Why do we as women try to morph ourselves for the love interests in our lives. For some it’s a different haircut or color. For others it’s a different body type, IQ or personality.
I admire the women who say, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” I’m not one of them. I tend to shift into a slightly different version of myself when in a relationship. In my past experience it started with something small like what clothes I wore and over time evolved into a complete violation of who God Himself created me to be! I started out thinking “I’m compromising or making myself more attractive to my significant other.” But eventually my significant other would make further demands and requirements of me. Or better yet, he’d be confused when the “real me” came bubbling to the surface.
I’ve finally [slowly] come to the realization that any time a man influences, persuades or demands a woman to change and twists the statement, “be submissive”, it is a form of abuse. Don’t get it turned around, I agree that wives should submit to their husbands, but in these situations that term is used as a weapon to force a woman to be or do something she’s not entirely comfortable with.
So let’s explore this definition of “submit.” We’ve always heard Ephesians 5:22 [Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord] used synonymously with “obey.” Meaning, “whatever your husband says is law and should be treated as a military order; obedience without question.” That whole philosophy opens the door for emotional and spiritual abuse. No one badgers those same husbands with the next verse that says they’re supposed to love their wives as Christ loves the church even to the point of death!
I heard the most profound lesson on this recently and it rocked my perception of what God means by that verse. The Greek word used by Paul in this letter was hupotasso which actually means to lift up or put in order. Moreover, the German translation of that can mean “an equal sharing of tasks.” Think about that for a second. That does not indicate servile obedience at all, but rather “to support and empower another.” Starting to sound more like a partnership than a dictatorship, isn’t it?
Furthermore, the traditional concept of submission would indicate that a woman can’t think or discern matters for herself. As though her relationships with God and others are solely dependent on her husband. Keep in mind that in the time and culture the letter was written, slavery was perfectly normal and wives were owned just like cattle. I am not saying “change the Bible to fit today’s culture and the world’s current compass.” I am simply encouraging a deeper look at the heart of the message.
I feel like I have a close, autonomous walk with God and sense His presence and will in my life. I can see Him all around me and hear His voice when He speaks to me. The philosophy that wives should blindly obey their husbands would indicate that as a single woman I need a man (my dad or a pastor) to tell me what God says and someday if/when I get married my husband will tell me what to do and where to go because I couldn’t possibly discern the Spirit myself.
Not only do I find that demeaning to my intelligence and gender, but also it grieves my spirit to think that there are women who can’t or aren’t allowed to trust their own heart and mind. God speaks to all of us, regardless of gender. He loves all of us for who He made us to be. Jesus showed us that in the many compassionate interactions He had with women who needed healing and love, too. He didn’t say, “I can’t speak to you because you are female. Go get your husband before I heal you.”
So if we lay the submission argument to rest, why then do we change ourselves a little bit in relationships? Even if you do not come from a churched background, you may relate to the identity crisis many women experience in relationships. A lot of times I think it stems from a background or history rooted in abuse. Through abuse we learn to become really good people pleasers. We somehow think that if we behave or conform well enough, we’ll be loved and accepted.
I can logically say that if a person loves who you are behaving out, it’s not real love because they don’t know the real you. But for those of us who have experienced abuse even in its mildest forms, it’s a difficult habit to break.
One last point is that our culture objectifies women. I would even contend that the feminist movement promoted the objectification. Sure, Braless Betty just wanted us to be paid equally for the same job. But in the process, sexual “freedom” became a focal point. The fashion industry, TV and pop culture would have us believe that the perfect body and sexual prowess is the only attribute that attracts men. And since we all want to be loved, we try to become desirable. Whether it’s hurting our bodies with eating disorders to be as skinny as a runway model or dumbing down our intelligence to appear cute. It all sends the message that women are only good for what we can offer in the bedroom. In that case, all women are nothing more than sex things. And we thought Harriet Nelson had it so bad as a homemaker!
I am a woman. I am a complex human being; a creation of God. I love many things and am many things. I am a mother, housekeeper, entrepreneur, friend, student, nature lover, grateful believer, abuse survivor, intellectual, overcomer, advocate, slight nerd, activist, writer, comedienne, daughter, world traveller and motorcycle enthusiast. And there are so many other things I’d like to be. Please, don’t reduce me or yourself to a single dimension sex- or baby-machine.
Most of all, love your daughters for who they are and teach them to value themselves beyond what the world defines them to be. Let’s teach the next generation of young women to see themselves as the Creator does: daughters of the Most High King, loved and accepted for who they are!