You know the growing feeling that someone is following you? I try to shake it off as too much caffeine, maybe hormones, or too much novel reading. But as much as I wish it was a lump of undigested cheese, I fear the ghosts of feminism are trying to take shape among some who would call themselves complementarians.
It’s in a disgruntled blog here and an ear tickling question there, but it seems to be growing. Perhaps it is mostly manifesting in a corner of the internet somewhere, but in some form or another I think it will always creep into the corners of the female heart. The desire for control and the tendency to fret and clamor is nothing new under the sun or my roof for that matter.
When I find myself playing around the edges of the complementarian garden, it is usually either from discontent or fear. I start asking questions like: Why do they get all the credit and power and fun work? Does God really see me? Do these men- my husband, pastors, and elders- really know what they’re doing in their roles? What if they drop the ball? What if they’re not recognizing how vulnerable of a position I’m putting myself in here?
Of course, the men in our lives could have similar worries. My husband is trusting me every day to care for his children- educate, feed, and nurture their souls, minds, and bodies. He trusts me to take his hard earned provision and turn it into food, warmth, and beauty, not spend it on frivolity and dainties. My husband and elders will answer for the management of their families and flock, for their spiritual leadership. I could make it a joy or a life-sucking task. Men are vulnerable too. What if we drop the ball?
But as I’ve mused before, I think a cost of all freedom is vulnerability. The Lord made us to work together, hands need arms and feet need legs. In order to move gracefully, we must work with how God made the world and that requires trust and dependence on Him. Beware any teaching that would saddle you with the burden of independence.
While there are wonderful female leaders with a public presence, what we see of their lives is not usually going to be the normative example for us. We can learn from them, but most of us will not be them. Instead, look at the older women who are spiritually mothering your local congregation and their families. They are busy- so busy with the tasks God has given them that they are incredibly thankful for the men who have the full-time ability to do the expositional teaching. They are thankful to use their book suggestions and preaching as tools for teaching other women how to wear the deep truths of God. And really, we could learn the same from our husbands and men at church. You don’t hear a lot of hardworking business men complaining that the pastor gets to do all the teaching. They understand their limitations and are thankful for the variety of callings the Lord gives.
Megan Hill, a pastor’s wife and writer, explains this well (I commend the whole post to you here):
I’ve come to realize that while I may be opening canned tomatoes, and he may be opening the letter to the Hebrews, I can and do have a share in his study. As a pastor’s wife—but also simply as a church member—his study is my privilege to participate in.
Every sermon, every pastoral prayer, every Bible study lesson, comes from hours of study. The reason he can clearly explain 1 Peter 2 or Exodus 28 is that he has studied those passages exhaustively—their original language, their context, their doctrinal themes, their varied applications. The reason he can lead publicly in prayer with wisdom and devotion is because he has prayed long in private.
The pastor is also an advisor, curator, and reviewer for my own study. Because of his extensive reading, he can say to me: I think you’d benefit from this book. Don’t bother buying that one. If you have time, read this whole book. If you don’t have time, just chapter 4 is extraordinarily helpful. He can ask me: Have you considered this argument? Have you listened to this preacher? Have you read this text in light of this other one? The content of his study helpfully informs mine, saving me time and energy, if only I would ask him.
Never send to know for whom the pastor studies. He studies for thee.
Instead of worrying that our voice will be drowned or giving in to the quest for significance apart from Christ (even if it is while teaching about him), let’s promote our brothers whom the Lord has called to lead his flock and help them by our testimony and service. When the body moves gracefully together, the Head is known and exulted.