Today I want to write about what God is doing in my heart.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5, ESV)
If you have any shred of feminism in you, you immediately cringe at certain pieces of this passage, maybe the entire passage itself. I know that even spending three years in New York City makes it hard for me to even consider most of this…or, it did make it hard.
When I came home at the beginning of this past summer (was it that long ago? Is summer that over?), I went to church on Sunday, and during Sunday school, my Pastor’s wife, Julie, had excitedly shared that her daughter, Sadie, had started cooking and baking in the kitchen. Her joy came from seeing her daughter grow into a homemaker.
Immediately, my thoughts attacked that joy. Now Sadie is being pigeon-holed into staying at home. She’ll be kept from doing what she actually wants to do and will have to be submissive and silent and unimportant and…
It didn’t take me long to realize that something was wrong in my heart. So I drew on God’s Word to be reminded of the freedom He intends for women who stay at home, whether as wives or also as moms. For a while I reconciled it in my mind that God created the family unit in a way that made it so the woman, whether she had a career outside the home, or if she stayed at home, the woman would set the tone for the entire household. “If Mama ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy” and all that. Women should be able to be married and also have careers, but they should also be able to be home. The idea is having a choice.
But my thoughts still defensively drifted towards the career path. As in, the lie that women who stayed at home were somehow fooled into thinking this was a good thing, or they were being robbed of choosing how to live their own lives.
I see these thoughts as poisonous to seeing the world the way God sees it, but I know that a lot of America sees this as gospel.
Jacob and I have been going through a lot of pre-marital material. We’ve talked over everything five times, and then talked over the same things five times more. One piece of the material is a worksheet of sorts given to us by Jacob’s father, who I affectionately call Uncle Doug (don’t worry, he’s not actually my uncle). The preceding verse from Titus, including verses 1 and 2 of the chapter, was one of the passages from which questions were drawn for us to answer and discuss.
When I got to this page of the worksheet, I had been a sort of childless, unmarried, stay at home mom for about two months. God worked it out both circumstantially and in my heart to have me be without a job during the months leading up to the wedding. I had been the laundry-doer, dishwasher, vacuum cleaning lady, cook, and errand runner for my Mom and my brother and sister. I’d experienced a ton of freedom in being able to be available to my Mom and my siblings, to the Brocks, to my church family, even to Jake, though he’s several states away. I had so much time to spend with God, to grow, to memorize Scripture and pray for all of the people for whom I’d wanted to pray but never felt like I had the time to really sit and concentrate. Mom could come home and really relax…she could even make dinner at ease because everything else was done. I had started to see the power and freedom and joy that this position brought…and I began to wonder how anything else could possibly be better.
“Wives, submit to you own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)
There’s that word. “Submit.” There have been several classes in which I’ve watched the faces of my classmates sneer as they’ve said this word. And I can understand why they’d feel the way they do…I have felt the same way before.
What I noticed, however, the more I read this passage as THE passage on having a godly marriage, is that this passage isn’t about the couple at all…It’s not about the roles of the man or the woman really. Paul even says so:
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (v. 32)
It’s ultimately about Jesus. The way God designed the roles of men and women is not to hinder either of them, but to draw them both closer to Him, and to sanctify, transform, and free them from whatever they think they need. A freeing thought for me is that my worth and security and purpose is not found in Jacob. When I submit to Jacob, he is not my ultimate authority…Because I love God, and I desire to totally and completely give myself to Christ as being a member of His body, I will choose to submit to Jacob. Submission is a humble relinquishing of power and position for the sake of others. The thing I tend to miss? God via Paul asks husbands to this same thing, unconditionally, just as he asks the wives.
So what does this have to do with staying at home and being a homemaker?
Well, my desire in my walk with Christ is to follow Him and “offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” to submit to Him in all things and be available to Him at all times and have all my focus be on Him. And if I am to submit to Jacob as the church submits herself to Christ, then I should seek to be available in a similar way to Jacob.
This is NOT to say that Jacob is God, or that he stands on equal ground with God. As with everything in life, God grows me in seeing the world through His eyes, from how I see my marriage, to how I see my family, to how I see finances, how I run the home, my attitude about life in general, to how I see people who walk past me on the street. God does not say that my husband is now taking His place in my life. At all.
For example: If I have a job outside of the home, that job will become a ministry ground for me. I will be seeking to love and reach out to the people I work with and will want to share that with Jacob, which doesn’t sound bad, of course. But if I’m taking this illustration of Christ to the church as husband to the wife, then it seems like this: I am doing my own thing and God is supporting me in that, which is contrary to what He desires for me. I’ve always seen the message of the Bible to be that I follow God, and He provides for me as I have a singular focus for Him.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
But then the question is “Isn’t pursuing ministry at your job part of seeking first the kingdom of God?” Why yes, yes it is 🙂 But God has given specific instructions and principles for wives as they seek to follow God; part of following God is now submitting to and being available to do ministry with Jacob, and having a singular, united focus. As I seek to be transformed by Christ’s vision and mission on this earth, I should also be seeking to conform to Jacob’s vision for ministry here, to be his teammate, his ally, she who has his back when the battle gets ugly. I get to be that 🙂
Well…this will be an adventure 😀