Last night Shane and I went to the first class of a 3-part series our church is offering entitled “Faith and Gender.”  A broad topic, yes, but something that certainly pertains to me, since I am a woman of faith who is trying to understand what it means to actually live as a woman of faith.  The discussions last night made me realize that it’s been awhile since I’ve engaged in and wrestled with any deep spiritual, biblical, relational issues.  It feels good to struggle with opposing beliefs and ideas.  But it’s overwhelming, too, and so tempting to simply say “pass” when God calls on me to stretch and solidify my beliefs.  It is alarmingly easy to let one’s faith become stagnant.  And “stagnant” is not a word I want used to describe my thoughts, relationships, or beliefs.  So I’m taking the opportunity to step up to the plate and wrestle with this issue.

I am frustratingly stuck on the question, “How do a woman’s and a man’s roles differ in a Godly marriage?”  I know that Shane is in charge of mowing the lawn and I am in charge of grocery shopping, but our definition of roles can’t just be reduced to a simple task list.  Some would even argue that there should be no difference between male and female roles in a healthy marriage, but I tend to disagree.  I do sincerely believe that a husband is called to lead.  “Leading” is not an exertion of power, but it is a willingness to be held accountable.  It is not about the man “getting his way” – leading often means making sacrifices, compromising, putting his wife’s or children’s needs above his own.  And a woman who is “led” is by no means weak, timid, or constrained.  She should still have a strong voice, a sense of independence, and utmost confidence in herself.  These are things I hold to be true – a man is called to lead sacrificially, and a woman is meant to follow walk alongside him, while still retaining a sense of value and self-worth.  But I’m having such a hard time understanding what this really looks like, particularly in my own marriage.  Am I allowing myself to be led by Shane?  Is he even offering to lead?  In times when Shane is weak, or lost, or “stagnant”, is it my job to step up and lead?  What does “leading” even mean?  Is it about decision-making?  Providing?  Accountability?  So many questions…  I’m not expecting absolute resolution – it is the growth that comes from the process of seeking that is so formative, but still, it would be nice to be able to translate my vague doctrines into quantifiable actions.  And so, I will ponder/struggle/wrestle/explore.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

One Comment

  1. Jason says:

    So glad you were there! I agree, it’s really the nitty-gritty, “how does this work itself out in my relationships?” that these issues become real. Easy answers are definitely hard to find in this whole discussion — especially given how different our culture is from 1st century Mediterranean.

    My thought on this particular issue of husband and wife is that the question swirls around what Paul means by “head” in Eph. 5. The husband is the head of the wife (v. 23) and the wife is to respect her husband (v. 33). I can’t ignore that Paul has to mean something by head! What I’ve read is that the head can mean either “head of the tribe” or “headwaters.” The first would be along the lines of the man providing some sort of leadership to the wife, maybe doctrinal teaching (since most women weren’t educated), or protection, etc. The “headwaters” meaning would be along the lines of being a source of life to, sustaining, etc. I think the “headwaters” one resonates more with the imagery in the passage of Jesus being the head of the church and being its source of life. And if I’m honest, in our marriage we both lead where we feel gifted to lead and so that second interpretation resonates with how we actually see marriage working itself out. Of course, the questions remain, since Jesus does both sustain and lead by example the church. Argh, so many questions!

    Where I would finally rest is that the whole eph. 5 passage would have challenged men far more than it would have challenged women in the 1st century and it still should today. Women, who were basically their husband’s property, are told “submit to your husbands” and then Paul even softens what that means by calling them to “respect your husbands” in v. 33. I think they would have said, “that’s cake!,” especially since teacher like Philo were writing “wives must be slaves to their husbands, a servitude not imposed by violent ill-treatment but promoting obedience in all things.” And then Paul tells husbands to love their wives, serve them, instead of instructing them on how to make their wives obedient?! I can see them being shocked at just being the head; not Lord or Master or Paterfamilias!

    All that little soapbox to say I think Paul is setting a trajectory by undermining the household codes of his day that points to a mutually submissive marriage of equal partners. Anyhow, that’s plenty for one comment, let me know what you think 🙂