Headcovering & Complementarianism

How do I Lovingly Submit to my Husband…When We Disagree? (Head-covering)

 

January 2015 017When 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.

SCENARIO #1

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:

 Numbers 30

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.

 

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19 thoughts on “How do I Lovingly Submit to my Husband…When We Disagree? (Head-covering)

  1. Beautiful article and photo! It’s sharing about your experience and pratical advice for christian wives.
    I feel articles written about submission to husband is not so many. Maybe it is one of most sensitive issue in modern churches.

    I imagined that someday when you finish up raising kids,you may help and encourage many young ladies,mothers also by sharing your spiritual journey.

    I admire your frankness. Your frank sharing make me feel that I am not only one to feel the same.

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  2. Loved this post! Good advice here. I have not dealt with this specific issue, because it was my husband’s idea for me to start covering, but all of us deal with the issue of submitting when we disagree – in one area or another.

    “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.”

    Ha, ha! So true. I have become increasingly dissatisfied with and distrustful of study Bibles over the past few years, as I see that so often – as with this passage – they often are simply long-winded explanations of “how to get out of this particular Bible teaching.” Very disappointing.

    Your blog is an encouragement! Good work here!

    Diana 🙂

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    1. Wow, that’s different!–most women, it seems to me, are the ones who want to cover, while their husbands are usually the ones who are “iffy” about it. I’m glad you went along with it, and are now so tenacious in being obedient to the Word of God!
      And yes, I’ve crossed out the notes in several places of my study Bible. I still use it, and some of the notes are helpful, but I have to be careful to remind myself that the notes are not the Word of God! You should see the notes underneath the 1 Cor. 11:1-16 passage where I’ve crossed them all out with giant x-es! It makes me so mad to see people, as you say, supplying a “long-winded explanation of ‘how to get out of this particular Bible teaching.'”
      Thanks for the encouragement!
      Jessica

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  3. Jessica, thank you so much for sharing this deep wisdom with us women! I am fairly new to covering and have noticed that although I did obey when YHWH showed me to cover, I am still being tested in the area of submission, in even the little things. He loves us so much that he uses these areas of obedience to further us in our walks with Him, guiding us through each test so that we fulfill our God-given calling as wives and mothers. One of my teenage daughters also covers, even though I did not ask her to. I shared with my girls that they were to seek the Lord in ALL things, including this. I also strongly agree with you (and the person above) about the commentaries found in so many Bibles. Over the past few years, I’ve been convicted to stop taking those “opinions” as truth, because they in fact are “long-winded explanations of how to get out of this particular Bible teaching.” Sad.

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    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! It is always a blessing to know that something I have written has been helpful to someone else, and I always love to hear about their experiences, too!
      I was impressed that your teenage daughter also covers, even though you didn’t tell her to. I hope my daughters will do the same :).
      “I am still being tested in the area of submission, in even the little things. He loves us so much that he uses these areas of obedience to further us in our walks with Him, guiding us through each test so that we fulfill our God-given calling as wives and mothers.”
      I completely agree!
      Thanks so much,
      Jessica

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  4. Thank you for sharing your opinion and very honest testimony in this area. So thankful for the Lord’s mercy & grace in your life!
    I have a question though, my sister covers full time with her hubbys blessing. My hubby is as you said in your post “on the fence” about it, I feel convicted to cover full time not just in church and I believe I should obey God over man (in this case my husband). The Bible (1 Cor 11, specifically vs 5) also says that women are to cover their heads while praying and prophesying.
    1 Thess 5:17 tells me to pray without ceasing … Also that it is a dishonor to my head and to God ultimately to not be covered.
    So shouldn’t I be covered all day? I have counseled with several Titus 2 sisters and they agree with that thinking above, they say the Scripture is clear and plain and that I must honor God first and foremost.
    Since you have posted on this, I would be grateful for your opinion on my situation with the limited information you have before you please.
    I will say there are no problems between my husband and myself thus far he just hasn’t given his “go ahead” to cover full time but he hasn’t told me “not to” either.
    He doesn’t mind at church, but I feel hypocritical wearing it at church, then taking off while I am still praying throughout the day or talking with another sister about the Lord.

    My apologies for the “book” but I believe I stumbled over here on purpose tonight.

    Thank you kindly in advance!

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    1. Dear Jasmine,
      Thank you so much for your comment! I am so honored that you would share your experience with me in order to ask my opinion! I will tell you frankly what I think, but of course it is just my opinion.

      First of all, here are some great articles from the Head Covering Movement site that I recommend:
      http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/my-husband-asked-me-to-not-cover-my-head-what-should-i-do
      http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/where-are-head-coverings-to-practiced-in-church-or-everywhere
      http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/can-head-covering-be-limited-to-church-if-the-arguments-paul-uses-apply-at-all-times
      http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/articles/is-corporate-worship-limited-to-the-sunday-service

      Second of all, I would like to share my own experience and thoughts.
      I do not cover all the time. I only cover during the church service, when reading the Bible out loud and teaching it to my children, when writing articles for my blog and replying to comments (I have one on now), and when praying before meals. I may sometimes cover during personal Bible study, too. I don’t cover all the time because I don’t think it is what the Bible tells me to do. The command seems to be only for praying and prophesying specifically within the context of corporate gatherings of believers (though I go beyond that in my personal practice). Are we supposed to pray all the time? Yes, of course. But, the covering is probably only meant to have symbolic significance during certain times and during certain kinds of prayer. At other times, though it may still function as an aid (it helps us remember to be submissive, reverent, godly, prayerful, etc.), it may not actually be biblically necessary.

      When I was first trying to decide whether I should cover full time or only some of the time, I asked my husband what he thought, and he definitely did not want me covering all the time. I asked him why not, and he replied that it was because he didn’t think it was necessary for me to cover all the time (just a guess, but it might have also been because he likes to see my long brown hair, too). So, I did what he thought was best. In my opinion, it is better to go along with what one’s husband wants than to defy his wishes. The covering symbolizes submission, but if we wear it full-time against our husbands’ wishes, we are not being submissive and are disobeying God, not to mention creating conflict in our marriages. The wise woman builds up her house, but the foolish woman pulls it down with her own hands. I don’t want to be like the foolish woman.

      That’s not to say that I have this all figured out! I still speculate regarding when is the proper time to don a covering, and when it may not be necessary. On some days, I’m more strict with myself, and on others I’m more lenient. However, I always cover at church. My husband is happy with me, I’m happy with me, and I think that God must be happy with me, too. I have peace with my decision, and that is what I hope for you too, whatever decision you end up making! I have friends who cover full-time, and I greatly respect them, even though I do not practice covering in the same way. I encourage you to ask your husband what he thinks! As long as you are respectful when you do it, I see nothing to be worried about! And my advice is to do whatever your husband wants you to do, since that will show you respect his authority as your “head.”

      I hope this has helped, and wish the best for you and yours! I would love it if you came back later to share with me how everything turned out! (if you want).
      Jessica

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    2. Hi Jasmine.

      In brief my own experience is that I was guided to cover in Church and Prayer in obedience to my husband’s wishes which lead me to the conviction that I should cover full time. I discussed that with my husband who sought our Priests guidance and then agreed that I should, he has since become absolute in his view that I should always cover and I now do so in obedience as well as conviction.

      We are called to obedience to God, but as women it is our husband who is ‘first in line of command’ under him. You should explain how you feel to your husband, but it is for him to decide.

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  5. 15 If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he must bear the consequences of her wrongdoing.”

    I encourage you to re-read this portion of Scripture. As you correctly went to the right portion of Scripture it does not say that the husband is responsible for All the nullments; Only those that the wife was practicing for SOME TIME and then he nullifies them THEN he will bear the consequences because he did not speak up when he first heard about the pledge and he allowed the wife to continue and now says no after the pledge has been sealed…That’s where the husband will bear the consequences only after the wife has told the husband he agreed or said nothing (as the Scripture said) but THEN after some time he hears abut them and nullifies them he will bear the consequences and the wife will not be under the consequence of stopping the pledge or oath it will be on the husband. 😉 Hope this help and clarifies 😉

    Also, just so it does not sound like the I’m saying the wife will have to bear the consequences IF the husband when he hears about it say’s no. That’s not what I’m saying or getting at, at all. If the husband says no then NEITHER wife nor husband are under any consequence because the pledge/oath has been nullified. Therefore, neither can bear any consequence. 😉

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    1. Thanks for the feed back!
      If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you are saying that the only sin in the scenario spoken of in the text is that of breaking a promise.

      Yes, it’s wrong to break our promises. Your point, I think, is this: If a wife makes a promise, and fully intends to keep it, and has already commenced to follow through, but her husband doesn’t step in until later to stop her, even though he knew about it, then he has forced her to break her promise, and because breaking promises is wrong, he bears the burden of that decision. But, if he catches her before she’s had a chance to follow through, he has saved her from having to break her promise later on, and in that case, there’s no sin. So, if there’s no vow being broken (or at least no vow that’s been sealed by the husband’s approval or silence), there’s no consequence. For neither of them.

      I agree with that, in part, and here’s the part I think makes sense: no broken promise = no wrongdoing. Yes, I see how that is logical, and is most likely what the passage is talking about. Thank you for pointing that out!

      However, I do still think this passage could apply to the situation of a woman who wants to head-cover, but her husband won’t allow it. But in that case, we are talking about something more than some random vow: we are talking about something the Scriptures are clear about, and in which obedience is demanded by the Word of God itself. I think that’s a bit more serious. And if, in that particular case, the husband will not allow his wife to follow through (no matter the point in time at which he became aware of it), I DO think there is a consequence for him. It seems to me that someone’s going to be held responsible for breaking that CLEAR COMMAND, and it’s not the wife.

      What I am wanting to highlight here, is that whether in the case of breaking a random vow, or in that of disobeying a clearly stated command of Scripture, the husband has authority over the wife. He can break her vows. He can also tell her not to cover. The point is that he is the leader, and what he says, goes–in most cases. God holds the husband responsible for how he directs his family, and that, in a sense, “let’s the wife off the hook.” I’m trying to show how we as women don’t need to feel guilty over something that we have little to no control over.

      So yes, I think you are mostly right in your observation. I am simply amplifying the discussion to include the specific case of head-covering, and trying to see how the passage being discussed could apply to that. Any additional thoughts?

      Thanks!
      Jessica

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  6. I believe it is the duty of a wife to submit to her husband and to follow his wishes. But I do not believe that goes as far as to actively or willingly participate in sin.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As an example I don’t think that whatever a woman’s husband does or want’s that any Christian woman should ever practice contraception or of course anything worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Susanne, I agree. Some things are so disgusting and sinful that we are forced to disobey our husbands in those matters. Headcovering isn’t one of them, in my opinion; but, sexual sin, is. Thanks for pointing that out.
      Jessica

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  8. Thank you, Lencia, for sharing your take on this issue!

    First, I would like to reply to this part of your comment:
    “I totally get where you are coming from, trying to help sisters keep the peace in their homes! I get that. But Jessica are you sure her disobedience to a clear command won’t have any consequences later?”

    One of the things that popped out at me when I read your comment, was that you say the headcovering command is “clear.” It is, but not to everyone. It takes most people multiple hours of study to really understand this issue. If they haven’t done that yet, it’s easy to see how they would believe what is commonly taught by highly-respected Bible teachers. I’m not saying that’s right; I’m just pointing out that that’s normal. A woman who believes in headcovering is doing something “unusual” by our current society’s standards. It makes sense that her husband might have trouble accepting it. Not because he’s opposed to the truth (at least he doesn’t see it that way), but because he doesn’t understand the headcovering issue the way his wife does.

    So, here’s my point: when the wife covers against her husband’s wishes, she sets herself up as wiser and more spiritually perceptive than him, basically dismissing his interpretation of the matter as if she knows better than he. I don’t see how you can do that and still be respectful at the same time. Her implied message to her husband is “I understand this issue, and you don’t. I’m right, and you’re wrong. So, I’m going to do what I think is right, no matter if you agree with me or not.” That might seem like taking the “spiritual high ground,” but I foresee bitterness and resentment as a result. Basically, she’s made her husband to feel like she thinks he’s an idiot who isn’t capable of understanding the Bible without her help.

    Even though this issue is clear for many of us, unfortunately it isn’t clear for all of us. Clear issues, for most people, are “don’t lie,” “don’t steal,” “don’t commit murder”; but headcovering, for a lot of people, is hazier. I suggest patience with those who still have yet to study it. I suggest a wife give her husband the time he needs to look into this issue, without forcing him to make a decision about it right away. I suggest persevering in prayer for God to change his heart. It can be done! Let’s believe in God’s power to make it happen without trying to force things our way first.

    Here’s a Bible verse for consideration:
    “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” 1 Cor. 14:34-35

    A woman should ask her husband what he thinks. She should respect his opinion on Bible matters. She shouldn’t act like she knows better than him. She should obey what he wants her to do.

    Now for the example you gave about the two sisters. I agree with it for the most part. But, it’s not the same. Let me give you another example. Us and our children. We tell them what to do, and they are expected to obey us. Would it be right for them to disobey us because they think their interpretation of the Bible is more accurate than ours? If my children told me they wanted to go to church on Saturday instead of on Sunday because they believed the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday, I would of course ask them why they thought that, and try to have a conversation about it with them. But, if they persisted, I would say, “I’m sorry, last time I checked I was the parent and you were the child. I am open to talking about this with you, but you still have to do what I say. End of story.” They might be big-headed and think they know more than mom and pop, but it’s our interpretation of the Bible that they must abide by.

    I believe that that more closely resembles the marriage relationship. A wife is told to obey her husband, even though she is not his child; she is his one-flesh helper. Even more serious. She must obey him because the Bible tells her to, similar to how the Bible tells children to obey their parents (and there is nothing degrading or condescending about that), but she must also be one with him. She can’t do that if there is dissention. Double reason for not resisting his authority.

    I don’t see this as strictly an “obedience versus disobedience” issue. I see it as a “my interpretation versus his interpretation” issue. Yes, the truth stands firm, no matter what our personal interpretation. But, respect demands that we not force our interpretation on our husbands.

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss this with me! I recognize that we will not always think the same as other people, and that is okay. It’s always good to be able to talk about things in a peaceful manner, with an aim toward godly edification. 🙂
    Jessica

    Liked by 1 person

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