Tuesday, February 20, 2007

back to basics

You might not like what I'm about to say.

That's OK. I understand. I don't really always like what I'm about to say either but...well...it's been a long road of trying to sit on the other side of the fence and, let me tell you, it's exhausting.

Last night, preparing for my cell group, I found an old note that someone had written me. The note is pretty out of character for this woman to write: she's feisty, smart, independant, a fighter...sometimes to a fault. Through a long and arduous journey, she's come to some interesting - and uncharacteristic - conclusions about life, love, marriage and what it means to be a woman, designed by God.

Mark 10:35-45 (Living translation)
1 Corinthinans 1:27-31
Hebrews 11:251
Corinthians 12:10

I have come to see that women are made to be responders not initiators. A woman who initiates is bitter. Men, maybe because of hurts, have withdrawn from initiating and women are frustrated and angry at the lethargy - however, our job now is to heal, love, support and encourage until the men can get up and fight again; not judge, override and usurp them. That only keeps them down and makes us more bitter without knowing why. This mental pattern is a stronghold and a bondage over our society so don't expect to break out of it easily; it will take a fight - much prayer and submission to the obedience of the King. That doesn't mean we be quiet: we can yell for them to get up, at the same time routing for them and serving them.

I believe this, however, I am not a good example. I have come to this understanding, however, I was not taught it either by my mother, church or schools. I was taught to compete, to aspire, to acheive my "full potential"; but the world doesn't know or see, to be fulfilled, you must empty yourself. To serve is our job and therefore becomes our "full potential". Learn it. Selfish ambition leads to great emptiness and confusion.

It reminds me of something I was reminded of recently on Angela's blog: a conversation I had with a hilarious Liverpuddlian woman about her relationship with her husband and a discussion we had about submission in marriage. "I obey my husband," she says, "and all he has to do is worship me."

I'm still working this out. Submitting doesn't always come naturally to me - I'm a first-born, Irish, extroverted, type A personality. And a human.

Any words of wisdom from married women out there? Men? Unmarrieds? Other humans struggling with submission?


Angela said...

This passage always bothered me, until I boiled it down into Angela's Sermon-in-a-Nutshell on Ephesians.

It contrasts what women were asked to do (submit/respect their husbands) with what God commanded men to do (love their wives) and it can be easily packaged into three convenient and easy to remember points.

First Point:

Men and women need different things from their spouses.

Men need to be respected. Are they a good provider? Are they a good father? Are they fabulous in bed?

Women need to be loved. Will you always be there for me? Will you love any children we produce? Are you attracted to me. Will you keep me safe?

God knows this - he created us thus and his commands are not meant to demean either gender, but to build up relationships where they need it most.

Second point:

Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses.

Men (generally) have an easier time respecting people. "That man is a hard worker." But have a more difficult time expressing emotions.

Women (again, generally) have an easier time loving people, but may not be so great at the respect part. "What do you mean you didn't get the promotion?"

So, God's commands are also a challenge. Give what comes easily, but work on what is more difficult.

Third Point:

The emotions expressed by both spouses are completely dependent upon the other person.

It's easy to submit to someone who loves you utterly.

It's easy to love someone who thinks you're God's Gift to Womankind.

The Law of Reciprocity, you know?


Okay, so that was long winded.


andrew said...

Cultural Context? 1st Century, and it's not necessarily expected for Men to have to do anything for their wives. And Paul says:

"Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body."

Well, shit. In the context of scripture husbands and wives become one flesh (You know, Genesis), and in disrespecting the wife, well, you express hatred towards the God in whom you are united to your wife, and to all of humanity.

Take the Colossians text into account too, and you see that it's a matter of mutual submission, and that husbands are supposed to go and get themselves killed defending their wives, in the same way Christ got himself killed for the sake of the church.

So. Submit, yes. But make sure your husband's read the parts that apply to him too. For this job, wimps need not apply.

Sarah-Aubrey said...

I LOVE MY COOL, MARRIED FRIENDS. And how long before I realize that, really, every time I post about relationships/marriage/sex the comments pour forth from all corners of the city?

Why do I even bother posting about anything else?

Keep commenting! Where's A.J.? Where's Shannon? Where's Nik?

s@bd said...

My dad did a (point-form) article a while back you might find interesting / helpful (esp paras #7 & 13):


(and, yes, that's where AJ got the 'daughter of a lion' phrase)

s@bd said...

Erm ... it would appear my link should have been done properly:

Click HERE

littlehoudini said...

Oh man... not that I've actually even seen you in *months*, but posts like this make me want to stop reading.

Women must submit? Obey? When I'm the person fighting for equality, you *know* things are in trouble. Can't we all just be ourselves?

Also - I saw Christ in the sushi restaurant. It's true - Jesus loves miso.

A.J. said...

I am not sure if Jesus loves Miso but He certainly loves raw fish.... YUM!

Ok I can no longer remember who made what point but here's the thing.... it's the easiest thing in the world to love and submit to someone who loves you and would die for you! really.. very little effort required! If He is doing His part to obey scripture it's a breeze to do ours!

yep, definitely not for Wimps!

Sorry for the delay in comments… I am speaking at Releasers this week so I have been getting ready and doing that!

Jake-M said...

Yeah, I agree. But with whom, you might ask. Andrew pointed out that the early believers were called to a ridiculously higher standard of equality than any other culture on the face of the planet at that time.

However, that's not to say that as the rest of the world has evolved its social climate in male/female hierarchy, that believers should stay locked in the first century. We should still be living at a higher standard of relational depth, emotional sensitivity, and reciprocal grace and forgiveness.

There shouldn't be a fight for equality. Men and women are not equal. Equal implies an exceedingly simplified equation. "We are the same. We amount to the same thing." Is this true of men and women? I think not. I think we are complimentary, and that means we have different components.

Is the importance of the various components equal? Depends on how strongly we operate in them I suppose. Though I don't believe that the standard idea of fighting for equality is useful, I also don't believe that either gender is inferior.

Little houdini raised the point that we should all just be ourselves, and I agree. I am a little concerned though about how we know ourselves, and what it means to "be ourselves". I don't think that we are meant to be separate in our selves, but together with others.

When I am working on something at my job, and I don't know what the hell to do, I look to someone with understanding, strength, and experience to guide me, and I submit to them by learning from them, and then doing that task their way. I am no less myself. Similarly, in my relationship with my girlfriend, she is far more intuitive than I am. When she notices that I am growing distant, I recognize her perceptive abilities, and take action. I am not afraid to lean on her strengths, nor is she afraid to lean on mine. Weakness is there, alone or together. The hope here, I think, is that in togetherness we are greater than the sum of our parts.

I'll submit to that. Also, it's been a while since I have hung out in the sphere, so it's been a long ramble, but trust me, I have put some thought into this.

Ericka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ericka said...

Submit. Ok. I agree with my dear husband, Andrew - it's a two part bargain. Enough with Bible translations starting the submission verse with "Wives, submit to your husbands." Back it up a bit there, and let's contextualize it a bit with "Submit to EACH OTHER out of reverence to Christ."

Next, let me state that I'm tired of fundamentalist, right-wing Christian groups urging battered women back into abusive relationships so they can "submit" and "turn the other cheek." Andrew and I heard a great sermon on the weekend about how the "turn the other cheek" command was given to the corporate body of Christ. I'm not about to spiritualize and philosophize on how to corporatize submission. (I haven't time quite now, though I'm sure it would be an interesting academic exercise and would probably allow one to use the word "discourse," of which I'm a fan. Ahhh...another day, folks, another day.).

And another thing. There's submission....and then there's discussion, and the conflict that comes when two separate people, raised in two distinct paradigms (oooh, here I go) live together in the close confines of home and marriage. Do I "submit" when Andrew wants to buy a different brand of lettuce, or put the pots somewhere that doesn't make sense to me? It depends. It depends on how subborn I am / how much I really want spinich that week. It depends on how rational it is to put the pots somewhere else. And it depends on what the actual discussion is about. Is it about spinich? Or is it about feeling disrespected, dishonoured, or undervalued; is it about something more core - sleep, sex, or money. Andrew and I don't really fight much at all, but when there are tense times they usually boil down to one of two things 1) extenuating PHYSICAL circumstances (ex. one of us is tired, etc.), or 2) extenuating emotional circumstances.

But there's something else. Angela, I think you had some great things to say, but I want to push back a little bit on your "love in challenging ways." I know that for my relationship with Andrew the kinds of love that we need to be fulfilled are not so cut and dry as "he needs respect, I need love." I know you didn't go into this a lot (and maybe you would agree?), it's a lot more complicated than that. I need respect too. I need to know that I'm smart. I need to be able to bounce ideas of of Andrew...to discuss, to intellectualize, and sometimes even compete with him and debate with him on issues. And Andrew also requires love. He needs to know that I love him, and that I will be loyal, that I will comfort him. We don't require these things just because we are male and female, but rather because I am Ericka, and he is Andrew.

Something else to consider is the "masculine - feminine is all on a spectrum" argument This is the idea that there is an Ideal Masculine Type, and and Ideal Feminine Type and that we all fall somewhere on a spectrum, each of us having various traits of masculinity and feminity. At the end of the day, gender is and identity, mostly inherited through social interaction, versus sex, which is biological. S@BD's dad's article covered this a little bit, and I think that it's important to emphasize that our ideas of the "female gender" / "male gender" have not been passed down to us from our Judeo-Christian past, but rather from our Hellenistic past. If we're going to make sweeping gender roles, let's at least ground them in Biblical tradition.

I don't think Eve was an afterthought. Eve was a part of the plan from the beginning (indeed, certain old scripts recount the creation of Adam and Eve as being created simultaneously, as apparent helpmeets, one to the other). Adam and Eve, together, reflect the image of God. Male and female, together, reflect the image of our Creator. This idea is one of the reasons marriage is so beautiful to me.

Finally, yes, we are created male and female. And further to that we are each shaped and known (and loved) in our mother's wombs before we are event born. We have different strengths and weaknesses, different needs, and desires. We're loved for that. And we're called to love Christ. And then we're called to submit to Him.

Mimo said...

Interesting discussion here.. I think too that when you feel that someone loves you, it's easy to follow their lead!

I don't think that submission means an authoritarian model where you have to do everything the other person tells you, I mean that would be like "get married, and throw your own brain out the window"..no..When I think of submission and my relationship with a mentor for example - it's about "submissing" to listen to their advice (ie.communicating!). I think to actually say "I will do what you say is best" asks for a huge amount of trust - there needs to be that trust with that other person's ability to make the right choices/decisions..Or making them by thinking what is best for you.. So until you trust someone enough, you can't follow them. Until you have seen the way they work and do stuff, and they just initiate trust inside you.

And when I think of marriage..I think it is like submission to take the other person's feeling/thoughts into consideration - I am not the only person here making the choices for te direction in my life, like what furniture to buy, where to live etc. I need to submit to making the decisions together, no longer lone rider on the road by himself. Submitting to holding hands and walking the walk together..

Well, here just some random thoughts!! :)


Andrew G said...

Sorry for the late reply... I LOVE the discussion here.

1. I wholeheartedly agree with what Angela's written.
2. I once heard a pastor, Jeremy Sinnott, speaking about that passage. He told the story of being in a staunch Evangelical church in Central Africa. When he took a pause during one of his sermons, a man in the crowd shouted the infamous passage from Ephesians, “wives, submit to their husbands!” This outburst caused all the men in the congregation to shout words of agreement (“amen”, “yeah”, “woot”, etc) and all the women to hang their heads in shame.
Jeremy, in his wisdom, asked, “So, can anyone tell me the passage that comes after that verse?” Of course, no one seemed to be familiar with it. Jeremy said, “it reads, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.’ Jesus died for his bride. That means, husbands, that we have to die for our brides; if we are continually giving up our lives for them, then we would never have to demand submission – they’d gladly submit for a man who’s willing to die for them.”
Jeremy’s story really challenged me and the more Sarah and I are in this relationship, the more my selfishness is brought to the surface.
3. Having said that, I think there is a bit of fear in modern Godly women based in that word submission. There is a freedom and a safety in Godly submission that we often don’t talk about in the church. I don’t have it all figured out (at all) but I do know that I want my life to be safe place for my wife to live, love, and realize her dreams.

Anonymous said...

The "submitting to each other in the church" exhortation is not dependent on them "loving us like Christ loved the church". They probably won't likely be willing to lay down their life for us, or always be trustworthy either, so then what do we do? Obviously someone has to be the initiater, Christ first, then who?