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What if I’m not ‘a complementarian’?

Complementarian, egalitarian…it seems so strange that heart-deep beliefs on my identity, my husband’s identity, and the way our marriage will function should be squashed into these two unwieldy categories. At Liberty there really were no questions—women don’t preach, they don’t have authority in the church and they submit to their husbands as a help-meet. The end. We are complementarian. Equal value, separate roles and all that.

I never thought much about gender roles growing up. I still don’t know what my parents’ stance on it is, because as far as I can tell in their marriage, it doesn’t really come up. My mom worked until my older sister was born, and then she stayed home to care for and eventually home school us. Not because they believed she had to as a woman, but because they believed it was best for this family. My parents seem to operate according to the natural rhythms of life in our home. My dad has been blessed with a solid, well-paying job, so he works and provides. My mother does most of the cooking and cleaning because she has the time to, but she is also the primary handler of finances. I’ve never seen my father overrule her; they make decisions together.

Nor was I taught about gender roles at the Presbyterian church in which I was raised. We didn’t have female pastors, but women served in every other capacity in our church, including some in an authoritative role as elders. Recently I learned that our denomination allows each individual church to decide its own stance on the ordination of women. A few Sundays ago my fiancé commented with surprise as a woman joined the ushers to collect the offering; this is nothing out of the ordinary for me, but he was raised Baptist and had simply never seen it done.

Now, as an adult, I’m reading more widely, uncovering different perspectives on things I hadn’t previously questioned, and realizing these issues will directly affect my life. In seven short months I’ll be married and so it seems now is the time to examine my convictions, presuppositions and feelings about my role as a woman in the church and in my home. I’m trying to wade through the feelings of indignation that bubble within me at the word ‘submit,’ to admit that pride, stubbornness and a strong will come into play here, and to fight against the urge to let those things decide for me. I’m seeking truth, and doing my best to look first for the face of God rather than complete understanding.

It’s easy to dissect the rhetoric, examine the theological treatises, comb through the proof texts from each side, and dehumanize the question. But it is another thing altogether to look at this man who will soon be my husband, and wonder what I want him to be, and who God says he needs to be. Will he be leader, partner, authority, teammate? Right now I have a lot more questions than answers, but I guess that’s the point of any journey.

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