So last time we talked about some of the specifics of how we were doing when we got back to the states the last day of May 2012, some of the things that were going on in our lives at that point, and how we reacted to/handled it all. Joel had brought up, in his post, the fact that he was less-than-supportive (to put it mildly) and I went into the specifics of what that looked like and what that involved a little more in my last post.
More of the specifics of things that happened over the course of the time from January 2012 until the present, January 2015 (3 years!) will be discussed further and documented here as we go along I'm sure. But, as you can imagine, since Labor Day 2014…since Joel’s blinders were removed and he really was able to finally, for the first time, see the TRUTH of what had been going on…we’ve talked about it a good bit. About how it all happened. About how he got to the point where he thought, for instance, that it was ok to not listen to me and my cries for help when I needed a break from our whiplash pace and gypsy lifestyle, traveling here and there and participating in events and pack pack packing and go go going.
He had never not listened to me before. We had been the best team. We had to be…otherwise we would’ve never been able to function in all the constant chaos-around-us and gypsy-ness which was our lives. That requires really good communication…listening to each other and being aware of the needs that arose. We were, again, a well-oiled machine.
And then 2012 hit.
How did it happen that I stopped being listened to? How did it get to the point where my very real needs were not given any priority? What belief system was in place that caused this to be more likely to happen as opposed to a different belief system?
That’s actually a very deep hole to go down. I’m going to try to do this subject justice here. The first point here revolves around a certain couple of events very specific to us...but many truths can be drawn from our experience that can pertain to anyone (preventing others from having a divisive effect on your marriage, for one thing). But, my second point down below goes more into a theological discussion and how core beliefs and values, that you may not have even thought much about, can completely change your world and your life. So, keep reading.
Looking back, Joel is actually really baffled. How on earth? How did our relationship change? How did HE change? It IS baffling.
But by digging deeper, we can see a couple of things that shaped this all into being basically a ‘perfect storm.’
1. Joel had battled, unbeknownst to me, from January - July 2012, within himself and his desires about that other big event (which was mentioned in the last couple of blog posts) scheduled on the 2nd weekend of July vs. the Watermelon Festival that he had promised to me for years. It was a difficult position to be in. For all of us. The other event was also a very important event, just like our finally getting to go to the festival as a family was, something that I had given up for Joel already two years prior, something that I had dreamed about for 30+ years…and this was literally our last shot to experience it with our children. Joel, in 2010 (after I gave it up to do what was important to him), had promised the festival to me…”No matter what, the next time we're in the states in July, we will be there”…and then he re-promised in January 2012 after we found out the date of that other big event. But again...that other event was very hard to miss. So the point here is this: the battle within him raged on. As he said, he did some wrong things during those months…and tried to get out of his word to me. He reached out to others. And instead of encouraging unity and oneness with his spouse, they encouraged disunity…encouraged him continuously to try to get out of his word to me. And that’s just wrong. We all know that. There were other extenuating circumstances involving this conflicting date that made it incredibly unfair for us to be expected to give up our plans for that date. But, I won’t go into those.
As you can see though, this was a point of contention. I didn’t know anything about it honestly…that the contention was there. The only thing I knew was that Joel had promised me a second time (all on his own accord…I had not asked for it) in January that we would be at the festival. And I knew that it was a really sad thing for him (for ALL of us really, but esp. him) to give up that other big event. I knew what that felt like, as I had done that two years prior, given up a very special big event. And I definitely know what that feels like now…can’t even begin to count the things I’ve missed out on because of all of the mess of these past 3 years…weddings and special events and glorious memories and unfulfilled dreams, etc. etc. But, I had no idea that he was talking to others about it. That he was talking to and being encouraged by some of his 'mentors' to do whatever he could to back out of his word to me. That he was so far down that path that he went behind my back and bought a plane ticket to the big event. I had NO IDEA all of this was happening.
So, we can see that for over 6 months already at that point (January - July 2012), disunity had been brewing. And unfortunately, he had been receiving COUNSEL that promoted that disunity. And eventually, because of this brewing and because of this counsel…it led into something that happened on a much, much deeper level. And because of a certain set of beliefs, it all left Joel completely predisposed to the development of the wrong set of beliefs about our overall situation, and therefore his wrong attitudes and actions for the following 2 ½ years.
2. I don’t much like getting down deep into terms and categories, in general. I hate to be put in a box. I hate to put others in a box. I’m much more of an ‘it’s this way, but let’s not label it’ kind of girl. Much more of a go-with-the-flow, don’t-have-to-figure-it-out kind of girl. An if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it type. But guess what. IT BROKE!! Lol.
So…we’ve been forced to look at it all. To really dig deep. What happened?!? What about our lives and our beliefs and circumstances and backgrounds, on a deep-non-surface level, caused this?
Have you ever heard the terms EGALITARIANISM and COMPLEMENTARIANISM? Do you know what they mean? What do each say about equality, for instance?
Egalitarianism says that all humans are equal. Equal worth, equal value. Not everyone has the same roles, obviously, but all are equal.
Complementarianism says that all humans are equal. Equal worth, equal value. Not everyone has the same roles, obviously, but all are equal.
The main ideas of each are basically the same on the surface level. Let’s get into what each actually highlights.
Egalitarianism highlights that equality. They hold to the belief that all people have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and all are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.
Complementarianism highlights the belief that men and women are equal, but they complement each other. They have complementary roles. They have roles of equal importance, but not the same roles. They hold to the belief that certain roles between men and women, manifested in marriage, church leadership, and elsewhere, are biblically required. In other words, there are certain roles that a woman will never be allowed to have, no matter what her giftings and no matter what she feels God is calling her to. The same applies to men, although it is, in general, a much less limiting belief system for men.
I had heard these terms before. But had never really looked into these belief systems. I knew that I believed in the equality of all, as each of these belief systems hold to. I knew that I had mostly been a part of complementarian churches. They weren’t churches who silenced women (although I have attended a church like that…where the women are literally not allowed to speak...those do exist too). So, on the surface, in many ways, those churches I have been a part of seem very much equal. Which is partly why I went to those churches. And because honestly, the complementarian view was fine with me because I personally didn’t have any giftings or strong callings that fell under the category of ‘you can’t live those out here because you are a female.’ So I was never faced with having to dig deep. And I was never faced with being uncomfortable and limited and not being able to do what I was called to do under this belief system. Therefore, I never really investigated. But, let’s investigate a bit…
What does egalitarianism look like in real life? It sees male and female as truly equal. If a woman feels the call to be a pastor, guess what? She can become a pastor. If there is a decision to be made, the woman’s opinion and answers are given equal weight as the man’s. It’s just…equal. That's the way it plays out within the church, within marriage, etc. If a husband and wife are having a hard time reaching an agreement about something...they don't move until they both agree on something. Practically speaking, that might involve a yielding on both parts (we call that compromise), or the wife might yield to the husband, or the husband might yield to the wife. But, they don't move unless a mutual agreement on what to do has been reached. That’s what egalitarianism looks like.
And I thought that was basically what complimentarianism looked like too…equal, esp. in marriage. As far as being heard in general, I had never really run into or seen much trouble with that. As far as roles in the church...I did know that in most of the churches I’d been involved in, women were not seen as ‘preachers’ or ‘pastors’…and if they are gifted in such a way as they would make great preachers, they are instead usually given the label ‘teachers’ so that they can, in fact, still use that gifting and others can benefit from that gifting. Lol. True statement. Ha. Or…in some of the more ‘modern’ complimentarian circles, if ‘permission is granted’ to take on a certain role that is outside the roles traditionally considered acceptable for women, then that is ok. And, for a woman to be a children's or ladies' pastor (although many times it's called 'minister' instead…that label is usually more acceptable for women)...being a minister over other women or children is generally accepted…because that is an acceptable gender role. But, usually if there is a lady who shows herself to be gifted in a certain role that is generally a man’s role…and if that lady is given that role despite the fact that she is female…one of the things that I’ve most heard about a situation like that is ‘well, if the men of the church would actually step up, there wouldn’t be a need for women in these roles.’ So, it’s always seen as basically a female being in these positions by default…not by any genuine giftings or callings to be in that role regardless of what the men are doing.
So what does complementarianism look like outside of the church...in marriage for instance? These are a few of the tenets that are taught, that Joel and I were taught, under that belief system:
1) a husband and wife are to submit to each other
2) a wife is to submit to and respect her husband
3) a husband is to lay down his life for his wife, just as Christ laid down His life for the church
These are the first 3 main things that are taught. Now, #2 + #3 to me =s #1. So, basically what all 3 together are saying is, submit to and respect each other. In fact, the call of a husband in #3 seems even a bit more serious than #2. Wives, yield to your husbands, but husbands…you lay down your very lives, just like Christ.
When I was in my late teens/early 20s, I was very anti-submission. Very!! But, why? Because #3 was basically never mentioned. What was told to me over and over and basically just harped on? How I was called to be submissive. When I got in a church that actually taught #3, a lot, and lived it out, a husband who was showing me so much respect that he would lay down his very life for me…that?...I wanted to submit to and follow and could respect. Because it was all just a very clear picture of MUTUAL SUBMISSION…a picture of #1. Not just me yielding, but both of us yielding. And Him laying his life down for me. I was already in love with and following Jesus, partly for that very reason. How natural and easy to be in love with and follow a man who was acting in that very way.
And I found just that in Joel.
But, here’s the #4 that is also taught in that belief system:
4) ultimately, the man is the boss. and ultimately, the man has the final say.
And there it is.
Let’s look at this a bit. Where does #4 come from? It is drawn from two passages of scripture in particular…1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5. We’ll dig deeper into each of these as we go along probably. These passages cover many things. But, one of the phrases found in each of these scripture passages (in most English translations) states that the husband is head over the wife. Therefore, that is translated as 'the husband is boss.'
And the little caveat that has been taught as gospel right along with this over and over, although not actually stated in the Bible anywhere, is what I put there in #4…because 'man is boss,' then the man always ultimately has the final say. If there is a disagreement about something and a resolution just cannot be reached, it is the man who has the final say. All the other verses about the husband practicing mutual submission and about the husband laying down his life as Christ did...it is taught that those all go out the window whenever he deems that course of action is needed. Because he is the boss. And he has the final say.
Joel’s leadership was very servant-like. That is what drew me to him in the first place, so many years ago.
Joel was very much a husband who practiced mutual submission and laying his life down. We never even had to employ #4 there…never even came close. An agreement was always reached...sometimes by me letting go of what I thought best, sometimes by him letting go of what he thought best. We were a team. We were ONE. We flowed like buttah, baby. :)
And then we didn’t.
And that’s where the existence of #4 can get really scary.
Joel had zero understanding about what was really going on. He was completely blinded and deceived. His beliefs about what was going on (that I had become 'crazy,’ that I was being completely irrational by needing what I needed even though anyone the world over would not see those needs as irrational after all we had gone through, that I was depressed, that I had a disorder of some kind, that I was just being manipulative and controlling…and the list goes on and on because it changed several times throughout the years)...those beliefs led him to believe that we were incapable of working together. That I was incapable. That I was wrong in what I was needing, feeling, believing. And, so #4 gave him the right to just take over.
Not only did #4 exist for him...all of his complementarian counsel that he was getting said that he was dealing with a non-submissive wife. And that he had to do what he felt best, no matter what. He had to take over, he had to make decisions…he was in charge. I was now out of the picture, unless I stopped being so (what was considered to be…) ‘uppity’ and totally non-submissive. His counsel told him that he had every right to move on and do things like take jobs and make financial decisions without consulting me…because I, after all, was living in sin and refused to move out of that sin.
This counsel, by the way, was given by people who live far away, were nowhere near us or the situation, and never once reached out to ask me my side of the story. But they definitely knew #4, and were willing to urge Joel to put that into practice.
More next time…about this subject, about gender and roles in general, about counsel, about the church. We have lots to talk about.