Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lead Me, I'm Yours

"What's an independent woman to do?"

A single girlfriend recently asked me this when it came to her apprehensions about marriage and questions as to why she wasn't being pursued by men.

It is the perilous plight of the strong woman: "Am I too strong?" my friend surmised, "Too independent?" Where is the line between seeking to cultivate a deep Proverbs 31 character and signifcant skill-set, yet not striving to be the leader of my own life, ministry or (future) marriage?

I totally relate to my friend's struggle. The consistent comment/compliment I have received from dozens of friends, family and co-workers over the years is: "You're such a strong woman!" Never once did I perceive it to mean anything derogatory or unattractive (nor do I think it was ever intended that way), yet I always harbored that secret thought: "What guy is going to want a woman like me?"

I don't say that out of insecurity, but out of genuine curiosity. Are there men out there who are actually praying for a strong woman to marry?

Because I'd think that it would be far less work for a man to find/marry a woman who is naturally dependant, quiet and laid back. You know, the girl who needs a man--or at least caters to his ego to have him believe that she desperately needs him (think Sarah Jessica Parker's scheme in Failure to Launch. She boasts a 100% success rate in reeling a guy in by "allowing" him to teach her something). Lest you think I'm this crazy feminist, allow me to say that I DO believe in interdependence. Even more signficant than that, I am a firm believer in the concept of Biblical submission of a wife to her husband (a rarity even in some Christian circles, sadly). But I digress...more on that later...

I've never been the girl who always had to have a boyfriend. In fact, sometimes I get to thinking that my strong woman persona has actually been the very thing that has kept men at bay. Despite seasons of giving into the worldly advice to "Dumb youself down" or succumb to false humility (i.e. hiding my gifts/talents, thus failing to steward them and give God glory in the process), I quickly realized that I can't go for long keeping up the impression of lack of strength, talent or intelligence. And I guess (as I've been told by a few male friends), the prospect of a person who doesn't seem to need anything is intimidating. Men quickly deduce that as a 29-year old single woman, there is little they can offer me that I haven't already done or learned to do, due to years of experience out of sheer necessity living in a grown-up world. (That's what THEY think, but Jesus and I know better. I am far from perfect and I have desires/needs that are designed to be fulfilled by a spouse. Though I must admit it is a battle to not awaken those things in my current state. In my singleness, I long for affirmation and affection more than ever...). Yet, through my seasons of struggle and in my times of lack, I have learned not to turn merely to a man, but to trust in God. A fact that I am so thankful for, yet can only hope it is a turn-on and not a deterrant to a potential husband...

Even my boss recently told me that, without a doubt, I will need a strong man for a spouse. Because of my own strength and spiritual maturity, it would take a man who truly knows himself and knows the Lord to lead me. Because, ultimately, despite all my "strength" (God-given, anway), that IS truly my heart: I long to be led. For the past several years, the Lord has so beautifully guided me and bluntly challenged me how to submit. He has trained me with Him, teaching me how to trust His character and guidance as the Lord and leader of my life. And although His leadership will always be the primary and most significant, I am confident that this process of learning to submit to Him, is most certainly preparing me to submit to my husband one day.

Years ago, I read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. While the book encouraged me on so many levels, there is one story in particular that continues to impact me profoundly. It is an admonition of courage for the single man choosing a spouse...

"Most men, you see, marry for safety; they choose a woman who will make them feel like a man but never really challenge them to be one. A young man whom I admire is wrestling between the woman he is dating and one he knew butcould not capture years ago. Rachel, the woman he is currently dating, is asking a lot of him; truth be told, he feels in way over his head. Julie, the woman he did not pursue, seems moreidyllic; in his imagination she would be the perfect mate. Life with Rachel is tumultuous; life with Julie seems calm and tranquil. 'You want the Bahamas,' I said. 'Rachel is the North Atlantic. Which one requires a true man?'"

 What a challenge for the godly man desiring a wife! And how encouraging for a North Atlantic woman like myself... ;)

Preach it, Eldredge!

These days, despite my normal, "What if?" human fears ("What if all the good guys are already taken? What if I'm meant to be single forever?"), I generally tend to "err" on the side of faith. I believe that there ARE men out there who are praying for strong women after God's heart. Over the last year, the Lord has brought numerous godly men across my path, reavealing to me just a glimpse of the strong caliber and character that He is able to cultivate in men who are humbly and passionately committed to Him. And I have to believe that these men--as lovers of God and students of Scripture--know that strength in a woman is not necessarily synonomous with stubbornness or unsubmissiveness. Smart, strong men realize that a woman's godly strength has likely been cultivated by persevering through hard times, growing in faith and developing a daily dependance upon the Holy Spirit. Beautiful irony, isn't it? Godly strength stems from humility and submission.

And strength doesn't back down from a challenge--nor is it afraid to offer one. I might ask a lot of my man, but I hope he asks a lot of me. I pray that, like Jesus, my future husband would love me too much to leave me the way I am. I pray that he would see me as a gift entrusted to him by the Lord--one to steward wisely. That he would look forward to the day when, as a result of his loving leadership, he would present me back to the Lord as something far more beautiful and Christ-like than either of us ever thought possible.

No matter how strong I grow in myself and in the Lord, I believe I will never outgrow that deep desire within me, not to lead, but to be led.

It is no doubt my highest and most beautiful calling in the Kingdom...

"Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness..."

-Ephesians 5:22-28