep on.

If Lady Gaga and I can figure this out, so can you. 

Tomorrow: Gender roles in society and the bell curve.


  1. Very good post. I'm enjoying the series, partly because I like to read your blog, and it's a treat to find a new post every day!

  2. For some reason I cannot quit giggling. You put this thing down in words, no less, and I think it cool but I can't quit laughing. You are great.

  3. Absolutely wonderful! And a hearty 'Amen sister!' to you! This has worked well in our marriage as well... though I still forget the 'say it *once* clearly' part when I 'really, really' want him to hear me. But when I do remember, which I usually do, it is so much better for our marriage! And, popular or not, it is God's design, and therefore it is good. Best part is, the more I follow it, the more God launches me into His call for my life, through my husband. It's not limiting, it is empowering!

  4. I love your overall attitude of humility. It makes me want to listen to you and try what you suggest so much more than if you were to say, "I'm right, here's why, follow me and your life will be wonderful."

  5. Great thoughts here, and i agree, there are times i've been amazed to see God work in situations that I've given to Him in our marriage. But always remembering to apply that is hard sometimes... :/

  6. A testimony--I used to have absolutely terrible allergies. My allergist tested yearly and applied a number to the severity of each allergen. Between two of those testings I stopped being in charge in our marriage and began to submit to my husband. My allergy numbers were less than half at the next testing after years of them staying pretty much level. It would seem that living by God's plan for me as a wife took so much stress off of my immune system that my health improved. What a blessing it is to obey God and my husband.

  7. I appreciate your balanced perspective on this! Very well and simply said, and very non-judgmental.