If I could invite any woman who questions the power of submission to live in my shoes for one week, she would never question it again. She too would stand in awe of God’s amazing protection wrapped tightly around a couple who have truly become one. She would smile and laugh more than she ever has and have her heart bursting with a love she’s never felt before. She would honestly hate her own self for wasting so much time in rebellion – I did.
I’ve been reading through blog posts by Sheila Wray Gregoire for an upcoming topic, and the thing which strikes me the most about her writing is how painfully inconsistent she is. I’ve written about this before, but it goes far beyond stating that she encounters a phenomenon all the time one day and then a few months later declaring that she has never experienced such a thing, or positioning herself as traditional Christian woman while having a masters degree in Women’s studies and considering herself a feminist in all but name:
I have stopped calling myself a feminist, although I do believe in equality, because the term has become so tainted politically.
Sheila’s writing is flat out erratic. I’ve written before about rationalization hamster exhaustion, but she takes this to a whole new level. This is astounding because Sheila isn’t just another blogger; she and her husband hold Christian marriage seminars and she has written five books aimed at women on the topic of Christian marriage. In fact, she not only considers her work a ministry, but she teaches other women to start their own ministries as well. She has been doing all of this for many years, yet there is no consistency in her writings on the core topics she claims to be an expert on. Some of her advice sounds fairly good one day, but then not long after she comes along and directly contradicts herself.
The only thing which is consistent is her penchant for rebellion against the Scripture and finding ridiculous ways to ignore what is plain on the face of it. But this is the point. Sheila’s rebellion against Scripture is directly tied to her being so incredibly untethered. Due to her feminist rebellion she lacks a biblical husband who is a rock she can cling to when her emotions storm over her. Ironically in her too clever by half rationalization of Scripture she has cheated herself out of one of the greatest benefits biblical marriage offers to women.
This all starts with her rebellion against the biblical instruction to wives to submit to their husbands (1 Pet 3:1&5, Eph 5:22&24, Col 3:18, 1 Tim 2:11, Tit 2:5). Sheila is at war with this Scripture, and is very open that it offends her as a woman. I’ve referenced previously how she addresses this in her book, To Love, Honor, and Vacuum: When You Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and Mother (P. 116 of the paperback):
Whether we like to be reminded of it or not, the Bible calls for wives to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22).
You may be thinking she is going to follow through with a grudging but otherwise somewhat sane discussion of the topic. However, she then explains that in practice this means wives are to give their husbands lists of chores (delegating housework) so he feels needed and she feels cared for. I don’t blame you if you find this extremely difficult to believe, so please do read more here and then either pick up a copy of the book or use the Amazon search feature to verify that this is what she does.
More recently Sheila took another crack at this core topic to her area of professional and ministerial expertise in Wifey Wednesday: What Does Submission in Marriage Mean? As usual, she starts by explaining how the Scripture makes her feel, and how much it offends her feminist sensibilities (emphasis hers):
Today I want to talk about a word that drives many of us around the bend: SUBMISSION. I have to admit that I still shudder sometimes when pastors preach on this, or when the word comes up, because it has so often become the source of angst in so many marriages. What does it mean? Does it mean that women are lesser? That we have to let him make all the decisions? That my needs don’t matter? In many sermons, it has almost sounded like that.
In other words, to many of us “submission” has a negative connontation. Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), and that doesn’t seem to sound negative. But submission, to many women, is a net negative. Part of that is bad teaching we’ve received on it. Part of it is us chafing at it.
She applies some patented extra strength Sheila rationalization in an effort to give the appearance of actually believing in the Bible, and the women reading seem to think they just got a solid message on biblical submission. Yet nowhere in the post does she mention repenting for her rebellion.
Not surprisingly Sheila is also at war with the Bible regarding denial of sex. This is a core tool in the arsenal of a rebellious Christian wife to force her husband to submit, second only to threatening divorce. Sheila simply can’t accept this Scripture because then she won’t be able to dominate her husband. But coming out and stating this plainly would sound, well, unbiblical. As she did with the topic of submission, Sheila instead claims she agrees with the Scripture while twisting it beyond all recognition. In What Does 1 Corinthians 7:5–Do Not Deprive Each Other–Really Mean? she explains that when it says the husband and wife have authority over each other’s bodies so neither has the right to deny the other sex, this actually means each has the right to deny the other sex:
Let’s assume that it’s the wife with the lower libido for a minute (though it certainly isn’t always) and look at it this way:
If her husband’s body belongs to her, then she has the ability to also say, “I do not want you using your body sexually right now with me.”
Ouch. If your head doesn’t hurt, you aren’t paying attention. Early on in the exegis Sheila explains (emphasis hers):
First, let’s note what this verse does not say. Paul did not write:
Do not refuse one another, except by mutual consent and for a time…
He wrote do not deprive.
Deprive is not the same as refuse. I believe many people interpret this verse to mean refuse.
She then explains that this means a wife should dole out sex to her husband the same way she would manage what her children eat (emphasis mine):
…let’s look more closely at deprive.
If I were to say to you, “do not deprive your child of good food,” what am I implying? I’m saying that your child should get the food that is commonly recognized for good health: three healthy meals a day, with some snacks. I am not saying that every time your child pulls at your leg and says, “Mommy, can I have a bag of cheetos?” that you have to say yes. You are not depriving your child of good food by refusing a request for Cheetos.
When I mentioned Sheila’s mental image of a husband as a child tugging on his mommy-wife’s leg wanting sex, and the mommy-wife deciding whether her husband’s desire for her was “healthy”, my wife pointed out how incredibly unsexy that is. The Bible gave Sheila a husband who was her leader, and that is sexy. But Sheila has a masters degree in Women’s Studies, so she knows better than God. In her superior wisdom Sheila has mentally transformed her husband into at best a kitchen bitch, and at worst a child tugging on her leg wanting to know what kind of sex she will approve.
What Sheila doesn’t understand is the choice isn’t between happy rebellion and miserable submission. It is in fact exactly the opposite. Sheila is robbing herself of the joy of being a wife. My wife takes great pleasure in making herself physically attractive to me by keeping herself thin and her hair long, and especially enjoys modeling new clothes she buys for “husband approval” (our daughter also delights in watching this interaction). Pleasing her husband is one of the great simple joys of being a wife, and this is something women brag about. But Sheila won’t let herself experience this because of her feminism, and in chapter 7 of her book Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight: Help for Women Who Want to Feel More In the Mood she writes (emphasis mine):
There’s also no need to become what he thinks is pretty. Some men, like my husband, have a preference for women in long hair. Keith, however, is oblivious to all of the mousse and blow drying that would be involved in making my long hair do anything other than hang there limply. I think it’s difficult for most women over thirty to pull off long hair with panache. Cut my hair and highlight it and I look much more sophisticated, and I feel far less frumpy!
Because that would mean that women would have to simply let go of any control. To have control while being malcontent seems better than relinquishing control to increase happiness. A happiness that they really have no conception of and literally cannot imagine.
One of the great tragedies of feminism is how it has left women aching for the very thing they rebelled against. Their yearning for a husband to lead them is palpable in the Marriage and Divorce section of Yahoo Answers. They want it so much, they are very often grateful when I explain to them how to overcome their feminism and let their husband be the leader they are starving for, like this woman, and this woman. Even Sheila’s readers have moments of incredible clarity on this, and a commenter named Kat is an excellent example (emphasis mine):
My sex hang ups come when I start feeling like he is tippy toeing around me and constantly looking to me to make a decision on things…
But all the little “beta” actions wear me out and leave me feeling like I never get to lean on him, that he isn’t there for me if I have a bad day or fall apart. By “beta” I mean things like going back and forth 15 times as we text about whether he wants to do a certain activity with the kids the next day, bc he doesn’t want to just come out and say, “I don’t want to do that.” Or hearing me vent about a relative or one of the kids’ behavior and not stopping me when I let my mouth run too far, because he doesn’t want to upset me more. Argh!
I know a cranky wife can be intimidating, guys, but most girls really appreciate the strength and confidence you show when you are not fazed by her emotions.
She knows she rides a roller coaster,and even if she can’t express it, having a husband who will insist on having a talk when one is needed and who will keep that convo on topic with an aggressive concern for the marriage will encourage and bless her and very likely turn things around after a time!
I think I finally communicated this to my honey yesterday. I explained that feeling in charge when he was around, feeling like EVERYONE in this house looked to me to call the shots, watching him hesitate and come off as soooo sweet and passive, was a HUGE turn off for me.
…I’m talking about wanting my husband to say, “I am going to rip your clothes off when I get home. Put the kids in front of a long movie.” and then doing it, despite my groaning, and convincing me I really did want him to. )) I’m talking about him asking what my schedule was for the day, and then telling me that I was going to take child X with me on those errands while he took W, Y, and Z with him, and he would bring home dinner so don’t cook. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! To be able to lean on him, to see him take an aggressive interest in how the house works and what is going on, to feel like he desires me so much he will not take no for an answer and kisses me out of my stress…
…it’s the stuff our fantasies are made of, guys! Maybe not every woman, but every married girl I know gets starry eyed as they tell stories of their husband leading in such an in-tune and family-focused way, esp if it involves romance and sex.
…guys, lead whether she bats her eyes at you at first or not!… Too much beta-helpfulness can backfire, bc you are presenting as a wimp weaker than she is, and who wants a leading man like that? She wants to feel like your leading lady, not your mother.
Amazing comment! Thank you. I’m tempted to use this one as a separate post next week! I just may do that…