Wednesday, June 24, 2015

One Walking in Grace Out of Marital Subordination

It's been a privilege through Istoria Ministries to meet many people whose stories are powerful confirmations of God's truth and grace. In a previous article on eternal subordination, an anonymous comment was left by a woman that instinctively gave me a sense that there was something to her story. She fulfilled my request and sent me her personal story, giving permission to share it publicly using "One Walking in Grace" as her name. Today's post will be her story. Later this week I will publish a letter "One Walking in Grace" wrote to the church that led her down the path of belief in eternal subordination.


"I must tell you, I have never told my story outside of my family, who have faithfully walked through the entire ordeal with me. Writing is my form of creativity, but most of my stuff is just for me, as I cannot imagine anyone being interested in what I have to say.
Now, my story.

First, you must filter my story through the lens of abuse at the hand of a distant relative. I believe this is where my ability to accept this doctrine of eternal subordination originated for me, as my amazing Christian parents modeled egalitarianism, even though we have always attended a Southern Baptist church. Drugs and alcohol were introduced to me at the age of 11 by my distant relative; I was not raised around it, so I was na├»ve in knowing that I was being groomed.

By the time I told my parents of the abuse, two years had passed. That’s the lens you must always look through, as you have many people just like me hiding in your congregation. My self-worth was shattered, and I became easy pickings for this doctrine of subordination as it is my belief that women who embrace this theology often have lurking in their past things that have either happened to them, or they have done, or both that compel them toward this as a form of punishment and devaluation.

I met my first husband (I'm now remarried) in school, We began dating in high school, but it was not a relationship that I would classify as safe. He was not faithful while we were dating, but because my self-worth had been altered, I took any affection thrown my way. He set the tone for the relationship by threatening to throw me out of the car if I didn't shut-up. I took it. I was his victim once, but for the remainder of my story I now realize I was a willing participant in my own destruction.

We were married after I graduated, and I tried to adopt his lifestyle, as I had through high school. The abuse as a child left me feeling dirty, so I backed away from church, although I knew the Lord. My husband's anger was always a problem, as was his drinking. He left me several times, as well as other abusive tactics such as calling me names, locking me out of the house, and threatening me.

I was not raised in a dysfunctional home, so I think I must have expected him to change. I am still not sure what I thought. But I knew what I was taught about divorce, that it was always wrong. I knew I had made this bad choice, but I also believed I had no other choice but to stay. By the time I had our second child, I had been attending church for five years, by myself. I didn't fit in anywhere within the church, Looking back I realize my life was really too messy for the good people of the church to get involved. I attended various churches looking to fit in somewhere. 

That’s when I found “the church."

This was the one that had the answers to all my prayers. They welcomed me and my children. They prayed for my husband. They taught me to be submissive at all times to my husband, The pastor would say that I “struggled greatly in that area.” For a while, things at home seemed to get better. My husband eventually "got saved" (I have no idea if it was real). 

It went down hill from there.

I struggled with the teaching of headship,submission, patriarchy,homeschooling, etc... So I received special attention from pastor’s wife, who taught me the ropes of complete submission. I even was held after church one Sunday morning so that our little group could pray for me, since it was obvious that I was having difficulty fully submitting. Nothing will tear a woman down further who already has lost her sense of worth then being singled out as a failure in her only calling of submissive womanhood. So the group of church women got around me and prayed that I would learn submission. 

You can bet that I kicked myself into high gear after that front-of-church prayer meeting. But its weird how it happened, Slowly it all seemed to make sense to me and I began to fully embrace that complete and total submission to my husband was the only true biblical way to live, and anyone else who did not live according to this structure was “in sin.”

I lost my ability to make decisions, and slowly became a spectator in my own life. I was relegated to the role of a child: asking permission to purchase clothes, permission to go visit my family, permission for everything, often receiving a "no". All this was endorsed by our pastor, who taught that men “were sovereign in their own homes.” It didn't matter what you were asked to do, you were supposed to do it.

When my family would try to talk to me about the situation (which they saw as abusive) I would lie and tell them how good it was and that we were all a family at the church. In truth, we were more like a cult. All the men had their own hobbies, their own things to do by themselves, while our lives were surrounded with homeschooling children, keeping the house,budgeting, and anything else that needed doing. There wasn’t any alone time forme, as my job was my home. Proverbs 31 woman was beat over our heads. An you weren’t supposed to question the use of finances for hobbies, as that is disrespectful to husbands. You must take your concerns to your Father, and leave it in his hands. You also weren't supposed to ever talk bad about your husband, ever share struggles in your marriage to anyone, ever reveal things from home,as that too was disrespectful.

I have decided that patriarchy makes great men good, good men bad, and bad men worse. Can you imagine the power my husband had, with God on his side now? I was destined to endure whatever he dished out, for Christ’s sake, because Christ had suffered for me. I was to keep silent at church, as the bible spoke. I was to be a stay at home mom, as the bible taught. I was to dress how my husband wanted, as the bible taught. I was to never deny my husband, no matter what, as the bible taught. In the marriage my role was all about denying myself, for his sake.

Eventually you realize that the only one that matters in that house is the husband. He is king, sovereign, and you end up being his subjects. The list was endless. Little by little, I became a shell of who I used to be. My family was distraught, but I just dug my heels in deeper, believing by now that to live any other way would be against the will of God.

And then the illusion lifted and real life hit me in the face. I could no longer deny the abuse or marital unfaithfulness. I looked to my church for help, but found only encouragement to stay. I was told that if God was my true source of happiness, then the adultery wouldn't hurt me. Again, it seemed that I was being asked to be a joyful victim, and I failed there as well. But I tried. I was constantly aware of my failures,constantly looking for ways to improve my marriage, as I equated the sin of Eve (which we heard a lot) and the wreck that followed with my current situation. So I felt the full responsibility for the situation, as crazy as that sounds to me today.

Finally he was confronted. And he “repented.” We received counseling through the pastor, which I would never recommend now. We were not counseled about the adultery,abuse, or emotional wreckage in our little family. We were talked to a lot about our source of happiness. I was put on display as the poster girl for adultery, choosing the “godly” path. I was used to encourage others who were having this “struggle” in their marriage. We renewed our vows, and I was determined to be the kind of wife that would not cause her husband to stray.

That was my thinking. And he pretty much got a free pass. And during this time, I came to the knowledge that all was not well in our pastor’s household, which would explain a lot. But we kept getting taught submission, and my children and I lived isolated lives except for church. About that time there was a disastrous break in the church. There was so much lying, manipulation, and abuse by powers that be that we left, and not on good terms either. But by that time, I was so lost, had no sense of worth, and was just as near a breakdown as I could be. We quit homeschooling, and then I went to school. My husband quit attending church, and I don’t believe he has attended since then. I was never able to get over the affair, and he was never willing to go to counseling with me.

I thought long and hard before I ever divorced him. During that time, I knew that I could not live like this anymore. After my second time to be tested for STDs, I just felt God tell me that I didn't have to live like that anymore. I counted the cost, realizing that being divorced meant that I could no longer participate in church life, and I have always loved a discussion on theology, its my thing. But I could only have those discussions with women. I had my feet under me by now, and was beginning to wake up from this long nightmare. I remember the night I told him he would have to leave. My daddy offered to take care of it for me, but I knew that part of not being a victim anymore was standing up for myself on my own. And I did.

But its funny. I could hear the condemnation in my head, the voice that stated I was to stay no matter what in order to portray Christ and his willingness to submit to God in his suffering. It haunted me for a long time. It kept me from leaving for many years. And it is still the voice I often hear, as many years later we are still feeling the effects of this abusive teaching in our families.

I do not know if my relationship with my grown children will ever be normal, due to this teaching and his abuse of it. A lot has happened since then, but the fear of that system and the people involved is very real. That pastor still preaches, and I am still afraid of him. All of the young families that were involved in that teaching are now divorced. 

To say that I was bullied into staying is not an understatement. I will never know if things in that marriage would have been different under a teaching of gender equality, but I do know this: I would have found my value, worth, and voice a lot sooner and would have known that no one is created to be dominated. I would have known that I mattered to God, instead of being taught that my husband mattered to God. I would have known that mean behavior is not okay with God, even from a man. But when you boil down what I was taught it came to this: men matter, women don’t,sucks to be you – a woman.

I also will never know what would have happened to him if he had been in a place that was healthy, a place of grace, compassion, and healing. It not only was a chance for the church to stand up for me and my children, it was also a chance for the church to reach an obvious wounded man. Wounded people wound people. But we will never know if that would have made a difference in his life. All I do know is that doctrine was more important than real flesh and blood people. Since I now believe that this doctrine is most fully embraced by men and women who have had some form of abuse, why in God’s name would we ever embrace a teaching that makes fertile ground for abusers to hide or flourish? 

Why would we, in God’s name, tell half of the population you don’t matter, your voice doesn't matter, and your future doesn't matter? What matters is that you stay in your place, which is always going to be a place of inferiority. But I know the teaching very well: God first, then man, then woman, then children. There is no getting out of your station, as again your role in that marriage is to exemplify Christ, who fully submitted, now and forever, to God.

There is so much more abuse involved in my story than I am comfortable to tell. Spiritual abuse: threats of being labeled a heretic when I didn't see things “biblically,” as well as being shunned. My children still suffer, but my daughter even more so. Counseling for her has helped, but the belief in female subordination devalued her as well and put her on the path of self-destruction. But again, there is so much more to my story that I am just too afraid to write down. It makes my hands sweat. I fear those people involved to this day. To this very day. They wield a powerful weapon, for no weapon formed against them shall prosper, and one cannot touch (or question) God’s anointed. Just too much to reveal, too much to sort through.

But now know this: my story is being redeemed. My mind has been given back to me. I began attending a church where people believe in full restoration, instead of disqualification. I slowly began to come alive. But it continues to be along, hard process for me, and the roots of this teaching run deep in me and allowing myself to feel value and worth has been an uphill battle. And I have remarried a man who believes in us walking side by side in Christ together. 

As I stated before, patriarchy/submission/headship teaching makes great men good, good men bad, and bad men worse. 

Don’t tell me it isn't so, because I have lived it."

One Walking in Grace


Victorious said...

One Walking in Grace,

Thank you so very much for the courage to share your story. Know that it will help many women who may be suffering through some of the same not only at the hands of an abusive husband, but an abusive church as well.

Of particular interest was your mention of being groomed. We normally think of this intentional process as part of sexual molestation only, but it's often done intentionally for the purpose of destroying one's self esteem and self confidence so the result is a sense of worthlessness and shame. Grooming is subtle and difficult to recognize, but it must be confronted when it's suspected.

What a sad journey that's led you to be victorious and free! Know how much the Lord loves you as well as the brothers and sisters who will read this post. I've said a prayer of thanksgiving for you and your new husband!

Pege' said...

Dear One,
Sending you a long sustained HUG. I am in tears after reading your honest and courageous article. Thank you for having the courage to share a piece of your life's journey with us. This false teaching is so pervasive in so many churches and not only women but men are wounded and hurting because of it. It is dressed up and presented with gold ribbons and fed with silver spoons...but in reality it is just a pig with lip stick on.
I brought this teaching into our home naively through researching home school and godly families because my Husband and I came from dysfunctional alcoholic families. We wanted to have a godly home and raise children who loved God. I invited the beast and it took over. You are right it does great men good, good men bad, and bad men worse. I lost myself too. Unfortunately, I chose to leave by trying to take my life.
God in his love for me protected that act of selfish foolishness and the damage it would have brought to my precious children and my husbands lives. No one survives suicide.
God has brought healing in abundance and restoration of my family. My husband is once again the amazing man I married living in grace and freedom and so am I. Our children, we have 3 girls, are amazing young women serving and living the journey God is leading them in and are strong and capable. It is hard for them for they are judged and considered rebellious some times....but they will not ever see themselves less that who Christ says they are even if it means being single. My son, he has a healthy and God honoring view of women and relationships.LET FREEDOM RING!!! Dear ONE.....I honor you for your courage to write this and as the Lord brings you to mind, I will pray for your continued healing and peace. God works all things out for our good. I do not know HOW he does it, but I thank him that he does!!!

Ramesh said...

One Walking in Grace: Thanks for sharing. Much needed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, dear sister. I have been blessed to be married to my best friend and equal partner for 38 years today. The only times we really had problems were when someone from church pushed us into a patriarchal model. Our time there was never long, but it was painful. I am so happy that you have made a new start and pray that your daughter's mental health continues to improve.

Anonymous said...

One Walking in Grace,
I hope that someday God gives you the courage and guidance to tell your whole story. I think certain people need to hear it, for their own protection and strength.
My husband and I were also "pushed" toward patriarchy, and that "push" almost destroyed our marriage. We are not out of the woods, yet! I refuse to be some man's, any man's, slave. I think slavery is illegal in Los Estados Unitos, and Jesus said to "render unto Caeser what is Caesar's. (ie, obey the laws of the land!)

People like your first husband --- God is not on their side. Much to the contrary, those people are on Satan's side.
You ARE a strong woman, and you are growing stronger!
Many blessings and much wisdom and strength to you!

Christiane said...

the paradox in patriarchy is that when men try to place women into 'biblically enforced' submission, they bring themselves down, too. I don't think anyone realized that, in dishonoring someone else, one dishonors one's self more

An interesting remark by Sojourner Truth comes to us from the 1800's, but it is as meaningful today as it was long ago:
" . . . the women are coming up, blessed be God, and a few of the men are coming up with them "

Here's to the people who are 'coming up' from slavery, from abuse, from patriarchy, from inequality of rights, from indignities imposed by those who worship control . . . here's to them,
and here's to One Walking In Grace . . . you are not alone, you are bringing others up with you

Thank you for your courage in the face of what no Christian woman should ever have to endure.

Victorious said...

Beautiful comments, Christiane! Thank you.

Your mention of Sojourner Truth reminded me of these words of Rosa Parks':

"I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free."


"I'm tired of being treated like a second-class citizen."

Mary Ann

Anonymous said...

Thank you seems so trivial for each and every response, but its all I have got. I never imagined any one would be interested in my story, and quite frankly I was prepared for negative comments. I am so touched by each person's caring compassionate words and tone. Each of you have given me a great gift, just as Mr. Burleson, by validating my story. I woke up this morning not nearly as afraid as I was when this was posted. Your comments have given me a strength and a hope that feels long overdue.

God bless each of you for taking the time to encourage a stranger. And Mr. Burleson, again thank you for just believing me.

One Walking in Grace

Anonymous said...

Wade, when are you going to stop misunderstanding what Ephesians chapter 5 is about and stop throwing out these ridiculous caricatures? Her husband was a fool and the church was not healthy. A husband should love his wife as Christ loves his church. Grow up.

Wade Burleson said...


I can assure you at the age of 53 and getting older by the minute, I respectfully decline your request to grow up. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing such a powerful story! From the bottom of my heart: Thank you!!! I will be praying for healing for you and your children.

This dangerous practice was also taught at my former church (this patriarchy/submission nonsense). Older conservative Christians that I know in Europe, long-time elders in their churches, said with alarm that something terrible had happened in the American church because it has more in common now with radical Islam's view of women than our freedom in Christ.

Women at our church weren't even supposed to protect children from a sex offender, who was the friend of the pastors/elders!

Take care of yourself!