The Godly Woman recognizes that “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man…” She willingly and joyfully submits to him in everything as she would unto Christ. What other women view as a burden and degradation, she views as an honor and a blessing.
My parents believed in male headship and the umbrella of authority. They believed that the husband is the head of the wife and that the wife must submit to the husband even as the husband must love the wife.
My mother was constantly reading books like Me? Obey Him? as she strove to be a better, more submissive wife. This was difficult for my mother, for she was a very strong woman. I watched her war with herself as she tried to reconcile her strong spirit with the submission she believed in so steadfastly. I watched her cry over it, watched it eat away at her. My father, usually a reasonable man, became quite upset with my mother if he felt she was infringing on his authority. His most common response was to give her the silent treatment, and that was enough. In response, my mother generally first felt indignation and then blamed herself for not submitting enough and resolved again and again to do better. While my parents loved each other dearly, this tension added strain to their relationship, and I could see it.
Yet interestingly, even as I watched my mother struggle with female submission, I nevertheless believed in it strongly. At the same time, I usually inwardly sided with my mom in her disputes with my dad, largely because he could appear so unreasonable and become upset over what seemed to be a small matter. I justified this contradiction between my beliefs and my feelings with regard to my parents’ quarrels by telling myself that I would have no trouble submitting to my future husband since I would marry a reasonable man who would not give me such trouble.
Of course, my parents believed in more than just a wife’s submission to her husband. They also believed that children are under their father’s authority and are to submit to him. For boys, this lasted until age eighteen, when they would leave the home and start a career; for girls, this lasted until marriage to man approved by the father. This meant that while my brothers would be out from under my father’s authority when they turned eighteen, I would not. My parents also believed that if my father died, I would be under the authority of my nearest male relative, which in practice meant my younger brother.
In retrospect, I am almost baffled that I believed this so wholeheartedly and sincerely, but I think I understand why. First, I was also able to endorse female submission because I myself had never been in a position where what I wanted contradicted what my male authority wanted, and second, when I endorsed female submission I found myself praised and affirmed.
I loved and respected my father, and we agreed on everything (except, I suppose, his disagreements with my mother). I was my father’s golden girl, his pride and joy. It was like he had shaped me to be the perfect daughter, to be everything he had always wanted. I was smart, and educated me well so that I could at thirteen carry on intelligent conversations with him on a variety of issues. I felt his pride in me and I basked in it. I lived for my father’s approval, and this was a driving force behind my diligence in education and in homemaking. I strove to be everything my father wanted me to be, and received nothing but praise in return. I thus had never had any reason to resent the presence of male authority over me and every reason to endorse it and claim it. I was my father’s ideal daughter, and I loved it.
In addition to teaching me about theology, politics, and current events, my father taught me to think. He taught me critical thinking, and told me never to believe something just because someone says it, but to always question everything and follow truth wherever it leads. He taught me to never trust authority for authority’s sake and to never be afraid of truth. He taught me logic and how to recognize logical fallacies. Of course, the context of all this was learning to rebut worldly ideas and bogus concepts like global warming and evolution. I loved these lessons I had with my dad, as he taught me how to understand global politics and current events and taught me how to think critically, and my dad loved it when when I showed I had mastered what he was trying to explain. My dad was the potter, and I was the very happy clay.
For the next installment in this series, click here.