Spirituality · Uncategorized

Biblical Marriage and Alienating Language

Yesterday, a few members of the men’s group at our church stood up to speak to the congregation about a study they recently completed. They were enthusiastic about it and, between the reading and fellowship, reported improvements in their romantic, parenting and work relationships. One of the things they talked about was following the biblical model for marriage; a partnership in which the husband takes a leadership role and the wife takes a more submissive role. Raise your hand if you read the last part of that sentence and started feeling irate, or at least uncomfortable. Yeah… me, too. I’ve thought this through before, and the idea of submission always stops me cold. Now, they did make a very important distinction yesterday, saying that submission is not for a man to impose; rather, it’s a gift that a woman can choose to give. Still, I was hearing that word louder than all the others. I’m still not entirely comfortable with this issue, but I do have a few thoughts. Before I dive in, please understand that I am not giving advice and am only exploring how it might affect a committed, loving couple who have mutual respect for one another.

What does the word “submissive” conjure for people? A submissive dog is one who pees whenever it is afraid or excited. A submissive woman might bow her head and quietly endure abuse. This is not a trait that ANY woman wants to embody, so I think we have to get past the loaded nature of the word and discover what’s really intended.

So, how else can we understand what this means? We do use “submit” in other contexts. A student might, for example, submit an assignment to a teacher. This is a voluntary action. The student gives their work to someone whose opinion they value (ideally 🙂 ) to read it and weigh it. The Vice President advises the President, but doesn’t have the same authority and we don’t call him submissive. I think in marriage it means choosing someone you love and trust completely to consider your family’s best interests. It means offering your opinions and support and allowing him to make decisions (heavy responsibility). It means gracefully refusing to be an obstacle. And here’s the other thing: If I choose to empower my husband to make decisions, that doesn’t mean that he can’t submit to me in return. He may decide that what I want is the best thing, even if it isn’t what he wants. I chose to marry someone I trust and we do run into situations sometimes where I really want something and he really doesn’t. Is it a good thing for me to push and push until he caves? Not usually. 🙂 OK, that’s never actually worked well for me. It damages the relationship. In instances where he’s wanted something that I really don’t want, he almost always respects my wishes. 

The sad fact is that women are still subverted in negative ways all the time. Feminism is such a big part of the culture that I grew up in. Any whiff of “inequality” sends us scurrying in the opposite direction, but honestly, that isn’t at issue, here. We aren’t talking about stripping power or rights from women – we’re talking about a completely voluntary way to structure a personal relationship.

Any comments? I know it’s a touchy issue…


Some Light Spring Reading

Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, the grass is this vivid, oh-so-alive color and I’m reading… about fire and pestilence and death. Welcome! 🙂 Crystal and I are currently reading and blogging through Revelation. I never know quite what to make of this particular book and am looking forward to her insights (no pressure, friend). 

I’m not going to go point by point through my notes because we’d be here a very long time. Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t make any because I’m trying to read for big picture. A few details did catch me this time through, though, so I’ll give you two detail paragraphs and then a broader impressions paragraph.

First, the first few chapters are devoted to specific churches, addressing their merits and failures and urging them to be true. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I never recognized that those letters are not, fact, addressed to the churches but to the angels of the churches. That made me wonder if the promises of reward for doing well in each letter were intended for the people of the churches or the angels.

The other big thing was the war in heaven referenced in Revelation 12:7. This access that the devil seems to have to heaven is curious to me. I remember having similar questions while reading Job. And if he can get up there, can he affect or tempt the people who reside there? The idea of violence in heaven is so contrary to the heaven in my head.

The overall reflection this reading led me to might seem off-topic. I’m going to ramble here and I apologize. Reading Revelation got me thinking about what happens when we write something down. The thing we’re writing about often becomes… romanticized or diluted. I mean, I could write about a terrible, flat time in my life with words that would make it sound almost appealing. Words add drama and color. We read about wars, for example, and we get political background, read some personal stories and maybe those words give an impression of purpose and energy and drama. But I wonder. If our current situation is any indication, I’d say wartimes are, in fact, full of anxiety, depression, struggling to find purpose and just the usual busyness of day-to-day living. Other times, the full impact and pain could never be adequately expressed. When I’ve done something wrong, giving the thing words takes away some of the sting. I’m not bragging, by the way. It’s a form of justification that can be really dangerous. After all that, what I’m really wondering is whether the events detailed in Revelation will seem as dramatic and recognizable and all-consuming when they happen. How will people handle it? I think there’s an idea out there that everything will stop when the apocalypse begins to unfold. But people will still go to sleep and wake up. They’ll still eat and get dressed and worry about their kids. 

What will it be like?