One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Rachel Held Evans, is about to launch a week-long series on Christian egalitarianism. She suggested that this might be a good time to join the synchroblog by writing about your own experiences with egalitarianism, and, since its a topic I’ve wanted to write about anyway, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to make that happen.
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“I’m concerned your fiance might not be submissive enough”.
I will never forget these words, because they marked the first time I ever personally experienced the gem known as complementarianism. I’ve seen it presented in many forms but it is basically the idea that, for a marriage to be Biblical and proper, the man and the woman (the only possible combination for a Biblical marriage) must adopt “separate but equal” roles in the family. That the man should lead and the woman should submit to his authority.
(I’ve always found it interesting that the person behind these words was not concerned about Chad’s leadership skills nearly as much as my submission skills, even though those are theoretically equally important in a complementarian relationship. I found it even more interesting that someone even felt the need to ask this question in the first place, as if the balance of submission were of their utmost concern. Thankfully, Chad set them straight with much more tact than I could have mustered had the comment been directed my way.)
I have no bones to pick with anyone who chooses complementarianism as a model for their marriage. Having been on the receiving end of painful criticism too many times because my lifestyle does not match up with someone else’s interpretation of the Bible, I tend to err on the side of “if it works for you and it isn’t hurting anyone, who am I to judge?”. I know many couples who practice complementarianism, and, inasmuch as they let me into the intimate details of their marriage, it seems to be okay for them.
However, please trust me when I say that loving each other in an understanding of our mutual equality is the most beautiful and meaningful way Chad and I can live out our marriage.
Do I ever submit to him? Of course I do. Frequently, because I know he is much wiser and more knowledgeable than I will ever be on many issues. But he submits to me frequently too, for the exact same reason. We know each other well enough that we can pass the reins back and forth to each other almost seamlessly now, taking control when it’s our expertise that’s needed most, and stepping aside when the other could handle things better.
And it makes me love him even more, to know that the Church is offering him a free pedestal in our marriage, and yet he chooses daily to stand next to me, rather than over me.
And on a similar note- I have no patience for people who want me to discover “Biblical” womanhood, as if the only proper way to be a woman is to fulfill a laundry list of Church-appointed “feminine” qualities. I am no less a woman of God because I’m more outspoken and aggressive than my husband, and my husband is no less a man for enjoying housework and being a stellar interior decorator. Men and women come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of talents and passions. And I am happy to be in a marriage where our roles are determined by those talents and passions rather than our respective body parts.
I firmly believe that there is freedom in Christ, and one of those freedoms is freedom to be who you are. I can’t imagine how constricting it would be to Chad and me if we had to try to fit our unique personalities into tiny “biblical man and woman” shaped boxes created by someone who has never met us. I also shudder to think of how many awful situations we would have gotten into had Chad not occasionally submitted to my authority on things. We are a team, and I could not love my teammate more. 🙂
So please, be concerned if you don’t think I love Chad enough, or if you think I treat him badly. But please don’t worry about how much I submit to him, because while we might not have everything in our marriage worked out, we’re working it out together.