I grew up as a young woman, carefully cultivating the identity my father gave me. Purity. Serving. Ministering in church. Paying bills. Hard work. Honesty. Respect for parents. Prepared to Love my husband. Having carefully developed that girl, I brought this identity into my marriage. As obediently as I followed my father's instructions, I followed the doctrine behind those beliefs. I gave myself wholly to my husband, taking up his identity and losing my own. Like most women in the church at the time, I didn't want to be a Jezebel.
I write this at the age of 60, from a life that has spanned denominations from Independent Baptist to Southern Baptist to Assembly of God and like-minded churches in between. What I found was followers of Christ in each place and likeminded doctrines.
We agree on far more than we disagree and yet, we allow the difference of opinion to divide us.
I also found that doctrines concerning women were the same everywhere. Women were always second to men and had little to no voice. In Christianity, a woman’s greatest fear is to be called a “Jezebel” and yet, the threat has only exacerbated the crime. Women still rule over weak-minded men, though in the church they have learned how to do it deceptively.
This piece, however, is about a more cunning enemy. The Jezebel spirit that controls men and how they view women. The religious spirit that has found its way into doctrine and dogma. The one that has ruled over the sexes for thousands of years. The spirit that has kept marriages from coming together in the power of oneness and the division that has prevented revival from sweeping the church.
Like so many young brides, I had no idea that I was marrying a man who had no identity to give. In blind adherence that I believed to be faith, I plunged forward, submitted to a doctrine that had already been tried and found deficient. I gave my name away and lost… everything. Myself, my identity, my dreams, my personality, even the character around the good name I had built was soon gone.
I became known for the very opposite of all I had been known for before. I traded honor for dishonor. Respect for disrespect. I left a life that was outwardly righteous for a life that was clearly falling apart. Rather than benefiting from the storehouse of my wealth, his emptiness swallowed up my wholeness. My new name was identified with want. Need. Loss. Dysfunction. It took us many years, deep sorrow, and much humility to find God's path of restoration through the confusion and spiritual sickness that rote and doctrine was content to leave us in. As we clung to any debris we could find in the mire of our condition, the clichés and ghosts of messages past only mocked us.
We discovered that life will prove whether a doctrine is man’s flawed opinion or a revelation of God, but religion cannot see the difference.
Religion becomes stuck in positions. The religious worship dogmas, but God is not impressed. As I often tell young seekers, ask questions! Challenge rote! God isn't afraid to speak for Himself. He loves conversation, but who will engage Him?
I have to admit that once again, my youngest, Charity, was the inspiration behind the thoughts I’m sharing with you. Sometimes, I wish I could catch just a glimpse of what she sees. A world of surrender and passion not polluted by ritual or rote. “Did Daniel want to marry me, or himself?” she asked in an irritated tone. I couldn’t help myself, I burst into laughter. She has a way of making things so simple. Yet, the seriousness of the question lingered as I began to realize how much of my life had been lived under the weight of a doctrine that had arisen from something other than understanding. My past began to play in tiny increments like small highlight reels. The incessant struggles. The stifling silence or thundering judgments that came from the teachers and preachers we asked for help, the same messengers who so easily broad brushed our genders and spoke in clichés from the pulpit. Broken as we were, they had no answers to heal us.
My husband was searching for the very answers my father had instilled in me, but doctrine left him believing that he could not receive from me. It was his job to lead and mine to follow. After all, men can't be taught by women. If they can’t be taught by women in the pulpit, why do we think they will receive from their wives at home? We teach dishonor, which is as erroneous as the doctrine of Jezebel. As afraid of being a Jezebel as I was, my husband equally feared being Jezebelled.
We were set up to fail.
Failure to communicate. Failure to commune. Failure to become one.
As I contemplated Charity’s outburst this morning, this question leapt into my mind: “What was Jesus looking forward to at the cross if we, (His Bride) were just going to lose our identity in Him once we were saved?” Was He dying just so that He could marry Himself?
I realize that the teaching one may be assuming that I am overlooking here is death to self. I assure you, I am not. “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ lives in me...” Galatians 2:20. I believe that this has been one of the most quoted, yet misunderstood scriptures in the whole Bible. In fact, it is the very key to the difference between the doctrine of Jezebel we promote and the truth that would set us free.
What exactly got crucified with Christ? Self did! And just what is self? Sin! Self is sin! Self is the “I” in me. Self is the part of me that is me-absorbed. Me-centered. Self-involved. Self-ish… Self is the part of me that is judgmental. Self is the part that was born when Adam chose another father, the Liar. Self is the belief that it is all about me! That my opinion is the right opinion. My way is the right way. When we die to sin, we are dying to self. We are dying to something that never belonged in us to begin with.
Self is not part of our personality. Not part of our identity. Self is not male or female. Self is not who God created us to be. We were created to Love and to be Loved. Love always lays self down.
Self takes. Love gives. For God so Loved... that He gave…
Self is the very thing this doctrine elevates in marriage. The erroneous belief in a husband that it is all about him. The pressure that he must have all the answers even though God has given him the other half of himself to commune with and to help him uncover the difficult answers to life. To find those answers, however, he will have to lay his own self down. The very thing Adam failed to do in the garden.
By default, this doctrine also creates the counter belief in a woman that she has no identity. If she wants one, she must fight for it. Can you see the setup? She raises her daughters to believe that they have to rule over men in order to be seen or heard. We are set up to fail because self is the motivation.
The great irony is that through our doctrine we are promoting the curse that came as a result of the fall rather than the salvation Christ paid for at the cross. Genesis 3:16, Then he said to the woman, "I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you."
Why would God create someone with a vibrant personality, with creative, artistic capability? Why would God implant in that person a calling, a purpose and a drive only to tell them that because of their gender they must die to all that He created them to be and become what someone else requires? God would be promoting witchcraft if that were true. Control. Jezebel and Ahab. One person ruling over another. And yet, men and women have believed this very thing. From the very beginning, women have entered into marriage and suffered loss because we have taught them that outside of their husband they have no identity. For thousands of years, women have lost the person God created them to be.
In the end, the loss has devastated the whole family. The man loses the woman he married. They both lose the virtuous family they were meant to create together. His lack of connection with his wife and her loss of identity profoundly affects the children. This brokenness is passed on to the next generation. And that is exactly what Satan has been after all along.
Satan fears the day the church awakens to the truth because only when The Adam is reunited in oneness, only when we see “neither male nor female,” neither black nor white, neither slave nor free, but all “in Christ” will true revival come to this planet.
Almost as quickly as the question came to my mind this morning, “What was Jesus looking forward to at the cross if we were just going to lose our identity in Him once we were saved?” the answer responded, “I was looking forward to You!” Thanks to Charity's challenge, the image I saw was the Bridegroom, Jesus, waiting at the altar to marry His Bride. Though the cross lay ahead of Him, the eagerness I saw on His face was the same look I have seen over and over as I have watched each of my children anticipate their future spouse on their wedding day. In fact, her husband, Daniel, was a perfect example on the day of their union. As my youngest daughter left her dressing room and started for the aisle, her hand on her brother's arm, the photographer caught his expression. I have often thought it was a great example of Christ's face when He sees us. Radiant. Joyful. Filled with anticipation. What was he thinking? I have no idea. Just that words fail to do it justice...
What I do know is that Daniel was looking forward to spending the rest of his life with the beautiful, vibrant, charismatic, seriously thoughtful, creative, perfectionist, colorfully outspoken young woman who was coming to meet him. The other part of himself. From the time he met her he was intrigued by the parts of her that were not like him. He loved what she brought to the conversation. The color she added to his life. As with all my other children, I watched the two of them complete something the other was lacking.
How is it we don't realize that we complete something in our Creator even as He completes us?
We were made for a reason. God wasn't bored the day He decided to gather the dust from the earth, breathe into it and give it a name, Adam. Son. He anticipated us!
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Hebrews 12:2.
It is the uniqueness of who you are that God loves about you! Your personality. Your gifting. Your artistic abilities. Your lack of artistic ability. Your unique way of looking at the world. Your femininity. Your masculinity. And so much more. The things that make you unique bring Him delight. Joy!
The thought of intimacy with you gave Him the strength to go to the cross.
But that doesn’t do it justice.
It not only gave Him the strength to endure the cross, the thought of you made the whole experience satisfying! Joyful!
Jesus would never ask you to lose the part of yourself that He died for.
One of the greatest devastations of religion is in its lack of valuing human life. Diversity. Individuality. Uniqueness. Gender.
What is true about our doctrine and yet far too often mistaught is that submission is the most important word in marriage. Submission is the glue that brings The Adam back together. Submission to Christ. It is the key to the whole thing and yet we miss it because we are still living under the curse of submitting to an old paradigm. We cannot become one until we are completely, wholly submitted to Him. When Christ is the head of the home, perfect Love casts out all fear.
It was never God's will to kill His children. He died in their place. We must be careful, lest we keep killing the bride Christ died for. He took her place because He loved her. Yet, if we dare to take a deeper look at our doctrine and its consequence, we will realize that we are demanding that she give up the very things about her that Christ Loves; that which makes her beautiful.
For too long, we have been telling women to lose themselves in a man who cannot, or will not lay his own life, his “self” down for his wife. The result has been divided homes, broken families and severed relationships.
But Christ has already done that very thing.
God's plan has always been to bring The Adam back together again. Marriage is the picture of that plan. Two separate, but completed beings walking together in perfect Love; bringing everything they are into a relationship that is firmly grounded and mutually submitted to the head who is Christ. As the man submits to Christ, so does the woman. No home, no business, can prosper with two heads. If the man is truly submitted to Christ, the word says that he will lay his life down for his wife. What woman can resist that kind of Love? She knows that she can trust his heart. Her fears are erased. When their decisions are at odds, she will have no trouble laying her will down and submitting to his.
This is the door to communion. Communication. Two becoming one. This is the door back to the garden. We are Loved. We are walking with our Father again, only now we know the depths to which He went to bring us back. We get it. Daddy Loves us.
We aren’t afraid to lose ourselves in Him once we know how much He Loves us. We can trust the One who died for us. And once we are truly submitted to Him, we are free to submit to one another. That’s just the way it is. Love gives. Yields. Out of our surrender comes milk and honey; the completeness of our union.
Who has lost themselves in whom? We are two people who have become one inseparable, never before seen creature in the earth. Not him. Not her. Something brand new and unique birthed from the surrender of the two.
It took so many years for my husband and me to learn that we both had what the other needed. It took humility. Honor. Respect. The ingredients for Love. That's the true purpose of marriage! Two opposite parts coming together. Two different sides of the same body. When the two become one they make three. Three is the number of wholeness! Family!
My thoughts today begin and end with this: The cross was God’s way of saying, I Love you! He looked forward to a relationship with you! You were the reason He died. Out of everything in the whole universe, you were His greatest prize. He couldn't wait to have a relationship with the individual you are. To laugh at your strange and quirky personality. To enjoy your wonderful idiosyncrasies. To love and fellowship with everything that makes you uniquely and completely you!
He did not die in order to suppress, alter, or overpower the person that is you!
He did not die so that you would lose all that He created you to be!
Whether you are a man or a woman...
He died so that everything that makes you, you could be free!
Free to be!