“Where?” I asked Angela (not her real name). Our kids are in the same ballet class. Seated next to her in the parent peanut gallery the other day as “Simon Legree la Ballet Instructor” put the class through Arabesques, Pliésand other Baryshnikov-isms, Angela saw I was reading from Galatians. One observation led to others about families, grandparents, kids, spouses and marriage.
Somewhere in the conversation, Angela mentioned that her husband had asked her to “take the lead” in the “spiritual training of our kids.” Angela clearly found the suggestion that a wife “lead” anything akin to asking to be launched into space without a parachute. Or flight control. “That’s not biblical!” she insisted, brow furrowed, dark eye lashes fluttering.
“It’s not?” I queried.
“How do you know?”
“The Bible says the man is The Leader.” Angela was emphatic.
“Where?” I asked, handing her my Bible and fanning the pages. “Show me where the Bible says that leadership is male-exclusive or that ‘the man is The Leader.’” Angela stared at me as if I just flew in from Mars. So I asked, “Which of the spiritual gifts listed in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 are gender-specific, including leadership?”
Angela insisted, “It’s in there somewhere.”
I gently suggested that the husband/man-as-leader, wife/woman-as-follower/subordinate model may not be as “biblical” as she thought. This elicited another deer-in-the-headlights-look. Taking my Bible, I opened it to Ephesians 5 and asked Angela to read the chapter en toto, beginning at verse one.
My child stopped arabesque-ing through Prokofiev’s Cinderella long enough to grab a few quick swigs of water while I pointed out verse 21 to Angela: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (NIV).
“See where it says “Submit to one another before moving into verse 22? The Greek grammar suggests that this ‘mutual submission’ is associated with the filling of the Spirit in verse 18 and that mutuality rather than hierarchy is God’s design.”
Bless her, Angela peered at me like a calf at a new gate.
After a moment she murmured, “I’ve never seen that before.”
While Simon LaGree ran the class through another round of leaps and twirls, I asked Angela to read Galatians 3 and offered a thumbnail sketch of what a husband-wife relationship based on mutual love, respect, deference and shared gifting might look like.
As we chatted over steaming mugs of green tea, I asked Angela how the Bible most often describes marriage, suggesting that “the two becoming one” and similar passages indicate unity, teamwork, partnership, mutuality, and what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3, 4 (NIV): “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
By the end of Prokofiev’s second act, Angela didn’t seem to know whether to regard me as a kook or a Godsend. But I saw a light flicker behind her eyes – just before she changed the subject.
It was enough for one day.
“Simon” dismissed the class, moms collected kids and shoes and Angela bid me a cheery “See ya later” and breezed out the door. I smiled, waved, and wondered, Lord, what are you up to?