Do We Even Need Headship?8:27 PM
The last time I wrote about egalitarianism, I wrote against it as a teenage girl trying to shove herself in the stay-at-home daughter box. I didn't know anything about being a woman, being independent, or being in a relationship that requires headship and submission. As of now, I know a little bit more about being a woman, a decent amount about being independent, and despite the fact that I've been seriously dating for over two years, I still know nothing about a relationship that requires headship and submission.
It's my boyfriend's fault, actually. He goes out of his way to lay down his life for me by letting me call him when he's tired and chat his ear off about why today stressed me out. He's constantly asking for my advice and help as he looks into grad schools. The other day, my normally quiet, unopinionated man lectured me on not caring enough about my own future: "Why do you assume that we have to put me through grad school first? What about you? Maybe we should put you through grad school first. I'm not going to let your dream die for mine."
I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. He turned on its head my perfect little plan of me working my butt off at a lame entry-level job for his expensive doctorate degree. He threw down his dreams and his plans before my feet. That was one of the most terrifying moments in our relationship -- to look point-blank in the face of fierce, selfless love.
With a man who's willing to lay down his life, love me like Christ, and submit "one to another," we don't worry much about the whole male headship thing. It just never comes up. We don't argue about who leads and who follows because I'm so busy submitting what I want to him and he's so busy submitting what he wants to me.
We've never discussed much about "roles" in marriage, mostly because we don't need them. When we hang out on weekends, he starts cooking pancakes because we're hungry, and I wash the dishes because he cooked. When we went back to Wisconsin after our summer apart in Michigan, I drove the car, paid for the gas, and washed the windows because it's my car. (He provided the Celtic music and the backseat driving.) When we go out to eat, he usually pays for the meal, but sometimes I treat him because we're both broke college kids -- who doesn't love a free meal? When we get to the door, the first person props it open. When we need to carry tons of stuff across campus, he's always willing to sling my backpack over his shoulder, and I'm willing to do the same.
Exclusive male leadership never played a role in our relationship. We mutually decided to start dating. (I actually initiated the awkward define-the-relationship talk that gave him enough courage to confess his crush on me.) Unlike some couples, we never did the awkward dance of "who makes the next move" just because our relationship story precluded that -- he followed me around, I tried to get away from him, and we fell in love. He pursued me in the beginning, I pursued him when things got rough and schedules got tight, and we now play phone tag as a long-distance couple.
The one time the headship/submission thing came into play was when I badly wanted to get married, he wanted to wait, and I got mad at him for his lack of readiness. I concluded that I just needed to submit to his leadership and abide by his decision. While the headship model helped me see my need to respect his decision, I could have arrived at a similar conclusion by realizing that common sense and Christian love dictates respecting someone's feelings when he says he doesn't want to get married quite yet. (Duh, Bailey. Duh.) I didn't need to submit to his leadership, per se. I just needed to respect his feelings like any loving Christian should -- problem solved.
The other time headship/submission came into play was at the beginning of our relationship. I freaked out over how few years he had followed Christ and the little theological language he could speak. How could I possibly submit to a man who was my spiritual "inferior"? I almost broke up with him over that concern -- not because I felt I couldn't learn from him but because I was afraid he would learn too much from me. How did that fit into the headship model? It turns out that Erich badly needed my outspoken opinions and bold convictions (and I needed his quiet faith and discipline -- he's definitely the better of us two!). He needed my teaching. He wanted it. It didn't hurt his pride in the least for his girlfriend to explain a doctrinal issue to him.
You know, I'm always afraid that my outspokenness, stubbornness, and penchant for blazing the trail on all our mutual decisions scares him. Far from it! He tells me all the time that he respects what I think and doesn't want me to stop giving my opinions or planning my plans. He loves when I stand on my own two feet and cut out the clingy, whiny girlfriend act that (newsflash) is never attractive to any guy anywhere. He doesn't want my submission to his "authority." He wants me to be his ezer -- the strong, wise helper ready to kick butt at his side.My accidentally egalitarian relationship has me questioning whether headship is even necessary for a healthy relationship where the man lays down his life for the woman and the woman lays down her life for him in mutual submission. If both the man and the woman are exemplifying Christ's humility and love to each other, when does headship, power, and authority even come into play?
Further, in a relationship where both husband and wife strive for the other's good, how can the headship model improve their relationship? Why does authority need to compel me to submit when love already compels me?
And how does it improve a man's ability to lay down his life for his wife when he holds the trump card -- "I'm the head, and this is what we're doing"? How does that trump card encourage him to negotiate further with his wife, listen to her side, and seek out better compromises so that both parties end up happy? Businesses and governments do it every day. Why can't two people who became one flesh do the same?
Like silencing women gifted by the Spirit for the edification of the church, it makes no sense to me why Scripture belabors the point of mutual submission, humility, and equality only to reinforce a headship model that has little relevance for healthy relationships. There must be some way of reconciling God's truth revealed in Scripture with God's truth revealed in healthy, happy, mutually submissive and loving relationships.
Does your relationship need headship?
Photo Credz: Tara Pearce