Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Paradoxical freedom

My friend Carla and I were having another one of our "so this is life and truth" discussions, and I decided I would blog about it.

We were both raised in the 1970's and early 80's, and like almost everybody, we unquestioningly ingested some of our culture's values, some good, some anti biblical. Those particular teachings can be very costly. So I am attempting to write, in the current vernacular, something that the Bible teaches.

"They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters, if you do what is right and don't give way to fear."
1 Peter 3:5-6

I guess many women in this day and age struggle with dismissing this verse as being antiquated, and think,"For then, certainly not for modern times." We aren't going to find encouragement to be submissive to your husband out in the world. It's become almost a hidden truth.

The first and most obvious objections to submission would be, "I don't want to be controlled. I am my own person."
Or, "He doesn't have the wisdom to lead me." I could think of more objections, but, my point is that I understand that this is a hard and counter-intuitive concept.

But, if you will allow me to put it in a nutshell, so as to make it more understandable in this day and age, I'll teach it like this:

What do we women crave? Security, peace, freedom from fear, our husband's admiration. The world teaches that we should go our own way, even in marriage, and that rob us of all , of the aforementioned desires.

How can following an imperfect man, who can lead me where I don't want to go, be God's plan for me? I mean, why did God bother giving me a personality, if it was going to boil down to this? (For the record, I am not talking about an abusive, dangerous man. In those circumstances seek help, shelter, wisdom.)

God knows what we need, and he knows how to give it to us. But, first we must realize that His ways are higher than our ways, that he often works in unexpected ways, and that His wisdom always sounds like foolishness to our natural minds. Those things alone explain our dilemma!

So, what does it look like, what happens when we take God up on that particular verse?

Well, first of all, submission begins with some sort of conflict of interest or disagreement.
I mean, otherwise there is agreement and therefore no need to submit. We're already doing as we wish.
So suppose your authority figure wants something you don't. What of your hopes, dreams, and desires? God said we'd be Sarah's daughters if we didn't give way to fear.
So, we can rest on the fact that the Word acknowledges that we'd face fear at this juncture. Of course, we cannot imagine how God could create harmony and work a thing out for our good, when all we can see is the fact that we're walking a road we certainly would not have chosen.

That's where many of us drop off. And that, friends, is giving way to fear: the fear that God can't or won't work it out or that we don't matter to God --that he's somehow forgotten us.

This is a difficult subject to distill, but in the movie, Braveheart, William Wallace modeled the needed attitude best, "The Almighty already knows I want those things." What spectacular trust! What faith in God's ability to do anything, and work anything out, even when we don't see a way.

We can say the same thing! When we're following our husband's leadership, and it perplexes us, of course we can speak up! Submitting doesn't mean you can't share your ideas. It means that in God's established order for the household, the husband has the last word. If you've shared your concerns with God and with your husband (after all, you are in a relationship), how can you be sure that this isn't the road to fulfilling those desires? God often uses the unexpected. (See Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. See fishermen becoming fishers of men. See his incarnation coming in the form of a lowly infant.)

How can we keep from giving way to fear? One way that works for me is to realize, that in times of following in submission, I have to look beyond my husband's back and unto whatever the Lord is doing through these circumstances. God is already working in that situation, and we can have confidence in him by remembering what Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Remember that marriage is an earthly depiction of God's image and that Jesus, himself, submits to the Father. A great picture of this is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus dreaded and despised what laid right ahead of him in his execution. He pleaded with the Father that that cup be removed from him, but he also knew the wisdom of submission and the utter trustworthiness of God, so he said, "Nevertheless, not my, but thy will be done."

Where would we be now if Jesus would have given way to fear? The word says he was tempted in every way, so it's a safe bet that he was tempted to fear. Jesus' trust of the Father, led to death at the moment, but ultimately to a resurrection and gloriously, to our redemption.

My point is, We may feel a petite death when we're going against the grain of our personal preferences. But, God can move in unimaginable ways. He can bring a thing about, and he can purify our desires. Obedience can lead to life and freedom and into knowing God better. I'm learning to look beyond the authority figure, to the one who placed him in authority. I can also now say that I'm grateful for the challenges of faith presented to me thus far. They can be hard to live through, but they bear such priceless fruit.

One neat outcome? You get to see God work in a way that you couldn't have forseen. Your trust in him increases, and then the next disagreement doesn't seem quite as frightening. You'll know to look beyond the immediate and even become excited about what God could be doing in that circumstance.

The paradox? The very fearful circumstance becomes the vehicle that helps increase our sense of security. Our husbands appreciate our respect and our quiet trust in God and it becomes a means of building them up, as well.

I share this because it's freedom. And because I really haven't heard much relatable teaching on this subject.

Be blessed.

We can't do it in our own strength, but we don't have to. God helps us through.