In January, I helped lead a guy's and girl's winter retreat put on by the youth ministry I volunteer with. Our theme for the retreat was Biblical manhood and womanhood – What does it mean to be a man or woman? I can't speak for anyone else, but I got a lot out of our time discussing what it meant to be a woman. For the teaching and discussion content we mainly used the Bible and the e-book, Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood by several authors posted as a free download on John Piper's website, Desiring God.1 I hadn't really done any serious studying on Biblical womanhood before so this retreat really sparked my interest and got the wheels turning in my head. Of special interest to me was the idea that the wife is supposed to submit to her husband and the man was the woman's headship. I've always thought of this as a negative thing, one that leads to the woman being trampled underfoot and the man having complete control over the woman. However, after reading the Good ebook, I started to see that submission can be a beautiful, Gospel-centered thing that glorifies God and is something God sees as good.
If God sees submission as a good thing then shouldn't I?
God is a loving and just God and shows no partiality towards man or woman. There is neither male or female, in Christ we are all one (Galatians 3:28). God loves me and knows what is the best for me, regardless of my gender. And as a woman, what He sees as the best for me is to submit to the authority of man. Now there's a striking thought and one that I hadn't put into words before. But it's true – the command for a wife's submission to her husband and the specific hierarchy of God than Christ than man than woman is clearly laid out in the Bible (see Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16). And that is a hard pill to swallow (at least for me, and I'm sure for a lot of other women) because submission still has negative vibes for me. Which is why, shortly after completing the youth retreat, I decided to do an in-depth study on submission. I wanted to know what exactly is meant by submission, who is supposed to submit (just wives or women in general?), and how it can be a good and Godly thing. And because I like to do things thoroughly and go to the root of issues, my study has expanded to the more general subject of Biblical manhood and womanhood, which will eventually lead me to studying submission. What is it about manhood that needs woman's submission? Why is man the head of woman? How can men and women, working together, live out God's intended design for them? And a more personal question I wonder – How can woman be all that she is created to be (smart, beautiful, creative, strong, rational, passionate, etc.) and still live under the God-given restrictions of submission and man's headship? How does the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 live in harmony with the apostle Paul's views of how women are to behave found in Titus 2? Does being a Biblical woman mean just staying at home, tending to the children, and serving her husband? What if she has a knack for business? What if she is a brilliant teacher? And what about single women who do not have a husband or children?
I have so many questions, all of which I will try to answer as I study Biblical manhood and womanhood. I plan to publish posts as I study and I hope that you will follow my journey on this blog. Please feel free to comment on my posts with findings from your own studying and experiences. I already have some interesting things I've learned, so keep a look out for my next post!
Until then, I leave you with a quote from Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood about submission that gave me hope and a glimpse of what submission can be when done in a Godly way.
“Submission is also not about belittlement, inferiority,or worthlessness. Scripture teaches that we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Also, Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” And Colossians 3:19, “Husbands,love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”A wife’s submission is also not blind and absolute.Ultimately, Christ is the wife’s final authority. As a part of Christ’s church, she is his Bride chiefly. As a wife follows her calling to submit in marriage, she is ultimately submitting to Christ. She also gets her spiritual identity and ultimate strength and meaning through Christ and not through her husband. Though her husband’s role is to encourage her and build her up in the faith, Christ is the sole source of her faith.”2
1 You can find the ebook here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/good-the-joy-of-christian-manhood-and-womanhood-new-ebook. While I've only read the chapters specifically talking about Christian womanhood for the retreat, I have started to read the other chapters and have found this book to be well written and full of thought-provoking material.
2Christina Fox, Good, 60 (pdf page no. 86)