Part 4: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “*But it Wouldn’t Be Nothin’….Without a Woman or a Girl.”

*I couldn’t just mention that song in my last blog without finishing the line in this one, right?

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Natural-Order-of-The-Family

Hey, look at that! The Pesky Umbrella Graphic got an upgrade!!! Well, it may have brighter colors and a few changes in the wording, but hey, guess what?

It’s still missing the mark.

Before I jump into all of that, though, let’s recap:

  1. The intro: His Banner Over Me is Love (AKA, “I am NEVER on the bottom of the totem pole”)
  2. Part 2: “Married/Single: There’s a Place for You
  3. Part 3: “This is a Man’s World

And after weeks (maybe months) of sitting on it, I think I’m finally ready to write the part of this series that’s the most difficult to me: “Redefining the Role of a Woman.”

I want to state again very clearly before I tackle this topic that I am NOT a feminist. You won’t find me wearing a “P” hat, burning my bra and screaming about the patriarchy (okay, you MIGHT find me burning my bra, let’s be real here). You will find me, however, more than willing to engage in discussions about respect and expectations, and I think that’s really at the crux of it all. People want to be respected, and treated well. No one wants to be treated as “less than” for any reason, especially if it’s because of facts that are out of their control. I recently blogged about why I’m grateful for Title IX training in my place of work, and why I think Christians have failed in getting and staying educated in such matters. Sexual harassment and improprieties stem from an overall lack of respect for another individual (& from an overdeveloped sense of entitlement & lack of humility). Last January, I blogged about hoping for a day when we rise up and instead of saying, #MeToo, we say, #IAm. What if we went from being victims and from being victimized, to being a people that are aware of the great Love with which we are created? A people that recognize that greatness in each other, and respect it? It would be the death of the #TimesUp movement, because the time for improprieties and inappropriate behaviors would TRULY be “Up.”

More than just respect, however, comes a need for people to seek God and ask Him the question, “Who do You say I am?” When we start…just to start…to ask Him that question and wrap our heads and our hearts around His response, we find ourselves shell-shocked by GRACE.

A leader in our Church told us we needed to ask God that question a few weeks ago. Since he made that statement, there has been a seismic shift in our church body that we’re all reeling from. We’re all processing, and a lot of people have been deeply wounded by the actions of another…yet in the midst of that, the question remains: “We are wounded. We’re bloody on the battlefield, God, but who do You say we are?”

He looks back at all of us, and His answer is the same: “You Are My Beloved.”

His banner over us as a corporate body, and as individual people, is still, in the midst of it all, Love.

When we look at each other the way HE looks at us, what choice do we have but to treat each other with grace and forgiveness? With love and respect? And in that treatment, where is there room for inequality or hierarchies?

I’m not a feminist. I’m an equalist. We are different in our roles and our responsibilities, but we are not worth more or higher than another. The only One that’s above any of us is Jesus. He’s the only One Who is worthy!

When we look at this Pesky Umbrella Graphic, it really does defy logic. It doesn’t make any sense!! WHAT’S HOLDING UP THE UMBRELLA, PEOPLE?!? It requires a central line and support pieces. What’s that supposed to be, in this graphic? IT’S NOT DEFINED. Whoops. There’s an artist somewhere who’d flat-out failed.

When I wrote the blog on them role of the husband in the household, I didn’t have the updated version of the Pesky Umbrella Graphic (the PUG) to work off of. I am not going to tackle the role of children in thein the household at this time; that may come later. For now, I am sticking to husbands & wives.

For the man, it states that role of the husband is to:

  1. To Protect the Family
  2. To Provide for the Family
  3. To Lead the Family.

That’s similar enough to the older version of the PUG that I’m not going to recap it for the sake of comparison. You can check out the link that’s listed above if you want the breakdown. I’m focusing on women in this blog.

The PUG graphic is basing itself on Ephesians 5. The older version of the PUG states that the role of a woman is:

  1. To Be a Helper to the Husband
  2. Raise Godly Children
  3. Submit to Husband’s Authority

The newer version of the PUG states that the role of the woman is:

  1. To Comfort
  2. To Teach
  3. To Nurture

I have to say, the older version of the PUG makes the hair on my arms stand up, and in fact, by omission, so does the newer version. This kind of thinking–this hierarchical system–is what belittles women and devalues their contributions to the household. It creates a system that opens doors to abuse and to second-guessing the unique roles that God designed us as women to take on.

I did a lot of thinking and questioning regarding this topic. I mean, the Word is the Word, right?

Ephesians 5–let’s take a look at it, because it’s really what this whole hierarchical system comes from:

Wives and Husbands

21 Honor Christ and put others first. 22 A wife should put her husband first, as she does the Lord. 23 A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. 24 Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first.
25 A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. 26 He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. 27 Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws.
28 In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. 29 None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are each part of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church. 33 So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.

I can’t, and I won’t, argue with the Word of God. My issues are not with what the Bible says. My issue is how it’s been interpreted, and how that interpretation has been twisted to manipulate women in particular. I want to be very, VERY clear, once again, that I AM NOT ARGUING WITH THE WORD OF GOD. Even when it uses words that rankle me in today’s retaliatory feminist construct, I’m not disputing it. I’m disputing the misinterpretation. Women were NEVER meant to be on the bottom of anyone’s list. Period.

The old PUG states that we are to “be a helper” to our husband, while the new PUG says we’re to be a “comfort.” I am not going to deny that we have a job to be a helper to our husband….but we share that responsibility. He is our helper, we are his helper. We are co-helpmates. It may be something as simple as, “I’m going to load the dishwasher; you can put the dishes away,” or something as complex as, “I’m confused as to my role in the church and I don’t understand what God is doing right now; would you listen to me and help me sort this out and get some focus?” When you have a relationship where there are medical issues, where you can’t keep up with what you need to get done, your spouse has to jump in and help you. Marriage is not about one person leaning on the other all of the time. Marriage is about two people leaning on Jesus, and working together for His common goal, whatever that looks like. It’s not co-dependent; it’s two independent people recognizing their weaknesses and learning the strengths that God put in the other to make the family work together for His purposes!

To be honest, I’m not as bothered by the new PUG stating that it’s our role to be a “comfort” as I am by the old PUG stating that it’s our job to be “a helper,” because I can see how one would assume that we as women take on that role of being a “comforter.” I get it, even though I know it doesn’t apply to all (having a uterus does not mean one is automatically a naturally-comforting person). I’m more bothered at the inequality of the old PUG stating ONLY for the women, is it a job to be a helper. Genesis 2:18 states that from the very beginning of Creation, God recognized that Man was not meant to be alone, and that he needed a helper “fit” for him. We’re designed to work together. One piece of a puzzle does not paint a picture; it takes pieces fitting together to make the whole scene come to life!

The second part of the PUG states that the role for women is to “raise the children,” or in the new PUG, “to teach.”

Please allow me a second to get up on my soapbox, & turn up my microphone so I can Bless God’s People.

STOP. DEMEANING. FATHERS. BY. ASSIGNING. GENDER ROLES. TO PARENTING.

It is NOT the role of the woman to raise the children all by herself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (how many exclamation points can I add without it becoming obnoxious?)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This goes back to the blog about the role of a man, and the things I said about the cyclical treatment of women by men, and of men by women.

We love our spouses. We set the example. We teach inherent sexism by making it out as though only one gender can be responsible for certain things in the household. By saying that women are responsible for raising the children, we strip men of their contributions and their value in the parenting process, thus teaching our boys how to be absentee/uninvolved dads, and our daughters to never learn to respect and value a man’s worth in the home outside of his wallet.

I married a man who is an EXCELLENT father to our son. He does it without pause or resentment; never once have I heard him say, “You do it, that’s a woman-thing”. He loves that little boy with his entire heart, & he’s proud to be for him what he didn’t have in his own life. We each contribute toward the raising of our child, for better or for worse. We don’t always succeed, but we’re trying, and we’re doing it as a joint effort.
If the role of a woman is to be a comfort, and thereby, set the stage for a child’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, than that reiterates that a father & his relationship with his child sets the stage for that child’s relationship with God the Father.

It is NOT the job of a woman alone to teach their child.

We teach our children by how we treat each other, together, and by how we individually treat them in their role in our household.

The link above is to a blog that a man wrote in the Washington Post about the whole, “It’s not babysitting if it’s your kid” movement.

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This picture infuriates me. Two people create a child. Two. Society has allowed women to take on the roles of both mother and father, and women have succeeded. We CAN do it all…but it’s at a tremendous sacrifice, and a very, very high price. It’s not the way it was designed to be. God made us to be together to raise our children…and two people can be together in a household, but only one who will raise the child. It’s a terrible imbalance that has spiritual, physical, and mental consequences.

Single mothers are amazing, strong, ferocious women that have taken on the collective responsibilities of the household. They’re the spiritual, physical, and financial leaders of their houses, and THEY ARE EXHAUSTED. But THEY. DON’T. STOP.

Because they can’t.

And in caring for their children to the best of their abilities, they sacrifice so much of their hearts and minds, only for the Church to come in and constantly remind them of why they’re just not good enough.

That’s crap.

The Church is designed to be a supply house, both physically and spiritually, for the widow and the orphan, and women that are single parents are women that have been abandoned by their helpmate (or have had to abandon their helpmate), so I believe they more than qualify. We’re to be a place of open hearts and arms for these women, yet far too often, all we are is a house of judgement. That’s junk, and we’ve missed the mark. We need to support single mothers in such a way that they are spiritually sustained to fill both roles of leadership in their household, not to drain them by pharisaical false theology.

There was a set of books that were so popular in the 90’s & early 2000’s, called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The book was a broad-spectrum definer of why women and men think in such different ways from each other, and I find myself referencing it when I can’t figure out the Why in David’s DO. In the book, women are considered to be the broad-spectrum thinkers, where men are the ones with a singular focus. We branch out, while they go in for the on-site kill. They’re the hunters, we’re the gatherers–caveman stuff. I see these differences in my husband and I, to perfectly answer the book’s stereotypes (and I’m normally not a huge fan of stereotypes). 🙂 I will converse about an issue for DAYS. David will make his point once, and be done with it (and be frustrated with me, because I’M NOT FINISHED!!!!!). He will go to the grocery store and get milk and bread, while I will go in and get $200 worth of food for the month, without a list, but with an entire calendar in hand. Neither of us is wrong–we both needed groceries. He’s just got a completely different way of thinking than I do, but it still works. Again, we are made to fit together, to help each other, & to balance each other. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) our different ways of thinking frustrate us to no end, but it’s all part of the process of coming together as a team.

Single mothers have to have both sets of brains–they have to be both the hunter and the gatherer, the person of a single focus, but also the broad-spectrum thinker. That kind of duality is exhausting. The Church should be an oasis to challenge the spirit, but to also allow the mind to rest. The single mother should find no greater refuge than the church, and no greater resource to help her find her value as a woman, than in the church.

The third part of the PUG states that our role as women is to “submit to the husband’s authority” in the old graphic, or to “nurture” in the new graphic. Um…okay…..here we go….

When you nurture a plant, you feed it, you water it, you give it sunlight, and you give it the tools it needs to be healthy. “Nurture” is one of those words that evokes mental images of softness and of comfort, words that are not typically associated with men. We think of a mother nurturing their child from the womb and throughout life; our very physical body was made to nurture our children…but we weren’t made to do it alone. Mothers and Fathers work together to create a nurturing environment for their children. We need both the softness and the encouragement, as well as the firmness and the defined boundaries. I don’t think that just a mother, or just a father, should be one of those things at all times. I will say that in both of these graphics, giving the “duties” of nurturing to the woman makes the most sense to me, and it’s the least-irritating concept under the umbrella (ella. Ella. A. A. A.). I get that. It works. I’m not mad at it. The biggest, baddest, most aggravating concept on this entire umbrella (besides the fact that the old graphic puts women at the bottom of the patriarchal totem pole) is that word, “SUBMIT.”

When I hear the words, “submit!” I always hear it with an exclamation point, followed by an internal gif of an old white guy banging a judge’s gavel. The word “submission” has such a negative context; it’s because it’s been abused and misused so badly. I think it’s a word that’s been destroyed in the wake of misappropriation, and as Christians, we need to correct our interpretation and pull it back from this dictatorship-mentality that we have. If my entire series of redefining the Christian family does one thing, my hope is that it succeeds in changing perspectives on the word, “submit.”

Submission was never meant to be taken as a boot on the chest of women, holding us down or stripping us of our will. It was never meant as a constricting thing, never meant to confine us or to force us to do anything we didn’t have a desire to do or to be a part of. Submission is not abuse.

Say it again for the people in the back of the room: SUBMISSION IS NOT ABUSE.

We are not dogs, that we should roll over and expose our weaknesses for men to exploit. We are not victims, and they are not our captors.

We are not weak, that we should be parasites off of the strength of men because we lack the capacity to do it ourselves.

We are not at their beck and call, either in the boardroom or the bedroom, and we are not “less than.”

Back to Ephesians 5:24–“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husband as you do to the Lord.”

And there it is….”as you do to the Lord.”

There is quite a bit of instruction in this chapter; Paul runs through a list that’s pretty long:

  1. Do imitate God
  2. Do walk in love (some translations say, “Let Love be your Guide.” I like that.)
  3. Don’t be perverted or inappropriate
  4. Do give thanks.
  5. Don’t be deceived
  6. Do learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
  7. Do not participate in shady deals, but instead, expose them.
  8. Do make the most of your time, and walk in integrity.
  9. Do seek God’s Will
  10. Don’t waste time by being drunks
  11. Do be filled with the Holy Spirit and focus on worship
  12. Do submit to one another
  13. Wives, submit to husbands as you do unto the Lord
  14. Husbands, love your wives
  15. Church, submit to Christ
  16. Wives, respect your husbands

Of course, you can get super-exegetical and break all of this down, but that’s a volume. I’m focusing on those last 5 things. I can break down this section verse-by-verse and tell you the ways it’s been used to malign women. I think every one of us can think of a way that women have been shamed by the concept of submission. I think we can all see ways these verses have been misinterpreted….but look at the verses through the filter of that opening line. “Let Love be your guide.”

Working in optometry, I’ve learned the huge change that can come over someone when they get a properly-measured pair of eyeglasses. The entire world changes!

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We’re to look at the world through the love of Jesus. We’re to read the Bible through lenses of the Love of Jesus–not through lenses that are clouded by misinterpretations and oppression. When we as women read these verses in particular, we need to stop and put on those lenses of the love of the Lord. We need to read them as though He were saying them to us, to our face. How would Jesus speak these things to us?

As women, we have a responsibility to seek Jesus first and foremost. We have a responsibility to establish that relationship on our own, before we go looking to another to establish it for us. Our relationship with our husband should strengthen our relationship with Jesus, but our relationship with Him cannot be dependent on our relationship with him. Get it?

If only we could undo 2,000 years of negative connotations for that word…

When you love Jesus, you trust Him. And when you trust Him, you allow Him to direct your life. That’s submission. That’s what He wants.

He doesn’t want to bruise us, or to crush our spirits. Jesus wants the absolute best for us, which doesn’t always line up to what WE think is His best, so we have to submit our will to His. It can be a difficult process, but it’s SO worth it in the end!

Our husbands have a responsibility to love Jesus, first and foremost. They’re human; they’re flawed, and they fail. It doesn’t say they have to be perfect. They just have to maintain that heart that remains focused on Him. When they do that, they exhibit His character. When WE do that as women, WE exhibit His character.

We move in harmony with the will of God when we’re both focused on serving Him.

When we love Jesus, and we love each other, we each want God’s absolute best for the other person. We are willing to humble ourselves and to seek God’s will; we put our own egos aside and we go before God as a unified household. My husband is to love me as Christ loves the Church–that’s that Song of Solomon love, that love that goes before us and behind us. That’s the love that declares to the enemy that I am his, and he is mine, and you won’t come against our marriage or our household.

It isn’t easy for me to submit, & I can’t do it on my own. It’s not easy for me to say that word. I don’t like that word–“I am Woman, hear me roar!!–but submission is not a sign of weakness or failure.

Submission doesn’t mean that I go blindly, or that I haven’t put up an argument or asked my husband to explain himself. I’m not expected to acquiesce in obsequiousness. I’m not a blow-up doll, and God didn’t create us as women to be such. GOD MADE US AS WOMEN IN HIS IMAGE, and He loves how we think and work and function!!!! He made us to communicate the way we communicate, with reason and with intelligence for a PURPOSE! He thinks our brains are beautiful, and He loves us! He doesn’t expect us to suppress that in marriage—He expects it to improve as “iron sharpening iron!!!!!!” (Have you ever seen iron sharpen iron? It’s a really messy process.)!

It doesn’t mean that he disrespects me and doesn’t hear me out. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t miss the mark (or that I don’t miss the mark). It does mean, though, that there is grace.

Submission takes respect, grace, prayer, and support, from both parties in a marriage. We have to respect each other. We have to give each other grace. We have to pray for each other and with each other, and we have to support the decisions that are made. Without support, a structure crumbles.

When it comes down to it, though, biblically, I have to submit to the decisions my husband makes. I don’t always go quietly; in a previous blog, I discussed how during one season, it took me over a YEAR to finally get on the same page as David. In walking that out, though, I found out about the blessings that can finally come when two praying people stand together in unity. It’s still hard, but at least I can appreciate the process, & after that last experience, I’ve learned some lessons.

Before anything in Ephesians is broken down into focusing on marriage, we’re to submit to ONE ANOTHER. In the English Standard Version, it almost uses the words “respect” and “submit” interchangeably, which I love (Ephesians 5:33, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”). When you respect someone, you submit yourself to their expertise. You trust them, and you trust that you can learn from them–how cool is that? We trust that they have something to say, and they trust that WE have something to say, so we listen to each other! We’re to be respectful and kind to each other (I Pet. 3:15)–Remember that when these chapters were written, they weren’t separated into topics. They were letters written to people groups. We broke these things up in our English translations, and in doing so, put our own spin and focus onto key verses that may not have been intended by the original authors. So, when you read Ephesians 5, read it straight through, without pausing for sections, and think about how it goes.

Submission is a requirement for a successful family dynamic, but that doesn’t mean everything looks like that totem pole/umbrella graphic. Just the visual of that graphic–placing women on the lowest rung?!?!–causes dissonnance and the devaluing of the roles we each play in our household. We’re so beautifully meant to intertwine and to work together for the glory of God…everything is for His elevation, not for our humiliation. I want to rethink this graphic, and take it completely out of the concept of a hierarchy.

The closest thing I can liken it to is a planetary orbit. I love how God gives us the best images of His personality in nature!!!!

The planets orbit around the sun, right? And each planet has their own course, with their own moons–do you see where this is going?

These planets all have different things pulling on them. Magnetic pulls, centrifugal forces, etc., all take part in keeping the planets on the course they’re designed to be on. If one planet decided that it didn’t want to stay the course, the entire solar system would be effected, and it would be cataclysmic. I think instead of a hierarchy, perhaps we should look at biblical family design like it’s own little Solar System spinning around Jesus. When one person stops seeking God, and stops focusing on Him, it affects the paths of the other planets.

I don’t like the hierarchical illustration. It reeks of manipulation. I don’t for a second believe it was ever meant to be taken as men are over, or are more important than women, but the Church has interpreted it that way for years. It’s not to be read in arrogance, but instead, in humility and grace. When you read Ephesians 5 in context, you see that it’s a manual for a life of integrity, respect, and kindness, . There’s no pride in the entire chapter. Men set the example of submission for women, by submitting to Jesus. Women set the example of submission by respecting their husbands & by submitting to Jesus, and we all respect each other. Our kids grow up in an atmosphere of SERVICE—what?!? It sounds a little utopian, but imagine how the world would be if we all acted it out?!?

Is that crazy?

In Galatians, the Bible says there is “neither Jew, nor Gentile; nor slave, nor free; nor is there male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think it’s fitting that the verse comes in the middle of a chapter that focuses on deception and of being locked in custody. There is tremendous freedom that comes when we put on those lenses of grace, and understand that God sees every single one of us as equal to another, regardless of gender or societal position. We’re all on the same page, at the same level, and we all have the same goal: To love and to serve Jesus with humility and grace…to seek Him first. That is the very definition of what I mean when I say that I am not a feminist. I am an equalist. Every man has a role. Every woman has a role. Those roles together, centered around the mission that Jesus gives each and every one of us, is our entire Focus. There is no competition. There is no struggling for position. There is only focusing on the Lord, and uplifting each other for that purpose.

Ditch the umbrella graphic. Forget the totem pole concept of putting women at the bottom of the list. We all have a voice, and we all have a role in the Kingdom of God. We’ve been created by a God Who loves us so much….Who appreciates us as individuals, and as part of His Body of believers. Men and women are together the Bride of Christ, and He loves us with an immeasurable grace. As Christians, we have no other option but to love each other to the best of our abilities, with grace and with respect to the value our Creator puts on each of us.

Part Three: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “This is Man’s World.”

(Okay, let’s be honest: I can’t say the phrase, “This is a Man’s World,” without thinking of Christina Aguilera’s best performance of her lifetime. She did a tribute to James Brown at the Grammys several years ago, and KILLED it. So, now THAT’s in my head. Squirrel!!!)

This is a series that started as a response to the Pesky Umbrella Graphic (PUG):Natural-Order-of-The-Family

For the first blog post, I started  with what I  feel is the most important part: Jesus as the Song of Solomon bridegroom, as the One Who leads us to the banqueting table in celebration with a Banner over us…”His banner over me is love.” If you haven’t read it yet, take a second and go back to it.

I did a follow-up blog on marriage, and parts of it might have sounded more like it was about reasons NOT to get married (totally not my intention, LOL): Mawwiage

Marriage is tricky. Going into it with crazy, Disney-expectations is setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. Image result for disney romantic coupleI’m not trying to rain on your parade; we’re all humans, and we’re terrifically flawed. Even under the banner of Jesus’ love, we make mistakes and we lose sight of our goals. We hurt each other, but the beauty of it all is that we learn to forgive, and we learn to grow together. It’s a lifelong process that requires incredible tenacity and faith.

So, for today, I’m going to discuss the role of the husband in this blog. This gets delicate because if you haven’t figured it out, I’m married. 🙂IMG_20180404_182209_201 I’m also EXTREMELY difficult to be married to (but hey, I have my good points). We were once told that 80% of couples who have lost a child, divorce, regardless of faith. That statistic has been proven to be false, but when you have that information hanging over your head and you’ve been through hell, it adds some extra challenges. Our marriage has been through more than anyone will ever know, but 13 years in, I’d say we’re successful in maintaining our relationship, SOLELY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

Did I mention I’m difficult to be married to? Oh, and don’t get it twisted–David’s not the easiest thing in the world, LOL. He’s generally pretty great, but ask me about cabinet doors and cereal bowls….

I don’t want anyone to think that when I describe the role of a husband in a marriage, that I am disparaging or focusing on my husband unless I say so. Don’t put thoughts in your brain that shouldn’t be there. 🙂 I really do have a great man in my life, and the ratio of things that bug me verses the incredible qualities he has, is completely disproportionate. 🙂 I won.

So, let’s go back to the PUG, okay? Image result for cute pug

 

Ah, there’s that HUSBAND, lording over everyone else, burdened with being both the spiritual leader, the provider, and loving like Christ loves the church…

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See, this is why we have to start disassembling this graphic by changing it from an Umbrella to a Banner. To hearken back to my original blog in this series, Jesus is over our family as a banner of victory, a banner of recognition, a banner of declaration that screams out the Love of God like a megaphone across the heavenlies. He shouts His love for us in the face of the accusations of the Enemy, in the face of the temptations that come our way…That banner is everything; whereas an umbrella will only shield you from the elements, a banner carries the mark of the King! We have this amazing declaration over our household that WE ARE LOVED uncontrollably, without human understanding! We are covered in grace and dripping in mercy, and where we walk as a family, we leave a trail of the fruits of the Spirit. That’s the goal.

And there’s Mr. Right: There’s the Husband of the Household.

Is he a dictator? A lord? King of the house? Ruler of all? Is he a doormat that a contentious wife stomps all over (ouch, occasionally guilty)?

No, and if he’s playing the role like any of those descriptions, he’s out of line with the direction of the Lord.

I like this quote from Family Life:

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

The PUG gives men 3 responsibilities, so I’m going to address each one:

  • Spiritually Lead the Family
    • We live in a society that has categorically undermined the authority of men and the structure of family in the media for the past 30 years. I’m 40, so I’ve had a front-row seat to this destruction. Shows like, “Married With Children,” “The Simpsons.” and the original “Rosanne” all painted pictures of men being basic morons, and the wives being the brains of the family. It was a huge departure from the shows of the 1950’s and 60’s that seemed to emphasize family. Men are now the brunt of every joke and have no authority whatsoever, in the name of comedy. I believe that issues such as sexual harassment, and abuse, are on the rise partially resulting from this oppression of the leadership role men are supposed to be in. They’re undermined and disrespected by women and children, so they retaliate with terrible behaviors (speaking broadly, of course). They’re designed to be respected, and they’re gonna get it one way or another, by golly, even if it’s by force!  Maybe that’s a stretch, but if a man is treated the way he should be treated, and if he’s locked in spiritually the way he should be, walking in the love of Jesus, there’s balance. Our world is miserably OUT of balance; men are mistreated, and are reacting by behaving badly.  I will say however, on the flip side of this, that the mistreatment of women by men most likely caused them to be portrayed as morons, so it’s a cycle of bad examples, poor leadership, and retaliation. If we carried ourselves with the balance that God created men and women to carry, NONE of this would be an issue.
    • Okay, so he’s supposed to lead the family in spiritual ways. …but that’s also something we all have to work together on. We’re not supposed to be unequally yoked, right? We’re supposed to be partners in fulfilling this mission to raise Godly children:  Deuteronomy 6:7 says that we are to “impress [the commandments] on our children; Talk about them when you sit at home, & when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”  It doesn’t say “Fathers Only–do this.” It’s for ALL of us to do…
    • So, what does it mean to “spiritually lead?”
      • First of all, we all stand before God ALONE. When I die, David’s spiritual walk will have no bearing on how my walk with Jesus is judged. So, I’m responsible for how I spiritually lead our son. Am I instructing our son in God’s Word? Am I teaching him biblical concepts and Scriptures? Am I doing everything I can to pray for him, and to set him in the direction that Jesus would have me set him in? Spiritual leadership is just that: Using personal examples and teachable moments, combined with prayer, to direct the household in walking in the will of God. It’s having a life dedicated to pursing Jesus, and in sharing that pursuit with those around you.  My husband has the same responsibility to do that, as I do–one of us is not more responsible to live a godly life than the other.
      • Spiritual leadership for a husband, like leadership over the family, involves biblical submission for a woman (ooooooooh, we hate that word!! “Submission?!?!?!” NOOOOO!) For women, this means that we stay respectful, even when we disagree with the direction he’s taking us. It means we listen, we pray, and we stay open to suggestions. It doesn’t mean that he’s abusive or an authoritarian. It means we give him the chance to explain where he’s coming from; it means we pray about it, we search our hearts, and we see where we stand with the result. If your husband is trying to lead you, spiritually, in a direction you know is wrong, I say stand your ground and pray that God changes his heart. Or, pray that if you’re wrong, that God will change your heart.
      • Example: Around 7 years ago, David & I were at a crossroads. I was on the worship team at a larger church, and had “commitment.” David had never really felt like he fit in, and just wasn’t getting fed spiritually in a way that he needed to. He wanted to find a different church, and he knew where he wanted us to go (did I mention that he originally picked THIS church, shortly after we got married?). He wanted to make a significant change, and I was NOT having it. It took a year of praying on both of our parts, independently (I know, we should have prayed together), for God to change my heart and get the understanding that YES, we needed to leave that church. It was time. The craziest thing (and I’m NOT saying this will happen for everyone; it’s just our story), is that shortly after making that decision in unity, I got pregnant with our miracle baby. When a husband and wife come together in spiritual agreement, radical changes can happen. The Bible says that “one of us can send a thousand to flight, and 2 of us can send a legion fleeing” (Deut. 32:30). Personally, praying together with my husband is challenging for me. It doesn’t come naturally to me, even after 13 years. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, though.
  • Provide for the Family
    • Um, EXCUSE ME? What have I been doing for the past 18 years? What did my mom do for over 20 years? I’m coming at this defensively, because as a working mother, I’ve been seriously hurt by crap people have said about my decision/need to be a working mother. This isn’t 200B.C., people. They need to take that off of the graphic like, NOW. It’s borderline offensive. Welcome to a world where everything costs a fortune and most households cannot survive on one family member’s income. This is 2018, people, and diminishing the contributions of a woman in providing for the family is insulting. We work just as hard, and frankly, stay-at-home moms ALSO work just as hard at providing for the family (I think I read a statistic once that said if a SAHM was paid for the work she does, it would average over $150,000/year). WOMEN. FREAKING. WORK in this world, harder than we have ever had to, and we deserve to be counted as providers for our families. Men shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone in today’s world.
    • I will 100% say that up until the 1950’s, women didn’t have to contribute to household finances to the extent that they now have to. I will say that consumerism, materialism, humanism, and an entire textbook of -isms have contributed to the change in the atmosphere that has resulted in women joining and/or taking over the work force. However, this is how it is NOW, regardless of what was intended in the beginning of Creation, and most of us have children to think about. I’m not sorry that I’m a working woman. I fully recognize the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, and it’s not one I feel like our household can make, or that my nature can process.
    • Does the fact that I have to work in order for our lights to stay on, mean my husband is out of God’s Will as a provider for our family? ABSOLUTELY NOT. However, I also believe very firmly that if a woman is working and a man is physically capable of working, then he’d better WORK and not make her shoulder that entire burden alone. I do believe that God created man in His image, and just as He said in the Garden of Eden, they’re to work to provide for their families. Laziness is not a godly quality, no matter how you try to spin it. We’re not made to be a lazy, dependent people; God created both man and woman to be industrious (see Proverbs 31, for the ladies’ version) for provision and for mental well-being. When we do good work, we feel good about ourselves; a man that feels good about himself passes that along to his entire household. 🙂
  • Love Wife like Christ loves the Church
    • This is the third thing the PUG lists (reading L-<R), but it should be the first thing men are responsible to do…leave it to an archaic, misinformed, misogynistic graphic to put the leadership role first, and the loving role last. 🙂
    • HOW DOES CHRIST LOVE THE CHURCH?  Read the Song of Solomon–it lays it all out. In SOS, Jesus is the Groomsman, and we as the Church are the Bride. Read that book, men, and get your action plan on how to love your wife (and please, actually put it into practice. Just reading it won’t do the trick. Preaching to myself…). Here’s some killer resources that will revolutionize your Christianity:
      • International House of Prayer with Mike Bickle. The link takes you to a ton of free downloads.
      • Gateway House of Prayer with Tammy Riddering. Same concepts as the IHOP version, but taught from a woman’s perspective
      • My husband has been studying this for at least 10 years. I’ve just started (again–this is so difficult for me to grasp, but I’m on my like, 3rd try of the in-depth study. I’m a fighter, not a lover). When you just barely, just lightly, start to grasp the love Jesus has for His Church, your brain will explode. And when you think that’s how a husband is to love his WIFE?!?!? BOOM.
    • What does the love of Christ for the Church look like? It’s wholehearted. It’s full. Mike Bickle of IHOP says, “The way the God loves within the fellowship of the Trinity, beloved, here is the glorious thing—it is the only way
      He loves. He cannot love partially. He only loves wholeheartedly. God does not suspend one attribute to exercise another. He does not put love “on hold” when He shows justice. He does not put His holiness “on hold” when He expresses mercy.”

      • I John 4:7-8 says that “God is love.” He’s made up of Love–how is that possible? Bickle says in the same sermon I quoted above that “He always loves in fullness.” He doesn’t love halfway. He doesn’t STOP. He can’t love us anymore than He already does. His love is endless, boundless, and eternal. We can’t run from it. He won’t hide it from us. He doesn’t play games or manipulate it. God. IS. Love.
      • A man can TRY to love like Christ loves the Church, but it’s basically not possible, because we’re flawed. 🙂 It’s not possible without having Jesus at the front/back/middle of the relationship. Jesus is literally the glue that holds a loving marriage together, because He IS Love!
    • A man is to love his wife:
      • Wholeheartedly: Don’t reserve your heart or your feelings.
      • Honestly: Don’t play games or hide truths.
      • Humbly: Recognize your flaws and work together to fill in the gaps. Ask forgiveness when you’re wrong. Don’t be too proud to help; the Bridegroom in SOS is as much of a servant as He is a King.
      • Shamelessly: Don’t embarrass your spouse for the sake of a punchline, and don’t be afraid to be publicly vocal about how much you love each other. Be vocal with compliments, and back them up with action.
      • Compassionately: Egos are fragile. Contentiousness will destroy a marriage and will eat a person’s self-esteem from the inside-out.
      • Demonstratively: You set an example to your family and your friends by how you love each other.
      • Faithfully: This goes for physically, emotionally, and mentally. Cheating is a nasty, complicated parasite that will destroy your life. Whether it’s a physical act of being unfaithful to your spouse, or a lustful act of letting impure things creep into your marriage, you have to get that garbage out before it’s too late.  It is SO HARD to stay pure in this world, for both men and women, but our hearts have to be towards our spouses! If you’re tuned into the will of God and you catch that stuff creeping in (it’s so bad that I’ve had to leave the room for a commercial. RIDICULOUS), you have to get out. It’s a constant discipline to maintain faithfulness and purity, and you have to commit to it daily. It’s not impossible. Men can be faithful. Women can be faithful. Relying on Jesus and being honest with yourself is the only way, because it’s coming at us from every angle today.

As a woman, and as a wife, it’s easy for me to look at the PUG with contempt. After all, it IS 2018, and women are enjoying more freedom and independence than ever before, right? We can be who and what we want; we can hang with the boys and be equals, right? I don’t need a man, right?!?!?!?!?!?

WRONG.

The last blog in this series will cover the roles of women in today’s world, and it’s probably going to be the most challenging for me to write. Like I said in the first blog,  I’m not a feminist; I’m an Equalist. I believe we should be respected equally, paid equally, and treated equally, regardless of gender or race….but to be a woman is a glorious, unique thing, and I think our differences are to be celebrated.

Men carry such a burden. The phrase, “toxic masculinity” has recently become popularized, and to be honest, it makes me nauseous. Men are now being “punished” for being, well, MANLY. I think the definition of “manly” is more than a little distorted in today’s world, so let me take a crack at it:

Being “manly” is not determined by how much Budweiser you can drink, how well you can shoot a gun, or by how quickly you can disassemble an engine.  A man that follows Jesus is to love in fullness, to walk humbly, to seek justice and to give mercy. He has shoulders that carry responsibilities with strength and a heart that seeks the will of God, and he makes that his priority. He protects, he provides, and he works in partnership with his Bride. There is nothing more manly than a guy who leads his family with humility and serves his God wholeheartedly.

In closing (phew!), I’m going to reference a blog I linked to in my first post of this series: The Thistlette. In this blog, the writer keeps the umbrella, but places them on equal footing with mutual submission to Jesus. Although I’m still not a fan of the umbrella itself, I can appreciate how she relocates the relationships out of the hierarchy that the PUG places them in:

Christian Family Hierarchy

We have a responsibility, male and female alike, that we share equally: Love Jesus. Tell the world about Him, and set an example of His love with your life. Raise a family together that does the same. We have different-but-equal responsibilities in the kingdom, and a goal to work towards, together. Setting aside religious misconceptions and walking forward in freedom to further the goals of the Kingdom is what we should all be striving towards, and building families together without judgment is key.

One more section of the PUG to go……..#JustKeepWriting

Part One: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “Um, No, I am NEVER on the bottom of the totem pole.”

A few weeks ago, I had an unfiltered discussion with an old friend from college. We hadn’t seen each other in 20 years; we reconnected over Facebook quite a while ago, and randomly decided to host a yard sale together. During the down times of the sale, we caught up on all of the stuff that we HADN’T put on social media since Bible college, and needless to say, it got real.

It was cathartic.

We both agreed that the Church, in our experiences as Midwestern Gen-Xers that were raised in denominational/non-denominational upbringings, had done a crappy job of directing us as Christian women in what a “fulfilled” life should look like:

Follow the rules. Make sure your life is Better Homes & Gardens-worthy. Keep your voice low, your head lower, and remember your station in life. Love Jesus, love your husband, pop out babies, and live the American dream (God help you if those babies don’t come on the regular, you Barren Woman. You MUST be in sin).

Be bland, be meek, and for the love of God, never mention sex in any casual conversation…or ever. That’s for procreation, not fun, and any other perspective is just sin (especially for women). Never voice what you need or want (oh, and don’t have any wants) in the bedroom. After all, you exist for the pleasure of your husband and for his needs.

Do as your told. Submit, submit, SUBMIT.

Image result for be a submissive wife

Oh, and if your life doesn’t look like what we tell you it should (complete with a picket fence), you’ve FAILED. You’ve failed as a woman, and you’ve certainly disappointed God, you horrible thing. Go sit on the back pew (if you dare to show your face in church), and do not think for an INSTANT that you’re ever going to be fit for ministry again in this life. You don’t speak in church, you don’t question things in church, and you spend the rest of your life lamenting every missed opportunity. You’re JUST a woman, and you’re a second-class citizen, at best.

I’ve watched the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale (and read the book), and it was uncomfortable…the mind control and “biblical” structure they use is familiar to me, although highly dramatized. The concept, though, of owning a woman and of valuing her based on her fertility, all in the Name of God, is NOTHING new. Christianity has long been twisted and perverted to control family structure and the role of a woman. When I watched THT, my most recurrent thought was how easily everything flipped over to such oppression, and how easily it could happen today (I haven’t seen any of the new season, so no spoilers!).

Sexism is rampant in the American church, even in today’s world, even on a collegiate level (ask me about being a woman in a ministry program in Bible college, and why I couldn’t take Hermeneutics class), and I think it starts with a foundation of a jacked-up “understanding” of the structure of a family, which then turns over to jacking up the roles of men & women in the family.

(I want to clearly state that I am NOT a feminist. I’m an equalist: Equal rights, equal pay, equal roles, in Biblical context. I think my explanation of that term will present itself in the course of these posts…Save your “you’re a liberal!” torches for after I’ve finished the series. 🙂 )

After the conversation at the yard sale, my friend sent me the following graphic, with a caption that expressed her discomfort with the tiers:

Related image

I agreed with her discomfort. I’ve seen this reposted a few times, and every time I see it, I inhale reflexively. Everything in me as a Christian and as a woman has issues with this graphic. For this first blog post, and because I believe it’s hugely foundational for the conversation, I want to focus on the importance of Jesus being at the forefront of the discussion…but not as an overlord or as some kind of oppressive umbrella. I want to focus on Jesus as the Song of Solomon portrays Him to be…as the Lover of our Souls. Bear with me, and let’s rethink this design…

Capture3

I cannot say it enough: Jesus has to be at the forefront of the family structure. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ—not a relationship where you do all of the talking, not a relationship where you follow a routine and a protocol, but a true, genuine, personal relationship with Jesus is foundational for any relationship we have with other human beings. It’s foundational for how we treat ourselves, our friends, our spouses, our kids, our pets, whatever. There is no relationship without a relationship with Jesus Christ. How does that happen? What does that look like? I’ll tell you right now, in my house, we get it wrong on the regular, and that’s okay. Jesus’ first priority isn’t looking at how we’re doing things wrong. He’s looking as to whether or not we have a desire and a want to TRY TO DO IT AT ALL. Eventually, we’re going to get it “right.” but in the meanwhile? Do you WANT to serve the Lord? Do you want to be His friend? Do you care about what He thinks? Do you read His Word (ouch—that’s a huge hurdle for me)? Do you WANT to read His Word? Do you know that He loves you with all of His heart? That His love goes beyond His death and resurrection 2,000 years ago? That His love is a daily, confounding, life-altering thing that will render you unable to ever be the same person, the more you learn about it? Do you know that you are His perfect Bride, the one His heart beats for? The one He chases, chastises, embraces; the one He longs for, the one He truly desires? He LOVES us, collectively and individually, and that Love is greater than any Umbrella graphic, any stereotype, any sexism, feminism, or –ism at all. We are so, so loved, and it goes so far beyond our ability to put words or thoughts around it. It’s REAL, and it’s amazing, and every day, I marvel at it. It makes no sense, but there He is, and there is no place we can hide. There is no cosmic “smite” button that’s waiting to hit us with a lightning bolt whenever we screw it up; there is gentle conviction (NEVER CONDEMNATION) from His Holy Spirit, but He’s not waiting in Heaven to take us down. He’s waiting for us to talk to Him, to have a relationship with Him. I can’t stress it enough: Jesus loves us. The Umbrella graphic makes the Name of Jesus seem like it’s ominously looming over us. It couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Song of Solomon 2:4 says that Jesus (portrayed in the story as the Bridegroom or the Beloved) leads us into the banquet hall, and “His banner over me is love.” He’s not looming or oppressing; He is pouring His love over us, and that is a foundational concept for Biblical family structure.

When we say, “His Banner over me is Love,” do we think about the actual definition of the phrase? Banners in today’s world are hung as ways to identify celebrations, and the word has lost its luster. Banners were signs carried like flags over troops in times of war; they identified the clans or tribes that were fighting, and allowed allies to spot each other from a distance. It also allowed the enemy to get a broad scope of just how many people they were dealing with. Banners showed unity & cooperation in battle! People carried the banners either on their own, or in groups where they EACH took a pole, and walked the banner out in front of the troops to guide them into the battlefield. Banners were carried off of the field, sometimes in tatters, to lead the troops into celebration and to rest. The banner was the biggest inspiration to the people that were fighting, because as long as it waved, THE FIGHT WASN’T OVER!!!!!  Think about the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner:” Francis Scott Key wrote the song because during the war, “whose broad stripes & bright stars, through the perilous fight, over the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”?!?!?!!??  Bombs bursting in air! Gunshots!  Fire! BUT THE AMERICAN FLAG STILL WAVED, so he knew the war wasn’t over, and we are still singing that dang song to celebrate!!!! (I’ll never sing it live again; I’m forever traumatized over accidentally butchering it in college)!!

The banners of the enemy in battle were DESTROYED…taken down, burned, erased, because they LOST. They were BROKEN.  The U.S. Military uses the phrase, “Loss of Colors,” meaning that when troops lost, their flag was captured by the enemy (remember playing, “capture the flag?”), so the losers had no banner to wave over them on their return to their base. They went back to their barracks in shame, unable to be identified by their people from a distance! There was no celebration, because no one could see them coming, because they LOST the FIGHT!!!!!  The Banner of Jesus is Love, and Love is VICTORIOUS.

Jesus goes before us as an Advocate with the Father. He goes before us, before we go into judgment, and He stakes His claims by identifying us as His own…by proclaiming His Love for us over all. Song of Solomon 2:4 says He leads us to the banqueting table–that’s a place only the victors are welcome to be. Losers don’t get to feast. We are His Beloved, regardless of the state we’re in. We’re His treasured, and we get to celebrate with His banner over us, leading us into the party, leading us into freedom without judgement…leading us away from sadness, from desolation, and from failure.

When you take a look at Biblical family structure, and you throw that picture of an oppressive, encompassing umbrella away and replace it with the idea of a banner, you open up a world of hope and of possibility. You throw away judgement, and you walk under a banner of love and freedom–no ceilings, and nothing holding you back from embracing everything He has to offer: Peace, rest, and eternity with Him. There are no limits to the love of Jesus, and there is no limit to how He embraces His children….

So, that’s Part One of redefining so-called Biblical family structure. I’m starting at the top, and I’m building a foundation of identity. When you start to rethink this thing, and you start to reidentify as a free Child of the King, as a Child that wears His Name, you start to see that your concepts of this structured, cookie-cutter, Martha-Stewart fantasy life of picket-fence perfection does not have to hold you back. You don’t have to be valued or categorized by your gender in the home, or by whether or not you’ve procreated, or by whether or not you bring home the bacon, or run the household. Don’t get it twisted–Jesus values gender, and I’ll get there. He loves us and He created us as men and as women, and we each have multiple roles to play in our families…but one is NOT better than the other, and one is not oppressively looming over the other, nor sycophantically fetching the coffee for the other. As spiritual beings, our spiritual lives take precedent over our physical bodies, so once we understand His love for who we are, and for how we draw near to Him, then we can discuss boys and girls, their physical/mental differences, and how those best equip us for various roles in the home. If you go into rethinking Biblical family values and you focus on the physical (boys vs. girls, for example), you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.

We start with Jesus. We start with His Love, because it’s Who He is. And we go from there.

Let’s throw the umbrella away.

Let’s run together under His banner of love.

 

To be continued….

 

*Note: I’m writing this from my own mind, my own prayers, and my own research. Occasionally, I’ll come across a resource that I like or dislike, or that I feel is worthy of note. I’ll usually link such things in the blog, but this deserves a separate shout-out. I found this after I was 3/4 of the way through writing this:

http://www.thethistlette.com/2017/01/13/umbrella-christian-family-hierarchy/

Seminary-types as a rule tend to freak me out, because I sort of feel like once someone’s gotten to that level of academia, their brain gets bigger than their spirit, and they start waxing uber-philosophical. However, I enjoyed reading this, and I plan on digging a bit deeper…

 

This message will self-destruct…but I won’t.

I’ve had something brewing in my heart for a few weeks now.

Something’s changing…something’s being restored and redefined…

I have to process these words before I post.

I feel like I’ve gone back to school,

And the learning curve is steep.

 

I’ve been studying what it means to be a Christian wife

And mother…

And how wounded women are left to pick up

A battlefield full of broken soldiers

That bite the hand that bandages the shattered….

How warrior women

Become contentious

And the difference between

Nice and “Nasty.”

 

Something new is coming…

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to write this, but it’s percolating…

It’s time to redefine

And

It’s time to shatter the mold.

 

….To Be Continued…..