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.
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".