Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wise Words for Women: "Riding in Tandem"

Today is our spot in the week where we leave you with some words of wisdom as we seek to discover and recover in our lives what it means to be women who live according to God's Word.

Today's wise words come from Noel Piper and are particularly addressed for those who are married, though not exclusively. As I said to a friend the other day: 'I wish someone shared with me these things when I was single and contemplating marriage'.

Noel describes her musings as "random lessons," they are, in essence, thought provoking and full of wisdom as we seek to ride in the tandem of marriage.

John & Noel Riding in Tandem

"Sunscreen on, helmets buckled, pedals in sync, and we were on our way. After a few minutes, Johnny called over his shoulder, “You’re doing pretty well for your first time on a tandem.” Without a thought, I replied: “I guess all these years of marriage have been good practice.”

Here are some random lessons learned last week riding along the Cannon Valley Trail behind my husband on a bicycle built for two:
  • If I throw my weight around, we wobble and swerve.
  • My initial “seasickness” eases when I quit resisting and let him lean the bike into curves and turns in the path.
  • I often feel as if I’m not really adding much to the effort. But I must be doing my part, because if I lift my feet, he feels it and asks, “Are you still there?”
  • My instinct is to press harder on the pedals to make sure I’m carrying my share of the load. But when I do, he says, “Slow down. Don’t push me so fast.”
  • Looking over his shoulder, I can see a lot of what he sees, but not what’s immediately in front of us. Good thing he’s the one steering, braking, and changing gears. On the other hand, I’m more free to look around and point out the mile markers and the turtles basking on a log.
  • I can’t brake or steer, but I do have the power to stop the bike and ruin the ride. If I stand still on the pedals and refuse to move, he can’t make them turn.
  • I love it when we’re on level ground and using a gear that sets a slow, steady pedalling that surges us forward. But I need warning when he changes to a setting that requires fast foot strokes. When I’m caught off guard, my feet are slung from the pedals and it’s a trick to get them back in place without snarling the progress up a steep hill.
  • When I realize I’m gripping the handlebars, I have to remind myself, “Let go! You’ve always wanted to ride ‘no hands.’ Now you can!”
  • When I’m ready to turn back, he’s aiming for one more mile marker. When I’m ready to finish easy, he says, “Let’s see if we can beat our record.” With that kind of encouragement, I do what never would have happened if I’d been on my own.
  • Near the end, when I see one more hill, I open my mouth to say, “Let me off. I’ll walk up.” Then I realize how foolish we’d look, me plodding alone and him trying to keep the bike going by himself. So I shut up and keep pedaling.
  • And I discover that, when we pedal together, impossible inclines become possible.
Perhaps the 19th century songwriter was wiser than he knew when he created a marriage proposal that said, “You’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.” It makes me think of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
Words as these in our world today are regarded as less than wise, more like foolish. Why in the world would we want to submit to anyone, never mind our husbands? 'Submission' is a bit of a 'dirty word', it implies that one party is lesser in worth than the other, inferior. And yet, when we close our ears to what the world tells us and open our eyes and read God's word, the concept of submission in God's economy is far from negative.

God's word instructs us in Genesis 1:26 that God made male and female in his own image. Therefore, men and women enjoy equality of personhood, dignity and worth. With regard to our status before God, there is no hint of superiority or inferiority.

This is not to say that men and women are made exactly the same. One of the ways in which God has designed women is to reflect that equality of personhood in a different way from men. God has made us to be "suitable helpers" (Genesis 2:20) and men to take on a leadership role. When both men and women step up and embrace their true masculinity and femininity, as designed by God, "they will be truly fulfilled and God's creational wisdom will be fully displayed and exalted" (John Piper).

When the world tells us that equality cannot be sustained with an order of leadership and submission, we must consider anew not only what God's word says, but how Father, Son and Holy Spirit reflect this truth perfectly. Bruce Ware writes:
"The structure of authority and obedience is not only established by God, but it is, even more, possessed in God’s own inner Trinitarian life, as the Father establishes his will and the Son joyfully obeys. Therefore, we should not despise, but should embrace proper lines of authority and obedience. In the home, believing community, and society, rightful lines of authority are good, wise and beautiful reflections of the reality that is God himself…we need to see not only authority but also submission as God-like."
This is not only reflected in the life of God, Christ himself examples for us what true leadership and submission looks like. Jesus Christ displays for us the right way to lead and the correct way to submit.

The bible therefore instructs us clearly in three ways. Here I am summarising from Wayne Grudem's book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth:

1. It corrects the errors of male dominance and male superiority that come as a result of sin.

2. As men and women who are equal in God's sight, no-one should feel proud or superior because he is a man, and no-one should feel disappointed or inferior because she is a woman.

3. When men and women do not listen respectfully and thoughtfully to each other, do not value the wisdom that might be arrived at differently and expressed differently from the other, or do not value the other's different gifts and preferences as much as their own, they neglect the teaching on equality in the image of God.

Let's ponder these truths anew, taking them into our lives and marriages, that we might reflect God's design for us as men and women, embracing his design as "very good".

10 comments:

Keziah said...

I love that! That is so clever! I will need to remember that story if I get married. It's a wonderful picture of how marriage should and was designed to be.

DanielC said...

Please help me to understand how a man and woman become one, are equal but one has leadership over the other. To me the concept of oner person submitting to another just doesn't make sense. Even though it isn't said straight out women who come into christianity are forced to take on a form of slavery because they don't have a "covering". Why does a woman need a covering if Jesus is her Saviour and ultimate fulfillment and her priest. Why does a man have to stand in any stead as her preist when Jesus made it possible for all of us to have a direct line to the Father. Is saying the man of the relationship is the priest of the household not imposing a defered type of religion that says you cannot approach a relationship with God unless you give up your life and your dreams for this one man because he is your lifeline to God? Is it not better to take the approach that yes we are equals and walk through this together, submitting to each other equally out of love for one another realizing that both of us have been created with gifts, talents, and abilities that add to eachother for a better whole rather than one individual being the bearer of the full weight of responsibility? Please I'm not trying to attack your perspective these are questions I would really like someone to answer. The concept of being equal but not being equal just doesn't make sense. My email is Makehimknown@hotmail.com if you would like to continue this discussion that would be great.

DanielC said...

Please help me to understand how a man and woman become one, are equal but one has leadership over the other. To me the concept of oner person submitting to another just doesn't make sense. Even though it isn't said straight out women who come into christianity are forced to take on a form of slavery because they don't have a "covering". Why does a woman need a covering if Jesus is her Saviour and ultimate fulfillment and her priest. Why does a man have to stand in any stead as her preist when Jesus made it possible for all of us to have a direct line to the Father. Is saying the man of the relationship is the priest of the household not imposing a defered type of religion that says you cannot approach a relationship with God unless you give up your life and your dreams for this one man because he is your lifeline to God? Is it not better to take the approach that yes we are equals and walk through this together, submitting to each other equally out of love for one another realizing that both of us have been created with gifts, talents, and abilities that add to eachother for a better whole rather than one individual being the bearer of the full weight of responsibility? Please I'm not trying to attack your perspective these are questions I would really like someone to answer. The concept of being equal but not being equal just doesn't make sense. My email is Makehimknown@hotmail.com if you would like to continue this discussion that would be great.

Anonymous said...

equating role and order with personhood is a result of fallen human being's skewed value judgements. Supposing that one's station in life let's say, a janitor at XYZ Inc, is not equal in value as a human being with the president of said company because of the janitor's role, both in function and order, links one's worth to one's role rather that to God's image in that person.

Thinking this way seems to be popular but may unwittingly express a new form of class ranking and therefore destroy the very thing it hopes to accomplish namely, equality.

For example, if I am stopped for speeding by a police officer whose role includes the authority to write a charge against me and I conclude that because the officer has this position and excercises authority over me that I am inferior or made inferior by the officer's role, then have I not violated the principle of equality by supposing that positon or role has inherent value that trumps personal value? Thus rather than equality being achieved in the absence of roles and position a new classism emerges. Equality of personhood is rooted in origin not in function. Attaching equality to function demeans any person whose role is or seems servant to another.
God's gifts are given according to His purpose to whom-ever He chooses. This in itself might be construed as inequality if we fail to see that gifting and position do not address the question of equality. "Many who are first will be last" Jesus said, "and the last first" (Matt. 19:30). The value of every person is intrinsic and unrelated to their earthly position, privilege or ability.

DanielC said...

I don't disagree with worth or self value, but one can't help but see that the way this is done as saying the male is the dominant one over the female tends to take away from the value and self worth of that individual. One other question I have why does one fallen gender have authority over the other? Though there are many arguments for males saying they are built for leadership are their not just as many arguments to prove that they are not? Males are more prone to violence than women. Males are more prone to sexual deviences than women. Men are more prone to selfish pride then are women. Men are more prone to anger and short temperedness then are women. If you look at it that way one could argue that women are more suitable for leadership then men are. Women have a much greater natural draw and desire to nuture and patience than men do. Women listen better due to their emotional keeness. Women are phenomenal teachers, why aren't they allowed to be pastors is a good question on that point. The arguments for natural selection are very flawed and just don't hold up under scrutiny.

In regards to submission, what is the standard of submission? This concept has been very strongly abused. To what level is any woman supposed to submit? Her very conciousness, her daily decisions, what she wears, who she talks to, what she eats? If a woman isn't married and doesn't go to church who is she supposed to submit to? What about single mothers that work 40 hour work weeks that raise 2 to 3 children on their own when the "man" walked out with another woman. How do you tell that woman who has learned to be the "authority" whenever she does get married again or for the first time that she has to give up her right to make personal decisions because her life is now fully based on another human being's choice for her? These are practical issues I do not believe are addressed by this teaching on submission for women. The american culture is so far from this to enact it is as a form of slavery.

In biblical history it is understood for women to be asked to submit to their husbands based solely on one thing, education. Women of that era were not allowed to have any sort of formal education, it was given only to the males. These were women who were subject to men that treated them harshly for selfish reasons because that is what the culture said for them to do. Now take those same women, uneducated and without any other hope but for marriage and child rearing and place them for the first time in church services when they are finally hearing about the gospel and the word of God. How can you not expect them to ask questions and in any other area of life start to seek out what life can give them. Any new freedom can bring chaos to any social structure, so what is the best thing to do maintain that social structure, atleast until it matures to a better point, which we now have, so that peace is maintained and the image of what is trying to propogated, namely the gospel, is not maligned by bad behaviour, namely uneducated women who were tasting freedom for the first time because of the message of the gospel.

Women today are far beyond being educated. Today we leave in what we call the information age. I find it amazing that we put our daughter in school to train them for life then when it comes time to release them into the world we basically tell them to forget everything they have learned because they are supposed to surrender their lives, their dreams and aspiration into submission of a man's life and his dreams. It makes no sense whatsoever. I believe this whole concept is cultural but in our culture just does not apply.

Glennsp said...

Danielc you said

"Males are more prone to violence than women." Debatable, you tend to hear more about violent men

"Males are more prone to sexual deviences than women." Debatable in this day and age

"Men are more prone to selfish pride then are women." You have got to be joking. Selfish pride is spread equally across the sexes

"Men are more prone to anger and short temperedness then are women."
Not where I come from!

"If you look at it that way one could argue that women are more suitable for leadership then men are." Except that your point is not proven, far from it.

It is also too easy to pick on extremes of unacceptable behaviour, whereas why don't you talk about the non violent men, the non deviant men, the calm patient men?

Also you really could do with checking your facts before sounding off. No one is saying the the man is the priest. The Bible doesn't say it and in fact the only people who I have ever come across claiming it or talking about it are those who are anti in the first place and clutching at straws. Claiming anything and everything just as long as it sounds bad

Amy said...

It's always tempting to rely on intellect or rationale to determine the "reasonableness" of an idea (like the submission of women). However, the people of God are recipients of a great gift--the definitive, authoritative Word of God. Although we may find certain truths difficult to accept, we worship a God whose ways and thoughts are higher and always better than ours. When He assigns a special position to women as "helper," it is not so that men everywhere can have a power trip. It is for our good and for the crafting of a unique picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. And the leadership of Christ is defined by His loving sacrifice on behalf of His Bride. Oh, for grace to conform more closely to His image!

Anonymous said...

As a cyclist I really enjoyed Noel's analogy with the tandem story. But as I read I also remembered Romans 12:3 in which Paul tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought and I believe basically said we need to regard ourselves in the context of the strength of our faith given to us by God's grace. When I think that way I don't think of myself in the context of my "role" or "position" I think of myself as an equal child before a shared and loving Father. The danger is in discerning when we are submitting to false authority. Women rightfully approach the idea of submission with caution because they've so often been abused and misled not only by husbands who themselves had not submitted to God's authority but also by pastors in churches teaching with a goal of control and manipulation rather than the right goal of setting people free.

Catriona said...

Sorry that as yet we haven't responded to these comments, but we've been too busy to take time out to address the issues raised. We will post on this hopefully sometime next week.

Anonymous said...

Where did you get the Bruce Ware quote?