Submissive wife? No way!

This morning as a I checked my email (which I do incessantly), I saw the familiar Single Roots newsletter in my inbox and was thrilled by the subject line – Allowing Myself to Dream.

However, when I opened up the link and began reading, I was disappointed. It’s not that I disagreed with anything that Shahan had to say. In fact, I completely agree that God wants us to live life to the fullest rather than twiddling our thumbs as we wait for the one. But, I was looking for something else. I was hoping for a post that would tell me it’s okay to dream about love and marriage.

I wanted someone to tell me there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the part of me that some might label old fashioned. The part of me that longs to be a wife and a mom.

Why did I crave that affirmation? Why do I need someone else to tell me that being a modern woman doesn’t require that I give up my desire for marriage and family? As I wrote this post, the answer surprisingly brought me back to a truth I needed to be reminded of.

On a college trip to Chile, I somehow ended up in a conversation with one of my classmates about premarital sex. When I revealed that I didn’t believe in sex before marriage, she was astounded to say the least. Her response was something along the lines of the following: “I can’t believe that as an educated woman, you subscribe to such antiquated beliefs.”

I was shocked by her reaction. What did having an education have to do with my religious beliefs?

As Christians (male and female), I know we are constantly experiencing this divide. To express one’s religious beliefs is not “PC”. We may be seen as backward  and judgemental, or automatically grouped in with conservatives, evangelists, or “Bible-thumpers”.

As a woman, I have witnessed this conflict on a very gender-specific level.  In my experience, the modern woman is expected to be career-focused, ambitious, independent, and self-sufficient. She should be comfortable with her sexuality and unconcerned with societal conventions.

When I joined the working world and later re-entered school to get my MPH, I felt the weight of these expectations on a very personal level. I don’t know how to explain exactly how I experienced it except to say that they were subtly woven into the fabric of the community around me. It felt as if expressing a desire for marriage and children was just not done. I hesitated to bring up church life because of the negative association attached to religion. And it was a given that my ambitions in life should center around my career. I felt alienated from my peers.

I remember telling a good friend of mine that I felt inadequate compared to my classmates because I wasn’t sufficiently passionate about public health. Her response struck a chord because as soon as she said it, I was hit with how right and true it felt. She said, “That’s not true. You are passionate. You’re passionate about God, friends, and family. You’re just passionate about something different.”

As an Indian American woman raised in the church, I never quite knew what to think. I would hear relatives tell me in chiding tones that I should learn how to cook if I wanted to get married and that I wouldn’t be able to find a husband who would accept my feminist views. I grew up in a church where elders turned a blind eye when boys left service to hang out in the basement, but made sure girls were not doing so.  The double standard grated on my nerves. I would read Paul’s letters saying women should cover their heads, submit to their husbands, and not be allowed to preach in church, and my temper would rise.

As much as I long for marriage and family, that doesn’t make me a conservative in all of my beliefs. My heart rebelled at the notion of man as the traditional head of the household, making all the decisions, and calling all the shots. I believe in a 50/50 marriage, one in which decisions are discussed and made together.

So what should we seek to emulate as women? The role that modern society now assigns us? The submissive wife of the Bible? For those of us who come from different cultures, do we take on the responsibilities outlined in those cultures as caretaker and cook?

The answer is incredibly simple and yet not easy. We take on the role God asks us to adopt. When I realized a few years ago that God kept bringing my attention to this issue, I recognized my stubborn refusal to allow God to direct me. I was scared he would give me an answer I didn’t like. And that’s when I forced myself to say a prayer I didn’t want to say. I asked God to help me see the role he designed for me as a woman and then, to help me accept and adopt it wholeheartedly.

It was a prayer I had to repeat many times but I’m grateful he asked it of me because now I feel closer to him on an issue that used to separate me from him.

So, if you’re reading this and wondering what that answer is, I ask you to take the these next steps. Pray and submit your will to his. Read every passage you can in the Bible about the role of women, discuss questions with fellow believers, and keep asking God for his perspective and wisdom. If you come to your own God-given answers, you’ll find the role he has for you and you won’t need to fit into anyone else’s definition.

As for me, I believe it all ties in to the often quoted Proverbs 31. It’s an astounding chapter actually if you take into consideration the historical context. Here is a woman who is viewed as capable and wise; she is a provider and a mother and wife who makes her husband proud. She appears to do things not usually part of the female role and is well-respected as is her husband. She is the woman I want to be.

After a lot of prayer and contemplation of God’s word, I finally feel at peace with my role as a woman of God but sometimes I just need a little reminder to not seek affirmation from any other source than him.

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