The lost art of servanthood (a letter to my feminist sisters)

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,

**** (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.

  • Andrea Ward

    Again you have spoken words that have been floating around my heart and mind. Except your words are put together much better, which is why I’ve started write a half a dozen sentences and then erased them. So, I’ll just say…
    Thank you!

  • Laura Crosby

    Oh my…Such an important word! I too, (like Andrea) have written similar posts in my head that haven’t made it to print. Thank you for these valuable thoughts!

  • Christina


  • HisFireFly

    I was one
    who would have heard the same report
    “you will never be able to submit”
    but then God…

  • danaeIXTHYS

    oh, how i agree. while i advocate for women to be treated with equality in the church & in all of life, i have seen so many of my girlfriends become angry & bitter as they have sought the same thing. and i fear for myself. i don’t want to end up angry & bitter & entitled. i want to stand for what Jesus stood for. but i also want to kneel to what Jesus knelt for & die for what Jesus died for. by personality & gifting, i tend towards leadership roles rather than servant roles, but i am learning in practice what my lips have uttered over the years — leadership IS service, & if it isn’t, it isn’t leadership. and i’m learning to be a servant in non-leadership ways, & it blesses me. i am learning more about just being like Jesus regardless of role or position. but still, i struggle daily with pride, anger, & entitlement, & i fear for us, too.

    • KelleyD

      “leadership is service.” Perfectly said. :)

  • eli

    Thank God I read this! Thank you for this reminder. It came at the perfect time, in my darkest hour.

  • Beth

    My mother said the exact same thing to me when I was in college…for a long time, I felt a great deal of guilt and fear about this major flaw in my character.

    What I’ve come to believe now is that, at the end of the day, servanthood and submission are not choices I make because I’m a woman or because he is a man, but because I love Jesus and they (man or woman) are made in the image of Christ. A Christ who loves us both and gave himself for us.

    In the same way that I bristle when men turn servanthood & submission into a power struggle between genders, I am uncomfortable with the ways we women (myself included) sometimes balk at opportunities to serve simply because the recipient of our service is male and therefore (we assume) trying to oppress us.

  • Ashley Haupt

    Love this message, so timely and important. And Emily, what a gorgeous painting, too. Love you, sister. He washes your feet today. Thanks for serving us with your words.

  • Diana Palka

    Emily, thank you.

    Thank you for writing the words that have been rattling around in my head – but writing them much more eloquently and with much more tact. You are speaking truth – a difficult truth to swallow – but a truth that is necessary and rooted in a love so much deeper than anything found on this Earth.

    This is beautiful. You are cherished.

  • Dianna

    This is downright irresponsible. The line about suicide because “she didn’t get her way” is unfair to that woman’s memory and undercuts all the complex mental and sociological reasons for her act. The fact that she’s your grandma doesn’t excuse the maligning of her as a selfish woman – it is, plainly, NOT YOUR STORY TO TELL. And to use her divorce and the end of her life to bolster a thesis that (from the sound of it) she may have disagreed with? I’m offended on her behalf.

    And the line about the woman who stayed with her husband after her husband abused her is downright irresponsible. It is not exemplary womanhood or the height of submission to stay with a husband who beats you – and it is irresponsible to perpetuate that kind of thinking. It is that kind of thinking that keeps women in abusive marriages, and it is that kind of thinking that *gets women killed.* I have friends and family members who stayed in abusive relationships because of this thinking – all it got them was years of pain, of modeling unhealthy dynamics to the kids, and a church that abandoned them when they finally left. It is anti-woman and anti-victim to propagate an “enduring wife” narrative here.

    This post is horrifically irresponsible.

    • Stephanie May

      I respectfully disagree. This is Emily’s story to tell and I think that our personal hurts with divorce and suicide are our stories to tell. I’m sorry if suicide has touched your life. It has touched mine too. And I am sorry that you’ve seen unhealthy dynamics in families because of abuse. I have too. But I think that Emily’s perspective on these issues should be respected. Its her story. Not mine, not yours. And I think we should celebrate strong women standing up and speaking out on behalf of respect – for ourselves as women, and for the men who love us.

      • Alise Wright

        I think Dianna’s (very legitimate) concern is that Emily is imposing a reason for her grandmother’s suicide. Things that lead up to suicide are PROFOUNDLY complex and to simply say, “and in the end, she committed suicide, because she wasn’t able to get her way” is dismissive in the worst possible way.

        Yes, Emily gets to tell her story. But she does not get to impose her narrative onto someone else’s. THAT is not fair.

        • Dianna

          What both Alise and Danielle said.

      • Danielle | from two to one

        Stephanie and Dianna, I know that both of you, as well as Emily, uphold the means of story to share deeply-held and deeply-felt truths of human existence. But precisely because of this, I think we need to be excruciatingly careful about not using stories as a ways to preach an agenda or knock a different agenda (i.e. feminism) down.

        I also agree that we need to be careful to not use others’ stories for our own agendas. I don’t think Emily intended to use her grandmother’s or mother’s stories as anecdotes for proving her own position, but I also think that those are not necessarily her stories to tell.

      • Amy

        I liked ths comment best of all that I read. thank you Stephanie May
        my take on it –

        Newsflash! Emily is not perfect and I think the best thing is to take what you like from any article and leave the rest. That being – it is difficult to feel safe when the men around you have not protected you and you would like to defy them by not serving. Serve anyway, place yourself before God and ask Him to protect you, you are His. The end.

        • Marie

          Sorry, but no. If a man in your life does not protect you and make you safe, your priority needs to be for your safety rather than serving him.

    • Sarah Moon

      Thank you. I’m trying to respond but I cannot do so with “grace.” This piece made me want to curl up and cry.

      • elizabethesther

        I am crying right now.

    • elizabethesther

      Thanks, Dianna. I really appreciated reading this. I’m a crying mess right now.

    • Emily Wierenga

      The reason my Nanny committed suicide is because my mum and dad were moving and they had told her, the day before my mum found my nanny in the bathtub, that they were going to have to put her in a nursing home. My mum served my nanny (her mum) night and day, and my nanny had never told my mum she loved her, growing up, never told her she was beautiful. She was the most selfish woman I have ever met. And I do feel I can speak about her because she was my grandmother. I know her, and I loved her, and yet, she had her faults as do we all, and I know how the stress of finding her mother in the bathtub, dead, caused a tumor to grow in my mum’s brain because the doctor said, three years later, when he found it, that extreme trauma causes those tumors. So there’s a lot that I do know about the situation. I just didn’t want to include all of it in the post because the post was too long, but it would seem that I should have.

      • Marie

        Emily–regardless of the various interpretations here of your sharing about your grandmother, I just want to say I’m so sorry for the pain she caused as well as the pain she likely was feeling. I’m sorry for you mother’s tumor and for all the hardship your family has endured.

      • Justin Hanvey

        definitely should have. I say that in love. My father committed suicide and your description of her reasons just seemed pithy and hastily written without much care. Suicide is always a complicated issue, with deep and problematic reasons, and it belittles that when we try to summarize it.

      • Caterina Maria

        My partner’s father, Jim, is in a home which is moving facilities, which will mean changes for him. My partner and his sister have to handle it so carefully because essentially Jim’s entire apple cart is about to be upturned. When people’s lives are changed around them, without any say in how they change, they’re going to react somehow. Your grandmother appears to have decided she was better off dead than changed. Perhaps that was the line in the sand she could not bear to cross.

        Whatever the reason, I will point you here:

        At best, your mother’s tumor found the right conditions to grow from cell-sized seed to detectable mass. Your grandmother cannot be held entirely responsible. Biology played a role. Cell mutations played a role. Sometimes our bodies stop being able to fight as hard — this is why AIDS patients pop out with cancers; their bodies can’t stop Kaposi’s sarcoma, for example. I am not sure you had the entire story from your mother’s doctor, or that you had it at all from the doctor but from your mother instead. People filter when they tell stories. What you hear is not necessarily what happened.

        If the doctor really did have the chutzpah to say “Yeah, you’ve got a tumor because you went through this trauma”, I question the value of his degree. O.o

    • Christine

      Diana!!!! Wrong!!!! You preach the doctrine of devils. You know not that which of you speak is ignorance in the Word Of God. I have been a rabid feminist for over 20 years. Signed saved and sealed for the day of redemption for 16 years. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. He rose again on the third day. This is Gospel. What I have been struggling with is the flesh (feminism) warring against the Spirit. The Holy Spirit. Feminism quenches the Holy Spirit . And The Lord left me up to a reprobate mind. And on many occasions, I attempted suicide, BECAUSE I DID NOT GET MY OWN WAY!!!!! Feminism is the doctrine of devils. I am so blessed to hear that the submissive Lebonese wife never left her husband, but rather submitted to the will of God. Which resulted in her husbands Salvation. She didn’t think of herself. She thought about her husbands soul going to a very real eternal hell. Speaking about generational curses in your family breaks the cycle of hatred towards The Lord . Suicide is self murder. The last act before meeting The Lord. Now contrast these two women. One has victory in Jesus just as scripture has promised . The other has absolute defeat because of DISOBEDIENCE!!! I have myself bowed down to the painful experiences of men misusing and abusing me . From kidnapping that forced two pregnancies on me . To the abandonment and extreme abuse of my father and brother. This has NEVER EVER been Gods fault. A careful study on Ephesians chapter 5 can clearly show you that in fact we are NOT acting like Godly women. So how can the husband be won over to the truth of who Jesus Christ really is if we are a group of griping ,unfaithful (towards God) spiteful , embittered women? God always has the answer. Always!!! I praise Him for saving me from those lies. You have no right whatsoever to tell a woman that she cannot speak truth about her own family. Just because you disagree. You have no right to bully her with your ignorant filled words. We are a peculiar people with a God who is The God. Whose ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Feminism is communism and communism begins in the Church. This is why we protect and defend the Gospel. Satan does not want us women to obey! So when I hear it? I confront it with the Gospel. This is MY belief! These are my words. All protected by the Constitution. You Diana are of the world, and the world loves it’s own.

    • Christine

      And “That kind of thinking” doesn’t get you killed. Murder by another person is what gets you killed . Never blame the victim!!!! And suicide leaves everyone a victim of that selfish act. Stop the glorification of suicide.

  • Alise Wright

    Pieces like this that glorify abuse are part of what have kept someone near to me in an abusive marriage for nearly 13 years. Yes, we are called to be servants. But to pair that message with one that says that implies that servanthood requires the acceptance of abuse is downright irresponsible.

    If you are in an abusive situation, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STAY. It is not a rejection of God or a rebellious spirit to value yourself. Please know that.

    • Sarah Moon

      Thank you.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I agree completely Alise. I in no way intended to glorify abuse and am heartbroken that you viewed it that way. e.

    • Alyssa

      Thankyou for opening up a discussion, the responses made me incredibly dispirited until this point

    • buffonomics

      @alise I think you have chosen to go off on another tangent here. In so doing, you have missed the point of this message. Focus more on the positive and let go of the negative. You could gain a lot from what the author is trying to say…

  • Stephanie May

    Oh, Emily. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for your words, thank you for your stories, and thank you for reminding us of the beauty of tenderness – that we don’t have to fight and strive and never need a thing. But that the men in our lives stand straighter when we allow them to love us.

    • Jess Baker

      Stephanie, I agree with you here and in your other replies to others’ comments. Emily, thank you for sharing your story, and I commend you for standing by your convictions. Hold yourself to a standard of grace, and know that God is using your words and convictions, even when your eyes & heart are overwhelmed by negativity. You are participating in a conversation that must be had, and never in this life will we see perfect harmony among us. I am praying for God to be glorified in these conversations, in the changes in your relationship with Christ, and in the lives of those who read. It takes strength & grace to proclaim truth and to stand firm in your convictions. I admire your example & thank God for your courage. Press on, sister.

      • Emily Wierenga

        You don’t know how much I needed this right now Jess (and Stephanie.) Thank you. Thank you.

  • Sharon O

    Beautiful, powerful and so thought provoking.

  • Courtney @ Neighborfood

    This was so needed today. I think we need to reclaim servanthood as a beautiful characteristic of the Christ-like life, not determined by gender, but determined by the servant Christ who gave (and gives) Himself for us.

  • Rachel Held Evans

    Hi Emily. Thank you for the post. The writing is, as always, beautiful.

    However, I would caution against jumping to extremes when it comes to conversations about gender, power, and servanthood, and I think you may have created something of a false dichotomy here. The alternative to patriarchy doesn’t have to be matriarchy. The alternative to patriarchy is partnership, mutual submission, shared dignity, and shared worth. Not all who advocate for gender equality are advocating for a woman’s “right” to “rule over” a man. We are simply advocating for the full partnership of women in the home and church.

    A man does not have to fit squarely and exclusively into the role of leader and a woman fit squarely and exclusively into the role of servant for a marriage to work. In my marriage, things work best when we both put ourselves into the roles of servant. This means I submit to my husband (which isn’t always easy!), and he submits to me (which isn’t always easy!) We solve the “power struggle”, not by giving one partner power over the other, but by both surrendering it, both putting the other person’s needs first, both doing the foot-washing. And we are really, really happy in our marriage.

    Obviously, each partner is responsible for his or her actions, and so – in that sense – submission is one-way. You can only control your own actions, and the call to serve doesn’t change based on the supposed worthiness of the one being served. Like you said, how you treat your husband should not be dependent on how he treats you; I think that’s a great reminder. (Though I would STRONGLY caution against glorifying the decision to stay with an abusive spouse; women who leave those situations are no less noble than those who stay, and I get tired of hearing about the “enduring wife” in Christian circles; far too many women have stayed too long because of it, to the detriment of themselves and their children.)

    All this to say, it’s important to be reminded of our call to serve one another. But that call is not based on gender (or race or socioeconomic status). It’s based on our shared value and dignity as human beings, and the shared example we have in Jesus Christ.

    • Ruthie Dean

      Agree with Rachel. My mom was the ‘enduring spouse’ and her staying with my dad meant a loss of relationship with us. Many times a woman enduring means abandoning her children’s emotional health and well-being. I, too, would strongly caution against glorifying the decision to stay with an abusive spouse.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Dear Rachel, I respect you and understand what you are saying. I know that feminism does not necessarily mean women glorifying themselves over others, that it means mutual submission, one to another, but unfortunately this is not biblical. Men are called on to submit to Jesus Christ, and women are called to submit to their husbands. We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands. It is our husbands who will be kept accountable for how they submit to Jesus. Rachel, I used to be a feminist. My favorite author is Anne Lamott. But recently I’ve been convicted that this is not scriptural, that serving myself by wanting my husband to submit to me is not scriptural. He is to submit to Christ. I am to submit to him. But I want you to understand that

      “Christ is the ahead of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:3)

      But I am BY NO MEANS glorifying abuse, and I ache that this is the message that is coming across in this post. While I DO feel it is my right to tell my family’s story, as it is my mum, and my Nanny, and I know them intimately, I don’t feel it is right for a woman to stay with an abusive husband. NOT AT ALL. Please read this paragraph again: ”

      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.”

      Thank you.

      • Bethany Suckrow

        “We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands.”

        What? So my relationship with Jesus, because I’m married, is no longer my number one purpose? How I submit to Jesus (my God and Savior) is not as important as how I submit to my husband, an earthly, imperfect human being? That statement places my husband as my god. What if a woman’s husband is abusive? You say that you’re not glorifying abuse, but this whole comment places women at the mercy of abusive men when you believe that they take the place of Jesus’ ultimate authority in our lives. That is really troubling, Emily.

        • Dianna

          And what do I, as a single woman, do? I’m 27. I’m not living at home. But I don’t have a husband to be the “head” and “spiritual leader” for me. Does that make me a failure as a woman? That theology is really messed up.

          • Jimmy Spencer Jr

            I thought that is why God gave women the gift of John Piper…

          • Emily Wierenga

            Dianna, I am referring to married women regarding submission. I believe unmarried women are to submit directly to Christ unless they are in a role of leadership, and then I believe they are to submit to a spiritual head who is a male… but I know even saying that will get me into a lot of trouble here.

            • Danielle | from two to one

              Thanks for responding to this question, Emily. To clarify, you are saying that the structure for submission for unmarried women is to submit directly to Christ, but a married woman is to submit to her husband which by proxy is also to Christ?

              Typically when I’ve heard this explanation for complementarianism (or whatever you prefer to call it), it’s that unmarried women submit to the male authority in her life (i.e. her father or other father-figure), and then to her husband once the “transfer” of authority is completed through the covenant of marriage.

              • Emily Wierenga

                I’m sorry Danielle, I don’t subscribe to any particular train of thought. I’m learning all of this straight from Scripture. You won’t find my thoughts in any particular school of theology. I’ve been seeking answers straight from Jesus and the Bible, and I’m still wrestling and learning. I do love John Piper though, and agree with a lot of his thoughts.

                • Danielle | from two to one

                  To be clear, I don’t ascribe to any one particular theology or theologian. I also am convicted primarily, but not exclusively, but the amazing, revolutionary, loving model of Christ. Let’s not assume that since we disagree that one of us is “right” and the other “wrong” when it comes to taking Scripture seriously. The Church is big and strong enough for the diversity of believers, and Jesus calls us to unity (NOT uniformity) precisely because of this diversity.

                • HippieGramma

                  Actually, Emily, whether you know it or not, you ARE subscribing to specific theology, one that has been used by cults everywhere to create artificial power structures and justify oppression and abuse. For instance, your beliefs regarding the husband being the wife’s direct line to God is identical to the Mormon doctrine of priesthood; you have even used the same Scriptures and same line of reasoning. The trajectory from Christianity to cult is frighteningly similar in group after group; I hope in your research you can take the time to learn about some of them, and the warning signs of cultic behavior in any religious group.

          • Cassie Chang

            Pretty much. I love how according to that theology, even moderate versions of it, I can have as much agency as I want as a single woman, but when I’m married, all bets are off.

        • Emily Wierenga

          Bethany, your relationship to Christ is the entire reason you are submitting to your husband. It is out of reverence to Christ, not because your husband deserves it. When Christ came to earth, he came to demonstrate what true submission looks like. He served the church (washing its feet) while submitting to the authority of his father. Similarily, our husbands are called to wash their wives feet while submitting to God their father. And we are called to submit to our husbands. It is a JOYFUL and beautiful relationship because we know we can trust them because they are submitting to Jesus. If they are NOT submitting to Jesus, we are no longer called to submit to them because then the relationship becomes abusive.

        • Gray Knight

          Well, submitting to Jesus, for wives, would involve serving their husband. The same idea for men, men will be held accountable for their households as they are the head (which is their submission to Jesus). So men will be held accountable for how they treat and handle their households.
          I think you are reading into it more than what Emily is saying. I don’t see her saying men have more authority over women than Jesus.

          • buffonomics

            The clause “Instinctive defiance to the authority of the men that love you” as pulled from the article is a battle a lot of sisters in this generation are yet to overcome.

            • DarkGray Knight

              I think “instinctive defiance to authority” in general, is a problem that pretty much everyone has to deal with. We start out in defiance of our Creator, who is an obvious authority.

      • Joy in this Journey

        Emily, I love your sweet spirit and you have so much wisdom for women. But I have to push back on the idea you put forth here, “We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands.”

        My husband is not my God. My husband is not my mediator before God, either. Jesus is. And at the final judgment, God will speak to me, not my husband, about how I lived my life. I will answer to God, not my husband, for all of my sins in thought, word, and deed. Scott didn’t marry me until I was 22, and he doesn’t think my thoughts for me or speak my words for me or do my deeds for me. I do all of that, and God will hold ME accountable for them.

        Certainly some of what God will look at is the way that I served my husband, just as God will look at the way my husband served me. But that is by no means the end-all and be-all of either of us.

        • Emily Wierenga

          I agree with you completely Joy. I think there has been some misunderstanding. In the same way that Christ came to wash the church’s feet, while submitting to his heavenly father, I believe husbands are called to wash their wives’ feet while submitting to Christ. Jesus did not submit to the church. He CARED for the church and died for it, but he submitted to the will of the Father. In the same way, our husbands submit to Christ while dying to their own desires on behalf of their family. And this allows freedom for us as women to submit to them knowing that in doing so, we are submitting to Christ because our husbands are following Christ. We are not submitting to our husbands because they deserve it by any means, but because Christ has told us to, and in the end, it’s Christ we serve. If our husbands do NOT submit to Christ, I don’t believe we as women are called to submit to them because then the relationship becomes abusive.

          • Andrea Ward

            I would rather say nothing, but from what I have read so far there is one thought that I haven’t seen expressed yet. It is this…

            Thank you for cautioning for those of us that haven’t been abused or mistreated by men or by the system. Thank you for the acknowledgment that our stories are still valid even if they don’t include these deep heart rending abuses.

            At times these discussions leave me feeling as if my story and my path don’t matter because I don’t have those experiences. I have a wonderful husband who I gladly submit to because he submits to Christ. I am blessed with that because I trusted God to bring me that. I submitted to His will and His timing and He worked it all out.

            So thank you for validating me too.

          • Erin Adams

            Ephesians calls men to love their wives as Christ loves the church. That does not mean that men are to their wives in all things as Christ is to the church in all things. Yes. Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church. Yes. But that does not mean that he is LORD of his wife. The metaphor is only about love and giving up of oneself. Not about leadership. That is simply not in the passage.

            • Desley Noneofyerbiz

              That’s absolutely right! The directive for husbands in this passage is to love, not to lead. And the emphasis is on nurturing, not having authority over.

        • Preston Yancey


      • Kate Evelyn

        Like Bethany, I’m confused by your statement that women are held accountable to their husbands rather than to Christ. I honestly don’t think you mean this, but it implies to me that women are lesser/don’t matter as much to God as men do… like a married woman’s relationship with Jesus, whether she’s obeying, listening to, and loving Him or not, doesn’t matter as much as her obeying/listening to/loving her husband, and I don’t think that’s Biblical. Could you explain a bit more about what you mean by that?

      • Ashley P

        I strongly disagree with the notion that married women will only be held accountable for their submission to their husbands. That is just ridiculous and unbiblical. There is neither slave nor free, male nor female! Submit yourselves to one another!

        • Ann Tremain Smith


        • Trina

          Exactly! Like how can God subjugate himself to himself? If Christ is fully God and vice versa, then is this even possible?

          • Erin Adams

            but being the Jesus and the Father are one, they share purpose and will. Jesus humbled Himself and came to earth as a man. He did the will of the Father. But, that was truly His own will, too. He was humbling Himself and taking on the form of a servant. But, He was subjugating Himself.

            • Desley Noneofyerbiz

              To say that The Son is somehow subjugated to the Father is logically impossible unless you strip Jesus of godhood (sovereignty is an attribute of God).

              • Erin Adams

                You are exactly right Desley! Thanks for saying this. I caught a crucial typo in my comment where I had forgotten the word not! Ah! He was *not subjugating Himself. I totally agree with you. Thanks for the corrective. I fixed my comment above, too, to add in *not*. :)

      • Shaney Irene

        “We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands.”

        Um…what? Where in the Bible does it say this? I’m sorry, but I don’t believe this.

      • Rachel Held Evans

        “We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus.” – Respectfully, this teaching is nowhere to be found in Scripture, Emily. I’m not sure where you would get that idea.

        As far as the submission passages in the New Testament, I think it’s important to consider those in context. We have to keep in mind that Paul opened his version of the Greco Roman Household Codes with a reminder to “submit one to another” – an instruction directed toward men, women, children, and slaves. Too much to get into here, but for those who would like to learn more, I wrote a piece on submission in the New Testament during our mutuality series on the blog:

        And a post about patriarchy too:

        I had this material reviewed by biblical scholars before I shared it on my book/blog.

        Before we write-off equality as “unbiblical,” let’s see what the text actually says.

        • Emily Wierenga

          When a woman submits unto her husband, she is actually submitting unto God (Ephesians 5:22).
          A woman therefore does not submit because her husband deserves it in
          his own merit- she submits because she knows it is pleasing to her
          Lord. There will be times when a woman needs to submit, and her husband
          does not deserve it from a human perspective. But by divine right, God
          set the man as leader and a woman can trust that God is good. She can
          also know that nothing escapes God’s notice, and a wicked man will be
          held accountable for his actions. (

          • Alise Wright

            My sister is being asked to submit (in that language, very specifically) to being in a plural marriage. This is abusive. Completely and totally. I know that you do not want to suggest that women should submit to abuse, but how do we determine if a husband “deserves it” or not, if we’re couching it in terms of submitting to God?

          • Shaney Irene

            But how does submitting to a husband=a married woman doesn’t get held accountable for how she submits to Jesus?

            Also I’m really uncomfortable with the rhetoric of the rest of your comment. It is the exact same rhetoric used by SGM and other incredibly spiritually abusive churches that have covered up years of sexual and other abuse. We can advocate for humble servanthood without making it sound like a woman has to submit to her husband under all circumstances at all times.

            • Judy Conn

              Shaney, it is the exact same rhetoric as SGM and other spiritually abusive churches and you are right to be leary. A good book on this is Powerful and Free, by Danny Silk, it is an easy balanced read and explains the scriptures that have been used to keep women in their place, so to speak, in the church. God is an egalitarian, his people should be too.

              • Alex

                Judy, LOVED that book. Some of the church staff I work with are reading and studying it and it is amazing.

          • Danielle | from two to one

            There is a reason why feminists say, “If God is male, then male is God.”

          • Jeremiah Bailey

            Yeah, that is not what Ephesians 5:22 says.

          • ERW

            In Greek, the word sumbit doesn’t appear in Eph 5:22. The sentence, translated literally, says, “Wives to their own husband as to the Lord.” There’s no verb. It’s an incomplete sentence. Translators decide to attach this fragment of a sentence to 5:21 (as there is no punctuation in Greek), but the Greek word used in 5:21, hypotassomenoi, means mutual submission. So, no, that’s not what Eph 5:22 says. At all.

            • Shaney Irene

              I’ve never heard this before. This is really interesting stuff! Thanks!

          • Lydia Mulligan

            Emily, With all due respect you didn’t even respond to what Rachel was saying. She used solid scripture references and exegeses to have you think about what you were saying. Mutual submission is biblical. If you don’t believe me ask Aquila and Pricilla.
            Some of the things you are saying ie a woman is not accountable to God if she is married, sounds like a cop out. It sounds like a way to devote yourself fully to your husband and not to Christ. As a married woman I find this dangerous. I submit first to my God second to my husband. He also submits to God then to me.
            We have a happy marriage without dangerous power dynamics. God should always be the head no matter whether you are a man or a woman, married or unmarried.

            I do believe that you had the best of intentions while writing this piece, but I also believe that you need to go back and look over your scriptures and rules for biblical households again. Don’t just look for the scriptures to fit what you want it to say. Look at the context.

            “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

        • Emily Wierenga

          When a wife submits to her husband, she does not try to take
          leadership from him. From the beginning of time, woman has tried to
          take leadership from the man- and man has often gladly given it away
          (Genesis 3). Some scholars believe that Genesis 3:16
          refers to Eve’s new sin drive to override her husband’s headship, which
          has continued down the line of women. Women use many tactics to try
          taking control of leadership, including nagging, deception, and
          manipulation. This always results in sin and often, sorrowful
          consequences (Genesis 27). When a woman resorts to these tactics, she
          is trying to usurp God’s good design of relationship roles. A
          submissive wife must first learn to trust God’s goodness and His

          However, a submissive wife is not relegated to idly
          sitting by while her husband makes all the family decisions. In a
          healthy marriage, husband and wife work as a team. When a decision
          cannot be jointly agreed upon, the leader makes it, knowing he is
          responsible foremost unto God for that decision. In these circumstances
          or in a decision that the husband must make alone, a submissive wife is
          not overstepping her boundaries by offering counsel. She must learn to
          do it in a way that shows respect for his God-given position as head of
          the family. A submissive woman also offers abundant encouragement,
          understanding that making decisions is a heavy responsibility on a man’s

          Some women are not satisfied with this. They want to
          be in charge. But realistically, marriage cannot work this way. Unity
          requires relational structure. We see this pattern in other
          relationships. But submission is never a sign of value. Jesus
          submitted to the will of His Father (Matthew 26:39).
          It would be heresy to say that Jesus is of lesser value than the
          Father. They are One, and Jesus cannot be of lesser value. His
          submission had nothing to do with His value—it had to do with
          God-ordained structure. It is the same with husband and wife.

          takes humility. It also takes a lot of prayer and relying on the Holy
          Spirit. But so does Godly leadership. Women can look unto Jesus as an
          example, and reflect His love and Self-sacrifice as they lovingly choose
          to submit unto the husband God has placed in their life. (

          • Shaney Irene

            I’d be more interested in hearing your own perspective in your own words, Emily, than to read a copy/paste answer from another website. I have some issues with CARM and would prefer to know what you are saying, apart from the lens through which I view CARM and like organizations.

            • Emily Wierenga

              Sorry, Shaney, but what I copied and pasted is exactly what I believe.

          • Kate Evelyn

            Hi Emily, can you cite which scholars you’re referring to? Not trying to be argumentative, but I’m curious, because several scholars I’ve read/talked to–including a complementarian pastor–view Genesis 3 a bit differently. After all, if there is no sin/points of contention in the world, why would there be need for submission? Submission was a result of the fall, the curse–which has been reversed after Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, when He reversed death itself by the Resurrection.

            You are right, submission does take humility. I think one of the main underlying points of your post was the importance of humility, which I think has been unfortunately overshadowed by the more controversial gender roles drawn here. Humility is a Christ-like characteristic, necessary for both men and women, feminists and complementarians.

          • Brenda P

            Genesis 3:16 seems to be suggesting that the husband ruling over the wife is a direct result of sin entering the world. It is a negative consequence, not the way God intended men and women to treat each other.

            • Gray Knight

              We live in this fallen world and the negative consequences are all around us. God gave us the consequences, he did not take them away. The ground is cursed to grow thorns and thistles. Children are born through pain; and women desire men’s role and men prefer to let them take it. And so, we now live in this horrendous mess, where Christ came to save us from our sins, but we are not yet in a restored world.

              • Desley Noneofyerbiz

                Your forgot the part where men rule over women. that too was a part of the curse.

          • Kara @ The Chuppies

            Absolutely agree with your explanation here e.

            As a wife, it makes all the difference that it is submitting to Jesus, entrusting myself to God, believing in Heaven and eternity…knowing and trusting in God’s love for me in His design for marriage.

            And when a husband also loves as Christ loves the church, as God has commanded…willing to lay down himself, put his wife’s interests first…that is what God intended for marriage…and it is beautiful.

            But we all know life is messy and sin enters the picture and there is struggle and hurt and heartache…but it doesn’t change that God asks us to trust Him and to follow Christ’s example of servanthood.

            I only read about 10% of the comments on here, but you have to be exhausted. I missed all this last week, but am praying for you this week. Your tone of kindness and humility has shown through in the midst of all this dialogue.

        • Emily Wierenga

          Rachel, as I said below, we are to submit to our husbands as the church submits to Christ. Ephesians says that Christ is the head of the church. Christ does not submit to the church; he submits to his heavenly father. He serves the church by washing its feet but he does not submit to it. In the same way, our husbands are to submit to Christ while we submit to them. If they do not submit to Christ, I do not believe we are called to submit to them, because that’s when relationships turn abusive.

          • Nikki R.

            Could you clarify for me the difference between submission and service? I’m just curious and I think that clearly articulating those two terms may be important to the conversation.

            • Emily Wierenga

              Yes, Nikki, I agree. This is something I am learning too… like I said in the post, I’m a former feminist, so all of this is new to me, but I do believe that submission is linked to respect and authority, and service is linked to compassion and care.

              • Danielle | from two to one

                Emily, I’d really love to read more about your “former feminist” days so I can better understand your story. Would you be up for a follow-up post on why you consider yourself a “former feminist,” and how you would describe yourself now?

                • Emily Wierenga

                  After writing this one I’m thinking I might crawl into a hole for a long time… but sure, Danielle. I would consider that. :)

                  • Danielle | from two to one

                    Much love to you, friend. Please take some time for yourself. Know that your friends, myself included, are lifting you up in prayer.

                    • Emily Wierenga

                      I appreciate how you are wrestling with this issue too Danielle. Bless you.

                  • Marie

                    I don’t blame you..and I say this as someone who overall disagreed with the post…but I want you to know I’ve been praying for peace and joy for you today and for you to know the Lord’s nearness.

                  • Gray Knight

                    Thank you for your article.

              • Ray

                I do believe that submission is linked to respect and authority, and service is linked to compassion and care.

                Emily, I am a man, your statement is key. Understanding that statement could solve many mysteries many women have about men today…Lots of us know these exact words… I would slay Dragons for any woman who holds this viewpoint… I’m confident in believing that i’m speaking for other men as well.
                Absolute Gold!!

        • Alyssa

          I think the context of the Greco-Roman social codes is also very important. In Athens and Rome, women – or rather girls – were married as soon as they began to menstruate, so that any child they bore of marriage would certainly be their husbands, as citenzenship was a highly important issue (this is also the reason for strict social controls on such women). The term used for gaurdian – kurios – is the same as that used for God. A womens kurios would be her father, then her husband, and potentially her son if her father and husband died and she had not re-married. The kurios controlled women’s finances and legal matters, and was a form of social control toward women to keep the power of patriarchy.Women’s ‘power’ to commit adultery and thus threaten the societal structure – the system of citizenship requires the fatherhood of a child to be absolutely certain- is the reason for various social controls that kept women firmly in the private sphere and away from potential adulterers. It is important to consider the social context, since fallible human beings internalise the norms of their society, which is not the same as God’s word. All of these social factors may inform the idea that a women submits to her father and then this is ‘transferred’ to her new kurios. The womans ‘power’ of adultery is why in this society a womans husband or father was also her lord. Similairly, Emily, the idea that a Spiritual head must be a male is a patriarchal one, not one rooted in God’s will.

      • Shaney Irene

        Also,”But recently I’ve been convicted that this is not scriptural, that serving myself by wanting my husband to submit to me is not scriptural.” Demanding submission from others is not Scriptural, you are correct. But your husband is commanded to submit to you. Ephesians 5:21 says to submit to one another. So can you demand it for yourself? No, but should you expect it from a godly husband? Yes.

      • KelleyD

        How exactly did you decide that mutual submission is not scriptural?
        I’ve heard several statement like this before, and I’m curious what brought you to that conclusion.

        • Emily Wierenga

          Ephesians 5: 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.”

          Our husbands are to submit to Christ by serving us, but they are responsible to Christ. We are responsible for how we serve and submit to our husbands. This is NOT license for our husbands to abuse us. They need to be held spiritually responsible just as we do.

          • Shaney Irene

            Ephesians 5:22-33 does not erase Ephesians 5:21, though, which clearly calls for mutual submission. Whatever Ephesians 22-24 means, it should be interpreted in light of Ephesians 5:21, not the other way around. To declare that a woman will be judged based on her submission to her husband primarily, and not primarily on her submission to Christ, is elevating verse 22 over 21 and is interpreting the passage in a backwards manner.

          • Kari

            But you are leaving out 5:21, which says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

            • Emily Wierenga

              YES. But, that verse is too often separated from the others. It is to be paralleled with the other verses, not chosen over the other ones. I should have included it, for that I am sorry.

              • Shaney Irene

                My understanding is that Ephesians 5:21 is more like a thesis statement, not mean to be “paralleled” with the other verses. But even if you’re correct, why does Ephesians 5:22 nuance our understanding of 5:21 instead of the other way around? Especially since Paul said “submit to one another” first.

              • Derrick Doyle

                Neither should 5:22 be chosen over (and used as excuse to ignore) 5:21.

          • ERW

            I said this above, I’ll say it again. The word submit DOES NOT appear in Eph 5:22 in the Greek.

          • Stephen M.

            I get that you are saying that “it’s not a license for abuse” but surely you can see how this line of logic can be used to keep women in abuse relationships?

          • Erin Adams

            Hey Emily! I have popped some comments in here to various threads, but wanted to share something directly with you about headship and submission and the Eph. 5 passage you have been quoting. I have been most of my life in churches that teach what you are teaching here. So, I get why you are unwilling to see that any other view is Biblical. The people who teach this say if you don’t believe this as they are saying, then you just are following after the world, and you are in rebellion to what God says. Even after I could see clearly in my own happy marriage of mutuality, that I didn’t really believe in the hierarchy of marriage roles anymore. I still could not admit that. Because I couldn’t see the Bible saying anything else. I wouldn’t give myself the freedom to see that it might be saying something different than I thought it was saying.

            I read Sarah Sumner’s marriage book, “Just How Married do You Want to Be?” and it blew my mind. Did you know that the greek word used for “Head” is never, ever translated as leader. It is pretty much always head. Just a literal head. Like one that goes on top of a body. Sumner makes a case for reading the head in a word picture sense. Man is head of his wife. He is to care for her as his own body. They are made one flesh. Christ is the head of the church. The church is the body of Christ. They are one in purpose. The metaphor of the head is about oneness and unity.

            This made tons of sense to me.
            Truly. I would really encourage you to read to book. It is SO good! :)

      • Brambonius

        “We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands. ” Weird interpretation that does not square with what Paul writes takes as a whole (which includes the sentence ‘submit to each other’ btw), especially when you take in consideration you’re quoting from the guy who wants everyone to be single like him (Paul was single and celibate, and promoted that), so marriage can not be the default state for a woman if we start from the writings of Paul. And it’s quite dangerous in that it violates the priesthood of all believers…

        • Emily Wierenga

          Friend, it says in Ephesians that Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of the woman, like I quoted above. It says that man is to submit to Christ as Christ submits to his heavenly father. Christ does not submit to the church. He washes its feet. He serves it. But he submits to his father. The church submits to Christ, because Christ submits to God. This is all straight from Scripture. I’m not trying to be heretical. I hope this makes sense.

          • Brambonius

            First: head is the thing on top of your body.; Expressions and double meanings do not have to be the same in different languages, and some think a seond meaning for head was not ‘leader’ but more ‘source’ in koine Greek.

            Sio you do not take the ‘submit to one another’ of Eph 5:21 to be written to all believers of all sexes? Bold move I must say..

            ‘the Chirch submits to Christ because Christ submits to God’ is nonsense. Christ IS God, being part of the trinity and all… You mean the Father? Christ as a human did submit to the Father (see the gospel of John) but I do not believe in a hierarchy in the trinity like that, which also borders on the heresy of subordinationism…

      • aricclark

        Did you just suggest there are two separate tracks of salvation for men and women? That only men are accountable for their submission to Christ? Really?

        • Emily Wierenga

          No. I did not. Please understand this is not a salvation issue.

          • aricclark

            I am glad that you do not think you’ve set up separate tracks for salvation with this comment. What then do you mean by the language of men and women being judged and held accountable differently?

            • Emily Wierenga

              I believe that Jesus will ask us to account for our actions here on earth, and for wives, we will need to account for how we submitted to our husbands, and husbands will need to account for how they submitted to Christ and loved their families.

      • Alex Headrick

        Emily, If God is the head of Christ, God raises Christ up and seats Him next to Him….and Christ does the same for us so I’d say that if man is the head of woman, than it would be biblical to say that he should “lay his life down” for her as Christ did the church, raising her up to his level….

        Biblical headship is about raising up, not putting under. And that’s a lot like mutual submission to me…man submitting to Christ by raising up his wife, by honoring her, by seating her beside him instead of under him.

        I think we have to be careful what we say when we call things “un-biblical” as you did to your response to Rachel. First of all, it leaves no room for discussion. Second, the bible is a complicated book that has been studied by hundreds and thousands of scholars, most of whom come to different conclusions. We read the bible with bias, and often with ignorance towards the original text, language, culture, and context. There is some particularly interesting discussion on this in Danny Silk’s new book if you ever would like to see a different perspective on Paul’s commentary on women.

      • Sarah Jones

        Feminism isn’t about one gender submitting to the other, it’s about true equality. I know of no feminist (and I include myself here) aside from the ghost of Mary Daly that actually believes men should submit to women. That’s not liberation, and liberation is what we’re after.

      • Tami

        Hi Emily, I understand that you believe mutual submission is not biblical.

        However, there is another way to interpret the Scripture (s) you quote above (1Cor. 11:3; also Ephesians 5:23, Col. 2:10). The greek word for “head” in these verses also means “source” as in “lifegiver.” When we insert “source” instead of “ruler” (authority) we see Christ is the head (source, lifegiver) of every man, man is the source/lifegiver of woman, (woman is also lifegiver of man – see 1 Cor. 11:12), and God is the source/lifegiver of Christ. This interpretation also supports what I believe to be God’s original intent when He created man and woman (Gen. 1:26-28). God commissions both man and woman with equal authority to rule the earth together. I believe this is still His plan and intent for us.

        The consequences of sin have created the ongoing tension between men and women that we still experience today. Christ came and has redeemed us from the curse, yet we still struggle because we’re all living in an imperfect world with imperfect people.

        When I view the above Scriptures in light of “head” meaning “source” it is very freeing and life-giving to me as a woman.

        Just my thoughts…blessings to you.

      • Becky Castle Miller

        “We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus”? I thought the gist of your article was a great reminder to serve others, including my husband and children, but I am completely lost with your comment above. As a Christian, I will not be held accountable to God for how I submitted to Jesus? Isn’t believing in Jesus and placing Him as Lord the entire hinge of being a Christian?

      • monax

        Remember Emily, we are every one of us male and female, husband and wife called to a life of “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).

        When a husband submits to the desires, requests, wisdom, whims or whatnots of his wife this in no way changes the biblical truth that “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph 5:23).

        A Christian man is called to submit not just to Christ—but to others, including his wife. But what are we submitting to (both in marriage and in the church)—hopefully it’s the corporately discerned will of God for our lives. Every head has a head—and there is no vital head that is not also one with its body.

        As Jesus taught us to pray: “Heavenly Father… Your will be done!”

      • Lauralee Moss

        That’s fine for you to believe that as everyone is entitled to her own view. What irks me is that obviously you are well read/ smart, yet ignoring history. What happened when women regularly submitted to their husbands? Abuse. Every relationship is different, and this way works a minority of the time.

      • Angela Foster

        “Men are called on to submit to Jesus Christ, and women are called to
        submit to their husbands. We will not be held accountable, if we are
        married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our
        husbands. It is our husbands who will be kept accountable for how they
        submit to Jesus.” So a woman’s salvation is tendered through her husband? You are basing that on a few scriptures, when the overwhelming scriptural message is that Jesus died for everyone and every person can have a personal relationship with him. You just sound brainwashed.

    • hannah anderson

      I think Emily’s underlying point isn’t that servanthood is based on gender (which you very accurately articulated), but that in our current context, women are using the gender struggle to excuse our lack of servanthood. Because women have been so long oppressed, it is very easy for us now to push back in less than Christ like ways and feel completely entitled doing it.

      This is not exclusive to faith communities–there is a strong sense of entitlement among women of our generation precisely because of the abuses our mothers and grandmothers bore. We must be willing to admit that no cultural revolution is pure–it always comes with its own set of pitfalls. And the greatest pitfall for women in the post-feminist West is precisely what Emily suggested: in our new found liberty, we will forget that the whole point of our liberty is to serve others.

      • Tony J. Alicea

        YES, THIS! Let’s not miss the entire point of her article.

      • Bethany Suckrow

        I think you’re right about what she intended to say, but none of her anecdotes (her personal experiences or those of her loved ones that really aren’t hers to tell or interpret) exemplify this. For her to make the supremely over-generalized point that feminists don’t understand or appreciate the “art of servanthood” and illustrate her point with story after story about serving abusers, only illustrates that she herself does not understand what servanthood really is.

        • Sarah Moon

          “I think you’re right about what she intended to say, but none of her anecdotes (her personal experiences or those of her loved ones that really aren’t hers to tell or interpret) exemplify this.” << this. A very irresponsible use of these women's stories.

        • Emily Wierenga

          Bethany, please know I am not by any means condoning abuse. Men who abuse are wrong and are not submitting to Christ. Women are called to serve husbands who are submitting to Christ. I believe they should leave their husbands if they are being abused. I simply put that story about my Lebanese friend because it was VERY unusual and amazing to me, that she WOULD stay and that he WOULD become a Christian, but I do not think women should stay in abusive situations with the intention of winning their husbands over to Christ. I believe the enemy is using that anecdote to distract from the message of the entire article, and I probably shouldn’t have included it since it is being misconstrued.

          • Danielle | from two to one

            Emily, I know your heart and your intentions for this and I hope we can chat further soon. I would just like us ALL to be more hesitant to 1) use others’ stories when we cannot ever fully know them as best as they do, and 2) use exceptions to the rule as somehow ways to undercut the rule.

            • Cameron E. Brooks

              I couldn’t agree more, Danielle, that we should all be more hesitant to “use others’ stories when we cannot ever fully know them as best as they do.”

              And it’s in this spirit that we also can’t let ourselves believe we know Emily’s intended message or her attitude in this post better than she does herself.

              I believe we can disagree with each other in grace, and allow that grace to remind us of our limited view of the thoughts, memories, emotions, beliefs and hopes behind a short article like this, especially on such a loaded topic.

              While I share many of the concerns about this piece and the way it was written, I also know there’s a depth and complexity to Emily’s life, her family, and the spiritual journey that brought her to this point.

              So while I may not share all of her theology, I want to retain a tender humility that honours her as the best expert of her own words and state of heart.

          • Bethany Suckrow

            Friend, with all due respect to what you were trying to say, I think the enemy used that amazing story to confuse you about what is and isn’t servitude, and you used it out of context. I think the rest of us are just trying to make sense of a misconstrual on your part. Please take ownership of that.

            Because it is the exception and not the rule, it is not a good example to use for the purposes of your point. God redeemed that situation with your Lebanese friend, yes, but that does not mean that your friend’s staying is an example of godly servitude.

            And I know you keep saying that you don’t want to condone abuse, but when your theology makes room for abuse, I have to question it (see my above comment on your reference to 1 Cor. 11).

            Emily, I care about you and your story and I care about discussing this with you in a way that helps everyone here in the Prodigal community see the stories around us in their true context. I hope you know that I respect and appreciate your voice, even here and now. But I worry that you manipulated these stories out of their reality and into a definition of servitude that God has not condoned. Nowhere in your article do the illustrations exemplify the caveat that you just mentioned about only submitting to husbands that are submitting to Christ. In fact, in your comments referencing 1 Cor. 11, you make the opposite claim. And I worry that Prodigal readers will not feel safe to share their stories of abuse and redemption because of how these in this article have been misconstrued. Sometimes stories are simply not ours to tell or ours to interpret.

            • Kim Kouski

              No, it is the perfect example of servant hood. Jesus became a servant, so we also must become servants. Serving someone who loves you and cares for you is easy, but serving an enemy with a grateful heart to Christ is the best example ever given. Sure you can serve a loving husband, but an abusive one? Now that takes God’s love.

              • Shaney Irene

                There is so much danger in this line of thinking. Women have literally died because of it. The only time Jesus ever let someone abuse him was during the Passion, and that was for a very, very specific purpose. Women should not be equated to saviors. They are not the saviors of their abusers. They do not have to, and should not be told to, submit to abusive behavior.

                • Gray Knight

                  Each person should follow what God declares he/she should do. Sometimes God frees us from the abuse, other times he sends us into the abuse. What about the pastor in Iran? Jesus said that the world will hate you and you will be mistreated.
                  To say this does not mean that abuse is okay. Everyone who abuses should and will pay the penalty for it, either in a court of law, or for sure with God’s judgment.
                  Another example: we know slavery is wrong, but the scriptures tell us to work for our master as we would for God. This is the story of the Lebanese woman, and her following God’s plan for her life, led to her husband finding life. God does not promise us a no problem, easy life filled with doing whatever makes us happy. He promises us a difficult life on a narrow, rough road, that will lead to eternal life. Sure, He blesses us even now, from time to time, and will be with us through it all, but it still isn’t easy.

                  • Desley Noneofyerbiz

                    ANE slavery cannot be likened to domestic abuse; it was not intrinsically abusive. It was also the system of that time, and God was outlining how Christians should bring Jesus into that system while simultaneously laying down principles which subverted the system (1 Cor 7:21).

                  • Desley Noneofyerbiz

                    In the case of abuse victims, 1 Cor 7:21 might just as well be applied to them.

                  • Shaney Irene

                    Intimate partner violence is not equal to Christian persecution. You’ve equated the two when they are not the same, and that is dangerous.

                    • Gray Knight

                      What makes them not the same? And how does equating the two be dangerous? In this particular case, it is the same.

              • Desley Noneofyerbiz

                It’s actually harder for an abuse victim to leave an abuser and trust God to take care of her than it is to stay and serve the abuser. Abuse victims stay with their abusers for years because they DO love them, even though they are being abused. They try so hard and for so long to please the abuser, hoping to win the abuser’s love and affection, but in most cases it never happens – and God never promises that it will.

                I find it insulting when people imply that I left my abusive husband (who was abusing my children) because I lacked love for him or faith in God. It took much more faith to step out of the situation and leave my husband for God to deal with as He sees fit, than to stay in it presumptuously with the assurance that God will work it out regardless of my sinful choice to put a fantasy above the safety and well-being of my children and myself. God never told people to endure abuse in intimate relationships. This is hugely destructive for victims, and enabling to abusers.

                • Elisabeth M

                  Bravo. I am so glad. People like you are my heroes.

              • Sara

                Wow. You don’t understand abuse to say something like this. Read Why Does He Do That? By Lundy Bancroft and then thank Jesus you’re not in an abusive marriage and don’t presume to think it’s good and shows God’s love for a wife to submit to an abusive husband. Should she submit when he breaks her jaw? Beats the kids? Throws her down stairs? Points a gun at her head for fun? Spends all the money? Rapes her? Where exactly is the line?

                • Elisabeth M

                  Thank you! That is one of the best books of all time. Required reading.

            • Elisabeth M

              Urgh. I said this in a different comment, but it bears repeating. “God redeemed that situation with your Lebanese friend” – are you sure? Here’s what we know: the husband converted to Christianity. That, in and of itself, is not “redeeming the situation.” It is extremely unlikely, given everything I know about domestic abuse, that he stopped abusing her. Real change takes YEARS and it almost never happens – it’s really, really rare, and it only happens when the abuser has absolutely no choice but to do the hard work of changing. I would be astonished if his conversion coincided with an end to his abuse.

          • Sarah Moon

            The enemy? You chose those words and because you chose those words your point was missed. Take responsibility for them. If you do not think women should submit to abuse, then do not glorify a situation in which a woman submits to abuse.

            • Duane Scott

              Emily utilized that story in efforts to convey a message, not uphold a moral or teaching that is absolute. I am not one to argue in public forums but I think it’s important, as educated individuals, to read this article with an intellect capable of understanding the big picture.

              I consider myself a male feminist. I believe in equal rights. And females are not getting those rights as they should… yet. (I have a hope)

              That said, often, the loudest voices are the ones with the most unrest in their heart and what I view on this thread is a lot of loud voices.

              Because it seems, Emily hit a raw thread many women are unable to accept. She is not fantasizing abuse but is lifting up what happens when there is a complete surrender to God and what God deems as necessary to be a servant.

              I know this comment opens me up to a lot of personal attacks but I want you all to know that stepping back and loving a little before you fire off a comment would be another act of servant hood. We are called to love each other, to support each other, and to talk responsibly about those things which concern us.

              That’s not aimed at women. It’s not aimed at men. It’s aimed at all of the Christian population, myself included.

              • 1lori_1

                I hesitate to even get involved……but amen to balance and common sense.

                • Jennifer Camp

                  Yes, so grateful for your jumping in here, Duane and Lori. Thank you for your hearts, here.

              • Emily Wierenga

                Wow. Thank you Duane.

              • Kim Kouski

                I think a lot of women are misreading Emily’s post by thinking it says, hey stay with abuse, go for it. It’s fun. That’s not what she’s saying. She’s giving examples of servant hood in difficult situations. Now that is true servant hood.

              • Kim Kouski

                I’m also wondering if it’s the servant hood that upsets others. God calling us to serve others instead of being served? Serving comes with humility.

              • David Rupert

                Well said Duane. When we use the word “surrender” it strikes up such fear. But that is the Christian life. We surrender to Christ. We surrender to authority. We surrender to our spouses. It’s supposed to be hard

            • Emily Wierenga

              Dear Sarah, I am profoundly sorry that you thought I was glorifying a situation in which a woman submitted to abuse. I would have kicked her husband in the balls if I could have and pulled her from that situation faster than you could have said Abuse but I didn’t meet her until years later and by that time, she and her husband were in an incredibly loving and serving relationship. I appreciate your honesty. e.

            • Sarah Jones

              Agreed. Her article is irresponsibly written. And that’s actually a generous statement, given its content.

          • Natalie Snapp

            Completely agree, Emily. I completely saw your point and I have no idea what the big deal is – I didn’t AT ALL read you were condoning abuse or staying with an abuser.

        • Kim Kouski

          Google the name Smith Wigglesworth . He was a great preacher from the last century. his wife got saved, Smith hated it, abused his wife, but then got saved from her Christ like compassion. 1 PETER 3 v 1- 2 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. NIV. Sometimes God does call the woman to stay in the relationship, but gives her grace to get through it as if with Smith and the Lebanese woman. It doesn’t mean all women should stay in that situation, but if God does call them to stay He will give them strength. she’s right on the mark with her examples.

          • Emily Wierenga

            Thank you so much Kim.

          • Danielle | from two to one

            Kim, can you refer me to any sources, biographies, etc. where the wife’s narrative is taken into account? Given that you said Wigglesworth is from the last century — one in which women were still considered property — it would have been nearly impossible for a woman to leave an abusive situation (let alone abuse of wives was considered and condoned as completely normal). I really encourage you to not take the exception to the rule as a way to undermine the rule itself.

          • Shaney Irene

            1 Peter 3 is not in the context of abusive relationships. The examples given are exceptions, not the rule. They should not be held up as the rule. That is dangerous and irresponsible.

          • Desley Noneofyerbiz

            God used David’s sin of adultery to produce the Messiah who would save us from our sins. Does that mean God “called” David to adultery and murder? No, it just means God uses ALL THINGS (good and bad) and turns them out for the good. It’s a mistake to suggest that God would not have saved the husband through the wife’s leaving him. God does not rely on us and our actions; He does as He pleases.

            I am still getting the sense in these last few posts that some of us believe it is taking the spiritual high road when one endures Intimate Partner Violence. When we use language like “but if God does call them to stay He will give them strength,” most victims in the throws of abuse will interpret this to mean God is calling them to suffer it out.

            Let’s please be more careful. When you address something as dangerous as DV, you have a responsibility before God to “make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.”

      • Kate B.

        “And the greatest pitfall for women in the post-feminist West is precisely what Emily suggested: in our new found liberty, we will forget that the whole point of our liberty is to serve others.”

        Hi, while I definitely agree with this sentiment (it is such a problem in our modern society which often interprets liberty as rugged individualism!), I have to say I don’t think there is actually as “strong [a] sense of entitlement among women of our generation” as you seem to notice. If anything, I think the feminist movement – along with the civil rights movements – have ENCOURAGED service to others and especially to those in need. I just graduated from college and what I saw there was this: so many young women working hard at classes and their individual career paths, but also devoting tireless hours to volunteering, church services or community activities, and deep interest in alleviating problems in the world. Of all the students in my graduating class who committed the lives to a year of community service, all were women. It’s been my experience that feminism has actually enabled the idea that “our liberty is to serve others.” I see women pushing back, yes, but against oppression.

        That being said, I agree that we always need to be mindful that there are pitfalls in all movements and that it’s often easy to lose sight of what true liberty is!

        • hannah anderson

          I’m speaking in terms larger than Christianity or Christian feminism. Within the broader culture, there is definitely a growing state of entitlement among young women. By all means, women must pursue education, careers, et al. for the the betterment of society. and their own imago dei status. But “woman power” can easily morph past that and quickly become about evening the score of past wrongs. And this is what I meant by entitlement.

          • kim

            I see what you are saying. Some women use their past pains to keep from doing what God has called them to do. They fear being hurt by men who have hurt them in the past more than trusting in God to heal that pain. So instead they create defenses that won’t let anyone in. When they do marry, they are on guard for that pain and think every request is chains to wrap them in. they allow the pain to lead them instead of being Prov 31 virtuous woman. That is very true. Today is a lot, lot, lot different than the 80′s. TImes have changed. It’s hard to trust people today, especially men. They seem to have become a bit more abusive and others are more passive today. The secular women’s movement have destroyed men. Told them they can’t BE men anymore. How I miss the Promise Keepers of the 90′s. :( We have to allow men to be men and women to be women.

            • Emily Wierenga

              YES. If our men submitted more to Christ we’d be able to submit more to them. It takes two.

              • Danielle | from two to one

                Emily, are you linking men not submitting to Christ on women not submitting to men more?

                • Emily Wierenga

                  I’m saying if our men submitted to Christ and died more to their desires on behalf of their families, it would be a lot easier for women to want to submit to them. I don’t think women are called to submit to men who aren’t submitted to Christ, because that just leads to abusive relationships.

                  • Danielle | from two to one

                    I understand now more what you are saying, and it is reflective of a Deeper Story post you wrote a while back. My concern is that submission is tied more to the behavior of the other rather than out of reverence to Christ (as in the whole preface to Ephesians 5). You say that “it would be a lot easier for women to want to submit to [men]” if they “submitted to Christ and died more to their desires.” As a Christian feminist and wife, I am called to submit to my husband regardless of whether I think he is “worthy” of being submitted to because I love and respect him. And since we are feminists and egalitarians, he also defers (“submits”) to me because he loves and respects me.

                    My love and respect for my husband is not dependent on him doing what I think he should be doing for our family as the man, just as his love and respect for me is not dependent on me doing what he thinks I should be doing for the family as a woman.

                  • mirele

                    It’s not happening, Emily. Christian men use their wives as punching bags as much as non-Christian men, and women are made to feel guilty if they want to do the right thing and leave an abusive situation. You do your sisters no service with your rhetoric.

                    Jesus, save us from your professional followers. Please?

                  • Erin Adams

                    But, none of us are fully submitted to Christ. No man is (and no woman is). So, how does it work for a woman to only submit to a man submitted to Christ? Shouldn’t both man and woman submit first to Christ, and through their submission to Christ, serve and honor one another, each mutually submitting and lifting the other up? In a mutual relationship they are both able to lift the other up toward Christ and grow more holy and whole together.
                    There will always be tainting of an abusive relationship, if we believe that a woman can submit fully to a man who is submitted to Christ. Right? Since it is just not possible?

      • Danielle | from two to one

        Hannah, you mention that “there is a strong sense of entitlement among women of our generation
        precisely because of the abuses our mothers and grandmothers bore.” While there are certainly some women who are not being good stewards of their actualized liberty and opportunity, as a Christian feminist I object the over-generalization that “there is a strong sense of entitlement among women of our generation.”

        There is a strong sense of EMPOWERMENT among women of our generation, that we can do anything, be anyone, and reach out full potential as people FIRST and women SECOND.

        • hannah anderson

          I’m speaking in terms larger than Christian feminism. In a sense, it is the intrinsically Christian concept of service that keeps the extremes of feminism in check. Because divorced from this, there is nothing noble or valuable about empowerment. We achieve liberty only in order to serve. That is the Christian concept of rights and power.

          • Sarah Moon

            “Because divorced from this, there is nothing noble or valuable about empowerment. We achieve liberty only in order to serve. That is the Christian concept of rights and power.” <<<This is a very dangerous line of thinking, and does not reflect what I see in the Bible.

            • Marie


            • shelly

              Methinks your response went a bit wrong there. :( (Not in terms of content but formatting.)

          • Danielle | from two to one

            Hannah, I agree that the intrinsically Christian concept of service relates to our liberation in Christ in order to serve and glorify the Lord. However, I caution against not being excruciatingly careful when using these words in the context of abusive marriages, gender roles, and (straw men versions of) feminism. Take the truth you mentioned above — “We achieve liberty only in order to serve” — and apply it to situations of abuse or recovering from abuse. For instance, if we preached primarily to a person enslaved or just being freed from slavery that the reason for their liberation is to serve, then it can be confusing, insensitive, and hurtful because it seems like no matter what, their lot in life is to be seen and treated as less than others. (Even though I do not think that service should be like this).

            THAT is what I am cautioning against in this post. I understand the underlying intent of Emily’s post to extol the importance of servanthood, but in bringing in examples of abused wives and families, it creates confusion and hurt by minimizing the evil of the abuse and upholding an oppressive system that enforces subjugation, NOT servanthood among believers.

            • hannah anderson

              Completely get the differentiation between subjugation and servanthood. Women must understand that they are fully-formed, fully-competent human beings who have the power of self-determination. But to judge the Lebanese woman who chose (chose vs. coerced) to stay in an abusive marriage in order to display the gospel as somehow subjugated is dismissive and minimizes the power she actually has. Because after all, Christ chose to suffer. Christ chose to be abused. When we know our own power and yet choose to abdicate it, we are following in His steps.

              Point being, the power lies in her capacity to choose to suffer, not necessarily in her decision to stay. I understand that this is a nuance that is quickly lost in these types of discussions, and one that could’ve perhaps been more clearly emphasized in the original piece. But this woman’s story is powerful precisely because it communicates that Christ actually empowers our suffering–that through Him, what looks like subjugation can actually become freedom.

              (Again I recognize the difference between submitting oneself and abuse and coercion. And I realize that not all women understand this difference and that it is important to articulate it clearly.)

              • Elisabeth M

                Christ didn’t choose to be “abused.” Abuse is a technical term in this context, and it does NOT describe the particular pain that Christ experienced on the cross. Abuse, in the context of domestic abuse, cannot take place outside of a power imbalance. At the crucifixion, Christ’s persecutors were not in a position to exercise power over him. We’re assuming he could have called the angels and been rescued at the drop of a hat, right? But he chose to stay. What he experienced is a completely different category of human suffering.

                However, women in abusive relationships face an extreme power imbalance that’s weighted against them. To leave, they must risk everything – they may lose their job, lose every penny they have, lose their house. They may lose their church community, lose their friends, lose lifelong relationships with family. They may lose custody of their children. They may lose all their earthly possessions. They may lose their physical safety, even their lives. None of these things are an extreme example.

                Often, women in abusive relationships have NO OPTIONS. This is why many choose to stay, for a variety of really valid reasons – for example, if a woman believes her husband could take away the kids, and she’s not willing to sacrifice them.

                To compare what Christ suffered *willingly* with the power dynamics and controlling tactics that a victim of domestic abuse must navigate every day is, at best, desperately glib.

      • Ruth

        Excellent clarification. Thank you.

        So much in Emily’s post about power and longing for it and power is always corrupt. This is crazy to interject but I’ll go for it—oh babyboomers and children of boomers, please reflect on that word “entitlement”. Long and hard. PS You are not always right and there are previous generations, generations inbetween and ones to come that have wisdom and stories and experience and a future too. It’s not always about you. When you can take this post and twist it to suggest that Emily is glorifying abuse….narcissism. I am a woman, I’ve been an abuser. I was brilliant at twisting my husband’s actions as abuse because of course it was all about me. Meanwhile I was the one with the power—a product of my culture. Thankfully my husband stayed around at the hands of his abuser and I am learning to love and serve and slowly shed some of that boomer-kid narcissism.

        • Shaney Irene

          “When you can take this post and twist it to suggest that Emily is glorifying abuse….narcissism.”

          As someone who works with abuse victims, I’m offended by this. I have invested a lot of time in learning about what counts as abuse apology, victim blaming, etc. So have many of the other women who are commenting on this article that they also see abuse apology in this piece. Tell me, why in the world would we WANT to see abuse apologism in this piece? How would self-centeredness lead to that?

          • Ruth

            I may be wrong, but what I hear Emily saying here is that submission in her story has led to loving, life-giving relationships. I have a very life-giving story of submission too. Yours and others experience of submission is different. Being unable to hear and acknowledge a different experience of submission which doesn’t lead to abuse is being unable to validate Emily’s story because of your own. How do you see Emily glorifying abuse in her post? I read the same words but don’t hear that. And I’m not assuming by your comment that you suggest all the abuse victims you work with are victims because of submission. Or are you?

            • Shaney Irene

              No, not all abuse victims I work with are victims because of submission. But by pointing out where there is abuse apology language in this piece (for example, her anecdote of the Lebanese woman being used in such a way that makes it sound like a rule and not an exception) is not the same as discounting her story. I believe that submission can be life-giving, or else Paul wouldn’t advocate for it in Ephesians 5:21. But to say that anyone who sees abuse apology in this piece in narcissistic is uncharitable and judgmental.

              • Ruth

                I intended my narcissism rant to be aimed at a generation or two (obviously a generalization with the finger pointing squarely at myself) and not at particular commenters. I apologize. Judgements are freely flying here and I am sorry to be swept up in that. The discussion is important though and unless you fully agree with what every single commenter is writing, you will come across as judgemental. Or maybe not? I guess I need to learn the difference between disagreeing and judging.

            • suzannah | the smitten word

              the problem is that emily is universalizing her own story and interpretation. her story is valid, but her interpretation of scripture is not the only “biblical” perspective, and there is not one blueprint for faithful marriage.

              when she faults feminists for not being others-oriented or willing to serve, she misreads feminism. when she said that her friend stayed with her abusive husband until her service caused his conversion, it comes across as a troubling morality tale about wifely submission to abuse for the “greater” good (of a man). she faults women’s fear and anger (at men for sins suffered at their hands) for men’s lack of church attendance (and their spiritual failings?). this is a heavy, heavy load to put on women whose experiences and wounds vary and for whom the Holy Spirit gifts and calls in such unique (and liberating!) ways.

              i will honor your story, emily. will you honor our if they include feminism? our God is big and our paths do not have to be the same to honor God and others. i care deeply about servanthood, neighbor-love, resurrection, chains loosed, and women and men who are loved, free, and called to serve the Kingdom of God in ways not dictated by gender or anything that would limit God’s great power at work within and among us.

              • Emily Wierenga

                I hear Christ in you, Suzannah. Thank you for your gentle words.

            • Sarah Jones

              Well, for her grandmother, it apparently led to suicide. So not very life-giving, apparently.

      • sandi

        Perfect answer, Hannah Anderson!

      • Elisabeth M

        I think this essential point does hold water. However, I also hold a lot of space for people who have been unfairly oppressed to err on the opposite side. Yeah, let’s self-examine, and try to notice the line within ourselves between self-assertion and entitlement. BUT. When a kid has had a toy taken away every day on the playground by another group of stronger kids, and then you put that kid on a different playground with a nicer kid to play with, and that nicer kid asks to see the toy – you really have to give that first kid room to say, “NO WAY JOSE.” You have to accept the validity of that assertion. Because until you can say “no” without receiving any kind of flack for it, it’s pretty hard to say yes. When a reservoir of generosity does not exist, because it’s been utterly tapped, you’ve got to give a person room to say, sorry, you ain’t pumping from this well, until the aquifer has had a chance to refill. If refilling is possible. And here’s the thing – the only person who can say whether refilling is possible, or whether they’ve had enough time to refill, is the person who suffered the original injustice. They are the ONLY ones with the right, or the vantage point, to make that call.

    • HopefulLeigh

      Thank you for this, Rachel. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Lisa Kerr

      While I appreciate your more liberal stance on Christianity, and I think it does Christianity well to bring up complexities and historical context, I do think fundamentalists have a valid point. The Bible does say a lot about women and most of it is oppressive and violent. I know most people are going to argue with me here, but I do know my Bible. It’s easy to read the Bible and agree with this writer because there’s a lot of scriptural evidence to back it up and it’s also a very popular teaching.

      Everyone else,
      With all due respect to everyone on this thread who believes in God, I worry about you when I read posts encouraging submission, even on the little things…as women or “sisters” or friends. Why is it even a hot topic? I don’t understand why this has become an important characteristic of a “godly woman.”

      I used to be a reverend, was in a very popular discipleship school, and ministered full-time for about a decade. My way of thinking clashed with a lot of the teachings and norms within my church and youth group, even with the Bible, and I just dismissed it because what I was continually being told by my mentors and pastors was that I was a bit rebellious (the writer above mentioned she was, too). Rebellion was kind of the go-to phrase to correct me and many others like me. So I started accepting that I was a rebellious person, and further, that Satan was the “father of all lies” and caused dissent, so I had to constantly check myself for being associated with all that. I felt pretty guilty for my thought patterns, and as I know now, I have some anxiety so my thought patterns are normal for me but at the time I didn’t understand where they were coming from and blamed them on my lack of piety.

      The thing about all this was, I was so devout and followed the Bible to a T. I prayed constantly and I never did much wrong or bad. I mean, yeah, I believed I was a sinner saved by grace, but from what? I didn’t lie, or cheat, or even get jealous (too often). I was saving myself for marriage and stuck with it 110% and taught the Junior High girls how to follow my lead.

      Even with all that, I prayed constantly that God would change me, change my heart, and change my mind, and you know what, one day I decided to leave the ministry temporarily to go to school. I wasn’t making enough money to live, and was 24 years old. I needed a career because I was dead-set on being a missionary and paying my own way.

      My pastors (who I worked for at the time) had really discouraged me from going to school, and pursuing my dreams to be a missionary; they wanted me to be a mom and pastor’s wife. It was this tension between what I wanted in life (and felt God wanted for me) and what my pastors wanted for my life that made me rethink authority and submission, and later, to actually rethink God’s authority on my life versus what I felt was right. Until that conflict with my pastors (who I adored), I’d believed strongly as the writer above believed–that submission was equal to servanthood and that servanthood was Christlike. I enjoyed servanthood to some degree and was quite happy that I was told I was “pleasing” God. But other times I felt that the servanthood I was asked to do was actually an unpaid maid service, and why wasn’t I getting paid when maids do get paid? Servanthood or not, it wasn’t fair, and later I learned it wasn’t legal. But I wasn’t happy and I felt guilty for not being happy. Why was I unhappy? What was wrong with me that I didn’t want to marry a pastor and raise his kids and enjoy running a big congregation and maybe even be wealthy? It just wasn’t who I was, and for almost a decade I had tried to fit myself into this “woman of God” sort of box/category that I did not fit into. I suppressed what I wanted, who I was, and some of the very vibrant parts of my personality.

      I’m a writer now, and I walked away from my faith. I’m hesitant to say I have no faith because these communities (which I was once part of) typically judge me harshly for that. I know this. On a daily basis, my Christian friends judge me openly and turn their back on me because I’m now “unsaved.” It’s been 3 years since I came out as a non-Christian and three years of being condemned for losing my faith, but despite the harsh criticism, I have never felt happier. Sure, I cry about it a lot, and it terrifies me to think how quickly people can ignore the complexities of life and our experiences and just discount me as a heathen so fast after saying they love me for so long.

      Now I’m not saying you need to lose your faith necessarily, but I do think if you question some of the things you’ve been taught, you may find yourself questioning God or the Bible or your faith and that’s okay. That’s a normal progression and it may happen to some of you, even if you think it would never happen. I never thought I’d be writing this. I thought I’d always believe in God. There’s nothing wrong with you or that feeling, just go with it. Trust yourself if it happens, EVEN if you’ve built a ministry and tons of young women respect you (ahem, formerly me).

      The main reason I’m writing this is to say: no matter what your faith is, be yourself. You can stay Christian and still stay true to yourself. If you don’t want to submit, or don’t want to cut onions, just say no. If you feel like saying “Hey I’m doing all this housework, and you’re making nachos for yourself?” that’s okay. You can even be snotty once in awhile. You’re a human being. Feel what you feel! You’re allowed, as a Christian woman (or non-Christian woman), to speak up for yourself and your needs, likes and dislikes. And you should. It’s easy to feel guilty for not conforming to how other Christian women live, but people are going to judge us whether we live one way or another, and if we live a bit outside the norm, people judge us even more.

      Ultimately, there’s a really cool chick inside you and I’m afraid that by suppressing it (which is what I feel happened to me when I submitted), you’ll lose that beauty, talent, and vibrancy. Once I let go of all of those rules, and just kind of re-discovered life outside of them, I transformed into a person I really, really like. I’ve embraced traits that others look down on, but I couldn’t be happier.

      Again, I hope you’ll read this and understand it’s not my intent to convert or de-convert you, but just to share my side of things after living this way for a decade.

      • Stephen M.

        Lisa, I would love to know where you are writing, if it’s public. Your post really resonated with some of my experiences and I’d love to read more by you.

        • Lisa Kerr

          I blog at and sometimes write about writing at

          My Cult Life is definitely a bit harsh, very sarcastic, and I’ve since changed my tone; however, it was important for me to FEEL everything and be free to write as I wanted. I’ve grown throughout the 3 years of blogging, though.

          • Stephen M.

            Oh man, I don’t know when or how but I’ve totally been through some of It’s fantastic. Thanks for the info :)

            • My Cult Life

              Yep. :)

      • mamikaze

        My story is very similar to yours. I haven’t written much about it on my blog because it is painful to relive. Feeling that you must suppress your true self to fit the role of a model christian woman/wife is a unnecessary burden.
        As a non-Christian, I am a very helpful person and my household is very egalitarian. We view our marriage as a partnership. We do things for each other solely out of kindness and respect.

        • Lisa Kerr

          I agree-it’s very painful to relive. It’s also complicated because people don’t want to take the time to listen, they want to tell you WHY you changed your mind, or walked away without actually trying to understand and have a discussion about it. Those who do take the time to listen win my heart. It shows who they are as a person pretty clearly, and just because someone is labeled Christian or not, doesn’t mean they are a good person with a caring heart.

          • Nike Chillemi

            I must be the other side of the coin. I grew up in a liberal family. My dad was agnostic, my mom non-practicing Catholic. Among the in-laws and out-laws we had a few Jews, two or three who practiced Vedanta, while others revered Buddha. So, I shocked everyone, most of all myself when I became an evangelical Christian. I found liberal friends and even family turned away from me. I guess that is just human nature. They felt betrayed when I changed. They felt I’d abandoned them, so they abandoned me.

            I didn’t feel any pressure by goodly or godly Christians to be a servant or servant-like in the early days of my walk. That would’ve been most welcome. I would’ve relished everyone truely getting into serving each other. What I felt was pressure to appear “seemly.” I’m not a very seemly person.

            In the first years of my conversion, I was in a joyous bubble. It was like I was wrapped in a soft, warm, blanket of happiness. If the “Sally Seemly Christians” were judging me, I didn’t know it back then. But after several years, I did begin to understand that to many of them I wasn’t giving the right appearance for a Christian woman. And I went through a number of years of anxiety when in church or around church people. That anxiety began to creep into the rest of my life. After all, my Christian walk did consume me and the anxiety soon began to consume me.

            Writing fiction helped me. I’ve had four murder mysteries published and have been criticized because in places they’re not so “seemly.” I have to shake my head sometimes. It’s almost impossible to write a seemly murder scene.
            I’ve broken free. I’m not in my Christian newbie joy bubble and I’m definitely free of religious anxiety. I’m into a more mature walk. I like it. It feels right.

            I jump right into those verses on submission and servanthood. I ponder their deepest spiritual meaning. I feel joyous and I believe I’m OK with God pretty much. And when I’m not, I repent. And I’m still not seemly. I’m grumpy sometimes…well a lot. I’m also pretty funny. I make people laugh. I think most Christians could use a better sense of humor.

            • My Cult Life

              Good for you, Nike! It sounds like you’re being who you are, which is what I feel is most important (not that my opinion of who you are matters, but I hope my experience is insightful). Some people can maintain their personalities and quirks while being evangelical Christian, but others, like myself enter leadership in the church and then it’s an entirely different story. I was groomed for leadership, it didn’t happen overnight. I was chosen one day because I was a good servant and I was a pretty blonde (yes, being skinny, white, blonde haired, etc. had a lot to do with it), and from there, I was mentored by men and women in leadership. I shopped with them, ate with them, watched their children, taught their children, hosted parties with them, cooked with them. It was in those moments I was learning to be like them, and also being watched for things: Could I be trusted? Would I be loyal? Would I be open about other’s faults?

              Writer-to-writer, are your murder mysteries Christian-based or “secular”? I feel writing is one area where you can’t have anxiety to conform, it kills creativity.

      • Sherri Ohler

        Oh my goodness reading this makes my heart break. Lisa, I feel like I have no words in response, yet I can’t just walk away! Please believe me when I say there is no judgement here, but knowing Jesus like I do-it seems unfathomable to just decide one day that I do not ‘believe in Him’ anymore- as if my denying Him would make Him any less real or any less KING! I read your response in its entirety and the only thing that makes any sense at all is that you never really knew Him. Him-Jesus as the only living God. In theory-yes, as you said you grew a ‘successful’ ministry. But as a friend, lover, father, etc, you were missing it. Missing HIM.

        I once read a story of how a man sentenced to prison for life passed away of old age quietly in his cell. When they cleaned it out they found some notes he had written about the bible. He knew the exact middle word, how many words each testament held and the bible in it’s entirety. He knew all sorts of fact and numbers regarding how it was written and how many times each word was used. On and on. He had spent a lifetime reading and memorizing it as words on a page-but somehow missed the LIVING GOD who wrote it. I’m sorry to say this sounds like you! You were doing everything right for all the right reasons but missing the whole point which is relationship with Jesus. One who encounters HIM supernaturally-doesn’t then just say “Nah, I don’t think I will believe in that anymore.” Because the sheer power of it is undeniable!

        The key is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. People will say that you get filled with the Holy Spirit at the time you say the salvation prayer. I disagree-if you say the prayer at the same time you happen to fully surrender your heart to his Lordship in repentance-then maybe. But if you are like me, because it sounded right, and I’d like to get to heaven someday so I will go ahead and ‘get saved’ because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do!” Then-you too may be missing the filling of Jesus Spirit, which also means missing the RELATIONSHIP, the POWER, GOD’S VOICE, the GIFTS and all else that comes with really knowing Him. If you think I’m crazy, just read Acts 19. There were ‘Christians’ who ‘believed’ in Jesus but didn’t get the Holy Spirit until later and didn’t get the POWER to live with Him in this world until they were filled LATER after salvation. For me it was 15 years after I said the salvation prayer. When I heard about this ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ thing I went to my room, shut the door and literally started angrily yelling at God. That if it was true-why did He wait 15 years to tell me about it??? In that moment I was given a vision of everything that I HAD CHOSEN to put in my life that was blocking Him from reaching me. Was blocking Him from filling me. He couldn’t fill me because I had filled me with so much unholiness-but He didn’t stop chasing me, He never left me. He loved me until I was ready to replace everything that I thought I wanted in life with HIM. I repented on my knees right then and was filled that very moment. His GRACE was incredible because I was the worst of sinners. During that 15 years from ‘salvation’ to ‘filling’ I suppose I could have ‘decided not be a Christian’ maybe. Because I thought it was up to me to pick a RELIGION. (Although I know HE wouldn’t have let me go, He would’ve been right there waiting for me to return and give myself fully to His LOVE) Now I know better-Jesus is savior of the whole world and it has nothing to do with my belief or unbelief or religion, and everything to do with relationship to the one who created me and everything else.

        I pray a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit for you Lisa. Not because I think you are wrong, but because when you have seen and felt the power of Jesus like I have, you know that He and Heaven are real and you want everyone to go there and be with Him forever like you! And when you have experienced the supernatural dark side like I have-you know that Hell is real too and you don’t want anyone to go there. Period. This isn’t about choosing a religion. It’s about asking yourself if you are willing to try to find the TRUTH even if it goes against what you ‘believe’ and the image that you think you want your life to project. Seek the TRUTH and you will find HIM and powerful, adventurous, eternal life. Seek to find a ‘belief’ or ‘religion’ that seems to make sense for you, and all you will ever find is just that. A personal believe that dies with you.

        Lasty, you say your happy and that makes perfect sense to me. The bible says that satan is the god of this world. You are no longer a threat to him so you are swimming upstream in his river-easy, happy. When you were building your ministry-you were on the front lines of battle, but without the power to fight… :( So sorry.

        In His love,

        Sherri Ohler

      • Darek Hollis


        I appreciate your comment and you willingness to share openly your story. I am a guy and a christian and continue to try and better understand the male and female relationship laid forth in the bible. I have read passages and commentaries and listened to sermons and am still wrestling with questions. I was interested in your statement “The Bible does say a lot about women and most of it is oppressive and violent.” I believe the bible to be the Word and Truth of God. I also value women and believe God does too. Maybe you think I am crazy and miss led, I am not sure, but I want to continue to learn and grow, so I was wondering if you could send me and email with some of the scriptures that involve oppression of and violence towards women. I am not trying to do this so I can come up with rebuttles to your thoughts or try and convince you how you have interepretted things wrong, but simply so I can better know the bible which I say I believe and better determine my beliefs as well as hopefully better know the God I say I believe in. My email address is Thank you again for your honest sharing.

      • Kate

        I’m so sorry others made you feel this way! And even more sad that it made you loose you belief in Christ. There is a strong difference in being a person with a servants heart and letting yourself get walked on the way that they walked on you. I’m not sure why you felt the need to renounce your faith to become yourself or why marrying a pastor and starting a mega church had anything to do with following Christ was true. The people who told you that that’s what “good christian woman” looks like were VERY mistaken! I highly suggest the book Captivating by Stasi Elderege, I truly believe it will really change the way you see things for the better. You’ll be in my prayers <3

    • kim

      But she IS saying both need to be servants. She is mostly talking to wives, not husbands and she is saying WE as women should be servants as God has called all His children to be.

    • Christina Paul


      I don’t think she was trying to glorify abusive spouses. Rather, I think we can both agree God deserves full glory for the testimony. Love overcame hate. And a servant heart won over this hard-hearted man. The woman deserves credit for choosing to love her husband, and God deserves credit for the good that came from it.

      Also, while I agree we should avoid extremes, I would also say I’m not so sure equal partnership is a concept you will find in God’s words to us. A partnership no doubt, but I don’t find scripture pointing to it as an equal one. Eph 5, Col 3, and 1 Pet 3 all exhort wives to submit to their husbands, but none of them say “and husbands submit to your wives.” Rather, it commands them to love and give themselves up for their wives – or else it warns, God will not hear their prayers. I used to dismiss passages like these as part of the chauvinistic culture from back then. But then I realized there was a deeper truth being reflected in marriage. Trek with me for a bit:

      “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the HEAD OF CHRIST IS GOD.” 1 Cor 11:3

      “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
      Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
      7 rather, he made himself nothing
      by taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
      8 And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!” Phil 2:5-8

      Christ is equal with the Father in essence, value, and divinity. But here’s what is so mind-boggling: he does not consider equality something to be grasped, rather he submits in obedience to the Father as his head. He is equal in divinity, value, and essence, but not equal with the Father in authority. Does the Father abuse this authority? Never. The scripture continues:

      “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
      10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
      11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11

      If marriage is a reflection of the Church’s relationship to Christ (Eph 5) and Christ’s relationship to the Father as the scriptures say, then it follows that marriage will naturally include this same element of authority and submission. Wives, for our part, are equal with men in value, being, and essence, but not in authority – like Christ and the Father. Men were made to be leaders, if only we will let them lead. Yet, husbands, for their part, are not abuse this authority much like the Father did not abuse His. Rather, they are to follow the example of Christ’s leadership. And how did Christ lead? He led through sacrifice and love, modeling servant leadership: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing 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.” Eph 5
      “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” Matt 20:24-26

      I do not say this to support abusive situations, obviously men are not given a free pass for abuse in these scriptures. I do not share the above truth with the intention to offend anyone, but I would be lying to you if I said the scriptures supported our culture’s words more than God’s. Let us submit to Him rather than our cultures beliefs. Our modern culture tells us that the concept of wives submitting to their husbands is an antiquated idea, that it is ridiculous for women to have to submit to any man. This translates into the idea that all things between men and women must be equal, or else we will be powerless and weak. But this is not true. Marriage is a beautiful picture of something much bigger and grandeur. And submission is not weakness, it is in this role that we have the greatest influence.

      • Emily Wierenga

        YES. Thank you friend.

      • Erin Adams

        But Jesus IS equal to God the Father in authority. He came to earth and temporarily and willing humbled Himself.

        There is no way we can read Philippians 2 as a picture for wives and not a letter to all who want to follow in Christ’s footsteps.

        I notice that in this idea you present here we are separating which gender is suppose to look like The Father and which is suppose to look like Jesus. But, then, somehow, the husbands are flip flopping between the two.

        Women are suppose to submit like Jesus, and not have equal authority (like Jesus supposedly does not). The men are supposed to be like God the Father, with the authority. But, then, the example of how the men are supposed to lead is Jesus Christ. So, is Jesus the leader or the submitter? It is all getting so confusing!!

        • monax

          “Is Jesus the leader or the submitter?”

          He clearly is both—both our Master and the Son of the Father.

          As a leader he modeled what it was like to submit to the will of God the Father.

          “…the head of every man is Christ… and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3).

          • Erin Adams

            Yes. Jesus does do both. That is part of my point. That He submits and He leads and they don’t have to be in conflict with each other within His person. Men and women should follow in the steps of Jesus. I don’t think Jesus walked a path for men to follow, and a separate path for women to follow.

      • Tami

        Hi Christina, actually when Scripture says that husbands are to love and give themselves up for their wives, that is submission…sacrifice is submission. God instructs both husbands and wives to submit to one another.


      Agree with RHE. Mutual submission is the way of Jesus. We should be looking for ways to outdo one another in showing honor.

    • Anita @ Losing Austin

      Rachel, I think you nailed it by saying that the opposite of a patriarch isn’t a matriarch, but a partnership. I do believe that we’re to submit to each other, when that is healthy. But that is a partnership, each trying to outdo for the other.

      Emily, I don’t believe you intended it exactly as we’re reading it- but I think it shows your own deep seeded beliefs are closer to how we’re reading it that you would like, otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen such anecdotes as examples.

      I think I’m most burdened by your writing and your follow up answers about your grandmother. To say that you know her and can write about her emotional state because of being her granddaughter is ludicrous to me. I doubt that my children, much less my grandchildren, will ever know all sides of me, and to simplify it down to her not getting her way… as the sister of a missing man that we believe we are searching for remains for because of depression, you don’t get anything about mental illness or suicide.

      Anita @ Losing Austin, Finding Myself

  • Helen Burns

    I am undone… this is beautiful, it is perfect and I find myself resonating so closely with your words Emily. Thank you for sharing them bravely and allowing us to see ourselves in them as well. I am servant and sometimes I don’t want to see what that truly looks like. Your words spoke to my heart today. Thank you. xox

  • Laura Gregory

    If we’re talking about submission here, then it should be mutual, as Jesus tells us. Feminists aren’t saying that men should wait on their wives, but instead advocate equal treatment for men and women. If your husband is preparing a meal and asks you to help, then it’s not saying “Woman, come and cook for me!” It’s saying “Would you help me” – thus implying that he is also doing something.

    If a couple decide to have prescribed duties, then that’s their prerogative. If they decide to mix and match, that’s equally fine. I’m from a background where women are often spiritual leaders, and so I disagree with your sentence that by a woman acting as a servant to her husband, he will become a great leader.

    Instead, I think we should look more at the word often translated as ‘help-meet’; it implies helping with power, ie equality.

    So yes, sisters, let’s not have the kneejerk reaction of ‘You’re suppressing me!’, but instead work together with men throughout our lives, and raise each other up mutually.

    (I also disagree with the sentence ‘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’ – nothing is ever so clean cut as that, and please don’t suggest that suicide is a result of simply not getting your own way. She might be your grandmother, but I doubt anyone besides her can really explain her actions.)

  • Chris Jones

    FWIW, the Hebrew exegesis is atrocious. The Hebrew word Zakar, meaning “male,” has at best a very obscure etymological relation to the verbal root zkr, “to remember,” and is probably unrelated. In any case, it is not justifiable to do theology about gender on that basis. And while it is true that the verbal root nqb, “to pierce,” is the root for the word neqebah, the derivation is not spiritual, but anatomical. In a patriarchal society, a woman’s body is conceptualized primarily in its capacity to receive (e.g. to be bored through by) a male penis, which implants seed for making babies.

    Hebrew is not magic. YOu can’t just make it say whatever fits your narrative. It’s an actual language whose words have actual meanings, and those meanings are the most rudimentary foundation of any serious Scriptural exegesis.

    • Shaney Irene

      Thank you, Chris. The exegesis was troubling me, and I couldn’t put my finger on why.

      • Danielle | from two to one

        Yes, I found it quite troubling as I was working through the concordance and other materials this morning. It makes sense to define anatomically, especially in such a patriarchal context, but it doesn’t as you say make sense to then define spiritually what is being used literally.

    • Ben Howard

      Thanks for this Chris. Something about those felt off, but it’s been too long since I took Hebrew.

    • Christina

      Larry Crabb (whose interpretation Emily cited) is perpetuating this exegesis again in a new book and an article for Christianity Today I have no training in Hebrew, but it’d be great if someone who did could challenge his interpretation in the comments.

  • Wythy

    This is a post about being an obnoxious person (or not being one), not about feminism or power struggle within marriage or submission. If you’re domineering and controlling, you’ll squelch anyone’s natural desire to help/lead/work. If your dad had been the jerk then had turned into a kind man, you would have seen the same effect on your mother. I married a man who was abusive and had similar traits to my mother. My dad and I reacted in similar manners. It had nothing to do with gender: it had everything to do with the mean-spiritedness of an individual. (My mom became kinder; I don’t know where my husband is).

    Love one another. That’s it. Love one another. I Corinthians 13-it’s directed toward men and women with no binaries/caveats/gender rules. The rest will work itself out under the guidance of the Spirit.

  • Ruthie Dean

    “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.)”

    Emily, I am going to respectfully (& lovingly) disagree. The lines above are really dangerous. While I agree with you that we have lost servanthood, I think equating submission and servanthood with blatant abuse doesn’t “serve a greater purpose” as you suggest. In fact, that frightens me. Servanthood & submission are needed. But when submission means staying in an abusive relationship, that’s never the way Christ intended us to live.

    • Danielle | from two to one

      YES, THIS: “I think equating submission and servanthood with blatant abuse doesn’t “serve a greater purpose” as you suggest.” Emily, I love you and your grace-filled heard, but there are pieces of this post that are extremely dangerous.

    • Danielle | from two to one

      Also, I’d like to add that these women (and some men) are not nameless or faceless. They have names and faces and voices, but are being silenced.

  • Lauren

    I’m honestly confused by this essay. You say things like “Yet when men treat women wrongly… then it is LOVE to set boundaries and to protect those women for God came to set the captives free” and then you glorify women who stay in abusive relationships, and call for us to set aside (righteous) anger over how women have been abused at the hands of the men in the Church.

    I also think that abuses of power happen even against the most
    submissive of women, so to suggest that all it takes for men to turn
    from monsters into heroes is a woman who is properly submissive is
    insulting and dangerous. And isn’t the whole idea of complementarianism
    that the home is the woman’s domain, where she DOES get to make the
    rules? That we take her out of the public sphere, but she gets the
    domestic sphere as a consolation prize? So I apologize if this comes
    across as attacking your own family story, but I don’t understand why
    your dad’s lack of authority in the home was a problem.

    This post, while beautiful, flies far too close to the teachings of the Pearls for me to feel comfortable with its theology or practical value. And, for the record, I’m a feminist who has no problem serving my husband, because he has no problem serving me. Servanthood isn’t a lost art for women, it’s a lost art for people, and I don’t think that’s feminism’s fault.

    • Rachel Held Evans

      “To suggest that all it takes for men to turn from monsters into heroes is a woman who is properly submissive is insulting and dangerous.” Well said. This narrative is everywhere, and we need to start calling it out. When I hosted a series on abuse on my blog, I heard from multiple women who nearly died because they believed their submission would change their abusive spouses.

    • Sarah Moon

      “To suggest that all it takes for men to turn from monsters into heroes is a woman who is properly submissive is insulting and dangerous.” YES. I thought I could change my abusive ex. He nearly killed me but I thought I was being noble by staying with him anyway.

    • Brenda P

      “Servanthood isn’t a lost art for women, it’s a lost art for people” Amen.

  • Shaney Irene

    I have mixed feelings about this piece. I agree that we need servanthood, absolutely. But you’ve titled this piece “A Letter to My Feminist Sisters,” and that makes me feel like you are saying that this is a problem inherent to feminism. Except that it’s not. I’ve seen women who believe in complementarianism refuse to serve their husbands in a Christlike manner, even if they’re technically “submitting.” I’ve seen matriarchal situations, like what happened between your father and mother. And I’ve seen feminists who have trouble being servants. It’s not inherent to feminism at all, and it upsets me that feminism is getting framed as if it is to blame for this loss of “servanthood.” The problem is not feminism, the problem is selfishness, just like it always has been.

    Both my mom and my grandmother have been very servant-hearted and submissive in their marriages. Where did it get them? My grandfather gambled away his income and left the family dirt poor, and continued to say God said it was okay for him to gamble. My dad was emotionally abusive for years. Only recently, after both my parents started getting counseling and my mom started being *less* submissive, and speaking up for herself more, have things improved. This is why I firmly believe in the power of feminism, because it gives agency to the women who previously believed they had none.

    So while I agree with the basic premise of the power of servanthood in this piece, I am very, very uncomfortable with the specific way it is being applied to gender, and that feminism is being blamed rather than selfishness.

    Also, while I know you didn’t mean to, there is some abuse apology language in this piece, and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Surely we can talk about servanthood in a way that doesn’t make submitting to abuse sound like a good thing (sometimes, disclaimers aren’t enough.)

    • Lindsay


    • Xeres Villanueva

      This! This! Thank you!

    • Danielle | from two to one

      Thank you, Shaney. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to be critiquing SELFISHNESS in relationships, not attribute that to feminism or trying to usurp leadership or gender roles.

      • Emily_Maynard

        This very much is what I was thinking. Feminism is a straw man for this call to serve one another.

    • Bethany Suckrow

      So glad I peeked back into this comments section and found this, Shaney. I agree with you, that feminism has been unfairly targeted here and that’s a big part of the issue I take with this post. I’m all for servanthood, but engendering servanthood and characterizing feminism as selfish is an unfair move. Thanks for articulating this so well.

    • Becky Castle Miller

      Best comment. “The problem is not feminism, the problem is selfishness, just like it always has been.”

      Emily, I think this piece would have been MUCH stronger if you had focused specifically on the value of serving over selfishness, rather than setting up service and feminism as opposites. The value of serving over selfishness applies to everyone, female AND male. What I think you were trying to say with the article was that none of us, feminists or otherwise, should use our empowerment as an excuse not to serve others. And that’s a great point! It’s convicting to me, and I agree with that point. So thank you for reminding me to serve others.

      Unfortunately, the point got really muddied when you tried to also make the article about becoming complementarian. A different article, focused on the development of your own thought and experience on the subject, would have been a better vehicle for that story.

  • Lori Alexander

    This is absolutely beautiful and so needed in the church today. Servanthood and obedience is what we are called to do. God’s ways are so good.

  • Shaney Irene

    Also, I am *very* confused by this line:
    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.

    It seems like you are blaming women for the lack of men in the church, when historically, women have been attracted to Christianity at a far greater rate than men. This was one of the strikes brought against Christianity in the early days, that it was a religion of “women and slaves.” The idea that women being servants toward men would somehow bring more men into the church seems to ignore the fact that women have historically been attracted to Christianity at a higher rate. The current lack of men in the church isn’t some new phenomenon.

    If women serving men was what brought men into the church, wouldn’t men be flocking to the church, as it is one of the only institutions teaching that women should submit to men. It’s not like men are finding women who are being servants toward them at a greater rate outside the church then inside.

    Also, I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that women as whole being even remotely held responsible for the spiritual health of men as a whole.

    • Lauren Gilmore

      Amen! I’m so tired of people treating men like children, as if the only way they can behave themselves is if women do the right thing first. You see this in the way we talk about male church attendance, domestic abuse, rape cases, etc. We as a culture rarely talk about the role that the ADULT man plays in these situations- it’s always the fault of a woman whose skirt was too short or who was not properly submissive.

    • Hännah

      YES. This. I am not responsible for the spiritual health of the men in my life. It’s between them and God.

  • Jerri Miller

    Servanthood goes against the very grain in our world today. There are always reactions when it is discussed.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. (It is your story as well as your mum’s and your nanny’s because it affected YOUR family. I can’t begin to know what happened but you know from your perspective.)

    I thought your post was powerful.

    • Claire

      Servanthood goes against the very grain in our world today. There are always reactions when it is discussed– yes, particularly when it is prescribed for only one gender– the one that’s been forced into servanthood since the beginning of time. How very…..radical?

  • Kate Evelyn

    Hi Emily,

    Thank you for writing a post about the lost art of servant-hood–your overall point was a powerful one. So often today, especially in our culture, we let selfishness reign and thereby hurt many relationships, instead of putting to death the old man.
    However, where this post took a strange turn for me was where you drew the lines according to gender. I agree with Rachel Held Evans’s comment about mutual submission–men have a need to put to death their selfishness as well, to serve others, just as much as women do.

    I’m also concerned about the effect this post could have on women currently in abusive relationships. When you say “I know about the nameless, faceless females around the globe who break their backs serving their families while their husbands beat them,” my mind conjures up the women I’ve met from my time overseas in south Asia… the women who very well may die in the name of submission, who may have their children killed in the name of submission. Those women often aren’t submitting for the glory of servant-hood–no, they submit because they have no other option, nowhere to go and no one to turn to. If they had another option, they would take their children and run–and several Christian organizations exist to give them just that opportunity I also know women here in America who submit to their husbands in the name of having a “Biblical” marriage and as a result stand by and watch while their children are abused. I’m not saying that God can never, ever redeem an abusive relationship, but I am saying that it is okay for a woman to stand up for herself in the face of abuse.

  • Bethany Suckrow

    I understand your qualms with the marriage of anger and feminism, but there are a lot of theological and psychological knots in this post, Emily. Besides all of the points in your story that imply that women should stay in abusive relationships out of servitude, there is also the implication that feminism doesn’t serve others, and that feminism is against men. There are too many sweeping generalizations in this post, about what servanthood looks like for women AND men, about what feminism is and what purpose anger serves.

    Your father needed your mother to be on her deathbed in order to feel needed? Your grandmother committed suicide because “she didn’t get her way”? Your Lebanese friend needed to stay with a man who ruined her mouth to show him the love of Christ? Be careful how you interpret the stories of your loved ones. Be careful about how you employ their stories to talk about your own journey in understanding the love of God. Because in this post, none of this looks like love, but a lot of it looks like abuse. And abuse is something God WANTS us to be angry about. It is a disservice to all of humanity when we don’t get angry about it.

  • Carol

    Hello Emily,
    I understand the main point you are making, and I think it is wonderful. Unfortunately, I’m very concerned that the beauty of the post is muddied by the reference to the abused woman in Lebanon who stayed. There are far too many voices in the Christian world who advocate staying in abusive marriages. I know you are not one of them, but the passing reference to the good outcome for the woman and husband in Lebanon can easily and wrongly hint to your readers that staying in an abusive relationship is somehow the right thing to do.

  • Nicole Resweber


  • KelleyD

    I agree, servanthood is frequently forgotten and belittled, and your gentle reminder of its importance was beautiful. I applaud you for that.Thank you.
    But is feminism the reason for our forgetfulness?
    No. I would think our sinful nature is the cause. Pride and apathy and resentment are going to spring up in our world, no matter if we identify as feminist or not. Jesus teaches us a better way – that we were all created to reflect the glory of God. So, if feminism is taken as ‘women and men are both equally human’ then we are equally created to glorify God. Therefore, I should be *more* (not less) motivated to serve both men and women equally, without partiality.

  • Nish

    Emily, I really, really struggle with this line in your piece:

    “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.”

    I don’t know the full context of your grandmother’s story, since you don’t offer it here, but I can say that winnowing down the horrific and tragic nuances of suicidal tendencies into one rather off-putting sentence about someone not getting their way… that’s rough. As a person who nearly attempted suicide, this is really, really difficult to read.

    I tell you this from my own experience and understanding of what it means to be suicidal. When you honestly believe death is the best option, there are likely a thousand different forces pushing your mind to that place, and it’s likely a symptom of a serious mental health issue. It’s rarely one thing that drives someone to commit suicide, and it’s rarely so cut and dry like you describe here. Further, it’s really damaging to perpetuate the thinking that acts of suicide are selfish in nature.

    I say this as one writer to another – please be careful with how you address suicide and mental illness.

    • John Hanan

      Not to derail discussion here at all, but I am curious about your experience with suicidal thoughts. As one who struggled with suicidal thoughts and nearly taking action on them myself, I agree with Emily’s characterization 100%. My own struggles stemmed from exactly that: not getting my way, resulting in heartache and pain. Not in one specific thing, but in many things.

      I don’t know that Emily is suggesting that not getting her way was only in regards to her Nanny’s marriage, but I know the experience is the same as my own. It’s only on this side of things that I can recognize that, of course, but I think the heart of selfishness is pretty common for those who have struggled with suicide. “I can’t take it anymore” is a common refrain in my experience, and speaks only of self.

      In what kind of situation would you describe suicide not being about self?

      • Meghan

        Personally, my struggles with suicidal thoughts stemmed from ongoing, crushing feelings of shame, imprisonment, and worthlessness. I was a survivor of multiple forms of abuse, and didn’t know yet that I even qualified as a survivor of abuse – I believed it had been all my fault. I believed that who I was was bad, that I was created “wrong,” that if I tried to be myself, I would reveal myself to be worthless, unlovable, and everyone would leave me. And for this reason, I saw my situation as hopeless. Fortunately, I saw a counselor who started me on a path toward healing and affirmation.

        Yes, you could say it was ultimately still about “self,” and not getting what I “wanted,” but it was so much deeper than that – it was about feeling like I was forbidden from being who God created me to be – that I must have been a mistake. Yes, I thought for myself that it would be much more pleasant to just never wake up because “I couldn’t take it anymore,” but I seriously believed that because I was a mistake, it would actually be easier for everyone if I just wasn’t around.

        If you had told me that I was just being selfish because I hadn’t gotten what I wanted (actually, an acquaintance came very close to telling me that very thing), it wouldn’t have been helpful at all, and might have been deeply damaging. Fortunately, this “friend” made the comment at a time when I was past my most vulnerable crisis, so I brushed it off after a few days and just didn’t see him again ever (as a measure of self-protection).

        If you’re past your struggles with suicidal tendencies, then I applaud you, but I agree with Curtis that to reduce everyone’s experience of depression and suicidal tendencies into “not getting your way” is very dangerous territory. There are many, many, many kinds of intense pain in the world, and while I chose life (and I’m so, so, so very glad I did), I can never judge someone else’s pain as mere selfishness.

        • John Hanan

          I don’t seek to dismiss the pain someone else is feeling, as I know all too well how real it is. The certainty that life would be easier for everyone else were I gone, the deep sense of being a mistake, the terror of being abandoned if everyone knew the “real” me. And I agree, being told I was being selfish in the midst of things would not have helped.

          I look back on that time though, and I almost have to laugh. I was so absorbed in my own concerns, my own feelings that I simply did not – could not – have a true understanding of reality. Moments from drinking poison and ending my life, God revealed to me just how selfish I had been. How much I did not understand the true impact of my life in the world around me. How living for myself alone simply was not going to work any longer.

          In sharing my story with others, and listening to other stories of near suicide, I have come to see a common thread of selfishness, of overwhelming self-absorption that blinds us to the reality around us. My own pain was all I could see.

          Yes, it’s a simplification to reduce the thought processes and feelings involved to simple selfishness. It’s a simplification that I have found to ultimately be accurate though.

          This has been my experience, and the experience I have heard others share. Because of this, I am genuinely curious when someone suggests that suicide is not rooted in selfishness. I just don’t understand.

          • Sheila

            “Reality” is not an easy thing to grasp. What I see as reality at one point, looks like a lie to me at others. Dealing with depression is difficult. I find I need to cling to phrases like “I am valuable,” and “My life matters,” when they feel like they mean nothing at all. In the middle of the darkness, it can be difficult to believe that the light even exists.

            You can, of course, view your suicidal self as selfish. I might suggest, however, looking at yourself in that moment with compassion.

      • Nish

        In my consideration of suicide, I genuinely believed that there would be more value to my husband and child if I were dead. The crushing guilt and shame of not being joyful over my son’s birth was too much to bear, I felt like a complete and total failure. I really, truthfully thought that I was doing others a favor. It was the only thing I knew I could do that would be useful.

        So, did I want something and not get it? Sure. I wanted to believe that who I was as a mother and wife was good enough in the eyes of my husband, child and God. I wanted that assurance.

        But it wasn’t the desire for those things that drove me to almost OD’ing. It was believing the nasty lie that I didn’t already have them.

        It was also a biological issue that needed to be fixed with medication. My depression and subsequent suicidal thoughts were entirely out of my control due to my body chemistry after giving birth. It didn’t have anything to do with my inability to get out of my own head, or being selfish. I couldn’t help it.

      • Caterina Maria

        How about the kind of situation where you know it’s chemistry and you’d love to stay alive to love the people who love you and spare them the suffering, except that chemistry is making you wonder if they wouldn’t be better off without the burden of caring for you? What higher calling than to die so they don’t have to suffer any longer?

        Which is totally erroneous, as I see now my brain’s working better. Deep in that depressed, heartbroken fog, there was no way to see it.

        • John Hanan

          I agree, in the middle of it there’s no way for us to see things clearly. But I wonder if something can be selfish without us recognizing it as such? From my perspective, even though there’s clearly some faulty chemistry influencing our thinking in some cases, it is still our choice to act on those thoughts. Especially if we recognize the chemistry component in the midst of it.

          I guess I just struggle with the idea because an individual has made a decision for themselves that effects everyone around them, without any kind of actual consulting the people around them. One way or another, they have determined that their own judgement is best, forget what anyone else might say, their opinion doesn’t matter. Regardless of the influence that has lead to this thinking, this screams selfishness to me.

          Allow me to clarify here a little. When I say suicide, I mean the willful termination of one’s own life. I mean that a person is aware of what they are doing, even if the reasoning leading to that choice is impaired. This could be the result of depression, chemical imbalance, whatever. When a person crosses the line from knowing what they’re doing into not knowing, that’s something else entirely, even if the end result of taking their own life is the same. And when I say selfish, I mean a complete disregard for the opinions of others. In my own struggle with suicidal thoughts, I knew full well if I brought my feelings to family or friends that they would tell me I was loved, I wasn’t seeing things clearly, things were not as bad as I saw them to be. And I didn’t care. I had convinced myself that I was the only one who could truly understand, and so whatever they might have to say simply didn’t matter. No one else could know the “truth” of my existence, and so I disregarded everyone else by default.

          I understand a lot of people have strong feelings about suicide, and there are differing opinions on this aspect specifically. I’m not trying to dismiss anyone’s experience or feelings. Maybe this is one of those things that’s just so core to my understanding of life that it’s not going to change. I’d at least like to understand where the other side is coming from though, even if I disagree. So far though, I just have not gotten there.

          • AnnieGlasscock

            Hi John. It appears you found the answer for your suicidal thoughts, which, of course, is good. Perhaps you were being selfish. Depression does tend to make one more self-focused, as does extreme physical pain. Why? Because one just wants to make the pain stop… it has become unbearable. For the person who has extreme anxiety/depression or is bi-polar or schizophrenic and he/she is living a literal visual nightmare but is awake and is having intrusive thoughts and can’t make them stop and he/she wants to feel better but can’t and prays and prays but doesn’t get better and the thoughts become worse as days and weeks pass w/out restorative sleep… Well, unless you have been in this place, I would be slow to characterize all suicides as selfish. My grandfather killed himself. Why? He had a nervous breakdown and felt one coming on again. Again, if one has not had a nervous breakdown, he/she should refrain from commenting. I came close to one years ago and I COULD NOT stop the anxiety.. I could not do it and I could not stop the thoughts and I could not live that way for the rest for my life w/out medical help or divine healing.

          • AnnieGlasscock

            Oops, I think I ran out of space. Anyway, that was the first time I had ever thought of suicide. And you know what? I didn’t think about my family and friends. All I felt was glorious relief because I thought if I just CANNOT withstand this anymore then there is a way out. I was told that medication was not the answer and I suffered on and off for years. I was put on medication way too late, but when it works I am like night and day. As my mother says, “You’re a different person. You even look different.” I am not saying that I don’t have personal issues that also affect my depression, but I am convinced that there is a genetic predisposition to mental illness. I’ve seen medication work in too many people’s lives. (Of course, all drugs have side effects and it’s vital that one who is suffering see a psychiatrist). All this to say: unless we have walked in someone else’s shoes we should not judge… I think this is one reason Jesus tells us not to. We do not know what that person has gone through. We are not them. We don’t know how they process life. I think that is the issue w/ Emily’s comment. Maybe her grandmother was selfish, but to say so implies that all suicides are because a person can’t get his/her own way. So, this is where the other side is coming from. Hope it gives you some insight:)

        • Becky Castle Miller

          I’m glad you’re doing better. It’s a terrible battle, and I’m so glad you survived.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Nish, I totally understand this, I do. But as someone who has lived with my Nanny, and who knows her intimately, as well as someone (myself) who has been tempted to commit suicide and who has battled anorexia nervosa (a mental illness) as well as depression, I do feel I can speak to her situation.

      • Nish

        I believe you can speak to it, too. That’s why I’m so surprised by the way you described your grandmother’s choice to take her own life. I guess I expected more context from you, because the statement you made (about something so serious) comes off as very flippant… which I know you’re not.

        • Danielle | from two to one

          Thanks for this clarification and outreach, Nish. I share your concerns and also wish that Emily had not made this part about suicide seem so selfish and flippant. My concern is that suicide (and potentially other mental illnesses) are about being selfish; however, there is a difference between something being about oneself and something being selfish. As someone who has lived alongside several people with serious mental illnesses and suicidal tendencies, I know that it’s much more about deep wounds of self than a desire to be selfish and have things go their way.

          • Shaney Irene

            “There is a difference between something being about oneself and something being selfish.”

            This. This is so important. It upsets me to watch some of the most selfless people I know be accused of selfishness for the simplest things like daring to use “I” as a subject. “Listen to how self-centered that is!” Goodness.

            • John Hanan

              Where does this line exist, between about oneself and selfish? I can see why the struggle to separate the two exists, because it seems so very unclear to me. A general rule of thumb, in my mind, is that if something becomes solely about oneself, it becomes selfish. I’m open to better definitions though.

              • Danielle | from two to one

                Selfish: Lacking consideration for others; being concerned primarily with one’s own personal profit or pleasure without regard for others. In other words, self-seeking, self-centered, egotistical. I do not think that those who struggle with suicidal thoughts or related mental illnesses are primarily concerned with their personal profit or pleasure (proxies for power), but rather are struggling to simply survive through suffering and pain and feelings of worthlessness.

                About oneself: I think of this in terms of being self-aware. Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection, of understanding one’s own feelings, character, motives, personality, existence, etc. For instance, a volunteer taking steps to avoid burning out is not being selfish; s/he is being self-aware and kind to her/himself so that s/he can best serve others.

                Many people think that the opposite of selfish is being self-denying or self-effacing to the point of having unhealthy boundaries, of having no concern for oneself and even being taken advantage of. Christians oftentimes point to verses in which Jesus is described as “not considering himself equal,” of becoming selfless in service to others. But Jesus had the self awareness to know that He was God, and made a choice to be selfless (aka generous, altruistic, self-giving) through showing unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

                But one can be both self-aware of needs and healthy boundaries AND be a selfless person, considering the needs and boundaries of others.

      • Kristin

        I’ve battled (am battling?) anorexia as well, and I’ve had people tell me I was selfish, that my disease was selfish. Maybe at first it was part of it, but it quickly became something much bigger and scarier and life-threatening. I could have died from anorexia because I was “selfish,” but that is not really why, is it?

        In the same way, you cannot whittle down your grandmother’s entire battle down to a sentence or two that reads the same. No matter how well you know someone, how closely you’re related, or how similar your struggles are, you cannot tell someone else’s story.

      • Bethany Suckrow

        Emily, I understand what you mean when you say that you knew your Nanny intimately. It means you saw her day to day life, understood the way she outwardly processed her life experiences, and that maybe you confided in each other. But Nish is right: your brief telling of her story, tying circumstances to causation, is flippant, lacking in context, and extremely judgmental. There is a boundary between your relationship with her and her relationship with herself, and her relationship with God. Our loved ones’ stories need to be handled with more care, tact, and respect than that, I think. It creates an unhealthy narrative, especially when coupled with the other anecdotes you’ve shared here. As I’ve said before in other comments here, not all stories are ours to tell. And even if a story is true, the way we tell it might not communicate truth.

  • JennyDykstra

    I love the heart of this. I was honestly really surprised to scroll down and see the string of negative comments. I feel like I can see where your words and intentions came from and I think it’s beautiful. It really speaks to where I am right now in my walk with Christ and the way I treat men as well. I have been trying to get the courage to live out the truth that not all men are out to “get me” – and I love these words ”
    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.

    Thank you for writing this for those of us that needed to hear it.

  • Sarah Moon

    Alright, I’ve been thinking of a way to respond to this gracefully, because, honestly, I found it incredibly hurtful. It seems like many comments here are showing grace by talking about how beautiful this piece is, but I cannot find beauty in a piece that glorifies submitting to abusers as a means of winning them to Jesus. I can’t. That idea is ugly and scary and dangerous. I cannot find beauty in a piece that tells me to stop being angry about what men have done to me. I cannot think of a more appropriate response to abuse than anger, and the idea that I should respond differently is ugly and scary and dangerous. I cannot call this piece beautiful. It terrifies me that women are telling these things to other women, and that other women accept it.

    Here is where I will have grace instead. Perhaps because your husband cuts up strawberries for you and does your laundry, you don’t understand what it’s like to live with a man who threatens to knock your teeth out. Perhaps you don’t understand that when you’re told your entire life that if you just submit to men, maybe they will come back to church/meet Jesus you feel tremendous guilt for leaving your abusers. Perhaps you don’t know what it’s like to truly feel nameless and faceless because you’re suicidal, and people refuse to see your pain, and assume you’re just being selfish. Or perhaps you do know all these things–I would hope that if you did understand you’d be more responsible with your words.

    These words are not beautiful. They are dangerous. Please be more responsible.

  • Kari

    Emily, I think you have a story in here that’s worth exploring, the one about why you respond to your husband in that way. What made you tell him that you wouldn’t be his servant, just because he asked for some help? A story like that might help all of us reflect on how to better mutually submit to our spouses.

    But you lose me when you try to draw sweeping conclusions about motivations and anger and submission and abuse. Your story is your story, and I honor it, but I am concerned about you using other people’s stories in this way. I am also concerned about your response to Rachel below, where you say that wives are not responsible for submitting to Jesus but submitting to their husbands. Jesus’ message was about breaking cycles of oppression.

    • Shaney Irene

      Kari hit on a great point here. Emily, you say that you *used to* be a feminist, so surely “feminism” isn’t to blame for how you responded to your husband. Yet, I feel like you’re blaming feminism throughout this whole article. There are many, many reasons why submission and servanthood are difficult. What made it difficult for you in that situation?

      • Hännah

        This is where the meat of your story is, and I’d really love to see you draw it out.

    • Emily_Maynard


    • Stephen M.

      ^This a thousand times.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Kari, I read this earlier; sorry that I haven’t responded yet. There are a lot of comments to get around to! Like I said elsewhere, I do not believe we as women are called to submit to men who are not submitted to Christ. Jesus came to die for the church, while submitting to the will and authority of his father. In the same way, our husbands are called to die to their desires on behalf of their families, while submitting to the will of Christ. If they submit to Christ, we are called then to submit to our husbands. If they don’t submit to Christ, I don’t believe we then are called to submit to them because then the relationship becomes abusive. I hope this helps.

  • Elisabeth Grunert

    I knew that if I only waited long enough, either Rachel Held Evans or Dianna Anderson would pretty much cover what I wanted to say. I do agree with you that ego is a major cause for marriage conflicts, and that the baggage of gender oppression (and the backlash against it) is a complicating factor in modern marriages. I agree that we need to celebrate spouses who are able to overcome their egos in order to truly love and encourage and yes, to serve each other. But you made it about gender, inherent to our very identity, and that is where you lost me and probably a lot of others. Submission and receptivity and passivity are not inherent to or divinely prescriptive for the female identity, and no amount of Hebrew etymology or can convince me that they are. I’m really glad your marriage is working for you! That’s great! But please don’t go diagnosing an enormous movement and legions of people based on your experiences and your interpretations of those experiences!

    • Danielle | from two to one

      THANK YOU, Elisabeth: ” Submission and receptivity and passivity are not inherent to or
      divinely prescriptive for the female identity, and no amount of Hebrew
      etymology can convince me that they are.”

  • Stephanie Drury

    This reads like The Onion.

    • Sarah Jones

      I’d be happier if it were the Onion.

  • elizabethesther

    Emily, are you being abused right now? I’m serious. Are you attending an abusive church? Because there is something going on here that is NOT just about defending a “biblical, Scriptural” view of servanthood. And I have no idea WHAT is going on but SOMETHING is happening to you that is NOT OK. I’m saying this publicly because you are writing publicly and your pieces have become increasingly worrisome to me. I have seen this pattern before where abused women start defending abusive behavior. I just want you to know we love you. You are not alone. Whatever it is that you are experiencing right now, you are not alone. There is help. We love you.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you so much Elizabeth. Your heart is beautiful. I really am moved. But no, I am not being abused. In fact, I am guilty solely of being convicted by Scripture. I’m sorry, I know this will offend most of you. But the reason my posts are changing is my relationship with Christ is changing, and I’m no longer able to separate some Bible verses from others. I have been convicted, and so, I am expecting to be persecuted for it. My husband is one of the most loving people I have ever met. Please know I AM NOT BEING ABUSED. Love to you all.

      • elizabethesther

        You are NOT being persecuted, Emily. Commenters disagreeing with your Scripture interoperation is not “persecution.” And frankly, when you cry “persecution!” it only makes me believe even stronger that you ARE being abused. Because you are NOT being victimized HERE in the comment thread but yes, your piece reads like a classic cry for help. Lastly, you should NOT be “amazed” that your friend remained with an abusive husband. That’s usually what abused women do. They stay. Because if they just pray harder and serv more, then their husbands might repent! You are not taking responsibility, Emily. BE HONEST.

        • Emily Wierenga

          Elizabeth, I think we just need to agree to disagree at this point. I don’t know how to convince you that I am not being abused. If anyone has been abused in my marriage, it has been my husband. I didn’t want to share this, but I have physically hurt him in the past due to my anger at men. That is the honest truth. Thank you. e.

          • elizabethesther

            Given the stories you’ve been telling recently, it seems to me that God GAVE you that anger at men because men have consistently violated your boundaries. Lashing out–even physically– is a common response. And Emily? I believe you. I believe you don’t think you are being abused. I believe you truly think you are simply “submitting” to God’s Word. I believe you truly thought you were wrong about your view of marriage and now you’re seeing the light. I believe you are 100% sincere and have reconciled what is happening to you as simply surrendering to the “true” “Biblical” view of marriage. But I have read enough of your past writings to know that something is terribly, terribly wrong. It is leaking through your words. I can read the sub-text, here. I have seen this pattern before in other abused Christian women. I am not stupid or blind or somehow misunderstanding you. I don’t know WHAT exactly is happening, but I KNOW in my gut that you are NOT OK. I would SO MUCH prefer to do this privately (and I still want to do that!) but I am compelled to comment publicly because you are normalizing abuse publicly. I smell something horribly wrong and you telling me “everything is fine! everything is OK!’ only makes me realize you are not only hurting, you are in denial. I won’t post anything else here. You know where to find me. You are not alone. I love you, Emily.

            • Ruthie Dean

              Can I speak up for Emily? Elizabeth–I see your heart, but please stop insisting Emily is being abused. It’s making me (and I’m sure others) uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s appropriate to do publicly because you plant seeds in all of our minds.

              Let’s try to take the heat down a notch everyone. . . please?

              • Emily Wierenga

                Thank you Ruthie. It hurts me to see my husband (who is the kindest man I know) being falsely accused like this. Bless you for having my back.

      • Kim

        Sorry to pile on, but your wording here troubles me. “I am not being abused. In fact, I am guilty solely of being convicted by Scripture.” Guilty? This wording suggests to me the implication that being abused is something one might need to feel guilty about.

        • Ruthie Dean

          Stop accusing Emily of being abused. Please! If that is something you’d like to bring to her attention–do so in love, not by slamming her in public.

          • Ally Vesterfelt

            Yes, thank you Ruthie. Any other comments in this vein will be deleted.

            • Ruthie Dean

              Thanks, Ally! Glad to hear it.

    • Diana Palka

      Perhaps this is a bit hasty, no?

      To assume someone is being abused/in a bad place because they agree with something we are so fundamentally passion about is kind of dangerous.

      Surely there is room in His church for HEALTHY disagreement.

    • elizabethesther

      So, I stepped away for a moment to get some air. and breathe. and cry for like 2 hours. And I realize it’s unfair for me to ask this question here if only because it’s not a safe place to answer a question like that. And also, I realize I may be projecting MY experience on Emily. So, I apologize. That said, I still stand by my assertion that this piece justifies abusive treatment of wives in Christian marriages. I have seen the exact same theology and justifications used to justify a husband’s abuse. It breaks my heart so terribly I literally CANNOT stop crying about this. Much love to you, Emily.

      • Emily Wierenga

        Love you Elizabeth. So thankful we could chat more about this in private. I ache for the pain you went through. And I hope you feel Jesus’ arms around you tonight, holding you.

  • Curtis

    What a horrific train-wreck of an article. I appreciate RHL’s much more graceful response than I can muster: but harking back to the thinking of bronze-age nomads for your take on gender issues is seriously disturbed. No, you’re not made from your husband’s rib and no Jesus’s death shouldn’t be used as a reason for making yourself subservient. You have a truly horrible view of your own gender and it is very wrong to then attempt to evangelize your sick view onto others who need to be opposing ideas like your own.

    It really chills my spine to see this kind of sick thinking, and I’m an egalitarian male. This is madness.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I am truly sorry you feel this way Curtis. Bless you. e.

  • aricclark

    The last will be first and the first will be last. Jesus’ example and command of servanthood is misused when it is directed at people already in traditional roles of service. That turns a powerful message of equality and dignity into a message of oppression. When Jesus kneeled to wash the disciples’ feet it was amazing because he was the one with authority and privilege. You know what Peter had to do? He had to accept the service. There would have been nothing special about Jesus commanding his disciples to serve him and wash his feet.

    Women, who throughout the world and history have been violently forced into roles of service do NOT need to be told to be examples of servanthood in most cases. There are of course situations where a woman is the one with power – situations of class privilege for example, but when it comes to gender relations and domestic life in most cases Jesus’ command of service would be directed at the husband, because in most cases it is the husband with the most privilege/power in the relationship.

    Yes, women can and should practice the art of servanthood – toward every person they meet who is more vulnerable than they are. When they are the more vulnerable party what they need to do is not serve, but be served.

    • Anna Gus

      ALL a’ this! wow.

    • suzannah | the smitten word

      YES. Christ embodied servanthood and his life and resurrection upended all traditional notions of hierarchy, submission, and power. we can’t emphasize the former without accounting for the radical, systemic implications of the latter. service and liberation. love and justice. the shalom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Emily Fridenmaker

    I think this is a great post. It seems as though many are twisting and manipulating it, but I think it is right on point.

    I have the same bossy, hard-headed, strong willedness that makes Biblical submission a hard pill to swallow…at first. But I feel like once one examines Biblical submission, God’s roles for men and women…one begins to realize that this world has given submission a connotation that isn’t Biblical. The example that has illustrated it best for me is that of Adam and Eve. Eve sinned, gave Adam some fruit, and God was upset with Adam. Adam immediately blamed Eve….not what God designed man to do. Man is designed to care for women…it IS their responsibility. They are charged with loving/leading their wives and families in such a way that their relationships with the Lord are allowed to flourish.

    I am so sorry that so many are manipulating your words and intentions. I think you’ve grasped a concept that is very hard to reach, and even harder to express and share. And it’s really not an argument or opinion…it’s just The Bible. Well done.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Wow. Thank you SO much Emily. xo

    • Stephen M.

      I’m sorry, but how is this blog post not opinion but “The Bible”? Are you implying that this is scripture somehow? I can find only one or two references to scripture in the entire thing let alone any mention of context or actual study of the scriptures. This is pure personal opinion. I’m not saying Emily is wrong to have an opinion but to try to shut up everyone who has a critique by saying “this is the Bible” is just… it’s horrible.

      Come on Emily, can you honestly say you are comfortable with your blog post being considered 100% scriptural truth? Can you say you have researched the subject so thoroughly that you are able to say this is absolute truth in the same vein as the rest of of God-given scripture? I would urge us to have a far more humble view of our understanding of scripture before we start throwing stuff like this around in an attempt to silence those with whom we disagree.

      • Emily Fridenmaker

        I think you’ve misunderstood my comment. The concept that she is talking about, Biblical submission…it’s in The Bible. I’ve read it. I’m not trying to shut anyone up. I’m also not drawing on her blog post and references alone, but on her total characterization of submission. I’m comparing it to the characterization that I’ve read in The Bible, and I think she has accurately pegged it. If one believes scripture to be inerrant and God-breathed, I don’t think that there is an argument against what she’s talking about. I’m not saying no one is allowed to critique her writing/delivery (though personally I liked it), I’m saying that the concept is a Biblical one.

        I think that maybe a big problem is that we see so much of the Bible as up for discussion.

        • Stephen M.

          I’m pretty sure I understand your point and the idea of “biblical submission” perfectly. The problem is you are equating a view of a couple verses taken out of historical, contextual or scriptural context with an absolute truth (“biblical idea”=absolute truth here).

          I’m challenging that by saying that the scriptures are far less certain about the idea you put forth than you seem to be. Thats troubling to me when it comes to how we read and understand the Bible. You say things like “one believes scripture to be inerrant and God-breathed, I don’t think that there is an argument against what she’s talking about” but I don’t think you really understand what that means. If it means what you think then we have to say, well sure slavery is cool. Multiple wives is cool. I mean, they are all biblical ideas right? So they are all absolute truths.

          I’m saying that while sure, thats a way to read the Bible I don’t think it’s a helpful way to actually read and understand scripture. I’d argue it far more beneficial to actually learn about the context, both historically and culturally, and how it was read by the original audience and why it was written and what the authors intent was rather than just grab a scripture and build an argument for something that really only pops its head up a few times in scripture and is actually far more vague than you seem to want it to be.

          • Emily Fridenmaker

            You seem to be assuming that I’ve not read or studied or learned or listened to anything that would give me a deeper understanding of the text past cherry picking a few verses here and there. I’m fine if we want to respectfully disagree that her characterization of submission is aligned with the one laid out in the Bible, but please don’t just assume that I’m spouting my own opinions with no depth. I’m not looking for an argument on interpretation of the Bible, and I’m sorry if I came across that way. I really just wanted to encourage and commend Emily for writing (what I think is) an excellent article on a topic that is (obviously) a touchy subject.

            • Stephen M.

              I’m not saying you “haven’t read or studied or learned or listened to anything” nor that there is not an idea of submission in the bible. I mean, it’s paramount to the entire gospel!

              My point is you made a sweeping statement that the view expressed here about female submission is “biblical” and can’t be argued with (because it’s “not an argument or opinion…it’s just The Bible.” i.e. absolute truth or “God said it so it’s just the way it is!”). The view of female submission that you are putting forth as truth that can’t be argued with is indeed one of cherry picked verses out of their historical and cultural context and I feel extremely safe saying, stems far more from our own cultural ideas and norms, not from the words of Jesus, although I’m open to being proven wrong.

              I’ll say this though: I’m fine if you want to narrow it down that far, even if I think the majority of the relevant scripture, including Jesus and Paul’s teachings/writings on the topic, disagree with such a narrow interpretation, but if you are going to declare something is absolute truth that is based on so little scripture, then yes, you had better be able to defend such a point of view. I don’t think it’s wrong to be asked to defend the more controversial points of our theology, especially when the tone in which they are stated is argumentative to begin with.

            • Emily Wierenga

              I truly appreciate this Emily. Thank you. I agree with you. It comes down to whether or not we believe the Bible is inerrant and God-breathed.

          • amos8

            “The problem is you are equating a view of a couple verses taken out of
            historical, contextual or scriptural context with an absolute truth
            (“biblical idea”=absolute truth here).”

            Sorry, Stephen, but it sounds like you might be guilty of what you judged Miss Emily of doing. Your are stating, or at the very least, implying that the Bible states (perhaps, in your words, as an “absolute truth”) that “slavery is cool” (or good, or ____), or polygamy is “cool” or right or _____. And you are asserting that these are “biblical ideas” or that it is some generalized teaching that these are true and good. There are so many problems with your premise(s) that it is hard to know where to start. Furthermore, you poison the well further by equating your faulty assertions (of either the Bible, or non-cult believers of the Bible) with something that is clearly taught and believed (differently) by different sides of the fence.

            Also, if you don’t believe in absolutes, or absolute truths (you might, but it is not clear) then the discussion must start on a far different level.

            What is more, a person’s view of Scripture determines so many other things. So if there is a large disparity here then this must be addressed before we can go further. If the Bible is not a person’s supreme authority and standard for determining “right from wrong” and “truth from error” and it is for another person then we talking in different directions.

            • Stephen M.

              I don’t think you read my post very closely. What I was implying (about slavery, etc) is that if we want to we can use scripture to justify anything we want, especially if we take it out of it’s historical and cultural context. The issues I used are, of course, very real issues that have been defended as scriptural ideas.

              Why in the very next chapter of Ephesians Paul tells slaves to obey their masters, so, hey! A Biblical idea right? Of course it’s in the Bible but obviously we have a better understanding now of why Paul wrote that (here’s a hint, it’s all about historical and cultural context) so unlike those before us we don’t use it to justify slavery anymore. But many, many did. Surely you know this.

              My point is just because it was written in the Bible it doesn’t make it void of cultural, historical or scriptural context, rather that without those things we end up abusing scripture to suit our own ideas rather than God’s.

              I guess if arguing for a slightly more humble view of our interpretation of scripture (or allowing ourselves to be comfortable with that dark mirror we can barely see through sometimes) means to you that I’m “poisoning the well” then I would argue you are the one who is limiting the Bible here by not being willing to actually read it as what it is, a document that requires context to gain a better understanding of authorial and spiritual intent. None of that implies that scripture isn’t the word of God or his perfect truth or that there aren’t absolute truths, etc, etc.

              You seem to have established in your post that if I have thoughts outside your personal theology that I must not consider the Bible the “supreme authority”, so what am I to do? I’ve already lost to you because you’ve set me up to be dismissed unless I agree with your particular views on scripture.

              I’m far more comfortable saying you (and others) are going far further in your interpretations of a few verses than I am comfortable with and that I see some of these interpretations as very dangerous and in stark contrast to the bulk of Jesus’ teaching, not to mention interpretations that are devoid of either cultural, historical or scripture context.

        • Emily Wierenga

          Yes, Emily. Yes. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Amanda

      Really? So if I’m submissive, I won’t be held responsible for my own sins and the blame will be shifted to my male overlord? That is news to me! Sign me up!

  • Mike Duran

    What’s even more interesting than this post is the Christian feminists who are scrambling to rebut it. Hang in there, Emily. This is a good word!

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you Mike. e.

  • Jonathan A. Aigner

    Husbands and wives are called to mutually submit to each other. What took place in your parent’s marriage certainly wasn’t ideal, but it wouldn’t be ideal for the situation to be reversed, either.

    And husbands are not called to be the spiritual leader of the home. That idea is puzzling when contrasted with the greater witness of Scripture.

  • Sisi Ville

    He can chop his own onions. You must be married to a gigantic baby.

    • Rachel Held Evans

      As strongly as I disagree with elements of this post, this is an unfair and unkind thing to say. I hope those of us who have genuine concerns here can express those concerns with civility and respect. Otherwise, important points about mutual respect and submission are lost.

      When my husband asks for my help, I help him – not because I am the woman and he is the man – but because we are partners, and partners help each other.

      • Ally Vesterfelt

        Thank you Rachel, for being respectful, even when you disagree, and for calling this commenter (and others) to civility and respect. This is the kind of respect we demand at Prodigal, and that is necessary to create a space safe enough to share our stories.

        I’ll leave this original comment here so that your response makes sense, but I’m deleting other comments that are equally unkind or unfair.

  • Stephen M.

    Personally I find some of your concepts about submission to be disturbing, mainly because they seem to come from a view of certain scriptures through a very strange hermeneutic lens. One that comes from a culture that struggles to exist in a world where women have fought some very hard fights to be considered equals in any aspect of society. One that looks at a verse or two that mention submitting then twist Paul’s words (to very specific churches with very specific problems) and jump over everything Jesus said and did in order to promote an idea of the “submitting housewife”. Which I think is worth noting, is far more a leftover cultural idea from the idealized 50′s than one found in the Bible.

    I’m with Rachel Held Evens here in calling instead for the concept of partnerships in marriage, which have a far stronger biblical basis than this idea of the great glorious male and his submissive woman, which sadly is what this article seems to conjure.

    The whole idea of “Biblical Submission” and “Biblical Gender Roles” are things steeped far more in cultural concepts than biblical ideas (look at this post, a defense of both and nary a scripture to defend them, just tons of loaded culturally based concepts). I’m not saying all cultural concepts are bad, but we have to start recognizing them for what they are rather than trying to justify things that are clearly not in line with the words of Jesus (or Paul for that matter, the guy preached equality for Pete’s sake). The other day Greg Boy was preaching on the idea of “jumping over Jesus” to find something we liked better, or something that fit our world view better than Jesus’ words. To me the ideas espoused in this blog and articles like it are guilty of doing that.

    I think it’s time the church started getting serious about hermeneutics. Right now there’s a severe lack of decent scholarly preaching and teaching that has taken the time to really understand the Bible rather than merely using the Bible to justify some very twisted (and often misogynistic and racist) cultural views. If I’m passionate about these views it’s because I have a daughter whom I have no desire to see believe that she should allow a man to “knock out her teeth” because there are strains of evangelicalism that can’t be bothered to step away from their misogynistic roots and place certain scriptures in their appropriate context.

    • Lydia Mulligan

      YES!!! This!

  • Heather Pitney Thornton

    Emily, This was a beautiful and challenging thought to share.

    A few years ago, my husband began to take very seriously the challenge to husbands mentioned in the same passage you shared from Ephesians 5, specifically this verse: (25-27ish)

    “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
    to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

    He began think about what it meant to take personal responsibility for the “end result” of the whole of my life. He started to be intentional in noticing what stresses would wear me down and questioned what things in life could tend to eventually make me “stained or wrinkled” instead of “holy and blameless.” He was not dominating… but gentle & serving as he went about it – adding this new awareness to the decisions we would have to make on any given day.

    Our relationship is very balanced. I respect his gifts and wisdom and abilities, and he respects mine. None of that changed. But this kind of genuine, intentional love brought out a response in me… I found myself more and more paying attention to doing the same for him. This was no loss for me. :-)

    I think this kind of love, is what you’re drawing attention to. Submission isn’t threatening in the context of selfless LOVE – and it does genuinely have the power to change those you love. Love affects and influences us all.

    Certainly some of the disclaimers about abuse that you make are valid & responsible, and I appreciate your clarity. In having to make them though, I’m hoping that the bigger point, which is applicable to all of us, isn’t being lost! As we begin to look out for the best interest of those we love, we will naturally make sacrifices with them in mind. It’s not a compromise to myself to do so. In fact, it is only because I appreciate how I know myself and how I would like to be loved that I can begin living intentionally towards others, and not just reacting to what I’m given from others.

    As a kid I can remember trying to “out-do” a friend in kindness as we engaged in a silly back and forth argument of “No -you go first,” “No, YOU go first,” when we both knew we each just wanted to hurry up and go do what we were excited about at the moment! But that expression of self discipline was a simple beginning to a bigger truth: I can approach life looking out for my own interests first, make sure my needs always get met first, and give what is left over to others- and there will always be a price to pay for doing so. Or, I can start with both of us in mind. This too involves cost and sacrifice, but the return usually involves us both as well, and I end up liking those results infinitely more.

    I imagine there is room for every commenter here to take to heart some element of how to love someone else more selflessly – which I took as the overall point of your article. It may be important to debate legitimate arguments about what some of these words mean or who might be exempt from the practice of mutual submission, but I hope none of us miss the opportunity to dig into personal application of the challenge you’ve set forth.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you friend.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    Beautiful post, Em. I agree with you. There is something so beautiful about serving out of a heart of love, voluntarily. It’s just like Jesus.

  • Melissa Otterbein

    Chromosomes do not dictate whether you were born to lead or follow. We are all called to love God, and love others. It can really be that simple. There is no prescribed role for your gender. Jesus never used the term “gender roles.”
    Melissa Otterbein

  • DataLaForge

    I think that you are getting a lot of undue flack for sharing a very personal story. Sometimes, tons of people getting together to respectfully disagree with someone, can feel like bullying and if you feel that way, I’m really sorry. I think that you are right about your interpretation of scripture regarding submission, I just don’t believe in God so my wife and I simply regard one another as complete equals both equally responsible for our actions and decisions. For a brief time in our relationship when we were both Christians, she told me that she would defer to me for major decisions to follow biblical submission. I think I pulled that card once and then never did that again because it felt weird to say, my way goes because I am the man.

  • Diana Palka


    THANK YOU for sharing your heart. You are brave and you are strong and you are precious.

    THANK YOU for this.

  • Jill

    I don’t trust the intentions of idealists who write manifestos.

  • Rachel

    I find this entire post disturbing. Not because I care about defending feminists, but because everything you say was used to justify my abusive marriage. As a child, I was “too spirited,” “not meek enough,” “too rebellious.” As a wife, I was taught I “needed to submit with humility and love.” So I changed. I did everything. I prayed to be a servant. I served everywhere, especially at home and church after I got married. Then, in a fit of rage because I wanted to keep going to night classes to get my teaching degree for the future, my now ex-husband threw me down a flight of stairs, prompting a miscarriage of what would have been our first child.

    Forgive me if I find nothing whatsoever beautiful about this post or those who try to defend your intentions. Trying to leave a man who killed our child ripped my life apart because of well-intentioned people such as yourself who said they were against abuse blurred the lines such that emotional abuse did not exist nor did verbal abuse because “he would never hurt you.” No, he just took away all of my self-esteem by telling me God wanted it that way. When he finally made it permissible for me to leave, our child had been sacrificed.

    Additionally, it is absurd that you use the word “persecuted” here. You aren’t being persecuted. That is intense suffering, not having someone disagree with you. Christians in Taliban-dominated countries are being persecuted. You are just having an uncomfortable experience.

    And that is MY story, not someone else’s that I choose to throw in to prove a point.

    • shelly

      Oh, Nish. :( What happened to you is effing terrible, and no one should ever have to endure that. *hugs, if you want*

    • Erin Adams

      Rachel, this is so heartbreaking! Truly, truly. :(

  • tammy@if meadows speak

    I too have thought just like you Em. And I understand what you are saying. I too have a mom who seems to rule and I too have done this in unGodly ways during my prodigal years. I know you are being brave by putting yourself out there. And I love you for it and I don’t want to burden you with my comments but I feel I need to share what I’ve learned WITH my husband on this. My husband and I both learned some things on this in the last couple of years after jointly looking into the scriptures. I mean really dug down all the way to Greek roots and etc. My husband found and told me, he felt “head” is intended as in those scriptures as from a “source”. He felt “source” meant literally from the rib. Not as in a hiearchy or husband OVER woman way. Also, if the husband is to be like Christ, we must look at how Christ came for His Bride and see how He “ruled”. He was the Head by submitting is Life for her. He gave His life as a ransom for her, laid His life down, willingly gave it up for her. Which in turn, means she willing submits her life to Him. Which sums up Ephesians 5:22, submitting one to another.When I see my husband laying down his life for me like Christ….not demanding His life be spared, but willing giving it up, then I too want to submit to one who loves like this. And there is the mutual submission part. When my huband and I discovered these scriptures in this deeper context, there was this huge EXHALE on BOTH our parts….because there is the tremendous pressure on the husband to be a priest of his home and to be responsible for his wive’s spiritual condition. My husband and I both believe, Jesus is the only Priest and we are each responsible for having our own personal relationship with Him. This mutual submission has freed us BOTH up to pursue God and not resent one another {as can sometimes happens when one is ruling or “head” over another}. I’ve seen it happen so many times. And also, IF Adam was the “head” over Eve, then why did God personally ask Eve about what happened at the Tree of Knowledge? I would imagine God would have just held Adam responsible for Eve’s willful disobedience and for not submitting to God. But instead, God turned His full attention on Eve and conversed with her as well. Then they BOTH received consequences for their individual choices. I’ve seen too many times how submission is taken out of context to mean: obey me {as in one is master and one is the servant}. There is only one Master and that is Jesus Christ. I can’t go into bondage to a man, nor would I want a man in bondage to a woman. We must both be free to worship the one true Head. I hope God is holding you right now and encouraging you.

    • tammy@if meadows speak

      Ps. We can agree to disagree and I will still love you. Promise.

  • Megan Fessenden

    Dear Emily, I just felt I had to comment seeing all the craziness going on here and tell you I ABSOLUTELY understand your heart and agree with you. This is such a minefield for women I am afraid and when things hit too close to home we tend to react emotionally (I SO do this all the time). I am frustrated that you even had to add your note of clarification because I felt you were clear in your article. If the shoe fits, wear it is what I say. It is QUITE obvious that neither you or your mother was abused and so I think they were perfect illustrations of the point you were trying to make.

    • Claire

      Is there something wrong with expressing one’s thoughts emotionally? Are we to be robots or something?

      • Megan Fessenden

        I absolutely did not say that. What seems to happen though is that we allow our emotions to cloud the discussion with our own projections of what we think people are saying and meaning.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Oh Megan. You are a breath of fresh air, here. Thank you, for encouraging me. Thank you.

  • hannah anderson

    1.It’s ironic to me how many people outside of Emily’s family assume that they have more insight than she does about how it functions and can pass judgment on her interpretation of it. I thought all our stories were sacred…

    2. This comment thread is an embarrassment to mature dialogue. We must do better if we’re going to achieve the respect that we desire as women. The public shaming and dog-piling that is happening here feels too much like junior high and too little like mature women trying to deal with complex issues. Certainly there is room for disagreement but this is turning into bullying.

    • Diana Palka

      Hannah, you are a wise woman.

      Thank you.

    • Kassie Rutherford

      I would like to respectfully point out that most people commenting are doing so with grace, even if they are righteously indignant and disagree. Yes, the majority of comments are dissenting, but that does not automatically make it bullying.

      • hannah anderson

        I’m not concerned with dissent. But there is a difference between disagreement and assuming things about a person’s motives and even when she clarifies, refusing to hear her. There is a difference between disagreement and assuming that because Emily holds a certain gender paradigm, that she is spiritually ignorant and supports the male power structure. This is spiritual bullying at it’s finest because it combines an unwillingness to entertain Emily’s viewpoint with the willingness to publicly shame her for holding it.

        • Danielle | from two to one

          As one of the dissenters, I would like to respectfully disagree with your point about many of the comments “assuming things about the person’s motives” and “refusing to hear her.” I know what Emily was trying to say through this post — upholding the importance of servanthood, especially in marriage when anger can be a roadblock — but it is also the writer’s responsibility to clearly communicate that main point. It’s the whole “forest vs. the trees” metaphor. Unfortunately the examples and anecdotes that Emily provided were obstructing branches on the trees that made it difficult for many readers to see the forest.

          • hannah anderson

            By no means is dissent a problem; my concern is simply that some people can’t hear what Emily’s main point because they’re distracted by her understanding of male/female dynamics. It’s like that position taints everything and it leads them to interpret her examples in the worst possible light because they’ve already determined that her theology is suspect. The trouble can’t simply be in her words–other people here read and understood her premise without any confusion–instead it seems like some of the dissent is rising out of an intrinsic distrust for her theological position.

            Again, I’m not saying that there can’t be legitimate disagreement or discussion about that, but I think we need to recognize whether or not we are allowing our presuppositions to cloud how we read what she wrote.

        • suzannah | the smitten word

          i love emily. she is a friend of mine and one of the gentlest, most humble people i know–and i disagree with her work here passionately. i have no desire to shame or bully and have zero reason to doubt her motives. nevertheless, there are harmful narratives and theological implications in this post that matter deeply *even though they were unintended*.

          submission, gender hierarchy…agree to disagree. truly, i take no personal issue with em’s viewpoint or marriage, but if she posits gender hierarchy and exclusive female submission as keys to christian faithfulness and biblical orthodoxy, than many of our marriages and just-as-carefully-considered theologies are not afforded similar big-tent-body-of-Christ-unity-without-uniformity respect. christians are welcome to make gender hierarchy their gospel–but that is not a foregone scriptural conclusion and will be a costly and divisive hill to die on in a diverse christian community. does that make sense?

          • hannah anderson

            Absolutely. But I suppose the difference is that I didn’t read any of that in Emily’s piece. Truthfully, it may be because I already embrace a similar gender dynamic that I didn’t read this as anything but a call to servanthood.

            My concern is that those who do disagree with her understanding of gender are just as inclined to read the entire piece in a suspicious way. When you are on guard against a certain paradigm, it’s hard to clearly hear what is being said.

  • amber@therunamuck

    Gentle Friend, I love you. I love how you call us to consider our anger and what it’s doing in the kingdom. I do think so many of us are angry, and for good reason, too. I know this conversation is hard, but I think it’s good. I love the comments on mutual submission. I’m in such transition in my understanding about so much, but babe, I hear your heart. You write out of love, and you write out of the fear of the Lord. Thank you for always aiming to bless.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you Amber. Love you friend.

  • Ashley Rittman

    I get it. I really do. This isn’t about only gender-roles or allowing yourself to be abused. Quite the opposite. In a loving, healthy relationship, your partner, your friend, your neighbors and everyone around you, deserve love back. We live in a society where we feel so entitled all the time. Frankly I have nights where I keep asking my husband to get up and do things for me because I’m too lazy to. Know what? He does it. And he knows I’m asking because I’m being selfish. It’s about remembering that the world owes us nothing and especially owes us nothing if we haven’t given. It’s about showing love to your fellow man because we are so loved. Thank you. This is beautifully written.

    (Side note: I was abused, severely, growing up and did not take any of what Mrs. Wierenga wrote as condoning abuse, poor treatment of women or being brainless drones. She’s speaking about every-day normal non-abusive people. Abusive relationships are complicated. Please don’t jump to judgement. If you haven’t been there, you can’t understand what’s involved, even if you’ve seen it up close.)

    • Claire

      Um, I would imagine that the reason so many commentors find this post so appalling is because we have indeed “been there.”

    • Danielle | from two to one

      Ashley, thank you for sharing a piece of your story. I am concerned about the language you used in “allowing yourself to be abused.” To be clear, the victim is NEVER at fault for the abuse s/he ha experienced. It is ALWAYS the fault of the abuser, you know — the one committing the abuse.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you for this grace, Ashley. Bless you. e.

  • Claire

    Feminism is still so needed in the church precisely because abuse apologisms like this are still so frighteningly rampant. I know patriarchalists are fond of saying “different roles but equal in value”, but if you prioritize a man’s “authority” above a woman’s safety and well being, then you are NOT valuing those two people equally.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Claire, I think if you read the article again you’ll see that I am saying women should ONLY submit to a man who is submitted to Christ.

      • Melissa

        But you also suggest by examples that women who are more submissive can make men more or less Christ-like. Surely you can see how this rhetoric has so often fed abuse.

        The parallel with Christ’s submission to the Father, although I understand it comes from a sincere effort to understand the scripture, also strikes me as easily made dangerous, because Christ’s submission obviously involved horrendous torture and suffering. To imply that human relationships should take place in the same terms in any LITERAL sense is potentially very troubling.

  • Tyler Braun

    I’ll admit I haven’t read every word of every comment but I spent 10 minutes reading a good chunk.

    My goal in this comment isn’t to show support to one side or the other (those supporting this article or those against). My goal here is to question how we engage disagreement.

    Most everyone seems to be saying “yes we should serve one another.” And “yes, serving isn’t dependent on reaction.” And that’s great because these are seen well within the life and ministry of Jesus. He didn’t stop serving the disciples even though they couldn’t figure it out.

    The disagreement seems to lie in the examples used to illustrate the point. So let’s not call into question the entire concept being written about just because we don’t like the examples.

    Start from where you agree. Focus there first and foremost. That’s what serving and loving one another looks like in this instance.

    • hopejem

      YES!! ^^^ This!

    • Duane Scott

      Thank you Tyler. I just posted a similar response.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Actually, the illustration is an important part of the point and is worthy of reexamination. That’s the task of a writer: to communicate well. I think it’s perfectly fine for people to agree with a point, but disagree with the route taken and speak up about the danger and damage from that route.

      • Tyler Braun

        I’m not saying don’t disagree. I’m saying disagree well. And when I read through comments that have one sentence of “I agree with your overall point” and then paragraphs long of disagreement, that’s doesn’t look like disagreeing well to me.

        • Shaney Irene

          So “disagreeing well” is determined by % of comment that agrees rather than disagrees? I don’t think that’s what you means but that is what your comment sounds like it’s saying.

          • Tyler Braun

            No no. That was me using an example again. These examples are causing issues. But what the example illustrates is a desire by the commenter to voice an opinion instead of engaging a conversation. You can’t strike a conversation when it begins in accusation.

            The one principle I strive to live out (though I fail quite often) is this: seek to understand before being understood.

            I don’t see a lot of that happening.

    • Tyler Braun

      Or I guess what people do is just vote down what they don’t like. Hence my call to disagree better is met with lots of downward looking votes. Well done.

      • Luke Harms

        Perhaps it’s the generally patronizing and dismissive tone and derailing nature of the comment that people are down-voting?

    • Anna Gus

      Compared to most internet comment threads, this one is almost impossibly civil. It’s kind of blowing my mind. Overall I’ve been really impressed with the language people are using to communicate their disagreement with the writing.

      • Tyler Braun

        So this means I need to get out more. I’m getting old already. But seriously…glad to hear this perspective.

      • Shaney Irene

        Thanks Anna. I’ll admit I’ve been a bit baffled by those who have suggested otherwise. Perhaps I’m just too used to Facebook debates?

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you Tyler.

  • hopejem

    Dear Friend,
    What a beautiful piece. We need the balance and boldness you have brought to this discussion. Perspective is always subjective, your story IS your story. Please keep telling it!
    Sadly the comments show how easy it is to misread the heart of a person. The names of those who are most vehemently opposed to what you have shared are familiar. It seems that many have seen only what they want to see and you can never change that.
    I too endured an abusive relationship. For the record, he believed himself to be a feminist and champion of women’s rights and not at all a follower of the Scripture or Jesus.It never once dawned on me to blame anyone else but myself for staying in as long as I did (I was not married to him). None of it had anything to do with my beliefs of submission or servanthood. It had everything to do with my brokenness and to blame it on anything else would have left me in that place even longer.

    • Kristin

      Your abuse had NOTHING to do with your brokenness, and is in no way your fault, just so you know.

      • hopejem

        Allowing myself to stay in the abusive relationship had EVERYTHING to do with my brokenness. Him choosing to abuse me was about his brokenness.

        • Shaney Irene

          This makes me really sad. Leaving an abusive relationship takes an incredible amount of strength and courage. Staying is the default, staying is what’s normal, staying has nothing to do with the abused being broken. You were amazingly courageous in leaving him and calling yourself “broken” for staying with him doesn’t give your courage and valor in leaving the recognition it truly deserves. :(

          • hopejem

            Let me try to articulate this better.
            Abusers target emotionally broken people. I was emotionally broken and unable to see the abuse until I found the strength to get healed and get out. I had friends that gave me the courage to get out, I didn’t know what else to do.
            My original statement was to say, this had NOTHING to do with submission. It had nothing to do with being taught “a woman’s role” so I won’t blame “the church” for being in there. I blame my broken place. I don’t blame ME.

            • Shaney Irene

              This is encouraging to hear. I’ve heard too many women told that they are broken or defective because of their abuse. I’m glad to hear that’s not the case with you.

            • Desley Noneofyerbiz

              I think it is a misconception that abusers only target emotionally broken people. Abusers are master manipulators and anyone can be a target. Many times the abuse is so gradual…there are so many seemingly rational excuses for his behavior and most people believe in the overall goodness in others…it often doesn’t start until the victim has already married him or his expecting…

              Anyone can become a victim of abuse. No one is immune to the abuser’s tactics.

        • Kristin

          I used to think the same way about myself in regards to my abuser. I hope you realize very soon that it isn’t true. :(

          • hopejem

            Of course the abuse wasn’t my fault. What I am saying is that is wasn’t the church’s fault either. My choice to stay was not because I was submissive. It was because I had places in me that needed to be healed. (Because I was broken)
            I healed from this situation two decades ago.
            I believe you misunderstood what I was saying.

            • Desley Noneofyerbiz

              I am happy that in your case the church did not have a hand in perpetuating your abuse. Unfortunately, this is not the typical experience of Christian abuse victims.

    • Shaney Irene

      The idea that abuse has anything to do with the one being abused is a false narrative. I don’t know where you first got that idea, and I’m so sad that either someone told you that, or no one has yet let you know it wasn’t your fault. Abuse is 100% the responsibility of only one person, the abuser. It’s never the fault of the abused. I hope you see this. You are worth so much.

      • hopejem

        You are correct, the abuse was his fault. I never said otherwise. My choice to stay in was out of my own twisted broken emotional state. Places in my heart that needed healing. I wasn’t referring to any defect in myself. We all carry different degrees of brokenness that need to be taken to the feet of the Saviour.
        Thank you for your concern. This was over a 1/4 century ago and I am quite well, thank you.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Oh friend, thank you for your vulnerability, here, and for telling me this. Your words are life. Thank you. And I’m so very sorry for the pain you’ve gone through.

    • Desley Noneofyerbiz

      “It never once dawned on me to blame anyone else but myself for staying
      in as long as I did (I was not married to him). None of it had anything
      to do with my beliefs of submission or servanthood. It had everything to
      do with my brokenness and to blame it on anything else would have left
      me in that place even longer.”

      I’m sorry, but it is not only unreasonably harsh to blame yourself for staying too long in an abusive relationship, but it is also cruel to other women who have also stayed too long, or are currently in abusive relationships, to inject them with this kind of blame and guilt. I firmly believe that the vast majority of abuse victims do the best they could with what they have. They fight for their marriages; they fight for their families; they fight for their faith; and they fight for what they believe to be love. This is to be honored. Unfortunately, this honorable trait is exploited by abusers – and it is the fault of the abuser and his manipulative tactics, and not fault of the victim.

      It takes much strength to leave and typically it takes women several attempts, or a season of building one’s confidence that has been wrecked by the abuser, before she is able to finally break free. If she has children or if she is dependent on the abuser for sustenance, it makes it that much more complicated. If she happens to belong to a church that tells her she is over-reacting (like mine did), or that she can remedy the problem by orienting her life around the abuser and taking on a submissive posture (like mine implied), or that the value in a system of headship and submission is elevated above her own personal value (like is implicit in John Piper’s advice to abused women), it is a wonder these women get free at all!

      • hopejem

        It is obvious that you didn’t read any of the follow up statements where I clarified my comment.
        This was over 27 years ago. I didn’t reside with this person. It was NOT the typical TV version of abuse where the person into staying through threats. It was.emotional, not physical.until the week before I left.
        I believe I have had plenty of time to assess what happened and I am a.little weary if being second guessed about a situation that I alone experienced.
        By saying it was my choice to stay I am not blaming the abuse on myself.
        My point was that not all.abuse comes from men who believe in traditional gender roles. Abuse comes from being an abusive person.

        • Desley Noneofyerbiz

          “By saying it was my choice to stay I am not blaming the abuse on myself.”

          I think you are misunderstanding me. I do not think you are blaming yourself for the abuse; I think it is possible you might be dismissing all the complexities of the situation you were in that may have contributed to the choices that you made. I seriously doubt that any person can be in an emotionally abusive relationship for any lengthy amount of time without it eroding the person’s decision-making capacities to some degree at least. Emotional abuse can be just as coercive as physical abuse, if not more so.

          I was not projecting anyone else’s story on to you, but simply pointing out that people’s choices cannot be assessed in a vacuum. And my purpose in clarifying this was for other survivors who may internalize your experience with abuse and end up blaming themselves; self-blame for staying so long in an abusive relationship is very common among survivors.

  • Marcia

    Emily, you dared to question some of the prevailing wisdom of the day and something very angry and a tad vindictive was unleashed, I see. I appreciated your article because it ably articulates a balancing perspective on this issue of men/woman and what God’s intentions are for both sexes. I wish we could all just chill out a bit concerning this and other hot-button issues of the day. When we react emotionally rather than listening to what others are really saying, we just cause more heartache and division.

    My prayer is that you will find comfort and guidance in God’s gracious embrace, Emily. Continue to listen closely to what the Holy Spirit whispers into your own spirit and share what seems right and good with the rest of us. We’re all learning and growing in our faith. None of us has arrived at “the final truth” about issues like this and it’s so important that all of us realize how much we need each other – especially those who have different perspectives than our own.

    • Sarah Moon

      I wish people would stop referring to abuse as a “hot-button” issue. This is my life and my experience. I have a right to be emotional about it–there is no other way that I can react when someone’s words promote abuse (no matter how unintentionally).

      • Hännah

        Abuse is reduced to “a hot-button issue” only for those who haven’t lived it.

      • Claire

        Of course you do. I really don’t get why people keep saying that these comments are “emotional”…as if that was a bad thing. An unemotional or dismissive response to stories of abuse is a sign of an unempathetic psychopath in my opinion.

    • Lydia Mulligan

      As someone who spent her whole life in an abusive home I refuse to have abuse called a “hot button issue.” It is a horrible, debilitating, sin issue. It is not something to be dismissed and rejected. I have no problem with questioning “wisdom of the day” but none of the people disagreeing with her were at all “vindictive.” They were all loving and kind.
      Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them vindictive, does not mean they are persecuting you, and does not mean that they are being rude or catty.

      • Emily Wierenga

        Oh Lydia, I am so sorry for the pain you experienced. My heart goes out to you friend.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I appreciate this so much Claire. I am learning and growing too. I hope we can all wrestle this out together, knowing we all love Jesus and want to serve him.

  • Duane Scott

    Emily utilized that story in efforts to convey a message, not uphold a moral
    or teaching that is absolute. I am not one to argue in public forums but
    I think it’s important, as educated individuals, to read this article
    with an intellect capable of understanding the big picture.

    I consider myself a male feminist. I believe in equal rights. And
    females are not getting those rights as they should… yet. (I have a

    That said, often, the loudest voices are the ones with the most
    unrest in their heart and what I view on this thread is a lot of loud

    Because it seems, Emily hit a raw thread many women are unable to
    accept. She is not fantasizing abuse but is lifting up what happens when
    there is a complete surrender to God and what God deems as necessary to
    be a servant.

    I know this comment opens me up to a lot of personal attacks but I
    want you all to know that stepping back and loving a little before you
    fire off a comment would be another act of servant hood. We are called
    to love each other, to support each other, and to talk responsibly about
    those things which concern us.

    That’s not aimed at women. It’s not aimed at men. It’s aimed at all of the Christian population, myself included.

    • Stephen M.

      I’m pretty sure people questioning some potentially abuse justifying usages of scripture is about as loving as it gets. Maybe instead of asking people who have good and reasonable critiques to “step back” or calling them “loud voices” (I mean, really, how passive aggressive can we get?) how about we listen to what they are saying instead of using dismissive tactics to write them off.

    • Shaney Irene

      For someone who describes themself as a feminist, I’m surprised you don’t see the problematic language in Emily’s post. Not that I’m upset at you for not seeing it, just surprised.

      Also, why are the voices here who disagree “loud”? This is the internet, it’s not like you can hear volume. Are you referring to the fact that they are the most common sentiment? The most strongly worded? The longest comments?

      Also, what is “loving”? The vast majority of dissenting comments have been worded kindly, in my opinion. They don’t tear her down, call her names, but simply point out what makes them uncomfortable. What is unloving about that?

    • Sarah Jones

      Perhaps the voices are loud because they’ve actually experienced abuse and know how damaging Emily’s particular interpretation of scripture can be for women.

    • Desley Noneofyerbiz

      “She is not fantasizing abuse but is lifting up what happens when
      there is a complete surrender to God and what God deems as necessary to
      be a servant.”

      And what happens when there is a complete surrender to God and what God deems necessary to be a servant” for abused women according to Emily’s post? Well, from reading Emily’s post at face value, what I come up with is that God deems necessary to be a servant in abuse situations (or at least glorifies) enduring abuse. And, if I were to read between the lines, what happens when abuse victims “completely surrender to God” by doing this, is not the victim’s psychological/emotional/mental/spiritual/physical death, and is not traumatizing children and effecting an abuse cycle, but what happens is that God will save the abuser through the victim’s selfless sacrifice and all will be well in the end.

      You want to talk responsibly about the things that concern us? Yes. Let’s.
      We are called to love each other? Yes. So do it. Stand up for the victims who are/have been/and will be negatively affected by this irresponsible post.

      So far, I have not seen any recognition of the damage this can do to abuse victims, or an apology from the editors or author for this destructive message – whether or not that message was intentional.

  • Krista

    Thank you, Emily, for sharing your heart and life here on Prodigal. I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing your story along with your boldness and courage to share your wisdom. I walk away with a great reminder that we as women, men, children, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, pastors, lawyers, doctors, grocery store clerks or whoever we are; we serve others because of who first served us.

    “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.”

    We love because He loved, we forgive because He forgave, we serve because He served. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Rose

    I love that you folks are still talking to someone that threw her suicidal grandmother under the bus, and said “We will not be held accountable, if we are married, for how we submitted to Jesus but for how we served our husbands,” as if she is capable of having a conversation that is in any way based in reality and not self-destructive hatred of women.

    • KelleyD

      Rose, I see no hatred of women in Emily’s posts, even though I disagree with certain parts of what she said. As a woman – and as a human – she deserves as much respect as you or I. Thoughtfully engaging her opinions show that respect; dismissals and personal attacks do not.

      • Rose

        She deserves respect as a human being, and we should fight for a world where people do not say such harmful and absurd things. In the mean time, giving the benefit of the doubt to engage such ludicrous ideas is a waste of energy.

      • Rose

        And yes, it’s hateful to treat women as sub-human, merely extensions of and servants to men. But its even more hateful to tell girls that if they love Jesus they will live as sex-slaves to abusive men, which is exactly what you are doing when you put submitting to men before loving yourself or demanding respect and dignity for yourself and the vulnerable.

    • JennyDykstra

      So then you know Emily? You know all about her from this one post?
      I’m having a lot of trouble seeing how most comments are judging her based on a few hundred words. Christian or not, there needs to be some civility, please!

  • Becca Rose

    You know, if you decide that what you want to do with your life is be completely submissive to your husband and take on this ideal of servanthood, that’s all well and good. If you have come to the conviction that your relationship with God is subject to your relationship with your husband, fine. But please, please do not apply your personal convictions on this area to all women and especially feminists. It’s harmful to claim that your personal journey should be universal to all, and that those of us who believe servanthood does not equal submission in marriage are wrong.

    It seems to me that this is a defense of your changing personal convictions in your life, and that is valid. It is, however, irresponsible to posit that your newfound interpretations of the scripture and Christian teaching should be mandated to all.

  • HisFireFly

    Praying, dear Emily, for peace, grace and love to rule and reign here as in all aspects of your life. My heart hurts for all the painful words spewed here in the comments. I knew this beautiful post would stir the pot but didn’t expect such an outpouring.
    May strength and courage hold you close.

  • Jamie H

    I hesitate to comment because the comments have gotten out of hand. I read the post with what I believe is the ability to understand the heart of what you communicated. You have something valuable to say and discuss, and it has obviously rubbed people the wrong way as a result. I am praying for you for this is an unbelievable hard position to be in, to write and to have everything you’ve said critiqued and disputed publicly. As you cling to Christ, may you find comfort in Him. Be strong and courageous, and do not lose heart. I hope you continue to keep sharing your voice.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you SO much Jamie.

  • Bobby Ray Hurd


    Thank you for your thoughts and your honesty. I can never fault anyone for their desire of wanting to be a greater servant by calling for the cultivation of a servant’s heart. For that, I applaud you.

    What I see you doing, however, is something that I have seen as a very common exegetical error. In Scripture, any notion of a “gender” role is used in reference to being restored to the full image of G-d. Being said again, the Adam and Eve manifesto is used in such a way that is not primarily historical but theological. Therefore, it suggests that the struggle existing between men and women is reflective of the greater human struggle of being restored to the full image of G-d. Therefore, submission, while being listed as a “female” duty or characteristic, is not used hierarchically (a female imperative) but in a way that characterizes the human fight for holiness. Her “submission” is a model of godliness that calls men to act likewise (something against his “nature?); it does not excuse him from submission at all but, rather, calls him to act godly as she does in her submission.

    I wrote about this on my blog in a three part series called “Why Women Should Still be Quiet; Why Men Should Too.” Take a walk over (as well as anyone) and wrestle with us a bit more on this.

  • Christy McFerren

    Emily, I want to be gentle here because I know you’re being pressed today. I see the good you are trying to do with your piece, and I applaud that, while still seeing the concerns many of the other readers see. I think writing like this provides a good place to work through our differing perspectives, if done in the right spirit, and in that spirit, I have a question. How do you reconcile the idea that you are to submit primarily to your husband, over and above submitting to Christ, with the concept of the priesthood of the believer? Is that not what Christ came to establish for every believer, and of first importance to every person? I ride the fences of feminism, because I am grateful for what the women previous to me have done, and I also see their extremes. I see the need for more advancement in some places, while I see so much of it being achieved in questionable ways. So I walk cautiously on this ground, myself, but, I cannot see where Scripture folds my personhood into my husband’s and in exchange for submission to Christ, I now please God by submission to him. That does not resonate with all that Christ has accomplished for all mankind. Help me understand by explaining how you handle the priesthood concept?

  • glorrierose

    #1 When your husband asked you to make nachos with him, he wasn’t ordering you to do so, he was ASKING. ASKING implies the option of saying “no” without it being made into some kind of Bible-based message to your “sisters” telling them they must SUBMIT.

    The proper response to his request would have been, “Hey, hun, I’d love to do that but right now I am busy picking up after the kids. How about I help you after I am finished?”

    Your husband as you describe him sounds like someone who wants your marriage to be a PARTNERSHIP, not one where he orders you about. Now, since he wants a partnership, how come you can’t submit to the idea of PARTNERSHIP, where you work on the marriage together and you don’t force one person or the other to be responsible for the whole of it?

    #2 If you were “made from your husband’s rib,” how come that event wasn’t all over the news? I would love to see THAT birth video. (Ok, I know your reference is to Genesis 2, but Genesis 1 has no such “rib” story, and that rib story is utterly preposterous — just as preposterous as the idea of your actually being made from your husband’s rib.)

    #3 So you are telling us all that your dad makes such a great model, when despite all his supposed knowledge as a minister of how he should treat his wife, until she got brain cancer he nonetheless found it acceptable to hurt your mother emotionally? Didn’t it occur to you that the problem from the beginning was your father’s failure to understand his own role? And that her getting brain cancer — i.e., her being made totally dependent on him, powerless against him — as the necessary condition for him to be kind to her…that’s just a little bit SICK? Why couldn’t he be kind to her BEFORE she got brain cancer?

    #4 You CLAIM that you do not intend to tell women who are abused that they should just accept the abuse and be submissive. And yet that is the implication of your final statement in the original essay. All women have to do (whether they are being abused or hurt in other ways) is to submit to their men and the men will then “rise up to their full potential.” How could you imagine that this would NOT be interpreted as telling women to stick with and be submissive to men who abuse them? If that is not what you intended, sister, I suggest that you revise it to make your meaning clearer, because that seems to be the intent not only of that final point but of every other point you make.

    #5 Finally, when you say “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.” … Really now. That’s why your grandmother committed suicide: “because she wasn’t able to get her way.”

    You put a disclaimer on that later, saying, “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.”

    Quite disingenuous, really. People do not commit suicide because they can’t get their way, no matter how willful they may be. You have no way of getting inside the mind of your grandmother at the moment she made that horrible choice. She may have been willful, but unless she wrote a note saying “I did this because I couldn’t get my way,” you have no way of knowing what was going on in her head. Moreover, suicide is the ultimate act of mental illness, When people choose suicide they do so when they are literally “not in their right minds.” It is NOT a RATIONAL choice because the mind is incapable of reason at that moment.

    As I read this essay of yours one thing pops out at me: it is not willfulness that is your problem but rather selfishness. That you would snap back at a husband who, from your description at least, wants to be your PARTNER and not your DOMINATOR, suggests to me that you have a problem with intimacy and sharing, not willfulness. By subsuming your problems in your marriage under the rubric of “lack of submission” on your part rather than accepting SHARED RESPONSIBILITY, you are now placing the success of your marriage on the shoulders of your husband. As long as you submit to everything he wants (god help him that he has to make all the decisions about everything…what a monstrous burden to place on anyone!) then your marriage is supposed to end up being perfect.

    Grow up. Accept the fact that you have EQUAL responsibility for making the marriage work, and if your anger is a huge problem, then work on that anger — understand where it comes from, learn to speak to your husband in a non-violent way. Accepting the fact that you aren’t the center of the universe isn’t the same thing as submitting to the rule of your husband.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I am sorry to have caused such pain in your response, friend. It is true, I am selfish. I battle that every day. Bless you. e.

    • habsfan63

      “As I read this essay of yours one thing pops out at me: it is not willfulness that is your problem but rather selfishness … Grow up.”

      It’s amazing the nasty things we say to people these days under the anonymity of a comments page.

      You don’t know the author personally .. at least I assume you don’t. I doubt you would have the courage to say these things to her face.

      You have every right to debate her premise and argue with her points. But ad hominem attacks like this only really demonstrate your selfishness and need to grow up … oops, was that an ad hominem attack? Sorry.

    • theresa

      I’m certain Our Lord did not want her to be broken in pieces..:(

  • m@

    (Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be a scholar; this is purely my knee-jerk reaction to centuries of debate over the role of women in the church.)

    I’m saddened by many of the comments and reactions I observe amongst women in the church. In particular, I’m sad because hundreds of generations of women have unceremoniously usurped their right to live a self-sufficient life, devoid of abuse or unjustified deference, simply because they’re following the words of a book written, edited, debated, and imposed by men.

    If there’s anything that I immediately call into question regarding Scripture, it usually centers around the completely bat-guano, contradictory perspectives that Scripture provides on the role of women in the emerging church.

    You can brand me heretical, and perhaps I’ll be judged by God for defying His word on it. But look, it just doesn’t sit well with me. Never has.

    There’s really nothing else more I feel I have the authority to speak on regarding this topic. All I know is that, even IF I were married, I would allow my wife the full freedom to live a life that is devoted to God first and me second. And if there’s anything I do that attempts to inadvertently – or intentionally – sever the covenant she made with the Living Savior, then she has EVERY RIGHT to sever that commitment to me. End of story.

  • Preston Yancey

    I sat with this post all day before I commented. When I first read it, I cried. I will take issue with one thing and one thing only, Emily, it is this:

    “Nequebah, the Hebrew word for female, literally means punctured, bored through.”

    I consider you a friend, Emily, so please hear that I say this publicly (to a public post) and I say it frankly (because my heart is breaking) but I say it honestly (because I will give only that to you.) I spent half my day looking at commentaries, I looked at how the word is interpreted in the LXX, how it is used and changed in different passages, how it appears in Jeremiah vs. Genesis 1 vs. Genesis 5 and this is what I come away with: a literal interpretation of a poetic language like Hebrew is to do violence to the Text. It is to do violence to the Bible. I do not believe this was your intent, but it is nonetheless what happens when we take literal passages that are poetic in nature in their very language. I appreciate that you have quoted one scholar, but the scholarly tradition as a whole is against you here. It is firmly opposed to reading Hebrew words in formation as literal. This isn’t about interpreting passages, but doing poor word study that doesn’t take into account all the other passages that word is used. I am heartbroken by this. It is misleading. Unintentional, but it is. It derails healthy conversation about Hebrew words, interpretation, and how we move forward. This is not about feminism, this is about honouring the language the Scripture you cite was first written in. I am, therefore, wondering what process of theological review something this significant went through, because I am, as I said, left heartbroken over this maligning of the Text.

    • Hännah

      Thank you, Preston.

    • Mikayla Dreyer ☮

      Preston, I really appreciate what you added to this conversation as practical and tangible.

      Many (myself included) have taken issue with several other parts of the post that are troubling,
      but this is a different yet very important issue that you addressed directly but with sensitivity. Just know that’s appreciated!

      • Preston Yancey

        Thank you! I just added a clarifying comment, that I have issues with the whole post, but I think it stems from this.

    • Preston Yancey

      I want to add, to be clear, that I found the post as a whole problematic, but I trace that problem back to this source, specifically.

      • Emily Wierenga

        I’m sorry I caused you so much heartache Preston.

    • Ruth

      It’s too bad it took you all day to write such a hurtful and belittling comment. Emily’s marriage does not hang on the correct exegesis of one Hebrew word. Nor does anyone working on their marriage, or wiping bums, feeding the hungry, planting crops, milking cows, nursing the sick, visiting those in prison have time to spend all day on a word study. There is a place for Bible scholarship but it should not be used for hanging a friend for interpreting incorrectly (if that is the case. I haven’t a day to spend trying to find out). And I certainly hope the “scholarly tradition”, which you consider more important than loving a sister, is not against her as you say. Healthy conversation about Hebrew words is a resounding gong in this case. BTW I have graduate degrees in theology and I can tell you with certainty they have been no service to sustaining and nurturing a healthy marriage. A lot of washing feet and love has though. Please don’t be heartbroken over violence being done to the Bible. The Bible can handle it. A sister in Christ, pressed in from all sides, let your tear be for her.

      • Sarah Moon

        The personal is theological. Preston is calling out harmful abuse that leaders have justified using harmful theology. Preston is standing up for those of us who hear those words and begin to feel like nothing more than ugly, gaping wounds that men can poke around in if they want to. Whatever the author’s intentions were, this is the reaction that many had to her interpretation of the Bible. Theology affects our lives and our marriages, and I, for one, am thankful for those who promote a healthy view of it.

        • Ruth

          I agree with you Sarah. Theology does and should inform our lives and marriages and it is beautiful and should be promoted. I am thankful for academics who continue to do word studies. What I take issue with is Preston’s shaming of Emily because she did “violence to the Text”, and “violence to the Bible”. He accuses her of “derailing healthy conversation” and not “honouring the language the Scripture you cite”. Strong accusations from an academic to a lay person (I assume). He is heartbroken that she has violated the Bible because correct word study is of course, more important than relationships? I did not hear him calling out harmful abuse of leaders. I heard him calling out Emily for her interpretation of Scripture. I’ve experienced first hand that theological scholarship does not save marriages especially when it is used to belittle.

    • Sarah Jones

      Thank you for weighing in. I think your theological contribution here is incredibly valuable.

    • Shaney Irene

      Quick side note: Larry Crabb is actually not a Bible scholar. He’s a psychologist/counselor.

    • Dawn Turchin Samuels

      Your post reeks of arrogance and self-righteousness. And definitely not Christian love – even though you profess it.

  • mkdb

    Miss Emily, (and what a beautiful name, one that is near and dear to my heart),

    bless you for writing all of this and for boldly and LOVINGLY taking a
    stand in a venue like this. Everyday I (we … as the “church”) see how
    FAR apart we are as self-proclaiming “Christians” or
    “Christ-Followers–and it is only getting worse (moment by moment).

    am always blessed when I come across someone who dares to point to God
    and His Word as their source and standard and authority, and to
    withstand the expected onslaught by self-proclaiming believers, and to
    do so with grace and strength.

    It does not seem you are taking
    it personally, which is great. One of the things I try to keep in mind
    is how bitterness/unforgiveness really damages a person and their
    ability to see and think clearly. Asaph said:

    “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered I was senseless and ignorant, I was a brute beast before you.”

    am blessed to be apart of a counseling ministry [that points people to God/God's Word "for life and godliness"] and I see everyday how
    bitterness impacts and even destroys people and their relationships and
    their ability to perceive and process. They also have a tendency to hurt
    others (e.g. “brute beasts” that easily and frequently hurt those
    around them). I’m not saying it is not their fault, but it just helps us understand a little more, and to perhaps respond in specific ways.

    Blessings to you, your husband, and family

  • Julie

    This is absolutely beautiful and so well stated and has been my heart beat this last year as God has asked me to lay down my”leadership at home” and allow my husband to lead. Thank you for sharing your heart and your stories.

  • lisa

    Emily, I was thinking those thoughts early this morning. No matter that my husband is an atheist. It does not matter, I will submit. I want to be like Jesus in every way possible. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness, faith, meekness and self control.

    When we ladies have to talk (at length) to explain our position, then we are NOT following Christ.

    Thank you again, Emily for your thoughtful, loving, faithful post.

    • Jenny E

      Lengthy explanations cannot be a result of following Christ? Wow, every preacher, like EVER, must be in huge trouble then! Also Paul. He has pages and PAGES of explanation for his positions…

      • lisa

        When we ladies have to talk (at length) to explain our position, then we are NOT following Christ.

        thank you dear sister for making my point.

        • Shaney Irene

          So God has different standards for men and women when it comes to following Christ? Where do you get that idea?

          • lisa

            1. the bible

            2. the bible

            Because, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were
            thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish
            hearts were darkened.

            Romans 1:21

            • Erin Adams

              so Romans 1 is talking about women who use their words? They are the one’s whose hearts are far from God? What in the world?!

          • lisa

            I believe I already answered that question. Ask me another please. Thank you

        • Erin Adams

          :( You are saying that Jenny is not following Christ and you call her a dear sister? Are you being for real or is this a joke? I am confused. Why are women not following Christ if they use words to tell what they believe?

          • lisa

            First question. we are all sisters. Go back and re read what is written as Christ is not mocked. I state (WE) you state (you)

            Second question. No, this is not a joke.

            Third question. Why? You have answered your own question. (what they believe) not what God says, not what Christ practiced but what you believe. If it does not follow Christ it is your own religion. Maybe that is why you are confused?

            WE all have to start with Gen 1:1

            • Erin Adams

              Your point is well taken about sister being an appropriate term for any woman, whether they follow Christ or not. We are, indeed, all made in the image of God.

              However, I am not sure why you think I am mocking Christ.
              Nor am I clear as to what you are saying that I believe that is not what God says or what Christ practiced. That is why I am confused. My faith and practice are in response to what God says & what Jesus practiced and the work of the Holy Spirit.
              Can you clarify what I said that is not in keeping with the Bible?

              • lisa

                First: I never stated you were mocking Christ. No where do say in this post. This is sadly an assumption.

                Second: a bit fuzz on the question/comment Not sure what was meant.
                What you believe? Is it Emily’s article you are confused about?

                Third: IF your faith is practiced in response to what God says and Jesus practiced then why all up in arms about a comment not even directed towards you? It was clearly meant for someone else.
                (And at the same time they learn to be idle, wandering about from house
                to house; and not only idle, but gossips also and BUSYBODIES, speaking
                things which they ought not.) 1Tim 5:13

                Fourth: not sure what this is meant.

                • Erin Adams

                  I think you are right, Lisa. I never should have engaged you in this.

                  • lisa

                    Erin, that took great courage to say. I prayed for you this morning. We all fall victim to Satan’s lure. I do daily. I remind myself with this: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto my own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

          • lisa

            Erin A: so Romans 1 is talking about women who use their words? They are the one’s whose hearts are far from God? What in the world?!

            Actually Romans 1 is Paul talking. It is Romans 1:21 that explains. I hope that cleared up the confusion or miscommunication.

            For any other questions, I happily thank you.

            • Erin Adams

              I do know that the letter to the Romans is written by Paul. Chapter 1:21 does not explain at all why women should not be able to make a case for what the Bible teaches by using many words.

              • lisa


                Thank you again for your response!

                When I posted Romans 1:21 it was in response to someone making a hasty comment without thinking. I did not say it relates to women. It relates to someone making up their own mind of following their own foolish darken heart. (without Christ)

                Erin, when there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19) Please understand I am not saying I am wise but my holy Father whom all wisdom comes from. I am but a sinner like the rest. It took Christ love for me to die on the cross for not only my sins but the whole world.

                I hope that helps. Thank you so much for asking. I experienced great joy answering your question!

    • Emily Wierenga

      Wow Lisa. Your demonstration of love for your husband is so moving. Thank you. Bless you friend.

      • lisa

        Thank you, Emily. Your words were powerful and moving.

        I have found when I stay within the context of my bible, and my center is Christ, those around me can not hurt me. When however I step outside of the context and His center I am helplessly foolish with words, actions, and thoughts.

        Your loving words lifted me!

  • Brenda P

    I think I understand what you are trying to say. Maybe you didn’t say it in the best way, but I think I see what you meant. I remember once reading that if people are misunderstanding what you meant, that it’s a problem with the author, not the reader. Writing clearly is an author’s job. I think it’s important to take note of all the people who read this and took away a different meaning than intended. I will admit that I had a much stronger negative reaction to some of the things you wrote in replies to comments. If we are all in agreement that abuse is bad, then why is it so upsetting when people point out possible abuse language? Shouldn’t we simply take note of that, learn from it and use different language in the future? I find the dialogues really helpful and thoughtful. No, not everyone was very kind in their responses, but it sounds like most of the people commenting have genuine concerns.

    • Brenda P

      I forgot to add that it seems that if you had talked about servanthood for everyone, how we all need to serve others as Jesus served because humans in general are selfish beings, the point would have gotten across better. People seem to be taking issue with you applying your personal experiences to women everywhere, which I think is fair criticism.

  • Justin Hanvey

    I wrote a sort of blog response to this, which I think is a good balancer. Good thoughts, and thanks Rachel too for your thoughts as well, which I found also a good balancer.

  • Kristin Richardson

    I would say the art of servanthood only exists when that submission is a choice to relinquish your freedom in deference to someone else. So I think your initial reaction of “I am not your servant!” is important because it’s true! The humility comes in when you choose to serve anyways.

    Unfortunately sometimes our theology robs women of the very agency and value that gives servanthood and submission its power. To sacrifice something you have to have possession of it to begin with. I appreciate your challenge for women to choose servanthood, but we should also seek opportunity to empower other women who haven’t been given any rights to relinquish!

    • Shaney Irene

      This. This is so perfect, Kristin. Thank you for your words.

    • Emily Wierenga


    • Erin Adams

      super key, Kristin! To quote Philipians 2 as an example for women (Jesus humbled Himself and did not find equality a thing to be grasped) is fine. But, Jesus is an example for both men and women, not just women. And He submitted to the will of the Father, but, He and the Father are one and the will of the Father was truly His own will, too. He and the Father are truly equal, so He had no need to try to “grasp” for equality. He gave humbly, but in complete freedom.

  • Claire Bent

    Dear Emily.
    Apologies in advance for the long post. I hope its not inappropriately long.

    Blimey, you must be reeling from the responses to this article. Bless you as you process the responses. So much has already been said, but I just wanted to post something on my perspective of what it means to be a passionate woman full of feist and strength and fire, and yet still be a servant.

    You see, I’m a single girl, a pastor-teacher-leader and an elder, and each day I am called to serve, to love and to call each person I encounter into the fullness of who God created them to be. I’m called to be Jesus-like in my washing of feet, binding up of wounds, encouraging into fullness of life. I am also called to be Jesus-like in my challenging of broken systems, challenging of marginalisation of people, challenging of abuse – especially abuse which is sometimes justified by misreading of scripture. I’m called to do that in all of my relationships – family, friends, the gathered people I get to do life with.

    So, for me, I find that the serving that Christ sometimes calls me to is serving that looks like challenging, calling out things that would oppress others, not accepting rhetoric that would keep my brothers or sisters in a life that is less than full. I’m called to serve others by not just going with the party line, but by crying ‘freedom’. in this I submit to Christ, my head and the head of the church.

    I work as part of a team, and in that team we practice mutual submission as we lead. This submission often looks feisty, filled with disagreement and wrestling and sometimes hot tears of frustration. But it is filled with love and respect and ‘willing the best’.

    You say, ‘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 have to be honest and say that I read the above and hear, ‘and it is strong passionate women that prevent men from being all that they can be, so women should just quit calling out the marginalisation, quit calling for God proscribed equality, quit getting angry with systems that hold women back, and let the men be men.’

    I’m so sorry Emily but, if that is the nuance of what you’re saying, I just can’t agree with you on that. The Christ that I see served the world, men and women alike, calling out the systematic holding back of the marginalised, sometimes with Holy Anger.

    He submitted to the cross and to death, yet subverted that in the most glorious way by doing away with the system that would hold us captive to sin.

    Sometimes to serve looks like to challenge, to bring the fire, to refine the conversation. To die to ourselves, but also to subvert and cry ‘freedom’. It does not, to me, look like accepting a certain perspective of scripture that seems to say ‘if women are strong and free and passionate, then there’s not enough room for the men to be strong and free and passionate.’

    The kingdom of God as I understand it is so much wider than our narrow gender view and one dimensional views of what it means to truly ‘serve’.

    I realise that there are other nuances to what you wrote, particularly as submission pertains to married relationships, and as a single person I am unable to speak to those nuances with any lived wisdom, but to the general theme of serving and submission, may I say ‘it looks different from where I’m standing.’

    Apologies if I’ve read anything you weren’t saying into your words, or gone off at a tangent based on my own bias that doesn’t refect your intention in writing this article.

    Much peace, Claire x

    • Stephen M.

      We should all probably shut up and listen to Claire because what shes written here is 10 kinds of awesome sauce.

  • Lorretta Stembridge

    Thank you Emily for this very solid ground and advice to stand upon. As one who has spent time in both “camps” (my Momma modeled to me that there weren’t no man worth submittin’ to), I can honestly say from personal experience and the teaching of Scripture, that what you are speaking of is true. As I’ve learned to serve God first, in that 1 Peter 3: way….slowly, after 23 years of marriage, my husband is becoming the strong and gentle leader I’ve needed. In the meantime, I’ve also found comfort in Isaiah 54…God is my husband and he does know and lead best. Blessings.

  • RoycePashtun

    Emily, Why don’t you use your own photo at the top of the article? The current photo is a distraction. She looks very young – too young and inexperienced to be credibly giving the advice in the article.

    • Kassie Rutherford

      Trolls be trolling.
      Also, ew.

  • Adrienne

    “nequebah” – “to be opened while arranging yourself consistently for a larger purpose than you.” Feminist or not, if we are unwilling to be vulnerable, opening ourselves up for consistent growth and dying to self, for God’s bigger picture, we have, indeed lost the art of servanthood. So many bras are being burned in the comments, it’s sad to see the spirit behind the post has been lost in theological warfare, rather than asking ourselves in our own lives why we may not want to cut the onions…

    • Claire

      Speaking up about abuse = bra burning? What a horrific way to dismiss those who have suffered violence at the hands of husbands or fathers–and have been encouraged to do so by the church.

      • Adrienne

        Not at all, Claire. Speaking up about abuse is of absolute importance and creates changes and freedom for ourselves and others. I am an advocate for women and would never “dismiss” someone who has suffered in any way. Unfortunately this post was addressed to one sector of females, when the core of it, the lesson to take away (not from the examples) from the heart of it is in order to change this world, we all must be willing to serve one another.

        • Claire

          With all due respect, Adrienne, you just did “dismiss” several of the women here –many of them have been quite open about their own experiences with abuse–by equating their concerns over this post with something as frivolous as “bra burning”. I seriously doubt that anyone here would disagree with the concept of being willing to serve one another. But as this post WAS directed only at women (feminist ones at that) and held up abused women as examples of what such service looks like, it wasn’t just “unfortunate” to people with experience of abuse, it’s triggering, harmful and very, very inappropriate.

          And it is also an excellent example of why the church is still such an unsafe place for survivors of abuse.

    • Kassie Rutherford

      I think it’s very unfair to denounce valid, articulate disagreement as bra-burning. It’s as offensive as discrediting a complementarian argument using the barefoot-and-pregnant trope.

      The reader is not responsible for interpreting the author — any author’s — spirit. The author is responsible for communicating the correct message.

      We all agree that service to and from each other is essential and good. We do not all agree that we must serve men because we are women.

      • Adrienne

        I could not agree more about your last sentence. I believe it has been detrimental in church history the message conveyed that “women should submit to men” when that particular passage in Scripture is speaking of mutual respect in a loving marriage.

        I am not denouncing valid, articulate disagreement as bra-burning, at all. As far as “bra-burning”, I was referring to the onslaught of anger and judgment towards Emily and her views “in the name of Christian feminism” led by RHE and simply followed up by others on the bandwagon. If you knew me you’d know I’m SO NOT a fan of bandwagon, so when people simply jump on the comments of others for the ride, rather than the discussion, it clutters the true conversation which can lead to healing.

        I have walked the road with women who have been abused and held their hands as they’ve held their heads high, walking away from those toxic households, onto roads toward healing. These women ROCK for walking away. We all have a story, which is why this post has brought to light so much discussion. It’s important to provide healing places for women to share, and I’m not so sure that can happen in this sort of setting.

        And as it is important for an author to convey what it is they wish to convey, we as educated people also need to read, process, and interpret EVERYTHING with the help of the Holy Spirit, not legalistic American Christianity, as the filter, taking away what applies, challenges, and inspires us to grow, leaving the toxicity behind.

        Thanks, Kassie, for letting me clarify. Writing, as opposed to face to face discussion, always loses the heart…which is why we do need to be able to use discretion in our interpretations.

    • Marie

      Maybe we don’t mind cutting the onions but would like it to be from a reason of basic thoughtfulness and consideration towards one spouse, opposed to a reason of submitting.

  • Wendy Douglas

    Emily…I so love your heart friend. As someone who struggled with submission, your story shared here so resonated with me. For many reasons submission and serving had taken on a negative connotation meaning weakness. It has been a long road and sometimes not so easy as God did a work in me, For me it was about giving up the control I had been holding onto so tightly. I will say that part of my issue was an abusive first marriage. (as someone who has experienced this, I never thought you were saying in any way that abuse is ok and that all women should stay in an abusive marriage.) I brought that baggage along with me saying no man would rule over me again. Through God’s healing I began to see the difference in being ruled over and being led. My husband is the spiritual leader of our home and I do submit to his leadership. Out of love and not out of obligation. I am not perfect in this at all times, but then there’s grace. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and speaking to mine. So blessed by you friend.

  • Beth In the City

    This post blessed me. I did not expect the controversy until I read your after-published notes, when I realized that the chord that was struck in me was not the chord that was struck in other women. I continue to note that the way we perceive things is based so much on what we have experienced. Lending credibility to the theory that we must live in community so that we can gain perspective. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece. I see much of what you noted around me.

  • Rachel N. Smith

    I will be as honest as I can be here. I have seen a lot of people in the comments say that they disagree with your post, but that they “know your heart.” I will confess that I do not know your heart. The only two posts I have seen from you are this one and the other equally as upsetting one on feminism over at Deeper Story. Neither of these have left me sure, at all, that I should trust your heart when it comes to these matters. To me, you are very guilty of taking your personal experience, generalizing it as a rule for all women (along with some questionable exegesis), and then acting confused when we get upset. Both of those posts left me angry, hurt, reeling, and tearful. I cannot imagine how you could post some of the things you have about feminism and living a “biblical” life/having a “biblical” marriage, and not have anticipated this reaction. I do not know what God is personally convicting you of in your life (although to be honest, I am highly suspect of some of your conclusions), but to make those personal convictions a burden for other women to bear, some of whom, like myself, have experienced freedom and healing through feminism, mutuality, and egalitarian thought, is just wrong. This is wrong, and I do not know enough of your good intentions to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    • Mandy

      “taking your personal experience, generalizing it as a rule for all women (along with some questionable exegesis)” – - completely how I have been feeling about this article. I also do not know the author well so am unable to trust motives or “heart” behind article.

  • Sarah Jones

    This is one of the worst articles that I have ever read on the subject of gender roles, and I say that because it was written by a woman, and I expect more insight, more empathy for other women from members of the same gender. But there is no empathy here. Instead, you actually managed to blame your grandmother for her own suicide. I am horrified that an editorial staff allowed this to reach publication.

    Since you’ve addressed this as a letter to your ‘feminist sisters,’ as a feminist, I’ve written a response at my blog:

  • Leah Guy

    I’ve been returning here all day to watch the conversation develop. My heart will intermittantly (1) drop and feel pressed in at all sides by cutting and misunderstanding words and (2) rise with a tightening of the throat at your constant gracious replies. I’m astounded by your vulnerability, ceaseless honestly, and quiet humility. I’m believing fully that you are listening to the Spirit, and paying heed to the ways and words he speaks. May you rest and lean hard into all that God is, knowing that you are a precious example of servant to me.

    • mirele

      *headdesk* You all need to come out of whatever bubble you happen to be living in and get out in the real world with the rest of us. I guess you all can be as sweet as cotton candy to each other, but guess what? Most of us don’t live in the Christian bubble and your platitudes simply don’t work.

      • Amanda

        And even those of us that do (or did) live in a Christian bubble can still experience abuse at the hands of our “servant leader” and guess what happens? We’re told to forgive, forget and submit harder to someone that just knocked our lights out.

        • Brenda P

          Forgiving does not mean forgetting.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Oh Leah. You don’t know how I needed to read this tonight. Thank you.

  • mirele

    Servanthood =! doormat.

    And my mom wonders why I dislike church people so much. Jesus, save us from your followers.

  • Trina

    What business does a young woman, obviously newish to marriage and family have to tell others about what marriage and family should look like when she hasn’t first spent a great deal of her life learning and experiencing and gaining such wisdom. What bothers me most is that everyone thinks they should have an opinion on how others loves should be as if they have loved such long lives filled with a,l the makings of wisdom and experience that can and has the right to inform younger generations. Just because you are married with kids doesn’t give you the right to tel, others now their marriages should look. Tell us she you’ve gotten 20 years under your belt and you can say without a doubt what you have tried and tested true.

    To glorify abuse for the sake of “the gospel” is NOT the message that Jesus came to give. Abuse is abuse and I wod readily abandon any supposedly all powerful God who couldn’t think of any other way for a person to be saved that didn’t involve me being punched in the face, hit, kicked or abused. Such a God would be no better than the bastard he’s trying to save. If you think your Gd wants you to suffer abuse “for a season”, as John Piper world say, then you have a lot to learn about God and methinks your rendering of Scripture to be quite troublesome.

    • Dawn Turchin Samuels

      Trina – I completely agree with what she has said and I have been married 22+ years. Does that help.

  • Trina

    To add, how is this any different from the idea that slaves were honoring God by submitting to the torture and dehumanization of their masters as a testament to God and Christ alike? What God has to save one Blythe dehumanization and torture of another? Christians are foolish to think that the world is looking upon us with great awe because we suffer abuse for the salvation of another. Trust me, it is not driving people towards the church. Rather, folks are leaving in droves and others won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. It is thinking like this that is so obviously contrary to who God is. This type of thinking ruined my family and ram shackled the faith of my siblings and myself. God doesn’t have to use evil to accomplish good. This is not a picture of enduring mercy and love, but of moral bankruptcy and a two-year-old could understand that. It is awful that this is what speaks for God. If I were God, I’d cringe that this is what my followers believe of me and believe that I request of them. You might as well say that God ordained this woman’s abuse for the salvation of her husband.

    A survivor of abuse by a Christian father whom the church told me was for my good.

    • Amanda

      “You might as well say that God ordained this woman’s abuse for the salvation of her husband”

      God also ordains rape babies, doncha know.

  • zac

    Emily, this article may be helpful! Thanks for the post!

  • Amanda

    It’s so interesting to me how these “lost art of servanthood” articles are always aimed at women. Since my husband evidently bears responsibility for my eternal salvation, shouldn’t someone be writing these posts for him? Perhaps they could squeeze in a lesson on washing my feet between their frequent and important lessons on mixed martial arts and designer beers.

  • Elise

    I am arriving rather late to this article. I have read it and many of the replies. Some are by people I have been learning to respect, one is by someone I love. One idea keeps swirling in my mind. If I had to choose one or even several verses to stake the gospel on for my actions and choices and ideals, what would it be? (It appears some of you have chosen the Ephesian passage for staking the gospel on for your lives.) This is really the core issue for me.

    The longer I live, and the more I experience the Word, the more I understand He is not contained in His entirety from the first word of Genesis to the last word of Revelation. He reaches to me, and says to stake myself in Him. It is on this I will know the Word. All else is as nothing. He has never, ever told me He is evaluating me on how well I am keeping this or that Biblical interpretation. He has always been about far more. Far, far more. And, ladies and gentlemen, I do love my Bible.

    While it hasn’t been your intention, Emily, to pose the question in terms of staking one’s gospel life on this or that passage with this or that interpretation, reading all of this has strengthened His voice to me that He is the Word. Thank you.

    • Linda Andersen

      well said.

  • CLS

    I appreciate the spirit in which this post was written, but it went off-track for me as soon as Emily related the “I am not your servant!” story regarding her and her husband. This doesn’t sound like an isolated incident. Emily, what kind of stress led to that cry for help (and equality)? Of course, it is not our business to pry into your personal life, and it is absolutely your decision how and when to express yourself, but a deeper study of that too-familiar story in the very beginning could be enlightening and liberating for everyone.

    • Abby Fahmi

      I don’t know Emily, and I cannot speak for her, but I feel like I want to answer you from my personal experience, because you raise a question a lot of women seem to want an answer to (from what I’ve read in other places and even in some comments here). I have a wonderful husband, and a good marriage, and yet at times, I get really really selfish about serving him and even my children. I think the “I am not your servant!” cry comes out of me when I am rebelling against God, not my husband, (I cannot rebel against him because he is not in control of me) and I don’t think it is always about stress, though it can be. Sometimes it is just about the fallen sin-nature trying to take over, at least that is my personal experience.
      And CLS, this part isn’t addressed solely to you, but I’ve been bothered by the reaction of some women who’ve assumed Emily is going through something bad, or that her husband is doing something wrong to her. Many people seem angry that she appropriated the stories of other women to make her point, and while that may have been the case, many are doing the same thing by jumping to conclusions about Emily’s personal life based on what she wrote here. I’ve thought long and hard, and wrestled with the stuff written on this page, what all the women and men have said, and I’ve come to the conclusion that no one’s got it exactly right, including myself.
      I disagree with Emily’s later comments on the roles of women and men, but I also disagree with those who feel the need to fight tooth and nail for their own equality in and outside the church and the home. I see where many (but certainly not all) women have begun to allow the root of bitterness to take hold in their dealings with men, especially pastors and church leaders, but I see where many women have also laid down and allowed themselves to be doormats to men because of their erroneous views on submission. As in all things in the church, equality and submission is a BOTH/AND proposition. We do a disservice to God by elevating equality above submission, and vice versa.
      If I am equal to men in the eyes of God, I submit because of that equality. If I submit, it doesn’t change my standing with God, except that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Submitting means I give up my right to be first, and in turn, God will honor that submission. Jesus made these statements in the gospels, and we dishonor him by ignoring them for our own selfish gain.

      • CLS

        Abby, I appreciate your thoughtful response and engagement. First, I want to be clear that I too am uncomfortable with the allegations that Emily may be suffering abuse. I believe her when she says she is not, and it is wrong for us to continue to press her on that.

        I had a multi-paragraph post written that I lost, but I’m glad, because it made me go back and read your words again. Something popped out at me… you mentioned service of children and not only service of husbands. This gives me some enlightenment and I’m glad you brought it up.

        Let’s think about serving our children for a minute. Obviously, this kind of thankless work can cause feelings of selfishness to rise up in us. But, just as obviously, it’s impossible for these feelings to be derived from submission, because our children do not control us. We are most definitely the authority figures there. Therefore, I agree with you that feelings of selfishness can arise even in relationships that have nothing inherently wrong with them and there’s no power battle occurring. In that case, “selfishness” may be felt because of stress, fatigue, or the simple fact that we’re sinful human beings.

        However, what worries me and many of the women here about the selfishness talk regarding husbands and wives, is that we think there’s a possibility that these wives may truly be put upon by their families (specifically their husbands) and may be chalking
        up their valid emotional reactions to sinful “selfishness.” Surely you can see the danger there—blaming oneself for someone else’s shortcomings.

        If I can use my own story to illuminate my perspective… I am married to a man who values women as equals. However, we were both raised in homes in which the male worked outside the home and the female was a homemaker until her children were well into their teens. Adding to this, my husband’s family was financially blessed enough to hire outside help for household tasks. Consequently, my husband is often oblivious to the amount of time and energy it takes to maintain a home, while I naturally fall into the pattern of taking
        charge of most domestic chores because of my mother’s example, despite the fact
        that my mother never worked outside the home and I work full-time like my husband. This pattern has led to several e-mails to my husband (e-mails being our preferred method of discussing controversial issues) asking him, essentially, to wake up and realize that his ignorance puts me under a lot of stress sometimes.

        I could write off my reactions and say that these e-mails were written in a spirit of selfishness; that I need to better develop a servant’s heart. But I can assure you that I was not being selfish; those messages were written after considering the facts and seeing clearly that I was doing more work than my husband and he was failing to hold up his end of the partnership. When I wrote, I allowed myself to express my frustration, but I never personally attacked my husband. I called him to realization and action. He has responded favorably to these messages, apologizing and trying to do better.

        This is what I worry about, Abby. That women in similar situations may be experiencing unfair treatment (not abuse—I reject that notion in yours and Emily’s cases) and instead of honestly expressing themselves to their husbands and reaching redemptive compromise, may be damaging themselves by accepting blame and soldiering on.

        • Abby Fahmi

          I think you’re absolutely right, and because I can only speak for my own situation, I would never tell someone else that they’re being selfish if they don’t want to serve or submit, especially if I didn’t know their whole situation (and maybe even if I thought I did). Selfishness is only one issue, and being treated unfairly IS a big deal in some homes.

          I think this subject is a REALLY BIG DEAL, not just as a woman, but as a Christian, and I hesitate to fall down on one side or the other of the equality/submission issue. Though I consider myself a feminist, I’m also all about diplomacy, maybe even to a fault. (I’m a middle child, can you tell?)

          • CLS

            Uncertainty is allowed. :) Be blessed as you continue this process of exploration. (I’m a flaming first-born–I’m sure you couldn’t tell at all.)

  • Katherine Willis Pershey

    You are truly a powerful writer, Emily, but I take such issue with this. I echo Rachel and Bethany’s responses, but actually feel most grieved by this: “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.” I understand that suicide is a profoundly deep and painful wound for families, but I also do not think it facilitates healing to propagate myths about suicide. Suicide is very closely associated with depression and mental illness, so to reduce this story to a morality tale about a willful (/feminist) woman who killed herself because she didn’t get her way is as irresponsible and spurious as many of the other claims in this essay that are receiving more attention.

  • Megan

    I really enjoyed this, thank-you. I always like your writing; it’s honest and challenging. I can relate to this because I have a tendency towards acting this way. And it’s not fair because the guys in my life who get it don’t deserve my petty behaviour, due to some perceived (but not actual) threat towards my identity. I won’t go into detail, but several of the points you made stood out, so thanks!

  • Theresa

    I believe many of you are reading way to far into this. It is a story…It is HER story. I didn’t come way with any disagreements after reading…why should I? Again, it is Her story. Many are trying to critique her heart…while Our Lord is understanding every bit of her heart. There is no need to make this something it is not …:)

  • Maria Perrine

    I think it is very brave of you to post this article here. I am struck by your honesty. As far as this discussion goes, I have nothing I would add…. it seems the topic is the proverbial dead horse and this has become a very loud space, indeed. Even as a wife and mother, I do not belong to any “camp” with regards to the issue of biblical submission. I have no horse in this race. I just wanted to say, ‘thank you’ for being brave and honest and willing to share something that you are learning/concerned about. What you left me with is something very important to ponder: servanthood.
    And even though I may be a feminist (in some circles, I guess… but I rebel against labels), I am afraid of them too, sometimes.
    May we not fail to see when the writing on the wall is intended for us.
    In Christ,

  • Laura Desch Johnson

    I would have to say that personally, this didn’t resonate with ME. Mainly because this ‘angry feminist’ thing hasn’t been my experience or struggle- in my own life and in what I generally see of the lives of the Christian women around me. At the same time, I know this attitude exists and I have no doubt some Christian feminists struggle with it. The call to remember that we are called to serve and love- regardless of our ‘rights’, is never a bad message.

    As for the story about the Lebanese woman, I didn’t take it as a mandate to stay in an abusive situation… (Though to be honest, I wasn’t sure HOW to take it or what exactly it was meant to show.) I think our tenancy upon hearing such a story is to buck at it, fearing that we are being told to stay in an abusive situation. I think that our natural response it to say that ‘it is always right to leave an abusive situation- anyone, anytime, anywhere’… but this woman’s story undermines such an absolute. I have to remind myself that our heart in every situation should be love for all involved and love for God. If this woman believing staying was the most loving thing at that point, I can not dismiss it. It’s also worth noting the cultural factors that might influence people’s decisions in this area.

    • Shaney Irene

      Just a quick point: the likelihood that the Lebanese woman stayed because she believed staying was the most loving thing to do is incredibly low. The reality both culturally and psychologically is that there’s a 99.9% chance that she either didn’t, or thought she didn’t, have a choice. I think that’s one of the reasons the story doesn’t make much sense in this piece.

    • CLS

      Laura, I appreciate your efforts to graciously understand this post. While I agree with many of the more fervent commenters who have identified the weaknesses in this piece of writing, I am hesitant to accuse Emily of anything worse than honest ignorance. I think you point out precisely the problem by saying, “I wasn’t sure HOW to take [the story of the Lebanese woman] or what exactly it was meant to show.” Emily has stated several times over that she didn’t mean for that story to be taken as a standard–however, when you use such a story as a prominent illustration, you ARE making it your message. I don’t think that story should have been used, period. There are many other narratives that could have more effectively and truthfully illustrated servanthood.

    • Desley Noneofyerbiz

      “I think our tenancy upon hearing such a story is to buck at it, fearing
      that we are being told to stay in an abusive situation. I think that our
      natural response it to say that ‘it is always right to leave an abusive
      situation- anyone, anytime, anywhere’”

      But that IS what abused women would hear. A little sensitivity when broaching the issue would go a long way. You simply do not engage women about servanthood using examples of abuse. This is reckless. If it was not intentional, I don’t see why an apology is out of the question.

  • Christina

    I spent yesterday mulling over all the comments on this piece, and several of my concerns have already been raised gracefully and eloquently by other commenters. However, there are still a few things left unsaid which I think are important.

    To the commenters who referred to Emily’s Lebanese friend’s “free choice” to stay with her husband, and who brought up Smith Wigglesworth and his wife: It seems disingenuous to speak of a woman’s “free choice” to stay with her abuser. Leaving an abuser is an extremely difficult and complex decision. Even in North America, where there are many social services available for victims of abuse, there are a lot of factors that conspire against a woman who contemplates leaving an abuser. Often, the abuser will have spent a long time convincing the victim that, as miserable as she may be with him, she would be worse off if she left him.* She stands to lose many of her friends, her reputation, and her church family. If she hasn’t had much experience in the workplace or job training, she may find the prospect of needing to provide for herself and her children daunting. The point is, leaving an abuser is hard even when you have a phenomenal support network. Those can be difficult enough to find in modern-day North America, let alone Lebanon or Victorian England (in the case of Wigglesworth’s wife). I don’t judge women who stay with their abusers. They’re in very difficult situations, and it often takes all their energy just to survive. I do, however, think it’s highly irresponsible to hold them up as an example, *even if* you post a disclaimer stating that not everyone has to (or should) do what they did. There are many reasons Emily’s Lebanese friend may not have felt free to leave her husband, and many of those reasons may not have been her choice. In her case, God seems to have redeemed that impossible situation, and we can praise Him for that, but I take exception to viewing this end as the result of her servanthood rather than His miraculous intervention. So many women do exactly what she did, for exactly the same reasons, and face a much more tragic end.

    Also, it’s worth pointing out that some (perhaps even many) men don’t stop abusing after they profess conversion to Christianity. Unfortunately, because of the higher status that churches often afford men (consciously or unconsciously), recent male converts often find themselves in positions of leadership and influence before anyone has truly taken the time to examine their character. They gain the admiration of the entire church, and all the while they continue to abuse their wife in private, except that now the church leaders she wants to turn to for help are all big fans of her husband. A dear, dear friend and mentor of mine went through this, and it was heartbreaking to watch the fallout. When she ran away out of fear for her life, the elders told her husband where she was hiding so that they could “reconcile.” She had to cut her ties with her church family of twenty years for her own safety, and he has now convinced them all that she was mentally ill and made up the accusations. Not all stories of lovingly serving abusive and unsaved husbands have a happy ending, even when the husband becomes a Christian.

    With all that being said, I am absolutely in favour of servanthood (within the crucially important context of mutuality) in marriage. When I read the article, I was prepared to defend what I thought was its underlying intent, but the author’s clarifications in the comments have caused me to reconsider. Instead, I’ll simply recommend Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s contribution to Rachel Held Evans’ Mutuality synchroblog for anyone who would like an egalitarian treatment of the importance of servanthood in marriage.

    *I realize that not all abusers are male and not all victims are female. I simply use these pronouns for the sake of convenience, since they apply in many cases.

    • Erin Adams

      This is a great comment, Christina!

  • Sarah Jones

    Reposting, since my original comment mysteriously disappeared: this is an absurd piece. If your article resembles my thought process when I decided to stay with an abusive boyfriend, something’s wrong with your article. You’ve been called out repeatedly by survivors of abuse and have yet to issue a substantive reply to any of them. You’ve been called out for blatantly poor exegesis, and haven’t responded to that, either. It’s altogether appalling, made particularly so because you don’t seem to understand the level of damage you’ve managed to wreak with this piece.

    • Ally Vesterfelt

      Sarah — the reason your comment was deleted was because of the tone. You have valuable information to share, but please see our comment policy and note that we have the right to remove rude or condescending comments from the site.

  • katietaylor

    I’m a doctor and my husband is a stay-at-home father. I am the breadwinner and he is the food maker and baby changer. We’d both have it no other way. We have a great relationship. But because of that, I make the financial decisions and he submits to them. Of course, we make the big decisions together, because I’m not secretive and want us to be together in decisions. But I’m really tired of Christians judging me for that. I went through ten years of schooling, and I am perfectly capable of running the family.

  • Ryan

    Emily, I think you really honour Jesus with this. As a Christian who wants to serve His (someday) wife and lead her in a way that glorifies God, this is really encouraging and insightful for me. I am thankful for you and for your article.

    • Sara

      I suggest you read some of the comments before you go praising this article, Ryan. Many women do not find it encouraging or insightful AT ALL and I doubt they’d want their husbands to take advise from it.

      • hannah anderson

        And yet, many other women DID find it encouraging. Please do read all the comments as you’ll find both opinions. I think this simply shows how much we carry our own presuppositions (both positive and negative) into what we read and hear.

        • Desley Noneofyerbiz

          how many abuse victims find it encouraging, I wonder?

          • hannah anderson

            Apparently the abuse survivor that worked with it through the editorial process didn’t have a problem with it. To quote Darrell’s comment from his follow-up post ( “In fact the editor who worked with this article is an abuse victim herself.”

            Again, I’m not saying it’s not a difficult subject, just that it is unfair to lay all the blame at Emily’s feet especially since not everyone (including abuse survivors)responded the same way to it.

            I’m not saying it couldn’t trigger a response from some who have suffered–simply that it didn’t trigger a response in everyone and so the problem can’t be laid solely at Emily’s feet.

        • Andrea

          Sorry Hannah, going to have to disagree. Just because some women don’t see the problem with this piece doesn’t change the fact that it is very problematic and women who are being abused likely have read it and it likely destroyed them. That is NOT okay.

          • hannah anderson

            I’m not denying that some people struggled with it, but it is the height of arrogance to presume that the struggle stemmed ENTIRELY from Emily’s writing and therefor SHE is the one responsible for THEIR response. We carry our own sensitivities into what we read and as much as we expect an author to take responsibility for theirs, we must take responsibility for ours.

  • Claire

    I will never understand the hatred that some segments of Christian culture have for feminism. Seriously, do we not all agree that domestic violence shelters are a good thing? Rape shield laws? Aren’t we all pleased that marital rape is now considered illegal? These wonderful protections were hard won for us by feminists, NOT the church, which, by the way, fought the passage of these things tooth and nail.

    I certainly would have liked to have access to some of these things when my nice complementarian father was raping me in my bed as a child. It also would have been nice if my nice complementarian pastor thought that his actions were horrific acts of injustice rather than some silly trifle of a thing-certainly nothing to break up a nice christian family over or ruin a nice christian man’s reputation!

    The feminist community works hard to make stories like mine never happen again. They work to make concrete help available for the vulnerable and the abused–you know, kind of like what the church should be doing. They value my voice and value me as a person–and not in that condescending “pat you on the head” way that the church values women. Feminist ideas truly saved my life when the church left me out to rot.

    For the last decade, the church has been hemorrhaging women members at a much faster rate than men. This is probably why.

  • Linda Andersen

    Emily -

    Your story on Tuesday touched me and have been pondering it ever since. It was profound and honest. Sometimes life invites us to sink deep into a truly authentic experience, and it is so full – so complete – it cannot touch the other sides. And it shouldn’t. Compromise weakens.

    As an unruly Christian feminist and rebel who’s lived an amazingly rich and diverse life, a former maid and servant to a horrifically abusive husband, and now a pastor’s wife to the most beautiful human being I’ve ever known, I think your story shared one of the most authentic and powerful experiences known to humankind.

    Saying it differently would have diluted it.

    A willing spirit and open heart allowed you to fully understand and experience the pureness of servanthood. And you didn’t leave the experience there because it’s politically incorrect. You shared it with us – with rawness and emotionally honesty.

    That’s the beauty of it!

    Those steeped in a shame-based or abusive marriage, still believing the lie they are to submit to a another human being who demeans or hurts them might misinterpret your story. I get that. It was clarified. You, on the other hand, made yourself vulnerable and shared what’s at the heart of being human and walking like Jesus.

    This is what we are called to do. In love.

    Perhaps the real lessons lie in how we define boundaries. (or even how we define the biblical term submitting to our husbands) Or how we stand up for ourselves while, simultaneously living a servant’s heart. It would be tragic if, in the name of defending our gender, we missed out on the profoundly powerful experience of full servanthood. That would be missing Jesus’ whole point.

    Life is complex and filled with contradictions. Why shouldn’t it be? Our entire spiritual paradigm and reality is one big polarity. Submission isn’t the issue. It’s how we define the word submission, and how we discern what is worthy of it that is. We must be vigilant in knowing what we are submitting to, and if it is in love or shame.

    Christian jargon can be convoluting. Words not fully understood, charged, or that have duplicate interpretations will break down trust, be misinterpreted, and can divide.

    I am the antithesis of a submissive wife. I’ve always hated the idea and the word because I’ve misunderstood it. The submission you referred to is actually simple kindness, love, and generosity of spirit expressed through a sincere, open, and vulnerable heart. Not an outcome of what’s expected of you, but the result of living the beauty and power of genuine, thoughtful, reciprocal love. This is more an experience, than a belief or value. I think that’s what you shared with us.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you friend. Thank you for understanding and valuing me.

  • Alicia

    Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

  • Beverley Molineaux

    Hi Emily, I have followed the comments section all week after reading your piece. I have so many thoughts but there have been many on here both women and men who have said what I would want to say far more eloquently. I have written my response on my blog.

  • Cheryl Anne

    I was totally tracking with you on this….no apology needed for me. I did not have any of the assumptions some made….I get it. No worries. Bless you. I appreciate your honest sharing, writing…and thoughts i fear for women too….it seems we have in so many ways lost our way….men and women both. Shalom.

  • Bethany Davidson

    Woman-Emily, how I love you! Thank you for leading our charge into positive change — into world-flipping love. We can’t sit back and wait for other(gender)s to start it. Jesus didn’t. That’s why we know love. And now that we know it, we’d better show it.

  • Osheta Moore

    Um…so… I lifted my hands and yelled, “yes!” at least five times while reading this post. Absolutely beautiful writing with such a timely and courageous message. I too, fear that we will lose the humility of Christ-like servanthood when we embrace the “girl-power” culture of feminism without balancing with with a deep respect and appreciation for our brothers. I believe this is what Paul is talking about when he says, there is neither male nor female in Christ, our respect, love, and servanthood extends past cultural identity, socio-economic status, and gender—our status as Kingdom people transcendes these worldly identifiers. We love and serve because Christ came, love, served, and died for our wholeness, our shalom. Thank you, sister for this brave and poignant post.

    • Dawn Turchin Samuels

      Osheta – wish I could ‘love’ your comment about 100 times!

  • Teralynn


    I understood what you were saying without having to add on to make sure everyone gets it. Just because you tell a story about someone else’s life doesn’t mean you’re saying that all women should be like this. It’s an example of how God works in mysterious ways. I don’t understand how some folks on here aren’t getting that. I guess if something’s dangerous to write its worth writing, right? They don’t know your relationship with your friend from Lebanon and therefore shouldn’t judge you for writing something you care about. I see a lot of condemnation about one piece of a whole, and I’ve struggled with servitude my whole life. I, like you, come from a long line of very willful women. But, God brought a very special woman in my life who shows me on a daily basis what servitude really means. I doesn’t mean you have to lose your voice!! It means you do things you don’t lie all the time, and have a conversation with your husband later and let him know how he made you feel and have a talk and pray together about it. That woman is my stepmother. She is without a doubt the woman God meant for my Dad. At first, my mom didn’t understand how my Stepmom could put up with my Dad and his cutting words. How she didn’t lash out at him when he was rude. Over time she’s realized that no, she doesn’t say anything right then and there but prays and talks to him later about what he said. Sometimes she just lets it go because she knows he’s under a lot of pressure right now trying to provide all that he can for his family. I say keep doing what you’re doing and keep your responses gracious. You’re doing great!!

  • Genelle Levy

    okay first off, what about Ephesians 5:21 did you not understand, and why are u so comfortable with females being weak and submissive? Did you not know that women being treated as inferior is the number one source of abuse? And just a note you’re not more righteous for stereotyping feminists as being mean, angry, aggressive people. You’re INSULTING for saying that feminists can’t be good wives. And why does “good”= weak, submissive, willing to settle for inferiority. Feminism is all about having a purpose girlfriend. Bringing justice for all people, women included is what Jesus did. So go back and read Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Corinthians 13 the Love chapter. Because I fear that your “false righteousness” is halting us from a larger purpose. Just to prove I’m not angry, just making a point I leave you with a few smile

    • Megan Fessenden

      Submissive is NOT a synonym with weakness. Just FYI. Emily never said women should be weak. Sometimes submission requires much greater strength.

      • Dawn Turchin Samuels

        Submissive means putting someone else’s needs before your own; we do that with our children a hundred times a day. Why is it so insulting to do it for our husbands?

        • Kristen Rosser

          Absolutely– and husbands likewise should put their wives’ needs before their own. The problem is a false dichotomy between either telling your husband “I’m not your servant!” or making your husband the master. There is a third alternative– being fellow-servants of one another, together.

  • Jason Wert

    Emily, your post was excellent and dead on. You did not condone abuse anywhere. You are being subjected to people like Rachel Evans with an agenda that is not God’s. Keep following the Lord and allowing Him to work in your lif.e

  • Carla

    I love this.

  • Anne

    Since everything else has been thoroughly covered…
    “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.”

    I’m not sure it was intended to be, but that is HILARIOUS.
    I guess if a couple chooses to live under strictly regulated gender roles, that really is the best option!
    (God forbid your husband put his dirty clothes in the washing machine rather than back in the closet.)

    In 18 years or marriage I’ve found that a little common sense and a little common courtesy render the Submission discussion practically moot.

    • Marie

      You know what? If she finds that helpful of her husband, who are you to tell her she’s wrong?

      • Dawn Turchin Samuels

        I say way to go! Maybe he’s crappy at doing laundry and turns all the whites pink. Maybe she’s super controlling about how the laundry is done and would prefer to do it herself. That is their issue and if putting his clothes back in the closet blesses her – so be it. At least he is not leaving his underwear laying all over the house – let’s give him kudos for that instead of being so critical.

    • Pam M

      After wading through all the important and interesting theological debates, I really needed this comment. As another middle aged reader with many years of marriage behind me, I could not agree more about the common sense, common courtesy, and that a little laundry goes a long way!

  • Angela

    Shame on you Emily. Take a punch in the name of Jesus is some major twisting of scripture.

    • psalm10434

      Please do not shame Emily. It is a shameful teaching, granted, but she deserves correction, hope and grace, not shame.

  • Suzie Lind

    I think you’ve done a good job of talking about the personal responsibility of women when it comes to the partnership we have with our husband. Mutual submission is only mutual when both parties are serving with a heart to be like Jesus and it seems what you are trying to say is that in our effort to become an equal partner, the pendulum of serving in love has swung too far in the other direction. I love what you said about spiritual leadership and spiritual responsibility. The Son of Man came to serve and not be served and yet He led like no one else has ever led… His spiritual leadership led to spiritual responsibility for us… with His death on the Cross and so our example in life and death is to serve. When leadership becomes bullying, abuse or hatred… that’s not spiritual leadership and that is not what God calls us to submit to. I love hearing your desire to make way for men to fill up our church pews and take that role of Godly leadership in partnership with their wives the way it was intended. That image has become so confused by our own confusion and our own mess of things. May God continue to give you courage and strength Emily to process the hard things with us.

  • Janet Oberholtzer

    I first read this article the day it was published… and I was so disturbed, anger and sad by it that I couldn’t even comment.

    I came back now hoping that you had edited the article. I see the updates, but that’s not enough. Acknowledging that someone has been hurt by something, but allowing the same thing to continue when you have the power to stop it, is a form of abuse.

    If a woman in an abusive situation, whether today or anytime in the coming years, comes across that article and decides that even if he “breaks her teeth” she needs to stay, then doesn’t this post become an accomplice to the abuse?

  • Kimberly Sullivan

    Oh Em….so beautiful. I love you.

  • Shannon

    Wow… this post really struck a nerve. Though I don’t agree with you, Emily, I do agree that some of the comments on here have been bullying at times and I feel for you.

    My primary concern is the posts re: suicide/mental illness. I can’t speak for Emily or her grandmother (obviously), but I do believe mental illness, as well as physical illness, can make one more selfish. If one continually feels emotionally down or is physically in pain, he/she wants whatever he/she believes will take that pain away. If I could only have this, if I could only have that, then I would be relieved from my suffering. (btw, I am not saying that Emily believes depression is only caused by selfishness).

    However, that being said, there are millions of people who don’t get their way (as well as millions of people who “sin”) who are not depressed, which begs the questions: why do some suffer traumatic experiences (war, abuse, death of a loved one) and “bounce back,” while others fall apart? Are soldiers with PTSD suicidal because they can’t get their own way? Why do people who have everything that they want get depressed? Why does medication work? Why do exercise and meditation work? Why does cognitive therapy work?

    Mental illness is more complex than any of us know and there are numerous causes. There are 100 billion neurons in the brain and 100 trillion synapses. We have physical diseases. Are we to believe that the brain cannot be diseased as well? Genetics play a huge role in mental illness, as does one’s family of origin environment, traumatic experiences, stress and exhaustion. Creatives and highly sensitive people tend to be more depressed than the general population. And, unfortunately, those who are depressed and anxious tend to make poor decisions that fuel the depression and anxiety.

    Regarding medication, my mother has a dear, Godly friend who suffered from postpartum depression years ago because her hormones were askew. She still takes a mild anti-depressant and probably will for the rest of her life. And you know what? My mother and her husband are the only people who know. Why? Because of the stigma.

    I avidly believe that if one has not suffered from mental illness – particularly severe depression and anxiety – and they are not experts in the field, they should refrain from sharing ignorant opinions. I know of a doctor (gynecologist) who told a woman to “be content.” Be content? Thank God she wasn’t completely past the point of hope. She might have thought, “I can’t be content. I can’t control this. Is that my only option?” Naive comments such as this only fuel despair.

    And, Emily, I can tell you are the sensitive, artistic type, as am I. Don’t be too hard on yourself… “I’m not your servant!” We all have bad days.:)

  • Susan M-H

    I am a believer and a feminist in my mid-40s. I have found
    over the years that women who are evangelical and “strong-willed” can sometimes
    end up with a guilt complex for their temperament, or perhaps there is real
    guilt for real sins toward their often gentler husbands. What goes wrong then
    is when these women become spokespeople for wifely submission—and assume that all
    women have the same temperament or temptations that they do. I have been
    preached at about submission by outspoken, highly gifted women who were using
    their gifts liberally but had adhered to the idea of submission to their
    husbands as though it were as sacred as the belief that Jesus died, resurrected
    and will come again. They knew nothing about my marriage but assumed I needed to hear the submission-gospel. Their strong adherence to wifely submission was based on their own temptations and temperament. My temperament is to serve and to cut those onions, so to speak. I am more likely to submit than not to, on any given issue, not only because of
    Christ-in-me but also because I am agreeable by nature. Submission is just not
    an issue for me; however, responding fully to Christ’s call on my life can be. I
    get distracted by serving others in ways I am not called to serve. And I do
    have a call that is separate from my husband’s. I hope that temperament and specific
    weaknesses can be taken into account here in this discussion. (And on the issue of supposed feminist anger toward men, note this study that shows that feminists tend to be less hostile
    toward men than non-feminists:

    Secondly, let’s talk about real examples here. Knowing when
    someone is submitting to Christ in a contemporary situation is not always very
    easy, especially when it comes down to one person’s needs or desires vs.
    another’s. How would you know when your husband is submitted to Christ? And how
    might all this look in a real situation? Now if you have a saint of a husband
    who nearly always puts your needs first, and it sure sounds like you do, this whole
    discussion at your house is probably a moot point—you’re right, repent for not
    cutting those onions! But for others, not so, not at all, and hence, all the
    reaction you’ve heard. Agreeable people who love Christ can easily find
    themselves in unjust situations, just like your dad did.

    And here is another important point: there is a heresy going
    around that says that Christ is subordinate to the Father, when Christ and the
    Father are of the same substance: they are one with each other and with the Holy Spirit, as the Holy
    Trinity. Take a look at this book to learn more about orthodoxy in relationship
    to husbands and wives: The Trinity and
    Subordinationism: the Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate, by
    Kevin Giles (IVP, 2002).

    I hope all this helps!

    • Mistie Holler

      I agree with you.
      “They knew nothing about my marriage but assumed I needed to hear the submission-gospel. Their strong adherence to wifely submission was based on their own temptations and temperament.”

      I used to go to a church that always talked about ‘accountability’ and how you had to constantly be accountable to another person for your actions, so you had to see this person once a week and tell them if you’d done anything or were prone to anything particularly sinful that you needed support and help with. The thing is, I know it was helpful to some people – the kinds of people who act before they think and don’t spend a lot of time on introspection and need someone else to help them with it- but others like me have an over-active, sensitive introvert’s conscience already and are constantly guilt-tripping ourselves and taking stock of our actions. We don’t need an accountability person to keep us ‘in line’, although possibly we need someone with a listening ear and an nonjudgemental spirit from time to time. Some people often need a keep-in-line message and others are better off hearing something about empowerment instead (even though I’d consider myself a feminist). Perhaps many people like you and I, the compliant ones, are drawn to feminism because it’s the message we feel as though we NEED to hear.

      • Tami

        I so agree Mistie Holler and Susan M-H. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. :)

    • Pam M

      This is very helpful. I LOVE that all these young adults are blogging and commenting about these important issues, but as a middle aged woman (late 40s as well) it is good to hear from someone else who has a longer perspective. I agree that part of the answer is that there is no one single black and white answer for every person or marriage. I was a competent and competitive girl/woman who my church tried to shove into a “stay at home mom” mold, so I have always balked at any submission message. Not that it matters, because my devout husband grew up in a mainstream church and would never even think to ask me to cut onions when he was cooking (in large part because he’s such a good cook), much less submit. In the end, we just keep keep figuring it out.

  • sandi

    I think Hannah Anderson’s response 10 days ago was perfect (in a nutshell: women are using the gender struggle to excuse our lack of servanthood; it is easy for us to push back in un-Christlike ways; and in our new found liberty, we forget that the whole point of Christian liberty is to serve others)… All the commenters who’ve gone on about how women are “empowered” today, or feminists just want equality, or jumped to the conclusion that this writer was somehow advocating women to stay in abusive situations – get a grip! The “real” (die-hard) modern-day feminists I’ve met, or know of, REALLY DO pretty much hate and bash men at every opportunity, altho’ that’s not how the movement started.

    For goodness sake, today’s men, especially straight white males, are getting the short end of the stick, especially in the workplace and on television. I’ve seen gay and minority men get away with stuff at work that a straight white male can be fired for in an instant. Women turn on them even if they nod nicely in their direction, calling it “sexual harassment.” And couples out in public? I see 95% of the women wearing the pants, like in TV commercials and those house-hunting shows, where the man is always the buffoon and always yields to the woman. We’ve completely emasculated our men.

    And straight white CONSERVATIVE/CHRISTIAN men? OMG. Why don’t we just take them all out and lynch ‘em and get it over with? The reverse intolerance, based on a few loud-mouth preachers who may say the wrong thing the wrong way, is getting ridiculous.

  • Jenifer

    Emily, I LOVE this article! So many women refuse to serve their husbands because the feel they are “not his servant!” But the truth is, God called us to serve. Jesus even served and we are to be like Him. We are to serve, even our husbands.

    Jenifer <3

    • Dawn Turchin Samuels

      Yes, I completely agree. And we, as women, can not use some men’s acts of disobedience to justify ours.

  • Heather

    I love your post. I really appreciate your honesty… And I’m sorry but I completely disagree with you Rachel. Woman are supposed to submit to their husbands. It is a command from God. As stated above: Christ does not submit to the church, but the church to Christ. And Christ and the church is GODS comparison to husband and wife. That doesn’t mean one is more “important” than the other. We just have different roles. I would never want my husband to submit to me! That is not the example I want to set for my sons.
    Sometimes my stubbornness wants to “do whatever I want” but then I remember God gave me my husband to lead our home, and he is responsible for us. And I trust God in that. I believe the Bible is clear on this.

  • Dawn Turchin Samuels

    I thought this was beautifully written and that it needed to be said. Women have been hurt by men – but we need to stop lumping all men into the ‘jerk’ category and treating them all as such. There are some – no many – amazing, kind, gentle, hardworking, men out there. When we spend so much time telling all men that they will never measure up – guess what we get? Men who will never measure up.

    I believe one reason we have so many angry men today is because they do not feel valued. We women have told them that they are not needed and that anything they can do we, as women, can do better. Men have an innate need/desire to provide and protect and to be respected. These are their core values – and when we refuse to allow them to provide and protect; when we constantly tell them what failures they are; when we refuse to respect them by serving and encouraging them – we take away their perceived value. We are hurting them – and in the end, we are hurting ourselves, our children and our relationships. Why should they try at anything that, in our eyes, will never be good enough?

    Yes, there are jerks out there. But let’s stop wasting our time and energies on them and spend some time encouraging and building up the men who are worthy of it. We will reap the benefits.

    • Map Forward

      If you are truly in contact with that many evil women and that many amazing kind, gentle, hardworking men who have so little strength and intelligence that in the face of these women all they can do is get angry and fail,maybe you need to change churches, or social groups. With so many good women and strong Christian men out there, it just seems like a harsh and unnecessary situation to keep yourself in.

  • Jean-Andree’ Roberts

    Wonderful article.

  • Jean-Andree’ Roberts

    WWHD – What Would Hosea Do

  • Natasha Metzler

    I hear your heart.

    And I pray with you-
    may we all learn to serve more.

  • Lauralee Moss

    What a horrible message to send into our society. Males and females are equal. To think otherwise is to ignore history. Please think about what message you are sending- that different anatomy parts makes for one group to be servants.

    If you want to serve God, fine. Serving a man because he’s a man? Please.

  • Rachael

    Emily, thank you so much for this post. It speaks directly to what I have been thinking about lately. I have been reading a good bit about the Jesus-Feminist movement, and it has been making me so angry in a self righteous kind of way, causing me to ignore all the wonderful aspects of my husband and all the incredible ways he loves our family. Thank you for the reminder that, as Christians we area all called to be servants and to be a part of something greater than ourselves. I loved reading about how your dad changed when your mom treated him differently. As women, we have such power over how we make our husbands feel. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Wangechi

    Wow, profound article!

  • Susan M-H

    I wrote a piece on my blog Jesus and Gender Justice that some may be interested in, entitled “Jesus’ Expectations of Married Women”:

  • Kevin

    Great read. Amazing thoughts. Glad church for men put the link up

  • Jane

    Never has someone so completely missed the point of feminism, or so purely projected her own personality flaws on an entire gender.

  • saa

    Oh my goodness. What a lovely post. Deeply thought and expressed so well. So sweetly expressed.

    I also came from a line of unsubmissive women. Not a pleasant home–one where the woman rules and the man allows it. Not pleasant at all. Not what God meant it to be. Not a place where love flourishes. A place of constant strife and bitterness. Because neither party is submitting to God and doing what God called him/her to do.

  • Elisabeth M

    About the abusive relationship you cited above. After reading what you wrote, as well as many of the comments in response to it, and your responses to those comments, I feel there’s something very important that’s gone unsaid.

    That woman whose teeth were broken by her husband? who continued serving him? whose husband eventually converted to Christianity? That is not the end of her story. The reason it’s “downright irresponsible” to use this story as your example is this: it is extremely unlikely that her husband stopped abusing her after his conversion. That is not the way abuse works. Abusers change VERY RARELY. It’s remarkably easy to continue abusing after becoming a Christian – even an upstanding, passionate, Jesus-proclaiming Christian. This is the problem, there is so much misinformation about abuse out there, and abuse is so unbelievably common, even in our own society – i.e., real, debilitating, isolating, soul-breaking abuse – that unless you’re willing to devote an entire blog post to dealing with that topic with intention and responsibility, you shouldn’t bring it up. Find a different example. Other examples are out there.

    For more information, please check out what Lundy Bancroft has to say on the subject. Look for his lectures on YouTube, and read _Why Does He Do That?_. Given how common and invisible abuse is – honestly the scale of it is shocking – I absolutely include these sources on my “required reading” list, for everyone.

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