When I first started to study the life of Sarah I thought she was mindless and weak. And even though Paul said I could be her daughter if I saw her as a mentor, it was many years before I believed what he was saying; I didn’t want to be her daughter. I was already a daughter of the feminist movement and preferred the mantra, “I am woman hear me roar.” But like many other women who’d been raised in that same culture, I found out, albeit the hard way, that I was already powerful and strong. I was created that way and didn’t need to draw my strength from a movement but from the source: God.
So began the illumination about the 50/50 split* in marriage and why it’s not God’s view of marriage, but the world’s view.
When I think back I can remember my insides squirming in conflict whenever I came across Sarah, especially this little gem from 1 Peter 3.
It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority).
This just didn’t translate into fair and equal for me, which is what I believed marriage was about. He can run his fifty percent and I’ll run my fifty percent. Now that’s equality.
I believed the equality moniker licensed me to argue whenever “I” believed “I” was in the right. In hindsight, God is funny … and patient. It was like He slipped a little burr called marriage, just under my skin and whenever I pushed up against what I thought was IN-equality between us, I felt the sting of that burr.
I struggled with that burr, all the while blaming Darrell because the only time I felt the sting was when my conflict was with him. My “prayers” for help seemed to fall on deaf ears. I would point out (to God) all the things that my husband was doing wrong and how he wouldn’t listen to me. I wanted to do things my way. I had ideas and solutions on how to run our family, but there was always so much conflict between us whenever we tried to talk about options or solve problems. And it just kept getting worse.
Weeks turned into months then into years. I became more contentious about having the right answers. More determined to fight for my rights; my way.
… and the burr just kept slicing away.
I had created a war zone in our home and a hardened heart within myself.
WHAT IS THE REAL BURR?
While mentally replaying a recent quarrel in frustration, I complained to God, “Fine, I just won’t have an opinion about anything, is that what YOU want?”
SILENCE. A deafening silence.
(We all have eye-opening, pride-crushing moments in which God in His infinite grace allows us to wrestle with Him so we see the truth of ourselves. This was one of mine.)
I had been in our kitchen doing dishes and slamming cupboards and the silence stopped me dead when I realized what I had said through gritted teeth and to Whom I had said it. I fell onto my knees, not so much in repentance and adoration of God, but in a slump of emotional fatigue and confusion. “Why did You give me a brain if You didn’t want me to use it? There will be nothing left of me.”
This was the first time I ever heard God’s voice, I remember it like it was yesterday. “Yes. There will be nothing left of you; that is the point. My Spirit cannot work in Darrell or you, with you in the way.”
With that first glimmer of understanding and the freedom that comes with the death of self, the burr started to loosen.
Focusing on getting our own way and own rights, 50/50, clouds our insight to the change God wants to do in us. The issue had never been about obeying Darrell because he was right, or me “not using my brain.” But rather God remaking us into whom He created each of us to be; using the tension now present in every marriage: Desire.
BEHOLD the real burr -> Desire … TO BE IN CHARGE; TO RULE
Yet your DESIRE and longing will be for your husband, and he will rule [with authority] over you and be responsible for you.
It’s my position that Genesis 3 is not a prescriptive text. God was not delineating what He was going to do to each of us [Satan, Adam, Eve]. He didn’t put desire in wives, but rather He was describing and explaining what we had each done to our own selves. He was letting us know how the relationships had changed and how they would play-out, on the outside of Eden.
Remember that He’s the Alpha Omega. He doesn’t just know the future, He IS the future. He wasn’t making plans for us, He already knew. In His grace and love for us, He was giving us a “heads-up.”
Eve’s creation is from power and strength, but not with teshuwqah: the desire to over power, conquer and rule. Teshuwqah in wives is a consequence of sin and therefore not our natural or most beneficial state.
The challenge for me was (and still is from time to time) to resist the temptation of teshuwqah that lives in my flesh; that rears it’s head to contend when something seems not fair for me, or ‘right’ in my eyes.
Teshuwqah or submit
The nature of 50/50 calls for someone to be that dividing line between the two 50s making sure it’s all equal. Whether you call it mutual submission or egalitarian style someone will end up being the scorekeeper to make sure that the submission actually IS mutual or to make sure that no one IS actually leading (or that both are leading … equally). To ensure the dividing line is equal someone is either given the authority to say, or someone takes the authority and says so.
If Satan can keep you fighting for your rights and contending for your 50% of the 50/50, if he can keep your focus on the mutuality of “taking turns submitting” to the earthy fleshly circumstances of life, you will lean more and more on your own steam and less on God’s. Satan’s goal is to keep you in the mindset he led you into in the first place: Teshuwqah
In reality, 50/50 is the gender issue, the “he/she” of it. I had pitted myself against my husband by choosing my own side of the dividing line. As much as I said I was for our marriage, the evidence of score keeping proves that my heart was not all in. Make no mistake, a home divided against itself will not stand. (Mk 3:25) Here are the two blinding illusions: First: You cannot give 50% without withholding 50%, one cancels the other. You are either 100% for your husband or you are withholding 50% in the name of mutuality or fairness. It is the nature of equality: someone tracks the transactions. Second: No one knows but you and God.
Well, I was a scorekeeper. And that’s what I hadn’t liked about Sarah; she wasn’t.
Sarah was 100% for Abraham. Looking at her through my 50/50 lense she appeared wimpy and unacceptable to me. Sarah was willing to submit herself. I was teshuwqah; making sure everything was “equal and fair.” I was the one keeping score … calling the shots from on top of my dividing line.
Then, that day on my kitchen floor …. BOOM, I wasn’t.
Isn’t it always like that with God. He does the revealing, the healing. All He asks is that we be willing to honestly look. Even if it is through squinted eyes at first. And as I began to view Sarah through His lenses, the low value I placed on her changed to overwhelming pride in being able to say, I am a true daughter of Sarah’s!
Her life exemplified a complete and undivided heart of trust in her LORD. She demonstrated with her own marriage how opposite mine was. And finally, a new level of dependence on God emerged that I had never experienced.
I will probably never submit as perfectly as Sarah and that’s ok. At our house we aim for progress, not perfection.
The focus shouldn’t be on a quid-pro-quo relationship, but on the marriage vows. When we keep score, we automatically see the other person as the problem and absolve ourselves from guilt. –Eileen Silva Kindig
* other 50/50 references meaning the same thing, include: egalitarian, mutual submission