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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Submission?

On another blog I read a conversation regarding female submission in the Christian family has emerged. It annoys me because I just wonder why and how this helps us live better in the world. I posted a response today. Here's my note.
I've had a long journey with the Christian woman stuff. I grew up in a very traditional family. Stay at home mom, chauvinistic but supportive father. Very athletic family as well. I was a good athlete and I inherited my father's intensity. As I grew as Christian, the whole "gentle and quiet spirit" description of Christian women was a clash with my basic personality and I wondered how a gregarious, out-going, often loud and opinionated woman fit into the Christian woman world. Then I discovered that I had public speaking gifts, but no where in my upbringing was being a (preaching) pastor a career option. I began to think about Christian education. At one point, as a young woman I remember thinking that I'd like to marry a pastor in order to be close to ministry and even said to my mom once, "If I were a boy, I'd for sure be a pastor." I did carry an ingrained notion that I would need to be able to submit to a man in my marriage and in fact heard so often that I would need a really strong man in my life in order to be able to do so. This led to my being involved in a relationship with a Christian man who totally dominated my identity. The dynamic in our relationship, my need to feel submissive, his need to lead, led to the absolute disappearance of my identity and personality. After that relationship failed, I began to question many things and this is when my pastoral calling re-emerged. I was single for all of my 20's and early 30's and so began to wonder what life as Christian woman meant for me. I went to seminary as a single woman to sort out the pastoral question and discovered that I was gifted for ministry. My seminary (North Park) and my denomination (Covenant Church in America) were both affirming of my call even though many churches in the denomination were not. Then I met my husband who was the most affirming male presence in my life I'd even met. He encouraged my pastoral gifts and as our relationship grew and developed, the issues of submission and spiritual leadership never even emerged. We've now been married for 15 years and power struggles are not a part of our life together. We make decisions based on what's good for the marriage. We seek to love and care for one another's needs. I can't think of one time in those 15 years that Doug needed to assert himself and just make a decision. When we made the decision to come to Sweden, I was in a very satisfying position as campus Chaplain at North Park University. After we received the call, Doug said to me...I want to go, but this one is your call. I need for you to feel called and if you are hesitant at all, we won't go. That was Doug loving me as Christ loved the church and I suppose is what made it possible to "submit" to the call to move to Sweden. But Doug first submitted to my happiness. Isn't that what it's all about?
My story is further complicated by the fact that Doug and I have suffered the pain of infertility. Never becoming parents has been one the most difficult journeys we've ever been on. But because so much of American Christianity lifts up the stay at home mom as virtuous, here I was again, faced with a situation where I swam upstream. I have been made to feel less than because I'm not a mom and that is painful. And the whispers of "if she wasn't so focused on her career, God would've given them children" have not built my confidence in the Christian community.
OK...bottom line. What does it mean for us to be Christian men and women in the world? What does it mean for wives and husbands to honor one another and Christ? If power is at the center of this discussion, it's all wrong anyway. Why can't we celebrate the giftedness that God has given each of us...celebrate the ways in which he uses the diversity of his creation to accomplish his purposes instead of wondering if women should be subservient to men?
I'd really like to see a discussion of what it means for men to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Why isn't that a hot topic? I guess I have to ask, why are we so interested in submission? It's not that hard. We are called to submit to one another in love...how we do that usually works itself out in the individual relationships. And again, if it's about who has the power in a relationship, then we are really way off course.