Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why I Vowed To Obey

Photo by Ryan Patch Photo

Four years ago I walked down the aisle and said my vows to my husband. This morning, as we got ready for our separate days, I said, "I know it's only been four years, but wow, have we changed!" My husband agreed and we were both silent for a minute contemplating everything we've walked through together since June 6, 2008. Well, maybe that was just me; he was probably mentally prepping for work.

And then I said, "Yeah, remember that whole "obey" bit in my vows?!?" We both chuckled a bit and looked at each other with understanding. He said what we were both thinking, "Well, we were in a different world then." I nodded.

Indeed, we were simply in a different world. 

I reflect back upon it now and a bit shocked at how limited our resources were as we prepared for marriage. Don't get me wrong, we had great marriage resources in friends, mentors, and our church. We read marriage books and went to premarital counseling. But EVERY SINGLE RESOURCE we had as we prepared for marriage was complementarian. We were members of a complementarian denomination, had been discipled by a para-church ministry that was mostly complementarian. And as a reader, I thought I was reading a wide variety of marriage books, but it turns out that most of them said the same complementarian things. 

I've never been one to simply swallow gender expectations, but I was left with what felt like two options:

1) Have a great complementarian marriage.
2) Buck the teaching we were given and struggle to find our own way.

And so, as we wrote our marriage vows, using old vows from different traditions, we wrote vows that were not identical. Josh vowed to love and honor me, and I vowed to respect and obey him. We mutually agreed upon these words.

Fortunately, our marriage has been happy. I could create a dramatic story here of how our complementarian start pushed us to the brink of disaster, but it didn't. We were fine, I think in large part because Josh is one of the least power-hungry men I know. From what I recall, we weren't living a very complementarian day-to-day life, in fact we may have been practicing egalitarianism by default, but whatever happened, it was mostly a non-issue. I don't remember discussing our gender roles once in our early days of marriage. We just did life together, and we were pretty darn happy about it.

But as time went on, I began to question complementarianism, mostly because of things outside our marriage, things related to work and my calling in life. If anything, the safety and health of our marriage allowed me to ask questions that were seen as dangerous at the time. Slowly, we met older married couples who didn't preach complementarian views to us; they were a breath of fresh air. I read one non-complementarian (but neither egalitarian) marriage book that I was introduced to. And things slowly started to shift.

Now, on our four year anniversary, I think we can safely say that we've left the complementarian waters behind. While I still have a few unresolved issues with egalitarian interpretations of certain pieces of Scripture (those are posts for another day), we consider ourselves egalitarians. We attend graduate school at an egalitarian Evangelical university. We are members of an egalitarian (yet also largely conservative) Evangelical church. And if we wrote our vows again today, we both agree that my vows would not differ from his.

While I wouldn't include "to obey" in my vows today, I consider my vows holy, so I won't try to ignore, alter, or break them. 

But I'm also grateful that I'm married to a man who looked at me quite seriously this morning and said, "I'll obey you too, okay?" 

"Deal," I said, "and I'll cherish you."


As a big fan of Rachel Held Evans, I share this post with her blogging community for One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality 2012. Head on over to her site to read some great posts "discussing an egalitarian view of gender—including relevant biblical texts and practical applications.  The goal is to show how scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women, one that favors mutuality rather than hierarchy, in the home, Church, and society." 

Here's one of my favorites of the series so far. You can read words from other bloggers who are participating in the synchroblog at the Twitter hashtag #mutuality2012

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