I am moving to Africa and getting married.
I came home after a crazy month of twists, turns, anxiety, peace, spiritual enlightenment and harsh reality of global medicine with a secret that despite everything the culture and mission hsoptial that I had finally decided on were intent on arranging my marriage. Only in global health does one have these problems… I refused to tell him over SKYPE even though in my heart it was more about being 8000 miles away and realizing I wanted him with me in a new way than it was the crazy marriage arrangement anyway.
So sitting in the car one night 36 hours after flying half away around the world, I let the bomb drop. My significant other took my hand and completely calmly tells me he been thinking about this since he put me on an airplane to Africa. He has already picked out a book for us to read to start discussing marriage!
Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage.
snark. I think. I know Keller is not Driscoll but he is no egalitarian. I know the sweet man picked it because it came recommended from a friend and frankly neither of us were really planning for this, it just happened and now we are trying to figure out how one gets married and moves to another country in under a year… Suddenly my need to have a opinion about Ephesians 5 is quite urgent. It should be noted that while I wrote lovely pieces about this not being a hill to die on in light of honor killings and sex trafficking, I suddenly realize that this is sort of unavoidable, I must pick a side.
I settle in to this WELCOME HOME gift and remind myself how much I love this guy and how much I hated being 8000 miles away form him For starters I read all of Ephesians 5 and am instantly furious. Not over headship but over the fact that I think in my 28 years of life I’ve never read the passage in its full context.
“15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
While everyone has been fighting over verse 22, we seemed to have forgotten verse 21. Mutual submission. NO O N E WINS! Verse 25-26 basically ask something very similar of the guys too.. I’m not saying I was instantly in the egalitarian camp but I was suddenly vastly reassured that while North American church politics exhaust me, God whispers to my soul: I’ve got this, you are still going to be the beautiful, strong woman I created you to be at the end no matter what label you want to use.
But what about all those crazy 1950s social norms? Where the heck did they come from? Not Ephesians, not Paul…. Where was the part I had to quit my job, start making cupcakes and babies? While I was having these panicky thoughts and quiet God Whispers, I worried would we come to a mutual submission idea together…reading Tim Keller.
Half way through our discussion through chapter 2, my Man turns to me and recounts a conversation he had with a younger member of our church recently about gender roles. The young man who is from a very conservative background gave my boyfriend a list of all the stuff that males apparently had authority over in marriage. My boyfriend gently told him that while he was just figuring it all out, the conservative way was not how it worked in scripture, that it was really about mutual decision making and submission.
I set there for a moment and realized it was all going to be OK. That I didn’t have to all the answers, I didn’t have to solve a cultural war because the battle that mattered was already won by both of us.
Apparently the God whispers have gotten to Tim Keller to some degree too because the more I read of his book the more I realize that the middle is wide on this issue. Those who live in the middle have different labels to call themselves but in the end the m word is about mutual submission, a lot of hard work and spirit led service to another human being.
Its still intense.
But there is joy in the journey.