Every so many years I find myself once again wrestling with complementarianism. My agreement with the foundational theology behind complementarianism doesn’t change, but how it works itself out in the season I am in does change.
Moving from a college student, to a leader in campus ministry, to a graduate student, to a young married, to a full time career, to a new mom, to a homeschooling mom, to a homeschooling mom of teens with time for part time work and ministry opportunities…each of these seasons has caused me to look hard at what my role is as a woman called and gifted by God living within the boundaries He has set for me for that season. Psalm 16:6 “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance,” has been a comfort for me as I gain my foothold in each new season.
As a woman studying the roles of men and women, designed by GOD, and explained through the definition of complementarianism, I naturally linger at the word submission. It is good to do so, just as men should linger at the word leadership. That which challenges us should stir our hearts to seek greater understanding.
I am reminded not to seek to understand submission by looking at how the world defines it, lest I be utterly confused and dismayed. The world is lost and Satan (from the start) has attacked and confused God's order and design. Submission, as defined by society, is a picture of chaining and holding back the gifts and talents of women with a large, outstretched, oppressive hand saying “No”. The woman in this picture strains against these chains and pushes headlong into the hand. What does this sound like? It is the picture of the curse in Genesis 3:16. God nailed it. He created us and knows that the flipside to our greatest asset and design would be our greatest weakness and temptation.
Not a Drain, but Water from the Source
So then, where is the beauty and strength in submission? It starts with celebrating who we are in Christ and the gifts, talents, and intellect God designed in us. Whether male or female, what God has given we can use to His glory or to our detriment. Despite what society says, submission isn't a sink-drain that funnels out and removes a woman's gifting or brain.
Looking from a woman’s angle, submission and leadership in marriage are like a lake, a canal lock system, and a river. A lock works to regulate and balance the flow of water so that the lake (main body-of-water) is maintained at optimal levels while also nourishing and adjusting to the needs for water flow down river.
In this model, I use all that God created me to be and do in both my home (the lake) as well as in my work and ministry down river to all and in all the unique and amazing ways that life and opportunity present itself. My beloved has the challenging task of leading me, of looking at the big picture - the whole waterway, and he has to answer to God on how well he has leveraged and maintained both the flow of the water as well as the quality and health of the water. His task is not an easy one! Should he become slothful or selfish, he may hoard the water in the lake and it may then become stagnant and toxic. On the other hand, if he steps back or fully opens the lock to allow the water to flow down river however it pleases, then he is responsible for depleting the lake and starving it of food, causing it to be malnourished.
Leveraging and regulating the water isn't harsh, it should be done out of a deep knowing of the condition and resources of the water, making sure it is richly fed by the Source of water, so that the lake and what goes downstream are greatly impacted for good and for Gods' glory.
Every body-of-water and lock are different. but they function together and serve each other. Both have different roles, and when unified, the lake (and all that is in it) is maintained and healthy, and together the nourishment and needs downstream are met. This design is a gift of God.