As probably all of you are already aware, Forbes recently ran an article written by a man and titled Don't Marry a Career Women. They pretty quickly posted a counterpoint article written by a woman and titled Don't Marry a Lazy Man. The two articles are now posted side-by-side on the Forbes website.
No surprise - I didn't agree with the rebuttal article by the woman. I didn't like the tone of her writing, which was demeaning to men, nor her apparent disvaluing of the role of women at home. The man's article was interesting and factul and stated what I consider to be the obvious: career women are less likely to have a healthy and happy family life. But do you know what? The more I pondered the man's article, the less I liked it. It was true, it was to the point, and it was information that needs to be heard - not glazed over as it normally is in our society. But I didn't like the way it was presented.
There was no love spoken with the truth. I found no hint that the author valued women. Statistically, non-career women mean a more stable marriage, but there was no heart in his statements, no inkling that women are precious and have a special role. I could just as easily criticize the female author's demeaning attitude towards men (which is a topic for another post entirely!), but I won't, because the conservative blogosphere has already done that in abundance - and correctly so! Instead, I'm left pondering the message the male author is sending. On second reading I came away wondering if the author even liked women, if he was married, and if his own marriage was happy. He's a real candidate for misogyny.
Most issues can either be painted as very glorious or very repulsive, depending on the wielder of the brush. I think the role and place of women is just such an issue. It is too easy to either view women as equal in role to men, thus brushing over the glorious distinctions God has given the two sexes, or conversely to harp on the servitude of women and their need to keep a "proper place" in society. The male writer of the Forbes article did not do either, but there was still no beauty in his painting of a woman's role, no esteem for her position. She was a statistic who shouldn't compete with men. Period.
The Bible paints a different picture, though. Women have a different role than men. Woman is created to be his helpmeet, walking beside him hand in hand through life. Marriage is a union, a binding of two lives that the two might work together more effectively than apart. In that beautiful union, woman does take the role that is often deemed "demeaning." She is a guard of the home, a nurturer of children. She takes the home as her sphere of influence gladly, not because it is statistically better but because she belongs there. She was created for a special purpose. She is not free household staff, but a cherished wife and a mother. And yes, she is an obedient wife.
Here again, with the topic of submission, I am very afraid that it is easily painted in two opposing and equally unbiblical lights. We have the feminists, who recoil at the very word and try to explain away such a clear Biblical teaching. Then we have the quintessential fundamentalist, who preaches submission, submission, submission in a way that comes across as utter servitude. The Bible teaches differently.
Ephesians 5 is the classic passage on headship. I find it a very comforting passage, albeit a challenging one. I find myself wondering if someday I will be able to follow Paul's command to submit to my husband as to the Lord. Submit in everything?, wonders my rebellious heart. I see the beauty of the husband and wife positions though, and I find in them a beautiful picture of Christ in his church. I hope to someday stand before God and man and pledge to love, honor, and obey my husband until death do us part.
But as my pastor preached a few months ago, Ephesians 5 is no good without a necessary perspective. One cannot talk about headship rightly apart from the gospel. Without the gospel, headship is an ugly truth; with the gospel, headship is a glorious picture. To properly understand Ephesians 5, one must first read Ephesians 1-4. After reading Ephesians 1-4 and then reading Ephesians 5, including the verses that charge husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, I cannot feel cheated, torn down, or demeaned by my call to submission. I am to aid my husband as the church aids Christ. What a beautiful mission! My husband, though, is to act as a type of Christ to me and our household! Wow.
What a beautiful role given to the man, but what a heavy responsibility, and a responsibility I would not snatch from any man. That is obligation; that is a set of very big shoes to fill. Unless a man can speak of women's roles in light of the gospel and his own call to serve his wife as Christ, than I must stand with the feminists and find his writings to be demeaning and void of any real esteem for women. The husband and wife roles of Ephesians 5 are beautiful because they are complimentary. Either, without the other, is ugly; together they are a beautiful picture.
Woman is not merely a housewife, but a helpmeet. Without the gospel, the womanly roles that are painted in Ephesians 5 and Titus 2 are not beautiful, but constrained and subservient. But with the gospel, women have a special role and a purpose!