Almost five years ago, I was a devout conservative Christian. I had been married over two years, had a toddler Ms Action running around and a baby Ms Drama due in a few months. I loved my spouse beyond what I had ever thought love was when we first got married, and I still dutifully tried to keep the house immaculate and dinner on the table by the time he walked in the door. I read lots of books on marriage and childrearing, and I gave some of them away too. I remember in particular giving away copies of “To Train up a Child” and “Be Fruitful and Multiply”. I did my best to live up to the ideas I found in the Bible, the Christian books and magazines I read, and the teachings I had always been taught.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I come across stuff I wrote back then, but it still makes me squirm. This post is a copy of a response I wrote to a woman on the Above Rubies chatroom I participated in at the time.
She was young, married to a military man, and the Quiverfull mother of 5 children under the age of 7.
She called herself “Yellowbunnys”.
She wrote about how submission made no sense to her. That she loved her husband, he was a good provider and a caring person, but that he didn’t really understand her. She explained the cycle in her marriage, of her husband making decisions for the family that she felt were unbearable, and how she tried to pray through it, ignore it, justify it, or talk herself out of making a big deal about it. But that sometimes she just couldn’t stand it anymore and ended up saying something to him. And then she would beat herself up for saying anything, because it just made everything worse and she’d be told she was being overly critical, that she didn’t know what she was talking about, and reminded of all her past failures.
She described how this cycle of guilt would drive her back to silence, once again keeping her voice and her opinion to herself, knowing that she was called to serve with her body, but not allowed to serve with her mind. She said that the idea of biblical submission didn’t feel healthy to her, that in conforming her entire life to what her husband believed, thought and enjoyed, she was throwing herself away in the process. She spoke of the overwhelming feeling of being trapped, chained, that every time she managed to lift her face to the sky long enough to see a glimmer of Christ’s hope, the chains of submission jerked her downward again to the reality of her role as a Christian wife. She asked the ladies of the group to help her make sense of patriarchy.
She called the post “My Prison Cell”.
Many of the women on the board seemed to sympathize, adding to the thread some of the things that they found frustrating about their husbands, and talking about how submission was a burden all women had to carry and what ideas helped them cope. In my self-righteous religious zeal, I was horrified. This was not an example of a godly marriage, I felt like someone needed to (gently) set these women straight and help them see where their priorities were off.
This is what I said:
“I would just like to say that unless your Husband is abusive to you or your children (in which case you should probably leave him!) the “prison cell” of submission you claim to be in, is one of your own creation.
1. No person can fill the “God gap” in your heart, if you are looking to your husband or even your children to fulfill the need you have for a savior, you will always be disappointed.
2. No person is perfect. It is unfair for you to expect your Husband to know what to do and how to do it in every situation (leave the expectations up to God), he is learning just like you. And it is way easier to learn if someone notices the good things about you.
3. Your husband is not and never will be a girlfriend. He is a man, we should revel in his manliness just as we should revel in our femininity. (God created us male and female last time I checked)
4. By complaining that he doesn’t “understand” you, are assuming that you understand him? He could be thinking the same thing about you.
5. We are powerless to “fix” anyone or anything except ourselves. We cannot control what happens to us, we can only control what we do with it, how we re-act to it. Will we assume that we are right? Will we grovel in our own self-pity? Will we play the victim? Or will we see the good, pray, ask God to show us the blessing. Can we be happy with whatever God has given us? I believe that once you are married it is for life (barring possible abuse cases) the man you are married to is supposed to be the love of your life and your knight in shining armor. Do you treat him like he is?
I almost hesitate to use the word submission because I have seen it miss-used in so many conservative circles. Basically that “Submission means being a doormat.” Submission is not being a doormat, it means letting your husband lead in his God-given role. I do submit to my husband. My Husband is the head of our home. All major decisions rest in his hands and (although he is imperfect) I am thankful to leave them there. I am thankful that he is willing to take on such responsibility. I am content to leave his faults in Gods hands and encourage him and watch him grow. I find that the more I bless him with my happiness, the happier he makes me.
My final tip is find the time to make love to your husband, I know that I will sound younger than ever by saying that, but it is actually the advice an older woman gave me when I got married. The more you fulfill your husband needs, the more fulfilled you will be sexually. When your husband feels that you desire him, he feels more like a man than ever and is encouraged to do anything it takes to be your man. Pursue him, surprise him. Kiss him in the hall, compliment him, tell him you want him and then go get him! I challenge you to make the time consistently and watch him change. The better your sex life the better your marriage, and the better your marriage the better your sex life. So get on with it and have sex!!
You can continue to live in your prison cell that you have built by the way you view your husband and your marriage. Or you can make the decision to set yourself free by giving the imperfections to God and starting to actively notice the blessing God has put in your life.”
My post worked in a way. I got over twenty responses from women on the board proclaiming that I was wise beyond my years, and that I had shown them the error of their ways.
I shamed them all back into their prison cells.
Now in Part two I want to argue with myself a little. Me Now, Vs the Me of 5 years ago.
Comments open below
Visit Melissa’s blog: Permission to Live
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce