Monthly Archives: September 2011
We love to marvel at how amazing the human brain is. We are amazed at how much it grows from birth to age 5. Even a brief study of cognitive or neural development will teach you that the human brain doesn’t fully develop until our early 20’s. The very last thing we can physically access is a group of functions known as the ‘executive functions’. Delay of gratification, impulse control, etc.
We know those abilities aren’t physically accessible to our toddlers and pre-schoolers but do we treat them like we know that? I get especially frustrated watching a child be hit for not being able to control themselves. What part of that is not abuse? We know a child can’t do it, we know they physically lack the capacity, but we expect them to control themselves and hit them when they don’t.
Well, some of us do. Some of us don’t. I’d much rather teach my child gently. With love, with compassion, and with patience. Anyone who has spent time around a child can tell you that sometimes they get it. Sometimes. And in those moments, we celebrate together.
Romans tells us this: Romans 12:15-16 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
There is a note saying that being associated with people of low position also means being willing to do menial work. Either translation is appropriate here.
I have no problem humbling myself to do the menial tasks of teaching my child over and over. I have no problem getting down on her level to help her understand, and help her make a plan for next time. If I seem simple, so be it. I’m am not so proud as to hit a child for the sake of maintaining the right image. This idea that we as Christians have to spank to be accepted as godly parents has to stop.
Lately I’ve been working through the idea of submission as it relates to marriage. I’m pretty sure my husband and I have looked at this before, but neither of us can remember the conversation or what decision we came to, so it’s probably time to revisit.
Luckily, we don’t have unresolvable conflicts. At least not yet.
To start: Ephesians, since that seems to be where the most controversial verses are. Specifically, Ephesians 5:22-24
When I read verse 22 (Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord) I get a face-value understanding that my husband is in charge. But immediately, that doesn’t make sense to me. As Christians we’re called to be continually seeking God’s will in EVERYthing that we do. Would submission to my husband in that way require seeking his will in EVERYthing that I do? From a practical sense, that’s unreasonable. I can’t seek hubby’s counsel for each and every decision. From a theological sense, that’s inconsistent with the idea of God’s singular authority. Right? In Matthew 6:24 Christ himself says that no one can serve two masters without loving one and hating the other. I suppose I don’t have a direct biblical command to love my husband, but I’m pretty sure the concept is covered under things like ‘love thy neighbor’.
I wonder if the reason God chose to directly address wives and direct them to submit stems from the garden. Part of the curse was that Eve (and all the subsequent bearers of XX) would wish to dominate her husband. In the Greek, the word submit doesn’t actually appear in verse 22. According to a former pastor of mine the literal translation is ‘wives, also to your husbands’. The verse is referring to the verb from the previous sentence -verse 21. Ephesians 5:21 says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Paul intended for verse 22 to be a reiteration of verse 21. We are all called to submit to one another. The instruction was repeated with specific direction to wives because we would be especially resistant to submission within a marriage.
For me, the key concept that pops out at me when I read Ephesians 5:21-22 is that we are all called to be submitting to each other, wives to husbands and husbands to wives. Also, brother to brother, friend to friend, etc.
Verse 23 says this: “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.” Someone once told me that the word translated as head is also used when referencing the headwaters of a river. So, from that perspective, the verse could read ‘For the husband is the source of the wife as Christ is the source of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” That sounds like a retelling of the Genesis story. God made man then God made woman out of man. Simple. And, a reminder of the curse that gives wives special trouble with that whole submission thing.
Verse 24: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Again, I see Paul referencing the idea of the church submitting out of reverence for Christ, and women not forgetting that their husbands are included in that. I still don’t see anything that would indicate that a woman’s submission is different than a man’s, or that a wife’s submission to her husband is different than her husband’s submission to her.
The church is the body of Christ. We are to be emulating Him and doing the things he asked us to do (feed, clothe, visit – remember?). One thing Christ has asked of us is to submit to one another. Ephesians 5:21 And since this section, which immediate follows that verse, actually uses a grammatical structure that requires us to go back and re-read that verse before we can understand 22-24, I believe what Paul is saying to wives is an extension of verse 21. Paul is trying to help wives to understand that the submission of all to all is also a part of our marriages. But I don’t see anything to indicate that a wife is called to submit in a way that husbands aren’t.
Now, I’m not saying that this perspective is correct (yet) and I’m not interested in basing my theology on hearsay and my own random inklings, but when a simple, consistent, straightforward answer is available, it’s the one I tend toward. I prefer simplicity. And this idea seems simpler and more consistent than the idea that wives submit differently than their husbands.
Because this post is getting long and a full discussion of this topic would require books and because I have one very sad baby and another I should be waking from nap, I’ll have to go now. I’ll be working working on this topic for a while and be back to write more soon.
Some of us who evangelize Attachment Parenting have sinned. We too quickly villify all parents who spank as angry or cold or heartless.
In reality, human experience can’t really be summed up into neat ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ categories. I’m not one to say that all moral issues are simply relative to their culture, nor am I saying that my definition of right and wrong should be legislated onto the masses. But using inflammatory rhetoric to further polarize people is useless. What’s more, it actually hinders any meaningful or productive conversation.
In the abortion debate, we call all pro-choice voters or sympathizers baby-killers. Which is a far cry from the truth: people who vote pro-choice do so because they disagree with pro-life voters about when life as a human begins. We know that the ‘life cycle’ starts at conception, but we disagree about when the spark, the essence of personhood, is passed into physical flesh. Instead, baby-killer.
I have recently (over the past year or two) come to be aware that birth control pills have a secondary mechanism that inhibits an already fertilized egg from implanting. I am not ok with that. I think that once an egg is fertilized is too late to prevent or end a pregnancy. But I was on the pill for 8 years before I knew anything about this secondary mechanism. Does that make me a baby-killer?
If, at any time while I was on the pill, you had walked up to me and called me a baby-killer then tried to inform me of the pill’s effects on an already fertilized egg, I’d have written you off as a nutjob and never thought twice of the encounter. Because name-calling, and other inflammatory tactics, do not help a discussion or help people to learn.
So why then do we insist on dividing parents into ‘spankers’ (i.e. heartless, angry monsters) and ‘permissive’ (children in control)? There is just no way to divide up all of parenting and discipline into those two (or any two) categories. It doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way. But we insist.
We insist because parenting is vulnerability. Our decisions are judged by (potentially) everyone we or our children encounter. What’s more, most of us are trying to create something completely new, while simultaneously put the new theory into action, and we’re doing it in front of everyone. Most of us are changing some things that our parents did. Most of us are incorporating a spouse’s background and opinions. Plus, we’re reacting to a dynamic human being who has his or her own opinions. Especially on our first ride, we’re making it up as we go along. The parents who did things we didn’t like? WATCHING. The moms who are doing things a different way? WATCHING. People who may one day become parents? WATCHING.
So we draw lines in the sand. Even if I do it wrong, at least I’m on the right side. Even if my child isn’t a poster child for my parenting style, at least I’m playing for the right team. That sounds like pride to me. And insecurity. Both things I could do with a little less of in my life.
My NIV doesn’t have John 5:4. But the story doesn’t make the same sense without it. There’s a whole new level when you add in WHY the people came to this pool. I don’t know why some manuscripts have this verse and others don’t. But, I keep this index card tucked in my bible to remind me that there is some human element in the bible. God is big enough to protect His Word. But somehow, we play a role too. I don’t understand it. Not fully. Not yet. Because there is also 1 Corinthians 13:12.
This verse comes in a part of scripture calling for unity in the church. Not just a group of people that attend a service in the same place at the same time, but the whole church, all of Christ’s followers. That includes my children, I think. either I baptized them at birth so they are officially members of the body of Christ, or they are unbaptized, relying on God’s grace. Either way, I suppose I count them as part of the fellowship of believers. And even if they weren’t, this still sounds like behavior I should apply to everyone.
One of my main goals is to raise my kids to be Christians. Fellow believers. Complete humility, gentleness, and patience is crucial to that mission.