I once wholly believed in a patriarchal view—not only believed it, but lived it. I didn’t care if it didn’t feel good, I cared about obeying God.
So I took my leader-self and made it sit in the back seat. And I took my voice and silenced it. I took my enthusiasm and dulled it down.
I believed that men were to be in the forefront, men were to be helped as they saw fit, men were to be leaders, men were to have the vision, men were to be up front speaking, men were to have words from God.
I believed that women could do all those things, sure, but to a lesser degree and only with a submissive spirit (and certainly not instructing men in any form or fashion).
Just as popular complementarian teachers proclaim, I believed that men were like the sun—shining the glory of God directly, while women were like the moon—shining a reflected glory.
And though no one likes to admit it, views like this basically teach that women are inferior when it comes to shining God’s glory. Inferiority seemed to be the logical conclusion, and I was okay with it. If that’s how God made me as a woman, then that’s what I should accept.
I wanted to obey God and to live for Him. So I obediently and even joyfully did what I thought He had commanded.
In time, I started dying. I didn’t realize it because it happened over a period of years as I ignored the deeper parts of me, for fear that they were trying to get me to rebel against God. I put my hands over my ears and continued to be a Hidden Woman, the woman God wanted me to be.
One day, out of the blue, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was fixing myself a cup of tea when I began sobbing from somewhere deep down inside and sank to my kitchen floor. My legs literally stopped working as I crumbled, inside and out. It caught me horribly by surprise. I had pretended to be happy for so long that I’d even managed to fool myself. That morning, though, as my life collapsed along with me, I knew that I had to reckon with the words that had remained unspoken for so long.
I knew that if I kept going the way I was—kept looking to my husband as my priestly mediator, kept shoving down the parts of me that were born to lead, to speak, to fight—that something very precious inside of me would die. No, that it was dying, that I had reached the critical point where I could possibly (maybe, hopefully) nurture it back to life, only painstakingly and carefully…but if I waited one more day, it would draw its last breath.
I don’t mean the kind of death that the cross demands—not a redemptive death, but the sort of death that comes from the destroyer—the destruction of a good and holy thing, much like a baby slowly starving to death in a famine, except in this case I was purposely withholding food and affection, thinking it was God’s will for me to do so, thinking it was God’s will for me to ignore the cries.
Only one day I couldn’t do it anymore.
That day Jesus came to me. I can’t explain it, but somehow He met me when I was face down on the floor and asked me what I would be like if I were a man.
The question made me cry. I was shocked. I’d never considered a question like that before. It was the sort of rebellious, unsubmissive thought that I never would have allowed myself to entertain. But, to my utter astonishment, everything in my heart leapt for joy. I considered, for the first time, what kind of choices I would have made if I’d been born a man. As a man, I would be able to be my true self—able to be strong and bold and lead and speak and love with passion!
My tears were a mixture of painful memories and astonished delight as He whispered in my heart that I was not to silence parts of me in order to “be a woman,” that I was to serve Him as if I were a man, that I was to stop considering my personality rebellious simply because it didn’t fit into a world of denim jumpers and passive acceptance.
In thinking I was obeying God by obeying patriarchy, I was actually quenching the Spirit of God. I confused His leading for sin and rebellion, all because He led me in directions that were not considered in line with “feminine attributes” according to the patriarchal views I followed.
What if Mary had refused to rebel when God called her?
Think of it. God chose a young woman to carry His seed. He did not ask her male authorities, He asked her. He requested something that would completely derail her marriage plans with Joseph, make them spend their honeymoon running to Egypt, make them the talk of all the neighbors’ wagging tongues.…
And Mary didn’t ask permission of her male “head” (“head” meaning authority figure, according to the patriarchal definition). She just said “yes” to God. And God said her “yes” was all He needed. God didn’t even tell Mary’s “authorities” about what He just did to Mary until Joseph was planning to dump her!
Mary was a rebellious woman on many fronts, one of them being a rebellion against what patriarchy, then and now, says about the role of women. Today’s Christian patriarchy would not approve of what Mary did any more than the patriarchal system would have in the New Testament time period. But God did, very much so.