While I was writing my Doubt and Discernment post, I was having the following conversation on Facebook:
My Status: And this frustrating, infuriating, aggravating feeling I get when I know I’m wrong and don’t quite know how to fix what I’m thinking… In a strange way, it’s how I know it’s something I could be dedicated to for quite a while. Because maybe all this frustration means I think the intense study and grieving of misconceptions is worth it. This theology thing. This interfaith thing. It’s pretty cool.
My Comment: This: “Christian wives promise to obey their husbands. In Christian marriage the man is said to be the ‘head’. Two questions obviously arise here. (1) Why should there be a head at all — why not equality? (2) Why should it be the man?” And Mr. Lewis’ answers… They help tremendously. Because I *know* that saying one gender is supposed to be subordinate to another entirely is wrong. BUT, I also know that men and women, while equal, are not identical, and I am quite the fan of the differences. I just didn’t know how to apply those to scripture, and how to understand that what I was reading as scripture was also the cultural (hello conservative, evangelical community which definitely has its place but is very confusing) interpretation I’m used to hearing which doesn’t necessarily sound right to my ears and heart.
Friend (who, it’s worth noting is a conservative Christian guy): In response to 1) The head is the primary decision maker and authority. If you get two decision makers, you get conflict since neither one takes precedent over the other. And then you need someone to actually help carry out the decisions made by the head. So that would be the wife’s job. It’s not that she’s less important. Everybody leading and nobody performing the fine details of a plan doesn’t lead to anything productive. “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” as it were. The man is the leader, the woman is the helper. Neither one is more important/valuable than the other. Both are necessary, and both may take over each other’s roles for a time if the situation demands it. At least, that’s how I see it.
Friend again: I think a lot of people focus on the “wives should submit to their husbands in everything” and miss the next part of Ephesians 5. Paul throws down the gauntlet immediately after that, when he tells men to love their wives like Christ loved the church, giving themselves up for her to make her holy, and to love her as their own body. That’s not a commission to be taken lightly.
Me: Yes! And C.S. Lewis makes what I see as an incredibly important distinction in that the only time there is a functional head is when the need arises after the husband and wife have tried their absolute best to work to an agreement together (which they should be doing what with the becoming as one part of the promise). Also important is the distinction that this does not carry into any gender relationships beyond the Christian husband/wife relationship. Which is a kind of touchy subject for some, I believe.
As a bit of background as to why I found this so particularly helpful lately… I was reading a blog post (geared towards young Christian women) that I really kind of liked about how it matters who you marry and date and what have you. Except that it said that a husband has to be able to lead his wife in prayer and such… As a woman planning on going into ministry (already contested enough) I read this as an attack on my calling. A reaction which was completely out of line. I got caught up in being angry and forgot to realize (until Mom told me I wasn’t thinking things through) that I shouldn’t be with someone who would keep me from pursuing the ministry I feel led to anyway. Two people being married means that I’m part of a team, even in my ministry. And while I am perfectly capable of ministering to a congregation or bridging the gap between the church and the world, I’m not doing it on my own if I’m married. And sometimes my tendency as a woman will be to advocate the well being of my family (and probably congregation) without taking into full account the needs of other families and communities of faith. And that is all fine and good. Because I think that’s one of the things about being a wife and mother just like leading is a brilliant thing about being a husband and father. But it means that married men and women need to balance each other out for the good of themselves, their family, and their communities so that they’re a stable household resting in God. Obviously, I’m not getting married anytime soon… But the way men and women and wives and husbands get along is rather central to life in general and especially to the issue of the ordination of women. And it’s something I’ve struggled with and am working through.
Me again: In response to your second comment: I’m just gonna copy and past that somewhere so I don’t forget it. Thank you. It’s been this gigantic issue for me lately… My inability to read scripture without getting immediately defensive because passages like that are used to effectively remove half of Christianity from ministry in the church. I need to chill and realize that it’s not this big attack on my gender (which I *do* know, I promise… I just don’t remember it all the time).
AND Me again: A little bit more of a thought: I think wives submitting to their husbands is too often used to elevate the husband to this infallible position where the wife has to submit to whatever he’s wanting or saying is right or else her spiritual life is called into question. Does that make sense? I think there’s a very happy medium to be found here, I just think it’s one that takes both sides, which is often overlooked. It takes a wife respecting her husband and a husband adoring his wife. Because the role of women as the helper from Adam’s side (where they’re protected) is just as important as the role of the men with a plan who were lonely without them.