Why Deborah’s Initiative is as Important as Sarah’s Submission

(Co-Authored by a man with a heart for Christ centered leadership)

I’m not sure I’d want to sit under a tree named after myself, judging the tribes of Israel.

I most certainly would not want to join an army—and if the battle was won, I probably wouldn’t sing a song describing myself as the mother of Israel.

The thought is almost funny.

Yet, scripture is written for our edification and instruction. The story of Deborah tells us a lot.

  • She was a WIFE.
  • She heard from GOD.
  • She was a PROPHETESS.
  • She sat under a palm tree named after herself, “The Palm of Deborah”.
  • She summoned a man to her station and delivered a WORD FROM THE LORD.
  • She gave detailed descriptions of what Barak needed to do during this war.
  • Somehow, she had gained the utmost respect of Barak, who was a leader and commander, most likely a type A man with great abilities of his own.
  • After victory, she gave glory to God, and included herself in that story.
  • In a patriarchal culture, she reminded a strong man that the battle would be won by a woman.
  • God Himself chose to use two women to execute victory in a battle fought by men.
  • Deborah wasn’t trying to DO EVERYTHING a man could do; she was fully BEING EVERYTHING she was called to be as a woman. (please note the difference here).
  • When Barak asked her to go with him into battle, she agreed to go.
  • Barak was not too proud to ask—and she did not disqualify herself from a place of great importance in this story because she was a woman.
  • Both man and woman did exactly what God wanted them to do by working together to perform what He asked.

Then there is the awe-inspiring, Proverbs 31 Woman! A woman can expect to hear the words “You’re such a Proverbs 31 woman”, —when she arises early to pack her husband’s lunch, do his laundry, or prep his dinner. But there is more that we need to be teaching our daughters.

I want to take a deeper look at this distinguished woman from the book of Proverbs. The Proverbs 31 woman also:

  • Had a husband who trusted her decisions.
  • She made intelligent business moves that put their estate at an advantage.
  • She didn’t just shop locally, but sought out the best purchases from around the country. This meant being well informed and knowledgeable.
  • She had maids to free up more of her own time.
  • She purchased real estate.
  • She took care of her body and strengthened it.
  • She knew that her business was profitable.
  • She helped the poor.
  • Her clothing was fine linen and purple.
  • She created, sold, and distributed her products to merchants.
  • She was marked with strength and dignity.
  • She opened her mouth with wisdom (which meant she had wisdom others heard and received).
  • She spoke with kindness.
  • She looked after her household WELL (and that also meant knowing her limits by hiring maids).
  • Her husband, who was an established, productive leader, PRAISED her.

Notice, she excelled personally, at home, at business, in her community, in the market place AND she was PRAISED by her husband.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

While we see far reaching extremes from oppressive patriarchal “Christian” cultures for women, all the way to brash, feministic, non-christian culture, it is clear from the examples of Deborah and the Proverbs 31 woman that both of these extremes are a far cry from the good, loving heart of our Heavenly Father.

I’d like us to take a quick look at Sarah, who is mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Sarah is described as a woman who obeyed her husband and called him lord. Unfortunately, this passage is often taken so out of context that it has produced a cult-like, oppressive environment for women, where, in all honesty, if she operated like a true Proverbs 31 woman, she’d be labeled as “too much”, “too strong” or even “rebellious”. Scripture never contradicts scripture, but actually compliments scripture. If it appears to contradict, we must simply look further or deeper at what God is saying as a whole, which can involve context and further study.

I have seen women who are struggling in painful marriages, yet afraid of “dishonoring” their husbands by getting help and exposing the real truth of his actions and words behind closed doors, The husbands expect their wives to quietly “find a solution” that protects their reputation, which usually looks like the (already submissive) wife being “more submissive”.

In many of these marriages, the problems are quickly blamed on something a wife does or doesn’t do while the man refuses to own his need simply because he’s “the leader”.

There are times where the topic of lust and purity is a matter of how a woman dresses more than that of the man’s own heart.

Some of these men are content leading in minor material areas of life (or being the admired leader/authority figure) of their homes while leaving the most important (relational or spiritual) areas to their wives.

It’s become more of an emphasis on Position and Authority than being the reasonable, responsible and respectable leader by God’s standards. The aftermath of this “authority” focus is devastating on women.

For example, there are women still weeping over sexual abuse after many years because they’re told to forgive more than told that God is angry with what has happened. (forgiveness can only happen when you know God is just and will bring justice). In some of these cases, a perpetrator is still allowed to live freely among the women he violated. (Even a minor can be removed from the girls he wronged).

At times, if women become “too upset” because they are NOT BEING HEARD, they’ll be labeled as being “bitter” or “rebellious” and told to submit. The men of the church will decide what should and shouldn’t be done—which sometimes, means the perpetrator is allowed to stay. I realize this would be unthinkable to many good and Godly men, but this is the reality for many women in some religious communities.

To add Insult to Injury these same women are strongly admonished to: Serve their families, especially their husbands; Be eager for sex; Continue admiring of their husbands; Stay silent on what matters most—unless the husband agrees. At most, she can very gently and “submissively” broach the subject but cannot make strong statements on things even as great as what to do with a perpetrator.

The Result?? Christian men, many of your women are weeping. Some of them are becoming emotionally distraught by the lack of true friendship and loving relationship.

It’s time for God-Inspired Leadership. What does it look like?

God-Inspired Leadership:

  1. Listens – the cry of every woman, (person really) is “to be heard” – Do you value her voice?
  2. Leads by example – Purity of heart, sacrificially, does the hard things, NOT just the fun things.
  3. Lets her function in her gifts, too – She has God-given influence – can you “allow” her, or even better, HELP her accomplish her goals, pursue her gifts and talents?
  4. Lavishes her with goodness – Give to her & help her, provide for her, be generous to her.
  5. Lessens her Load – Help her with the kids, share in household responsibilities, hire a maid…
  6. Loves Loudly – Leave no doubt in her mind of your love her, let her hear it often, and see it always …Love hard!

This is what Godly Leadership in our homes should look like! A man is a covering, not a lid. We cover what we love and want to protect, we cover what we value, we cover what we don’t want any damage to come to.

Recently I asked one of my happily married friends if she would defer to her husband if a major decision needed to be made and they did not agree. She immediately said “Oh, yes!”

I asked her because I noticed that they were mutually happy in their relationship.

I asked her because I noticed her countenance was joyful.

I asked her because I noticed she lived without pressure, and her atmosphere spoke of peace rather than stress.

Let me assure you that I’m still in love with 1 Peter 3, where Sarah is spoken of as an exemplary woman, one we would do well to follow.

But, the leadership we often see in Christian churches is destructive for men as well, because it is producing women they don’t want to produce. Unknowingly, men are digging their own graves to a happy, fulfilling relationship—all in the name of “Biblical” teaching. Women usually won’t be happy and fun unless they are treated well, with differing roles but with equal value.

Satan laughs while women weep. He’s successfully taken a beautiful, God-given plan for the family and turned it into a damaging, patriarchal system of selfishness and hierarchy.

Godly leadership will make a good woman COME ALIVE.

Before I close out, I want to thank every man who’s shown us what it looks like to love a woman well. I sincerely hope some of you speak up in the church, for the church, for your sisters who are suffering in ways you have no idea and would come to arms if you only knew.

My faith in men stands strong because of you. And my faith in God’s plan remains unshaken as I continue to pursue a culture of honor. Perfection is never expected on either end. But mutual effort, open and kind communication, love reciprocated, and mutual honor for each other.

As one Godly man said, “It looks a lot like team work!”

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.

……….Let each of you love his wife as himself.” Ephesians 5:25-29, &33a, ESV

Keeping Emotional Clarity: Don’t Run with the Boundaries Concept (Part Three)

Recently a friend and I were discussing the divorce epidemic, and how it seems many people are justifying divorce without proper cause.

Both men and women are taking Dr. Henry Cloud’s teaching on boundaries out of context, and the results are devastating. I do believe there are times where divorce is inevitable, but I’m addressing something different, here.

I can’t put the dilemna into better words than he did, so I’m going to revise his words a bit and share them anonymously (with permission).

I quote:

“Dr. Henry Cloud’s boundaries have their place, but people start misapplying these principals, and it’s comparable to deciding to get chemo and radiation treatments when you need a much less aggressive or invasive treatment.

So many people are taking that teaching and saying things like, ‘I’ve been telling my husband I need help around the house for years. He always apologizes and promises to help more, but it only lasts for a couple of weeks. Then he slips back into the usual. I can’t handle these broken promises, continual apologies, yet no lasting change. If he loved me, he’d change and help me more around the house. I deserve better. I’m putting up boundaries; no contact, no connection until I see lasting change. I’m so hurt, maybe I should even separate from him until he sees what he has and changes for good.’

Then enters some man showing kindness, attention, money, etc. They are already disconnected and the grass looks greener to her. Boom—marriage done.

It’s like all the “You deserve to be happy” and “It’s your time for you” folks grabbed that boundaries teaching and boxed it into a “mental health” box with pretty new wrapping paper on it, and started selling their same old secular, selfish-minded philosophy in a way that opens minds to a deceptive way of thinking.

In my opinion, it is hell’s new form of psychological warfare on believers.”

“Mic-Drop” was all I could think when I read this.

For some years, I’ve been hesitant to share parts of my story because I didn’t want people to take what I say, run with it, and keep hollering the “Stand up for yourself” cry.

But I also saw the other side of the planet where women can’t say anything without being told they’re not submissive enough. This was me. This is many, many women—and it is for these women that I write.

On the other hand, there are many men and women who take truth and twist it into self-serving, humanistic approaches to gain what they want by taking the easy way out of a marriage that has issues to work through. For these men and women, I write this caution.

Emotional health and mental clarity will never come from selfishly applying boundaries to good-hearted spouses with needs you don’t like. Your health will come from obeying Jesus and loving your spouse as you love yourself.

My parents are still married after forty-three years, not because my father fills all my mother’s emotional needs, or because my mother fills all my father’s needs. They are still married because love and commitment over-ride an entitled view of themselves that would make them ditch each other for “something better”.

Their home is established on more than unmet needs; it is established on the Word of God, the God who promises to be more than they will ever need. With grace, they love each other and help each other grow. With even more grace, they accept each other’s flaws and choose to keep loving–whether or not the other changes.

I signed my divorce papers for one thing only—and that was my husband’s ongoing affair with a minor child almost the same age as our oldest daughter. Today, the girl is pregnant and they are still together, albeit not legally married.

Hear me carefully when I say there were many things I could have divorced him over. I had no lack of “reasons” I could have used. But I refused to sign divorce papers until it became undeniably clear that there was no other way.

I am divorced with a good conscience. My plea to everyone out there is this: love your spouse, stay with your spouse for better or for worse unless it is simply impossible and your spouse’s sin meets the criteria for divorce as said in the scriptures. Don’t take this teaching on boundaries to mean you can put up walls for everything hurtful in your marriage. You will not heal your heart like this; you will hurt your soul, your spouse, and your children. You will be selfish, refusing to love until your own needs are met. This is not the way of the cross.

In God’s kingdom, the way up is the way down. Get on your knees, ask God how you can love your spouse best, and learn what specifically speaks love to him/her.

Somewhere along the way you will be surprised with inner soul freedom that is so much greater than you’d experience if you quit and ran for something you thought was better.

It won’t be better.

Every good marriage has at least one partner who is willing to love extravagantly even when the other does not deserve it.

My challenge for all of you today is this: take your spouse’s faults and choose to love extravagantly, anyway. Give 100%. Love the person you once fell in love with, and love them hard. Find out what makes your particular spouse feel loved, and just do it, without question.

What speaks love to your spouse may be entirely different than what speaks love to you. Study your spouse, ask questions, and go all out for the growth of your marriage.

You will never regret it!

Stay faithful, and God will faithfully clarify your thoughts, bring healing to your soul, and help you grow—even if your spouse’s faults continue.

Never give up unless, as in my own case, your marriage is no longer possible. Cheers to all beautiful, committed souls who grow, grow, and grow a marriage!

How “Submission” Can Turn to Suffocation

I paused before I spoke, carefully weighing each word—and more importantly, each tone of each word.

I had waited for two months to talk with my ex-husband about something that needed to be talked about as soon as it happened (painful things with other women). But, I was terrified to talk even though what had happened was wrong.

That doesn’t sound healthy, you say—and you’re right.

My suffocating experience in marriage led me to research healthy womanhood with a passion. There had to be more to relationship in marriage than what I experienced. Surely this was not what Jesus talked about in 1 Peter 3.

Surely if a wife who loved and served her husband discovered something wrong in her husband’s life, she should be heard?

I knew the answer was yes even though I didn’t experience it. I weighed my words carefully and spent years in confusion and emotional distress because I tried so hard to avoid the hurtful conversations I knew would happen if I tried to communicate.

Thank heaven this is not what a wife is meant to have in marriage.

Let’s take a look at some powerful women in the Bible. Deborah was a prophetess, a wife, during one of the most troubled times of Israel. She’d sit under a palm tree dedicated to her, called “The Palm of Deborah” while the people of Israel came to her for judgment.

When they were oppressed under Jabin, king of Canaan, Deborah called Barak and told him the Lord asked him to go out to war against the king’s army. In verse eight Barak says to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; but if not, I will not go.”

Deborah goes with him but lets him know that the glory won’t go to him because the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman. (Judges 14)

The battle rages hot but as is always the case when God is on our side, Barak’s army won until each man fell. Every man but one, that is.

When 900 chariots of iron weren’t getting him anywhere, Sisera fled on foot to Jael’s tent. Why this tent? Because there was peace between her husband and the king.

Jael kindly invited Sisera into her tent, comforted him with words of peace, fed him hot milk, and covered him up warmly. He fell asleep and she took a tent spike into her hand, a hammer in the other, and pounded away, into his brain until he was dead.

Then, she reported it to Barak.

Israel’s victory began with two women, one of which obviously went against her husband’s wishes when she chose to fight on the Lord’s side. Get this—she killed a man who was at peace with her husband. The only vibe we get from scripture concerning this act was one of approval, God fighting with her, with them.

She aligned herself well. Remember this, sisters—when your husband opposes God’s kingdom it is of utmost importance that you choose the right side.

Now, lets hop on ahead to 1 Peter 3 where God talks about one of His exemplary women, Sarah.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conversation of their wives………as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord. And you are her children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3: 1 & 6, ESV)

How do we make sense of this seeming contradiction? By taking the entirety of the Word of God rather than zoning in on one verse. God has a perfect plan for His women and it shines through all of scripture.

Jael quietly did what she needed to do. We don’t read of her becoming feministic, abrasive, or brash. We simply see a woman of great strength with an ability to rise to a God-given occasion to fight for His people.

In that moment, her husband was second to God, not competing with God. This is what we need to remember: our husbands do not compete with God for equal place in our lives. God is number one, always.

I believe God was number one in Sarah’s life and that was the only reason she was able to honor her husband. God was proud of her and used her as an example.

There’s an entire culture of honor we ladies need to live in, walk in, and speak in. We can do this even when we need to say no to our husbands.

My situation forced me to not only say no, but to testify in court against his actions. From closing my mouth in order to keep peace, to opening my mouth and refusing to make peace, this was one bear of a journey.

The Lord let me know one day as I was walking that my husband would leave, and that I would be the one to speak up against his actions. I still didn’t know the extent of gross sin I’d be dealing with, but my heart cried out, “Please Lord, please no. Please not me.”

I wanted so very much to please him instead, but it had become impossible.

When rubber hit the road things not only got worse, but sickeningly disturbing until the entire town was in an uproar. I had to speak with detectives and law, court, and fight for my children until my knees shook.

I could no longer obey, “submit” or pretend to be okay.

And bit by bit, I learned that it was okay for him to be unhappy with me. I’d take my emotions by the shoulders, give them a good shaking and tell myself, “Sara, if he was happy with you, you’d be in the wrong. It’s a good thing, a very good thing, that he’s unhappy with you.”

Sisters, please hear me on this. You are not responsible to make your husband happy, or to keep peace. BUT, if you walk in love and honor, you will make a good man very happy.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

If you’re walking in love and with Jesus by your side, you’ll treat him with honor. You won’t yell and be obnoxious. You won’t nag.

You’ll be feminine, gracious, and eager to bless him.

But hear me on this—you will also communicate honestly as you honor him.

You’ll be able to say the hard things.

You’ll be able to say no if he wants to veer right off track into obvious sin.

If he’s pulling toward another woman you’ll be strong enough to stand up to both of them with a better option—that of saving your life-long covenant with your husband.

If the need rises, you’ll be Jael in Sarah’s world.

Sisters, there is no other way.

Abigail brought food to David and God took care of her belligerent husband who became so angry with what she did, that he died. God blessed Abigail for feeding his servant when her husband was selfish enough to cause a war. (1 Samuel 25)

But take note on the extreme cases these examples are. Jael won a war and Abigail stopped a war. Many women today create wars instead because they are too selfish to think past their own skin.

Femininity or feminism?

Feminism tries to prove to men that we can do what they can do. It is obnoxious and nothing short of abusing the word, “woman”.

Feminity thrives in a culture of honor. We honor ourselves when we honor those around us. We are ‘yes’ women with the ability to say no when the need arises. We are graciously strong and refuse to buckle under sin and abuse.

We can stop wars and win wars, but never create wars unless standing for truth creates one of necessity. We are, as Jesus asks us to be, “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, ESV)

A culture of honor can be nothing else.

It’s Still Okay to be Feminine

I’m going to open my veins here and let them bleed a little on a topic dear to my heart.

I love being a woman.

I love it so much that I have no problem owning the fact that men possess attributes I do not. The same is true of women—we can do things men cannot do. But hear me out just a little here……….

It took me forever to burn things from my marriage, but I finally did, carrying a pile out to burn up in flames because my marriage was so far gone. I even sold my bed and all the pillows, then slept on the floor as I cried some deep tears.

In some ways it was merciful for things to get as bad as they did, or I would have hung on forever. But I finally knew I had to be done.

God met me there and told me, “Sara, you are still fully woman and fully feminine, with or without a man.”

Those words from Jesus have been my saving grace. No man can rob me of the gift of being fully woman. Since then, I’ve been able to enjoy, even more, all the things I did before.

God has this ironic way of redeeming everything for those who love Him, and the gift of being able to appreciate goodness even more, as a result of the ugly I’ve been through, has been part of my redemption in it all.

I still dress up, wear make-up, and purchase an occasional new piece of simple jewelry. I still love fashion even though most days I’m knee deep in cleaning supplies at the job. Every once in awhile I still take out the curling iron, and I still love an elegant glass of wine.

If anything, those things mean more to me now because I’m joining the work force each morning and filling my car with gas along with a gazillion men who are all building houses, maintaining lawns, and pouring concrete. They make the mess; I clean the mess.

But recently, as I praised my ten year old son for his masculine protection over our home and family when someone ransacked our car in the night, I was bombarded with upset women because I dared imply that men are more protective than women, that we should all be content with our gender and simply live it up.

I even dared speak against transgender lifestyles. I’m not into the pop-Christian culture where sin is blatantly condoned. And I’m not afraid to mention Jen Hatmaker or her false interpretation of love.

But that’s another topic in itself. Back to daring to mention that men are protective.

I was blown away. Surely most of those women would happily take a protected place should war break out and the men around us rushed to the front lines to protect their homes and families. (I’d honestly love to see a line of feminists when the call to bear arms comes along. I dare say that at that moment, they’d love to let men be men.)

Of course there are female soldiers, too. But I’m talking majority here. There is simply no doubt that most men have a protective instinct and most women have a desire to be protected.

My little boy’s eyes lit right up as he planned how to scare a thief away from our car. And I, as his mother, could only stare at this tiny ten year old and wonder why he wasn’t afraid.

Say that on face book though, and you’ll get all kinds of “Women are definitely the strongest gender” kinds of comments.

I’m not sure what we have to prove here. Do women really feel obligated to do and be everything a man does and is?

For crying aloud, men can’t grow a human in their own bodies, give birth, or even care for a baby as instinctively as women can. We are just as strong, yes, but in a different way. There’s a (God-given) reason most little boys play guns and most little girls play dress-up.

Of course some girls are naturally “tomboy-ish”–and I happen to love scary adventures, mountain climbing, and such as well. We’re not making cookie-cutter descriptions here, but calling appreciation to the fact that genders are different and families need BOTH to function well.

We are just as important, yes, but we are not the same. If God wanted females to be as good at everything men are, He would have just created all of us male.

I’m weary of the twenty-first century where femininity is looked down on rather than appreciated. Have women forgotten they are bearers of beauty, kindness, and love? The world needs us—and every real man knows it.

When women release their femininity for something they think they should be, instead, something difficult comes in its place.

Insecure women bring control, unrest, and ugliness into this world. I’d say this universe needs the opposite—and I’m frankly honored that God created us for the task.

The other day I was cleaning a bath tub for a client when suddenly a massive something with a million legs came speeding up an unused drain. I screamed just a little, stepped back, and wondered what to do.

I could be the bravest ever and say with millions of other women, “Who needs men?” I could squash that creature with a wad of toilet paper. I could overcome every fear I’ve ever had of crawling creatures, and just do it.

Or, I could be okay with my fear, walk out to the garage, and ask the gentleman to please help me with this mini-animal scrambling around his tub.

I chose the latter and stayed far away until he walked out with a smile, a dead creature, and an apology. I thanked him, re-entered his bathroom, and made it cleaner than it’s ever been.

See this—I wasn’t weak for wanting help with a crawling creature speeding about with a million legs in the bath tub I was cleaning. And he wasn’t less of a man for not wanting to clean his house.

I own a cleaning business because I’m good at cleaning and I love organizing. Most days we clean three homes, some of which are obviously bachelor’s pads. Now, some guys are cleaner than women, but there’s a reason we often use extra soap on man caves.

See that term, man cave?

A woman will most likely call her home a nest. She’ll have plant rooms, dining rooms, a sitting room—all geared to love, nurture, and create a haven.

Both genders are strong, yet in opposite ways because we are meant to compliment each other and bring to this world what the other does not. When we both do our part, we create a beautiful balance. When we compare, fret, and feel less than, we create void by default, because when someone isn’t filling a spot, the spot is empty.

If women try to be men, what is left for real men to be attracted to? Who is there to care for, to love, to be hero for?

Before you bristle, ladies, remember that a man is biologically created to be a hero. Even Disney knows this. There’s a reason Cinderella wears the glass slippers and her real man rescues her.

Real men need real women, even in the twenty-first century.

Before you go haywire on me with all kinds of hormonal reactions, may I remind you that I write this as a single woman making my own way in the world?

I know how to start, own, and grow a business, hire employees, and manage a thriving company.

I know how to pay my bills, do my own yard work, use a weed trimmer, fill the lawn mower with gas, and check the tank for oil.

I know how to use a chain saw and I’ve spent hours cutting up fire wood with my children.

I can manage my website and work with people from one end of the spectrum to the other.

But, I’m still fully woman and it’s totally okay to have a man get that crawling whatever out of the bathtub while I stand there shaking.

We have nothing to prove, but everything to be.

Do what you need to do in life, but nurture those around you, bring beauty to every place you go, and find full satisfaction in being a woman. Appreciate and acknowledge what men do and are for you. Only an insecure woman has something else to prove.

You are so needed. Not half of you, but all of you.

Let every real man keep right on opening doors for women, and let every real woman thank him with a smile.

The attributes we do not possess are meant to be fully met in the other. Goodness calls to goodness as we both live fully in this world.

Single women, this is for you, too. You are every bit as much of a woman, and the world needs you. Remember to stay kind and bring both internal and external beauty to those around you.