13 October 2012

A 31 Day Grand Prix {day 13} ~ On a Mission

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear." 1 Peter 3.3-6
I was writing about one of those amazing-to-me ladies earlier this week, that word "submissive" was the word that stood out to me. And as I promised then, that wasn't my last word or thoughts about the jumbled ideas sometimes ping-ponging other times muddling around in my mind. Hopefully, with a bit of time since that initial impression and the actual act of letting my fingers think, some of those thoughts will make sense to someone... besides me! 

As I mentioned then, this is one of those portions of Scripture that, at least in my experience, causes much angst and anger and division within the church... as well as among churches and between the church and world in the largest sense. Most women in this day and age just don't like that word submission at all - many with good reason as this admonition and others like it have been misused and women abused as a result... Even those women who we say we do appreciate these words... usually some cliche-ish expression along the lines of remaining under the umbrella of our husband's authority... we  really don't mean THAT, i.e. their stereotypical interpretation, which is how many, if not most, understand them.

Noticing the word submissive this time, however, I focused on the "-missive" part because I remembered that missive is a word all by itself. It comes from the same root word that mission and missionary come from. Yeah... that caught my attention, for some reason... 

Submiss is also a word, all by itself, albeit an archaic one. It comes from a Latin word  meaning lowered or gentle, and when it was still used regularly, it referred to docility or softness in tone. Anyone else think those words lead to a totally different mental image and understanding when compared to the typical synonyms and definitions (tractable, compliant, pliant, amenable, passive, resigned, patient, docile, tame, subdued; unresistingly or humbly obedient)  for submissive?

When I apply that knowledge to these verses, in context (the first few verses talk about wives winning their husbands who do not believe the word by their behavior and not with words), I'm thinking those traditional ideas of the wife placed in a position of subjection to her husband at all times, regardless - is a far broader interpretation than was either taught or implied in these verses. The very specific circumstance here refers to a marriage where the wife is obedient to the Word and her husband is not. Most commentaries I read state that the winning of the husband without words refers to without preaching or sitting under biblical teaching in the church.

As I take these thoughts and try to put them all together - here's what comes out. What if the wife, under these circumstances, functions as a "missive," a messenger, from God, where her docility, her gentleness, and softness in tone and willingness to lay aside her rights, communicates to her husband the message of hope that he is unwilling to hear in any other way or form?  In that context, I can also see these verses being applied, not in every single situation between a husband and wife, but in those where there is a clear difference in belief - that the wife is not to nag, not to persist, not to attack incessantly, or compromise her values, but to treat her husband with deference in this area of disagreement, to walk and live those values every day as she lives with her husband. God values and places value on a woman who will choose to live her life in this way, living with her husband even when they disagree or have different beliefs, with a gentle and quiet spirit. Her words in other places - even her own disbelief that God would keep His promise in some way she couldn't begin to understand - all of those factors give me a particular impression of the type of woman Sarah might have been. 

Something tells me she just wasn't a pushover or anyone's. She lived some hard and scary stuff! Any woman who 
  • could live the nomadic lifestyle as she followed her husband (Do you ever wonder what she thought when he told her they were moving, but didn't know the final destination?), 
  • - by God's grace - survived her stay as a part of a king's harem, 
  • watched her man give their nephew the best land and then head off to battle to rescue him from his foolish choices, 
  • who willingly entered into the adventure of parenthood at a rather advance age, and
  • could watch her young man leave with his daddy - sensing that something significant and hard was about to happen...
She doesn't seem to be a woman to mess with.

More importantly, she's the same woman who God valued, a woman He described as beautiful. She put her hope in God, not in her husband. I believe that was what enabled her to become God's missive to her man, encouraging, probably challenging and surely frustrating him from time to time - but pleasing first God and her husband with a gentle, quiet spirit who worked to do right and to not fear.

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