I recently discovered something about myself.
I don’t know God.
I was raised in the church, and as an adult and then a mom, I attended church with my kids. I realized my need for salvation nearly twenty years ago and called on Christ to save me. But I still didn’t know God.
I knew the Scriptures and memorized entire books of the Bible. I read conservative evangelical books on theology and thought myself well versed in Christianity.
I still didn’t know God.
My View of God
I had many ideas about God. The way I was raised, and the way Scripture was presented to me, gave me these ideas. In fancy words, we call them presuppositions. Through these ideas, I translated what had happened to me and what was going on in my world. When I read books on theology and did in-depth Bible studies, I read through a lens of my ideas about God.
I was a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled my brood of kids and made sure to always bring my best to the potluck meals at church. I worked hard to learn to be a “quiet” woman, keep my opinions to myself, and conform to the ideas of my husband. I made sure my children memorized Scripture and sang hymns. I shared the gospel with others, leading other women to Christ.
But, I still didn’t know God.
The past decade has turned my evangelical world upside down. Learning of my former husband’s unfaithfulness, then spending two years praying and seeking God’s direction, I finally had the courage to divorce, putting myself and my kids in grave danger, only to have the church side with my abusive ex-spouse. They went one step further and encouraged him in his attempts to harm us. This rocked my world.
And yet, I am beginning to understand it. In many ultra-conservative evangelical churches, the woman is not viewed as an equal to man before the Lord, but subordinate, childlike. Some churches teach that the Fall was a result of Eve and that she manipulated Adam. In many of these churches, the woman bears the weight of the spiritual climate in her home, taking on the sins of her husband. And worst of all, I’ve been told that suffering abuse at the hands of my spouse was my way to glorify God.
When you’re married to a kind and gracious man, the harm of this way of thinking is dangerous because of its unbiblical nature, but not necessarily hazardous within a marriage. But if you are married to an emotional abuser, this way of thinking only makes matters extremely worse.
After twenty years of the subtle and overt messages about who I was in God, my views of God were shaped. As I’ve walked through the hurt and humiliation of this past decade, the Lord has taken me on a journey to discover that my view of Him was completely distorted. I truly believed there were two classes of people, those God loved and those God didn’t. Women typically fell into the latter.
A Healthy Understanding
Months ago, I began taking each scripture that has to do with women and going back to the original languages as well as historical context and discovering the depth of Scripture twisting that happens in so many evangelical churches, especially those of ultra-conservative tradition. Not all, but many.
What I am discovering is revolutionary to me, yet, to many it’s a truth they have enjoyed their whole life. God has an extraordinary love for me and for all. (Now this statement gets the ultra conservatives’ panties in a wad because they like to focus on how evil humanity is and the God that will judge them!)
What I am also realizing is that I stayed in an abusive situation for nearly twenty years BECAUSE of my view of God. And that’s the point. A healthy understanding of God is the foundation for interpreting all of life. I misinterpreted and made unsafe and unwise decisions for many years. I had all good intentions; after all, I was trying my best to make God proud of me so that He might one day love me.
Each of us has a different background, education, and atmosphere we were raised in, and then we have our experiences in our adult years that have shaped our thinking. To some, the idea of women being subordinate is foreign. Count yourself blessed!
To others, perhaps even reading this, it’s what they’ve been taught and sincerely believe: Christianity only works when women take their rightful place beneath men. Their belief is planted firmly in their desire to live out every legalistic jot and tittle of the Scriptures. Perhaps these ideas work for them because they have a loving husband who isn’t out to manipulate their good intentions.
However, there is a surprising number of women who are recovering from the worst of all abuses, including the belief that God purposefully created them subordinate and expects them to suffer for it. These women have endured abuse and spent years on the treadmill of believing that, if they just perform better and follow all the rules, they could have a good marriage and easier time of it. This idea stems from an unhealthy view of God.
I’m stepping off the eternal treadmill of earning God’s love and enjoying my new understanding. I’m remarried now to an amazing, kind man whose example has been the gateway to my discovery of God’s love. My newfound freedom has caused me to become less anxious, and I tend to smile more now because I know God – and it’s an amazing thing.