In our younger years, marriage held great promise; the skies were blue, the sunsets golden. We had worked together to meld our individual strengths and weaknesses into a loving union, strong and secure. We were team members who were in love, who attended church every Sunday and who had never heard about how God wanted us to relate to one another in marriage. Nor could we see clouds looming on the horizon.
When my husband retired, we moved to a new locality and joined a church where the pastor said Adam was born first; therefore the man should be the leader. “This implies that a husband’s leadership is his God-given right,” the pastor said. In addition, he reminded me that the Bible says the wife is to be submissive. I can remember feeling submerged in guilt because I had not heard about these biblical injunctions before. And so I determined to step back and become quiet and submissive. Although I felt demeaned and worthless, I contritely waited for Ernest to take leadership of the home, the children and myself.
As a result, Ernest felt “pushed” into additional responsibilities he had formerly trusted me to handle by myself. Furthermore, he was angry that our team-based marriage was so unacceptable to a minister of God. It was a dark period of confusion for us. Each of us was miserable and silently wondered, “If the Bible is God’s Word, and he loves us, why is biblical submission failing to build our marriage?”
Then we remembered that Jesus had said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and after a period of time, it occurred to us that this is how we loved each other—that when my husband attempted to be in charge and I attempted to be subordinated, neither of us felt loved. We were so disturbed by what seemed to be God’s commands (they were, after all, Paul’s inspired words in the Holy Bible) that together we set about searching the Scriptures to see if Jesus, Paul and Peter really intended headship and submission for husbands and wives.
At this time, God providentially provided for us the work of CBE’s theologians and language scholars. We shall forever be grateful to God for CBE. Those studies offered legitimate facts pointing to a need for careful scrutiny of any word in Scripture that seems inconsistent with God’s image of love and mutuality. One by one, CBE scholars persuaded us that the troublesome words such as “head,” “silent” and “authority” could have been better translated by choosing words fully consistent with the big picture of God’s love and intended mutuality as it is found throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
Rays of hope for justifying our plea for equality began to lighten the heaviness within us. Just as God inspires the songbirds to sing with the morning sunrise, so we sing and rejoice that God is light – that husband and wife are of equal worth in the Father’s eyes.
With the help of studying the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible, we found convincing evidence in favor of God’s design for equality in marriage. Particularly in the words of Paul and Peter it became clear to us that a new life of agape love for both husbands and wives was their heartfelt message. When Christ came, he carried away forever the headship baggage of hierarchy.
These facts, plus our own journey back through the Scriptures, restored self worth and harmony to our marriage. Subsequently a book titled Shared Love became available through CBE. Within its pages is a review of God’s unvarying plan for mutual submission and servanthood.