Thursday, January 12, 2012

Submission, Stillness, and Sacrifice

Once upon a time, right before I started this blog, I was noticing a lack of male leadership in my church.  Women who notice such things are usually pro-patriarchy; we’re complementarians, ok with pastors being only men and husbands being the head of the households (even of the wives!).  Those kinds of people are supposed to believe in submission, in not taking over authority not given to them; some of them don’t even believe in speaking during Church meetings.  So I talked to God about the situation, and asked Him, if I’m not allowed to teach men or take charge myself to get this right – and I’m not – then how shall I fix it?  Because God is not a crying female, He doesn’t entirely mind His children asking if they may be part of fixing problems.  Because He is a good authority, He assigned me the job of fixing myself and my own role in the problem.  What He said was to study biblical womanhood, and to study it together with other women, so that when we behave as we ought, our husbands and brothers and pastors and deacons and teachers and friends can be encouraged (by abiding need and by affirmation) to take up the leadership God has delegated to them. 

This episode of my life is significant for a lot of reasons. 

First, God spoke to me, clearly and directly answering a question I had been asking Him in prayer.  His speaking was inaudible, but it was not circumstantial.  I heard in my head clear sentences about what I was supposed to do and why. 

Circumstances worked out to where the way I was to study with other women was made clear.  That very week before the sermon, an announcement was made that there would be a women’s ministry meeting, and anyone wanting to get involved should stay for the meeting. 

I had become convinced that God had gifted me with teaching and I wasn’t using that spiritual gift.  At the meeting this possibility was specifically mentioned, and I volunteered to teach, subject and format already in mind (we spent 11 weeks on Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31:10-31). 

Fourth, I learned a lot about godly womanhood and about studying the Bible with a community of women and about faith.  One lesson that stands out right now is related to God’s answer about how to get men to lead.  When we came to studying the Titus 2 characteristic of “discretion,” what we came around to was that a godly woman is a woman of influence.  She’s willing to do things behind the scenes, to not say or do overt things that could lead to conflict or disrespect or usurping a man’s role.  Instead she’s the good cousin to manipulative: she’s discreet.  The word carries with it also a sense of wisdom, of thoughtful intentionality, and of self control for the sake of others’ interests. 

Finally, when our group of women finished studying Titus 2 and Proverbs 31, we moved into studying spiritual gifts – a breakthrough study for me and my beliefs about the Holy Spirit’s significant role in the Church and how the way we “do” church generally stifles that work. 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about these two subjects: about authority and submission, as a woman and in the Church.  I value authority, but I am not sure I go out of my way to build it up over me.  I want to receive a good ruler (father, pastor, husband) as a gift out of the thin blue sky, but maybe I ought to be more pro-actively submissive.  This seems like a paradox.  And maybe to experience more of God’s grace in my life, I need to seek out stillness and rest from trying to do everything on my own initiative.  Maybe I need to trust.  Maybe I need to be willing to be hurt. 

Love is a common thread between spiritual gifts, biblical womanhood, and leadership.  A lot of people these days say to get out of a relationship that causes you too much pain.  Don’t love someone unless you can get something out of it.  Keep your heart safe.  Take things slowly and cautiously so that you can try not to get hurt.  Don’t get used.  Thank God He didn’t treat us that way when He sent His Son.  Tremble at the example given: deny yourself; take up your cross; lose your life for His sake.  Love suffers long and is kind.  Paul was ready to be spent for the congregations he loved – even though the more he gave, the less they responded with love (2 Corinthians 12:15). 

Christian love is not prudent, is not safe, is not painless.  Submission is radical trust that God will be glorified even when the authorities we’re following make bad decisions.  Giving should be without expecting any repayment and without fear for what we will eat, drink, or wear tomorrow.  When we are weak, we can boast about it because it magnifies God’s strength.  Thanks should be unexpected when we serve.  Instead of pursuing justice to the bitter end, we should allow ourselves to be wronged by our brothers.  The needs, sorrows, and joys of others belong to us. 

To God be all glory. 

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