I grew up with a Complementarian approach to relationships. I was a firm subscriber to the set-apart femininity lifestyle and after many failed relationships, had resigned myself to wait patiently for my warrior-poet to arrive. After all, everything I read promised he would.
I met my husband about 2 years into this phase of life and immediately felt my beliefs begin to crumble. Though I was adamantly avoiding relationships at the time, I somehow found myself spending more and more time with him. I was falling in love and I didn’t know why.
Why was I having these feelings for the “wrong” type of man? I had been promised a leader, a protector, and a prince. Someone that fit the image of masculinity I had been taught to revere. But here was this guy who was incredibly gentle, cried openly, had never led a Bible study, and could care less about being macho.
It wasn’t until I began to realize the absurdity of my expectations that I was able to see him for the godly man that he is. My standards of what a man should look like were causing me to deny him the use of his unique spiritual gifts. I began to realize that putting pressure on men to be godly paragons of masculinity was actually a very real form of oppression.
People often use the phrase “cause our brothers to stumble” in reference to modesty. But I believe that the true stumbling block emerges when Christians place the weight of leadership on the shoulders of all men and expect them to handle it flawlessly.
As our relationship grew, I began to see that the oppression went both ways. By pushing for his leadership, I was taking a backseat to our relationship. I know some would call this “submission” and say that’s precisely how it should feel, but I believe that God expects more from me.
Not once in his ministry did Jesus treat a woman as less qualified than a man. He shattered contemporary beliefs about women, and he established a kingdom free of limitations.
Men and women were created to be God’s image bearers, and last time I checked, God doesn’t have a bad side. No matter what angle you view him from; he is mighty and righteous. There are no lesser halves of God and there are no lesser halves of his creation either.
It’s tempting (because of our patriarchal culture) to picture the body of Christ and place men at the head. It matches what we see being portrayed in the world, it’s comfortable, and it gives us a hierarchy we can rely on for decision-making. But since when is the church supposed to be making the comfortable choice?
I’m reminded of the nation of Israel in the book of 1 Samuel. When Samuel is old and the people ask him to appoint a king for them.
“They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” 1 Samuel 8:5.
Humans crave order. We classify and organize everything we see in an effort to make sense of our world. Israel’s desire to appoint leadership reflects this principle. They wanted to be as all other nations because it was comfortable. But following God is difficult. When he asks us to be equally yoked he uses the image of beasts of burden for a reason. We are called to struggle together with other believers, whether that be in a romantic or platonic relationship, to bring glory to God and shine his truth to the nations. The desire to replace God’s leadership in our lives with an earthy ruler plays right into our sinful tendencies, but we must strive for more.
My husband and I have been married for 2 years. God has blessed us and challenged us immensely and we have done our best to live up to his standards, not those of the world. We are imperfect and we fail often, but we strive for godliness in how we work together through mutual submission to honor God with our lives and our love.
Hi readers! I’m Cheyanne Lovellette and I’m a 23 y/o American expat currently living in NE China with my husband Sean and our cat-son Hagrid. I blog at The Thistlette.com, a Christian Feminist blog, and I work as a freelance writer and English tutor. I’m passionate about social justice, women’s rights, and following Christ’s command to love him and love his people.