I am finding it interesting the way my posts have winded here and there. For the last few days I have been confronting feminism, as i have been reading Elisabeth Elliots book , Let Me Be a Woman. Today I read the book as I walked down the lane with my little dog, Yumi. It was quite a self indulgent experience. Today is a lovely day, buds are just coming out, and the temperature, and fragrance, would have pleased even Goldilocks. Where I am living now is an extremely beautiful place in the wilderness. I know, without a doubt, that God has placed me, in this place, for this time, to recreate me. Revive is my theme word for this blog, but recreate is essentially the same thing: to rebuild, to make new, to restore. The old Jack was not hardly capable of recreation. I was too driven by guilt and false ambition to be able to indulge in this kind of rest and restoration ; this seeming self indulgence. I am learning that we are not given life so that we can enjoy recreation but that our Father gives us recreation so that we can enjoy life and be fruitful and so glorify Him. I realized, as I walked, that this heavenly time will soon be over. I will be thrust out, once again, into whirl of ministry and making money and work. But I hope that, though I can’t stay here, that I can bring much of it with me, wherever I may go.
I confess, ( must I always be confessing, it appears so ) that I chose Elliots book in the bookstore because of my desire to confront feminism. Ironically, as I have been reading, it has been confronting me and my own sinful rebellion against Gods order. It has been calling me to a more disciplined walk in Christ. Elisabeth Elliot uses the word discipline more than any other, and one could well say it is her theme. I quote.
We have to talk about self-discipline again. We keep coming back to that, and we will keep coming back to that as long as we live, whatever struggles we have to endure. ” Does the road wind uphill all the way? asks Christina Rosetti’s poem and the answer is, ” Yes to the very end.”
No woman who has not learned to master herself can be trusted to submit willingly to her husband. And that word willingly means that she does not merely resign herself to something she cannot avoid. It means that by an act of her own will she gives herself. With gladness she submits because she understands that voluntary submission is her very strength. Because it is the thing asked of her by her creator, it is the thing which assures her of fulfillment. It is the task assigned her which, willingly performed, actually strengthens the husband in his weakness. ( emphasis mine
This book, being written to and for her daughter, is for a woman, but it is also tangentially for men. The more I read about the discipline required of a woman to accept God’s created order in order to gladly choose to submit to her husband, the more I realize my own great need of self discipline to accept God’s order in my life, an order that I have rebelled against time and again. I was called to the ministry in 1973, but have turned my back to that plow, that vocation, many times , and mostly because I have refused to submit. I did not want to submit to the weakness that is inherent in the ministry. A pastor is in exactly the same position as a wife. A pastor is extremely dependent. For instance his income is by donation. As a carpenter I earn my bread , but as a pastor I am kept. Some may argue with this, but I have heard many sermons, and preached a few myself teaching that a pastor isn’t paid a salary but rather that he is supported. In my sinful nature, I don’t like this, being supported. I find it humiliating and scary. My sinful nature wants a job, and a wage, not a vocation and support.
My “work” as a pastor is to be a home maker. I don’t build things like cabinets or houses. I build a family. I create memories. Like a mother, I teach truths and values, and sometimes I have to discipline God’s children. At the end of the day I can’t say, look what I have accomplished today. As a pastor I have to submit to a board of elders, and I am not free to just do whatever I want. And in that relationship with that board of elders I am extremely vulnerable. They can decide one day that they don’t want me anymore and I have a month to find another church in which to serve. In my sinful nature, I want a business that I can control, that builds me equity, that I can sell, or take with me wherever I go. I want something that is mine. The church can never be mine.
As “Just” a pastor, I, myself, am my vocation, just a wife is, herself, her vocation. As a carpenter I can have an affair, or struggle with alcohol, or use coarse, careless speech and my job is not thereby that affected. But as a pastor, my relationship with my present church, and perhaps my whole vocation is over if I should entertain a loose way of life. In the same way, a wife, as ” just” a homemaker, may find herself without a husband, an income, or even a home, if she enters into an sexual affair. You are very vulnerable when your whole life, all the bits and pieces, are integral to your vocation, and women know this all too well. I feel great empathy for them when they rebel against it as I have rebelled against my calling. And I also understand the suffering and alienation that comes with rejecting the order and will of God. I am a pastor. It is my gift, my service , in the same way that a women is a wife and mother. Apart from the ministry, I can survive, but I cannot thrive, for only the ministry can fulfill me
But there is an honor for the pastor who submits to this feminine kind of vocation, just as their is great honor for the wife who submits to her vocation. I never used to understand this. I have seen in a certain church a pastor who was in every way, inferior to his elders, in the congregation. Yet they still afforded him great honor. They honored him for his submission and commitment. He was called to be their pastor and he willingly submitted to the call. And they overlooked his inadequacies, and accepted his almost endless spoonerisms with grace and good humor. And admittedly he was a blessing, and at the end of the day, they rose up and called him blessed, just as the husband and children of the woman who submits and stays committed to their vocation, despite the weakness, and genuine humiliation, inherent in it, will rise up and call her blessed.
Irony is truth. I know that sounds almost blasphemous but, ironically, I have always found it to be true. It is ironic that in submission we should find power, strength and honor. It ironic that in striving to teach women the rightfulness of obedience and submission, that I have been the one most convicted of my own need to obey and to submit. Now I just need to find the self discipline to do so.