Dear sisters, dear spiritual mothers and daughters and midwives and stay at home mamas;
Dear women pastors and elders and janitors and lawyers and teachers and artists,
I celebrate us. I think this is obvious from my Woman’s Manifesto.
I fear for us too.
I fear we’ve lost the art of servanthood.
The other day my husband asked me to make nachos with him. To stand at the counter and cut onions for him, while he prepared the cheese and the chips and I was picking up books our children had strewn across the floor and I snapped.
“I am not your servant!” I cried.
I am not your servant.
All he wanted was for me to cut some onions for him.
And everything in me defied him.
And in that moment, I was reminded of something my mother had told me when I was 17:
“You’re going to find it hard to get married because you’re not able to submit.”
And, being the rebel that I was, I had wanted to tell her, “That’s because you’ve never taught me how.”
My dad was a pastor but when I was a little girl, the church was the only place he was a leader. At home, my mum made the rules. She told my dad when to punish us; my dad would always tell us to go to our mum when we asked for permission, and she ultimately made any decisions affecting the family.
And my dad let her. So I not only didn’t fully respect my dad growing up,
because he didn’t stand up to my mum, but I didn’t really trust him to protect me. To come to my rescue if I needed him to. And when I first got married I treated my husband the same way; I bossed him around and got annoyed when he wouldn’t listen to me.
My mum’s mum was that way too. My Nanny and her husband divorced, because he couldn’t please her, and in the end, she committed suicide, because she wasn’t able to get her way and so I come from a long line of willful women.
But I’m made from my husband’s rib.
When God says, “Let us make mankind in our own image; male and female He created them,” there are two different Hebrew words used to denote gender. “Zakar” is used for male and “Nequebah” for female.
Zakar means a call to remembrance or to worship, the Lord God who saved him.
Nequebah, the Hebrew word for female, literally means punctured, bored through.
Author Larry Crabb says that “nequebah” means—
“to be opened while arranging yourself consistently for a larger purpose than you.”
I think about this as I smooth back the hair from my sons’ foreheads. I think about how God whispered “tender-hearted leader” over my eldest, and “courageous warrior” over my youngest.
And my greatest prayer for them is that they remember what Jesus Christ–a man who submitted to his heavenly Father–did for them,
—so they will, in turn, die for the earth and its people.
And my greatest prayer for myself, and for my sons’ wives, is that we be open to serving a purpose larger than ourselves.
I know the stories. Some of them are YOUR stories.
I know about the nameless, faceless females around the globe who break their backs serving their families while their husbands beat them.
I know about my friend in Lebanon whose husband broke her teeth when she became a Christian. (And how she stayed with him, anyway, and how he became a Christian because of the way she continued to serve him.)
But I also know about my husband, and how he cuts up strawberries for my cereal, because it tastes better that way, and how he asks me to visit the garden with him, every evening, in the summertime, to see how our vegetables are growing, because he wants to hold my hand. I know how he purposely puts his used clothes back in the closet because he wants to cut down on my laundry so I can have more time to write. How he takes the boys over to his parents every day he’s not working so I can rest.
I also know that the way I treat my husband, and men in general, is not dependent on how they treat me.
It’s dependent on my obedience to Jesus– a man who died for me.
Yet when men treat women wrongly, when they forget or ignore what Jesus has done for them and take advantage of their leadership instead of using it to serve, then it is LOVE to set boundaries and to protect those women for God came to set the captives free. Spiritual submission goes hand in hand with spiritual responsibility.
And whether they’re men or women, that is what love does. It serves, by setting captives free.
I fear for us, sisters.
I fear we’ve become too angry to serve, to be opened up to a larger purpose.
My mum used to be the leader in our home. She had been hurt by my father (emotionally), and so she found it hard to submit to him.
But then she got brain cancer and suddenly she needed my dad.
And he delighted in being needed. In being given a second chance.
For all of my dad’s sermons the greatest message he ever gave (and continues to give) was with his life, bent over the bathtub, washing my mum as she lay semi-unconscious; cutting her toenails, changing her Depend’s and cooking baked potatoes in the microwave night after night for supper, for years.
And suddenly Mum began to laugh at his jokes and lean on his arm and tell him he was handsome. And suddenly my dad’s shoulders straightened and his home became his ministry. And his children rose up and championed him, and called their mother blessed.
When we stop being afraid of what men can do to us, or angry about what they have done, and start serving the God whose image they are made in, then men will start filling our church pews again.
And our husbands will rise up to their full potential to be spiritual leaders, to be prophets and priests of integrity and Pentecost, to be speakers into lives and providers of families and protectors of daughters and mentors of sons.
I celebrate us, sisters.
Not because of our gender.
But because of one man, and what He did for us.
With all my love,
What are your stories? How do you feel about servanthood? I know this post probably strikes a chord somehow; please share with me, but with grace. Thank you.
The opinions, conclusions and other views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Prodigal Magazine or it’s particular editor. [Photo: Haylee Marie, Creative Commons]
Servant King, watercolor on canvas by E. Wierenga, www.etsy.com/shop/canvaschild
**** (Added after published) PLEASE NOTE: I am not, by ANY MEANS, condoning abuse in this post. A man is to be SPIRITUALLY RESPONSIBLE in his relationship to Christ and to his wife, serving his wife as Christ served the church, but Christ was NOT submissive to the church, he was submissive to GOD, his father, while the CHURCH is submissive to Christ. Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself NOTHING, as the man is called to do, so that he earns the respect of his wife and his children (Philippians 2). If a woman is in an abusive relationship with her husband, I believe she should get out of it. Spiritual submission coincides with spiritual responsibility. Please also understand that in speaking about my Nanny (whom I know intimately, and understand that suicide is often related to mental illness, which I struggle with as well) I am not judging those who have committed suicide by any means, simply telling her story, and my mother’s, to demonstrate that I DO come from a long line of willful women.
My reference to my Lebanese friend was not meant to be misconstrued as saying women should stay in abusive relationships AT ALL. It was simply sharing the amazing sacrifice she made and the way it changed her husband but by all means, this is not normal or suggested.