I followed a link that my son presented on Facebook this morning to blog by Seth Godin. In his essay, he wrote: “This is one of the assets of youth… the ability, when confronted with a world that doesn’t match the world in your head, to say, ‘wait, maybe I was wrong.’”
I don’t know when I first realized this truth…probably when my brain was young and flexible. Yes, it was when I was in my late twenties and involved in a Christian community that met in my neighbor’s home. We studied the Bible together under the guidance of a man who was an Elder of some church. I didn’t understand what an Elder was having been born and raised in a church that had priests and had yet to create deacons. But he was the biblical expert and I was new to the bible.
Spiritually hungry as I was, I loved what happened in my friend’s home. I’d never read the bible. My only knowledge of it came from the readings I heard in church on Sunday. I was pretty much a clean slate. Everything that was said made sense to me because there was nothing on my slate to contradict what I was hearing. It was a loving community and I really needed love.
Somewhere along the line, I began to have experiences that contradicted what I was being taught in the bible studies. One of the teachings had to do with wives submitting to their husbands. Not a bad idea, I thought, unless said husband was not a good man. To what was a woman expected to submit? Bernie was a pretty good guy but sometimes he was known to act pretty selfishly. Was I expected to submit to him even when he was acting like an idiot? Was my wisdom in the matters of our lives worth nothing? Did Jesus really want me to obey mindlessly? The same was true as I observed the marriages of those around me.
When I raised such questions I was told that submission even to such a husband was still good because it can lead to the husband’s being saved. Really? Submitting to the badness in a person somehow saves them? I also questioned the idea of submission because in a weird way, it seemed like passing the buck, or blaming someone else for my own decisions. It felt like relinquishing my ability to make decisions at all.
So went my thinking. The world I was observing did not match the world in my head. It didn’t take long for the community to suggest that maybe I just didn’t belong. The bible said what it said and that was that.
This is not meant to be an argument about a biblical teaching. I leave interpretations up to others as they live their lives. But I had to be honest about what I saw happening. I chose to deal with my relationship with my husband using the tools I had. This included the tools that the science of psychology offered to help me to understand myself and to understand Bernie. The same was true of him. Ours was not a marriage of a one person dancing around a static totem pole. Rather, of two persons learning to dance with each other.
The teaching about wives submitting is only one of the many ideas that I have grappled with. But the grappling always began when I recognized the disconnect between what I experienced in the world and what was in my head. Recognizing a disconnect does not always lead to rejecting old beliefs, but we don’t have to be afraid when it does.