So good to be home. I love sleeping on my own pillow and in my own bed. Showering in my own shower. Eating my regular food. Simple pleasures but much appreciated after almost 6 weeks away. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed our sisters sharing their stories on my blog and I hope to do more of these in the future. If any of you are interested in writing something, I’d love to hear from you.
We’ve also had some drama here but I’m grateful for it. Like anything or everything in life, nothing is perfect and we are strengthened by learning how to deal with challenges with truth and grace. I am in personal contact with Aleea and we will move forward in keeping the main purpose of this blog; helping hurting women in destructive marriages find Christ and his TRUTH, found in his Word. That is the only place where a woman will find true safety and sanity. To swirl about in doubt and confusion by listening to the words of fallible human beings leads nowhere, which I think Aleea’s experience bears out. Ultimately after all our study and research, our walk is a walk of faith, not rock solid hard “sight” evidence.
I’m also thrilled that some of you have decided to join me at our 2018 CONQUER Conference. We have close to 700 women registered. I promise you the conference will be AMAZING and you will wish you were there. If you struggle with courage or knowing what to do to grow strong, you will find answers and help at CONQUER 2018. Nichole Nordeman, an award-winning Christian singer is going to be with us all day on Saturday, doing a concert in the morning and leading us in worship in the afternoon. Sheri Keffer from New Life Live will keynote our Friday night session and I will close, teaching you how and why it’s so important that you Be Brave and Grow Strong as women of God and how to do it. There are 20 workshops throughout the day on all kinds of topics pertaining to growing in Christ so I hope to see you there. For more information CLICK HERE…..
This Week’s Question: I am no longer in an abusive marriage or church system because after setting boundaries regarding pornography and an assault, I had to leave both.
I am putting my life back together, but find myself particularly and deeply troubled when I hear “Christian” teaching on what a wife is and isn't supposed to do. I tend to not listen to a particular program that comes on the Christian radio station in my area because of what I consider subversive views of a woman's place in marriage and how these ideas I believe to be a core culprit in the corporate gaslighting I experience in my marriage. Unfortunately though, this evening I wasn't quick to turn it off.
I am hopeful you can help me detangle what I just reheard (as my husband use to say this) and I am very much struggling with it, even three years later. I heard that on this program a woman say she believes that it is disrespectful for a wife not to laugh at her husband's jokes.
I am so deeply disturbed by this because I was told that my own personal choices to like or dislike something my husband did or also liked was why he was unhappy with me and ultimately why he ‘strayed' in pornography and that I drove him away by setting healthy boundaries.
My question may seem silly but: Is it really disrespectful to not laugh at a joke I don't find funny? Or did I really miss something? And is this some kind of corporate abuse? I'm having a hard time understanding how to engage in the larger Christian community because of these kinds of things. I go slow with my story and am cautious about who I let in, but wonder, should I keep away from places that say these things entirely and makes me wonder and more than a little afraid of being taken in by these subversively destructive messages again. Things that ultimately are saying: “in order to be a good wife, I'm not allowed to have my own self”,or some more destructive that say “by not going along with what he says, you are destroying your marriage.” Sometimes I just want to scream back and say, “Can't you see that you are saying he is God and I am his slave!” but really I'm not sure that will be much help.
Leslie, how can I find help to de-program from these ego-based ideas of a dominance of men over women in the church, or is this what is right? There are so many scriptures that really can confuse me still and have been many times used to ‘keep me in my place.' Is there a God-ordained hierarchy of men over women?
I'm grateful I've found my right place, in my own mind and body, safe and healthy again in my own home. Thank you for your work and efforts. Without your work and books and speaking to put scripture back in its right context I would not have had the great early help I needed to leave a very (now clearly) unhealthy situation.
Answer: You asked a teensy weensy question, “Is it disrespectful to not laugh at your husband’s jokes?” and opened a huge can of worms, “is there a God-ordained hierarchy of men over women?”
So in my limited space and theological perspective, let me try to answer both.
First, the speaker on the radio program who said it is disrespectful to not laugh at your husband’s jokes, in my opinion, is off base theologically and relationally unsound. It might be disrespectful to snicker, roll your eyes, or show disdain towards your husband’s jokes, especially if you are in public with other people, but if you don’t find his joke funny, why would you pretend you do? That isn’t walking in integrity with your own self nor is it being honest and real with him.
Let me add a small caveat. If other people generally find your husband’s jokes funny and his jokes aren’t offensive or off-color, I would simply forbear his joke telling with grace and keep quiet. In the same way if you were at a dinner party at someone’s home and you didn’t like the meal, you probably wouldn’t rave how wonderful the meal was (dishonest pretense), but you also probably would eat what you did like or could eat and keep quiet, especially if other people seemed to like it. I don’t think you would say out loud, “I don't like this meal, I don’t find it appealing at all.” In fact, if you did say that, even if you were honest, most people would probably perceive it as out of line or disrespectful to your host. However, if you had a good relationship with this host and they invited you again or knew you well, I suspect you would somehow let them know that you don’t eat ham, or don’t like cheese in your food or some other thing that would help them accommodate you at their next dinner party. Make sense?
Your husband may be more outgoing than you are or likes to tell jokes to keep the conversation light and that’s part of who he is. As his partner, even if you don’t share the same sense of humor, it’s important that you accept him. I wouldn’t pretend I love every joke or find them funny, but I would be careful to be respectful during those times he’s joking.
The only reason I can think of why the woman on the radio would recommend that a wife laughs at her husband’s joke even when she doesn’t think it’s funny is so her spouse’s ego doesn’t get wounded. If that’s the case, it reminds me of another longstanding Christian teaching I’ve heard where a good wife should never criticize, contradict, or correct her husband. Instead, if she sees something wrong, she should just be quiet, trust God, and submit to her husband; even while her husband was driving the entire family straight off a cliff or their family ship was sinking. The reason? Her Biblical role is to “build him up” not “tear him down.”
And there is some truth in that idea. That’s why it gets confusing.
We are to build one another up but only with truth, not with lies or pretense. Click To Tweet
For example, how many parents have falsely tried to build up their children’s confidence or self-esteem with lies? “You can do anything you set your mind to” or “You’re a great singer or artist or athlete.” But sooner or later the child has a hard wake up call with reality (truth) when he gets cut from the team, or she doesn’t get selected for the choir, or he finds out the hard truth that basketball is not his gift or talent, even when he puts his whole mind and body to it. He will never be a pro athlete or she will never get invited to sing on America’s Got Talent.
This idea of building someone up falsely doesn’t line up with teaching that we are to speak the truth in love (not disrespectfully – Ephesians 4:15). Or the words in Proverbs where it says, Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). This false teaching reminds me of the children’s fable The Emperor’s New Clothes.
The King wanted a new robe. He invited some new tailors to create one. However, these tailors were deceptive and fooled the King into thinking they were weaving a robe out of magical thread that only smart people could see. The King put his new robe on to be admired by all. His advisors, who he trusted to be most honest with him, pretended that the King looked amazing in his new robe when the truth was, he was completely naked. Everyone was afraid to “wound” the King’s ego because he trusted his tailor’s words. Everyone’s ego was at stake because no one wanted to admit that they couldn’t “see” the fabric. They didn’t want to be labeled stupid. But the truth was there was no fabric. The King had no robe. It took the innocent honesty of a small child who finally broke the group delusion when he cried, “Why is the King naked?” during the Kings parade.
Our ego is not to be protected or built up. God says we’re to lay it down. Our unhealthy ego is the part of our “self” that sets itself as a god and against God. That ego-self must die if we are to grow into our true self in Christ. (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21; Matthew 16: 24,25). Therefore why would a wife be mandated to lie to her husband or pretend so as to not wound her husband’s prideful or fragile ego? It is often in the wounding of our ego that we become humble (Matthew 5:3).
However, let me add, it is not our place as a wife or parent or friend to purposely wound someone’s ego. That is something only God orchestrates, often through failure, honest feedback from others, and difficult situations where we come to the end of our prideful self and hopefully in that place come to realize that it is not in our own power, strength, self-sufficiency, intelligence, or talents, that we find our life. It is only in and through Christ(Acts 17:25). Much like the man named Saul discovered when he came face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9 and Galatians 2:20). Or Peter when he realized he wasn’t as confident and brave as he thought he was (Luke 22:54-62).
Your next question about hierarchy will be open to more theological and philosophical debate but here are my thoughts on the topic. Some people read the creation story as the man was created first, and the woman second. Therefore there is a God-ordained hierarchy. You and I are not going to change those people’s minds. Patriarchy has been around from the beginning of time. And history and nature show us that power and dominance are hardwired into our biology. Even among animals, we see a hierarchy. For example, we see it practiced when male lions or birds or even insects fight for territory and the right to mate with the best female. Or when you get a new puppy, if you have an alpha dog, you have to establish your right to be the leader or the dog rules the house.
Therefore, I think we must be open to the possibility that God designed a hierarchy structure in his creation, usually making males physically stronger in order to protect the female and their offspring so that the species survives. But when we read the Bible, we also see something else. We see God clearly warning his people both individually and corporately not to misuse their power or even their higher position to serve their own ego, to get their own way, or dominate and oppress others.
We also see in Scripture a model of marriage with Adam and Eve of a mutual and reciprocal partnership. Eve had the freedom to make choices (even bad choices). She wasn’t dominated or controlled. She had influence over her husband. She invited Adam to eat of the fruit too, even though it was a bad decision. Their bad decision isn’t a reflection that mutuality in marriage is a bad idea nor does it mean that from now Adam should never listen to Eve or a husband should make all the decisions. However, we do see that one of the consequences of their sin is that a power struggle will be present in the marital relationship (Genesis 3:16).
In the New Testament, we also see Jesus specifically instructing his disciples, the future leaders of his church, not to misunderstand leadership or headship (Matthew 20:25; Luke 22:25; Mark 10:42). In Jewish culture being the “head” was modeled as a hierarchy model of leadership and was practiced as I get to be the boss and tell people what to do. Jesus corrected this wrong thinking when he instructed his disciples not to misuse their power (or authority or ability to dominate) for selfish oregotistical purposes. Instead, they are to use their power and position as the head to serve others.
The apostle Paul also initiated a course correction in the midst of a patriarchal culture when he talked about mutuality in marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7, which is traditionally used to tell a wife that she has no right to sexually refuse her spouse, Paul leveled the power differential between a husband and wife when he inserted the word “likewise” into this text. This was a radical change of perspective. Now, what applied to wives, also applied to husbands. What benefited husbands, also benefited wives. Paul’s other teaching on husbands sacrificially loving their wives was also rebalancing the power differential practiced in that culture ……reminding everyone that even though culture and biology may be wired towards power and dominance, God’s plan is for mutuality and reciprocity and respect of one another, not dominance over each other (Romans 10:12; Galatians 3:28).
To summarize, nowhere in Scripture is a woman or wife told to become a faker or pretender so that her husband likes her better or isn’t hurt or disappointed that she doesn’t admire every single thing about him. And I would say the same for husbands.
As believers, we are called to love and accept one another, flaws and all. That doesn’t mean we don't implement boundaries with that acceptance. For example, I can learn to accept someone is a smoker without resentment. That doesn’t mean I have to stay in the same space while he or she smokes. I may have to come to accept someone I live with is chronically deceitful (acceptance doesn't’ mean you like it or approve of it) but healthy people live in truth and reality.
I do think that God institutes a plan for leadership in families, in churches, and in countries. Whether that leadership is exclusively limited to the male species is open to rigorous debate. Certainly, history has preferred males, but not always. In the Bible, amidst a strong culture of patriarchy, we’ve seen Deborah the judge (Judges 4,5), Miriam, Moses partner and sister in leading the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 15:20), the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, Ana the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38). Esther the Queen of Persia (book of Esther), and Priscilla who co-led and co-taught with her husband Aquila (Acts 18:2,3; Romans 16:3).
And, I'm particularly intrigued by a woman in Revelation 2, called Jezebel. She is strongly rebuked by Christ for her wayward and ungodly teaching which was gaining a foothold in the early church. Jezebel was probably not her real name but represented the spirit of the evil OT Queen Jezebel that the prophet Elijah had to stand against. However, if females were not supposed to teach in the early church, what was Jezebel (or whoever she was) doing teaching in the church? It’s interesting to me that Jesus does not rebuke her for teaching, but for being a person who is teaching heresy. If God did not want women to assume leadership or teach at all, then I wonder why wouldn’t Christ didn’t rebuke her for teaching as well as rebuke the church for allowing her as a woman to teach?
So it’s important that you not allow yourself to get gaslighted or afraid when people may hold a different Biblical perspective than you do on things like the woman on the radio. I think all of us will be surprised when we get to Heaven and get a chance to ask God some questions on what we thought was clearly black and white. We all are going to find out that the mystery of God and the ways of God aren’t limited by our finite understanding.
Friends, have you lied and pretended in your marriage and what has it cost you? What has it cost your marriage?