When I left Roman Catholicism in the seventies I thought I had also left behind the notion of a spiritual hierarchy, the idea that there is more than one mediator, who is Jesus Christ, between God and man. I thought I left behind the notion that a group of people are spiritually superior to another group of people despite the finished work of Christ on the cross. So I was surprised to also find another form of the idea thriving in the reformed church, specifically, in the Patriarchy/Complementarianism movement, the Quiverfull sect being one extreme example of this.
In Catholicism, I was accustomed to the belief that the Pope, speaking ex-Cathedra, speaks as God (not to mention Mary revered, now, as a co-Mediatrix), or so they teach. But having left that belief system I was surprised and saddened to learn that in the extra-biblical Patriarchal movement within Protestantism there is also a hierarchical belief system, only in this case it is believed that husbands and fathers are designed to rule over and stand between women and girls and God.
The fact that husbands’ proclivity to rule over wives is part of Eve’s curse, that the practice actually contributes to “her” (women, collective) punishment apparently has not occurred to these men. They think they are doing a service for God in mandating that women and girls serve them. They apparently do not see their promulgation of sin’s destructive power over women in this way as a negative, nor do they consider the lack of logic even as it would be illogical for anyone to design doctrine specifically around making it hard for a man to earn a living because this was part of Adam’s curse.
(A pause, here, to say thank you, Jesus, for taking the curses, both men’s and women’s, upon Yourself on the cross.)
But perhaps the most dangerous of the beliefs of this movement is the idea that women are not able to interpret Scripture for themselves, that men have to do this for them as I heard at one Bible study where elders of a patriarchal church were present. As if, somehow, God left something out of the physiology of the female brain necessary to absorb the meaning of His Word. As if, when Jesus promised He would send another to “lead and guide believers into all truth” (John 16:13) He really meant He would send the Holy Spirit only to men.
(Another pause: thank You, Jesus.)
And so, girls and women manipulated into believing these patriarchal ideas are God’s own exist in yet another religious hierarchal system designed to give, in this case, husbands and fathers power over them, power not supported in the full context of Scripture, power with the potential for harm when one group of people deems themselves superior to another group , and in many cases, actual spiritual, emotional, physical, and /or mental harm.
I read the sad stories of women and girls used and abused by this belief system, and I pray they will understand that in Christ Jesus, they are every bit as free as are men and boys. I pray it will be soon. I hope the devotional below will be of some encouragement. In it you will recognize many believers who listened to and followed God’s wisdom and guidance and who played a key role in redemptive history including Deborah, Abigail, Esther, Mary, Mary Magdalene, the women present at Pentecost, and other sisters in the Lord. Be encouraged. Take hope. In Christ Jesus, we are free indeed.
SPIRIT OF HIS SPIRIT: A
WOMAN’S BELIEVER’S PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
As the dust of creation settled, You crafted flesh from flesh and bone from bone making that which was part, whole.
In the cool of the day You walked with us, unwrapping color, light , scent; the intricacies of Your designs; the delicacies of Your hand. In the cool of the day you gifted us with Your presence while there was yet time…
But even after we misused that other gift—that severe necessity of love, free will—and for the first time found ourselves naked in our sin You did not abandon us. You covered us and equipped us with warnings even as You posted guard at the gate and we—paradise behind, consequence ahead—stepped onto the rocky landscape of redemptive history.
We knew our guilt and knew, for the first time, separateness as sin began its destruction.
To the man You prophesied toil with anguish; to me, my desire, though fraught with the danger of childbirth, would be for him. And You prophesied the quest for rulership tainted, now, with evil…
But You also gave a promise: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” You told the destroyer, “and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” In the wee, dark hours of redemption You seeded hope…
Though curse-bound I pondered that seed as I walked with You in the cool of my heart, in the solitude of reverie, in freedom of spirit. And You heard and answered me.
Trusting You, I bore my children in pain, but judged all of Israel from beneath a tree.
Listening to You, I served—and saved—a man named “fool (Nabal);” served—and saved—a man named David.
Confident in You, I approached another king risking all to save my people—to save Your people.
In the fullness of time, though fragile in years and status I understood the angel’s invitation and agreed to birth You among us.
I entered restricted company and shattered my jar of precious ointment to anoint Your feet, You, Who knew me, yet still loved me.
Bound in the rags of my sin and shame I sat at the edge of a well and listened as You told me my life, without condemnation, and promised the water that would quench the insatiable thirst.
I watched, trembling, in the sand, as you rescued me from my accusers, their fists clenching the law.
I was the last one to handle Your torn body for burial that awful day, a mix of Your blood and my tears staining my hands and heart.
Three days later, I was the first one to hear You speak the name of one who loved You. That day You split time. That day You bruised forever the head of the snake. The day You had promised. That day You were the Promise.
I cowered, too, in that upper room, afraid of the overwhelming evil that was able to seemingly overcome the Son of God, although You had prophesied that. And I was there when the Holy Spirit, another promise, came as a rushing wind empowering us with might and glory and joy and gifting each of us severally as He willed so that we could be witnesses to the ends of place and time.
And I sit freely at Your feet now, listening, watching, waiting, the taste of redemption still in my mouth.
I join multitudes who because of Your sacrifice can now come near to learn of You without hesitation, who can experience the fullness of Your power without intermediary.
Because of Your sacrifice, I enjoy oneness again, the unity—in You—of all believers male, female; Jew, Greek; slave, free.
For You have enabled me to step through the torn curtain, to come forward from the recesses of the synagogues, the backs of the churches, the corners of shame; You have delivered me (and all those who so will) from the chains of the curses, invited me into the throne room of Your presence where, in You, I take my seat in the heavenlies.
Though here the glass be dark, because of You I come boldly front and center and press my face close with Your blood-bought permission so that I might know all that You have for me and for all “who will” because of “the anointing which (I) have received of (You, that) abideth in (me), and (I) need not that any man teach (me): but as the same anointing teacheth (me) of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught (me), (I) shall abide in (You).”
And none come between.
At Your altar I raise my head and hands and heart to the anointing that breaks the yoke and give You unending praise in a song of grace triumphant
Thank You, Lord, for freeing me from the law of sin and death, for regarding me neither more nor less than any other, and for never leaving nor forsaking me.
Spirit of Your Spirit, I yearn for You alone, my solo desire, and I lift up You Who uplifted me then and Who uplifts me now and forever.
To You alone be the glory.
I am free, indeed.