When I first told my husband I wanted to use a head-covering, and explained that the Bible tells women to do so as a sign of submission, he gave me a frown. Submission? The word was distasteful to him. It made him think of a brainless dish rag subjugating herself to every whim of her tyrant master. But, that’s not what he was! So, why submission? After we realized that the Bible uses the word submission to mean that the wife respects her husband’s leadership, we were back on familiar ground.
Similar to how my husband respects and “submits” to the authority of his boss at work, God expects me to respect and submit to the authority of my husband. It doesn’t mean he’s better than me; it means his role and my role are different. He has been given by God the responsibility of leading his family. I have been given by God the responsibility of respecting his opinions and “following through with his orders.” I don’t think submission is so hard to understand when put in those terms.
It’s fairly easy to follow through with orders when what your boss asks of you is something you also agree with. But what about when your boss asks you to do something you don’t agree with? What then? If my husband “disobeys” his boss at work, he could get fired! In the work realm, disrespecting your boss’s orders can get you into big trouble. In much the same way, when a wife disrespects her “boss’s” orders (or wishes), trouble is just around the corner. Marital problems develop. Finger pointing and blaming worsen the situation. Things might get uglier than that; things could end in divorce! That’s not a biblical solution, of course. But, if we don’t want that to happen to us, if we don’t want problems in our marriage, we need to think about how to prevent them before the situation gets serious. There’s got to be a better way of dealing with disagreement.
So, I’m going to throw out a few examples of how one might deal with differences of opinion in a marriage. Of course, these are my own opinions, and even though I will sometimes use quotations from the Bible to support what I believe to be the best solution, you are responsible for reading the Bible for yourself, and obeying God according to your best interpretation. Just watch out for those sneaky preconceived notions that can sometimes get in the way! In this post, I’m going to address head-covering. In subsequent posts, I will tackle other issues.
I want to use a head-covering, but my husband is against it.
Why are we supposed to head-cover? It’s a sign of submission to our “head” (leader/authority), right? (If you’re unsure about this, please read 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, and don’t pay too much attention to the notes in your study Bible’s margin). To defy our husbands’ authority on this point contradicts the principle upon which the practice of head-covering is based! Better to honor the principle of submission, than to honor merely the symbol, if you’re forced to choose between the two. Of course, ideally you would do both. But if your husband doesn’t want you to head-cover, you should obey his wishes. Pray that God would work in his heart. If God opens up another opportunity for you to have a calm, respectful discussion about the issue, after some time has passed (let’s say, six months), then go ahead: feel free to express your thoughts and feelings! No harm done there. But even if the answer is again, “No,” you can feel at peace that by obeying him you are doing the right thing, and God will not hold it against you.
Here’s an example from the Bible that I believe can be applied to this situation:
10 “If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath 11 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. 12 But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the Lord will release her. 13 Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself.[b] 14 But if her husband says nothing to her about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or the pledges binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them. 15 If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he must bear the consequences of her wrongdoing.”
So, feeling convicted about the need to cover, expressing to God that you want to obey Him, and trying your best to make that happen, is kind of like “obligating yourself by a pledge.” If your husband allows you to go ahead with it, then great! But if he “nullifies your vow” then he must bear the consequences of your breaking your commitment (disobeying the Bible). So, now it’s on his shoulders, not yours. There is freedom in that, for you. But, there is great responsibility for your husband, before God. He will answer to God for how he allowed you to go through with your wanting to obey God (your “vows”), or not.
Here’s a tip: maybe you could ask your husband if he would allow you to cover only during your personal Bible reading and prayer. Perhaps his fear is that people would see you in a head-covering and think you’re strange, or that he’s strange for wanting you to wear one. But, if you only cover at home during your own Bible study, no one will see you, and at least you will be partially obeying the Bible (by covering during prayer).
Something else that might be helpful is to have your husband view different styles of head-coverings with you. There are various head-covering sites on the internet, or you could simply go to a store like Wal-Mart, and see what they have available that you could use. Perhaps his fear is that you will look like something you’re not (Mennonite, Amish, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) Perhaps his fear is that you will look ugly! If you find something that you both agree looks nice on you, maybe that’s all you need for him to agree to let you cover.
Or, it may be that your husband has not studied the issue in-depth yet. Well, you could ask him if you could both study it together. Even if he doesn’t want to do that, I think that by simply bringing the topic up when letting him know it’s something you want to do will spark interest for him. Maybe he will start to be more attentive when he hears or reads about it. Later, the subject might pop up again, and you will have another chance to discuss it peacefully.
Disagreement on this shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for you. Know that you’ve done what you could to make it happen, and leave your husband in God’s hands. Be patient, and try to understand your husband’s point of view, too.
What really woke me up to the need for submission and the accompanying symbol of head-covering in my own life was an incident that happened before I started to cover.
There was a very serious matter that had suddenly popped up, and after my husband and I talked about it, I thought we were in agreement about how to react. My husband was the one who needed to take action, though. To prepare for the confrontation that I knew would inevitably take place between my husband and another person involved in the matter, I spent about thirty minutes in intense prayer.
With tears streaming down my face, on my knees, even lifting my hands to heaven, I entreated God to intervene on our behalf. I pleaded with Him to make things turn out…exactly…as…I…wanted! Of course, I thought that what I wanted and what God wanted were the same thing; I was sure of it.
The fateful clash occurred. And my husband began to do the opposite of what I had expected him to do–the opposite of what we had discussed he should do! I was so disappointed, frustrated, and angry! I never intended to lash out in rage–but I did. It was a horrible day, not only for the both of us, but for our children, as well, who were standing there watching.
God spoke to me that day, through the medium of those circumstances, and He taught me a very important lesson: submission is obeying even when things are not going your way.
You don’t have to “submit” to someone when that person asks you to do something you were already going to do anyway. Submission is the hard work of self denial in a situation where someone who is in a position of authority over you expects you to do something you don’t want to do; or, expects you to accept what he himself has decided to do, whether or not you agree with his choice. No amount of passionate prayer can make that person do what you want him to do, if he doesn’t also want to do it. God may intervene–or He may not. Submission means that you accept the outcome, no matter what it is. Submission means that you accept that you are not in control.
Most of all, submission means learning to live by faith. It means to keep on trusting God no matter what happens, never letting go of the hope that all things will work out for good somehow. You never know what’s around the corner! After the incident I just mentioned, not only did I learn an important lesson that I needed to learn, and was prepared to receive the truth about head-covering when I would encounter it a month later, I was also given a chance to re-evaluate my marriage. I realized that I had not been respecting and loving my husband like I should have been. Just that realization alone, I think, has helped propel us forward toward having a closer relationship.
Head-covering might be a source of disagreement, initially. If it is, here’s your chance to latch on to the really important truth behind the veil: that a wife should respect and submit to her husband, even when she disagrees with him. In obeying your husband by not covering, if that’s what he wants, you will be living up to an even greater, more essential truth: that of submission.