I’ve recently found myself with extra time for reading, and feeling drawn to works by Elisabeth Elliot. Most specifically I am reading Let Me Be A Woman which is a collection of 49 letters that Elliot wrote to her daughter when she was engaged and preparing to marry. I had no idea that’s what it was about when I purchased the book. I just saw it on Amazon.com and said that’s the one! I haven’t been able to put it down since I started reading it, and it really has me thinking.
The concept of submission within scripture is one that I have openly had issues with. As a woman I just cannot wrap my mind around it. I am sure that has something to do with the lack of relationships where I have had to practice it, but I can’t even imagine how that begins to take shape, or what it means.
In my mind I think of Mary Winkler in Tennessee. She was arrested my senior year of college for murdering her husband. She didn’t contest that she murdered him, but stated that she snapped from years of being “submissive” to her husband and sacrificing who she was to please him. The details of the case are up for debate, but I can see the defeat and the lack of self-confidence in her eyes. (maybe that’s just my empathy strength getting the best of me)
If that is what submission to my husband is supposed to look like, I think I’ll keep my single life. I can manage my own finances, take care of my car, fix the basics around my house. Until recently I never even thought twice about going to Wal-Mart or the grocery story by myself in the middle of the night.
I’m self-sufficient and independent. I kinda like it that way.
But then I picture my parents and am sure that they are an excellent example of what Biblical marriage is supposed to look like. My mother (who may still read this, I’m not sure) did not marry my dad until she was 30 years old and had been a single mother for five years at that point. Much to my grandmother’s chagrin, my mom stepped back and let my dad provide for her and their family. She certainly was capable of taking care of things by herself. But yet, my mom trusts completely in my dad. While he is not the sole decision maker, everything goes through him. My father adores my mother (the only time I’ve seen him truly angry is when someone has hurt my mom). My mom’s submission to my dad is not her saying he’s better than her, but rather, her accepting that he has a role, and she has a role. It works so well. I believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
My question is, where does the woman that is self-sufficient, and independent fit in that picture? The picture of womanhood that is painted by our society is extremely confusing and contradictory. Elliot and others paint a picture of a woman who is only truly fulfilled in a marriage where she is submissive to her husband. I have yet to find a definition of submission and what that means. Reading her writing though, it seems to be indescribable and appealing. My faith tells me this is the way to go.
However, I am a child of my generation. Myself and the rest of my peers were raised by parents who saw, lived and experienced the 60s and the feminist revolution. While my parents are in no way feminists, they did raise me to take care of myself. I am independent because they made me that way, for the most part and also partially because, as my mom told me this weekend, I’ve been 30 since I was 3.
My colleagues here at seem to be of two types of women. The first are those who do not ever want to get married or have a family. They only want companionship because they do not want to die and no one notice. The second type are those who seem to think they can truly have it all. They are the ones who want to be the most recognized in our field, and be outstanding soccer moms at the same time. I’m not sure I fit in either place.
I long to some day be married and have a family. I know I have not yet been called to that, but believe that some day I will be (and pray that it will come). While I also feel called to my profession, in the scope of life I care more about being a good wife and mother than I care about being an outstanding professional. My calling to this field is for this season, and I cannot promise how long that season will last. Many of my colleagues would tell me that I am foolish, and cannot understand that perhaps being a wife and mother is a calling. But then, the concept of calling is often beyond them as well.
My answer is that there must be a middle road. More so, I long to learn what this idea of submission looks like in reality. I heard a sermon this summer about submission (there seems to be a trend), and it was one of the best that I’ve heard. He talked about the single woman’s call to be submissive to Christ. That it is preparation ground for marriage, but not that the husband becomes Christ. Rather, that each man and woman, when truly living their God given roles, draw each other closer to Christ through that relationship.
I really believe that in this season of my life, God is teaching me about what it means to be submissive to Him. I do not believe that lesson is one that is left solely to women to learn. It’s just the one that is meant for me right now. I think it’s a fitting lesson for me to be learning as I begin taking steps towards the next season of life (a real job!). Submitting to God’s will and call in my life, and trusting that it all works for good is a timely lesson to learn and depend on.