Single Ladies, Prepare for Spiritual Demotion

My last boss, the CEO of a successful start up, used to describe me as "relentless." Thanks to my parents, it's just in my nature to give 110% at work, to do my best, to be the last one to leave, to make sure the job gets done well.

When I got pregnant, we decided it was time for me to leave one of my two part time jobs and focus on Polished. I declared to my husband that I would finish strong to my very last day of work, proving that with enough determination, one can execute the same level of excellence even when my days in the position were numbered. My investment in the present would not falter. Plus, I was moving on to focus on full time work in ministry, the job I really wanted.

A month before leaving, with a huge preggo belly between me and my computer at work, I typed client notes in our CRM: While backspacing one letter at a time, I was thinking: This is not like me. I'm the person who can turn a surly, angry customer into a delighted customer for life at the pleasure of my boss and the praise of my co-workers. What had happened to me?

You know what happened. It's only natural, even at our best, to be less invested and, at worst, give up completely when you know a demotion is coming. Everyone can relate to this feeling. It's near impossible to be fully present when we know change at work, good or bad, is coming.

I've developed a theory about millennial women based on a few interrelated messages they have received from the church. We may not even intend for these messages to be received, but they are loud and clear to the newest U.S mission field: women.

My theory: young women are intentionally choosing not to love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength because the messages they've received from the church have made loving God with their all a short-lived pursuit at best and a futile pursuit at worst. 

One of the messages being received is... 

Single women need to prepare for a spiritual demotion once they get married. 

Single women understand that they should pursue God, pursue God, pursue God, and then when you get married you can defer, defer, defer to your husband's "leadership," "headship," "spiritual authority," "servant leadership." The buck will stop with him. He will be ultimately accountable for family decisions. He gets the final vote or his vote counts for two. That may not be what we intend or what we mean, but that's the message being received.

When the church communicates in a way that has single women envisioning "passing the buck" spiritually to our future husbands, we are communicating that, although they may be the leader of their own spiritual walk nowan inevitable spiritual demotion is coming once you get married.

As a result, women are complacent, unmotivated, distracted, and decidedly uninvested in their spiritual growth. They don't need to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength because eventually someone else will do that for them. Why bother? The fact that women are the newest U.S. mission field starts to make a little more sense...

Our enemy wows me with his strategies. He has effectively sidelined many single women from loving God with all they are by threatening them with the futility of their commitment. Eventually they will be demoted spiritually.

I'm solution-focused, so the solution seems simple. Right? Undo the bad teaching with truth. Explain a better understanding of the concept of headship with teaching on servant leadership. But it's not that simple. 

If one of the rare, few women can overcome the widespread belief that eventually they will be demoted spiritually, and they relentlessly pursue loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, they face several more problematic messages from the church:

Godly men have to be more godly than their wives so they are able to lead them well.

The more godly a single woman becomes, the less desirable she is to godly suitors because she becomes harder to lead.

Submission is the hallmark of a godly wife. 

Submission is hard when you have strong leadership skills.

A young woman approached me to confide: She has been accepted into seminary in the fall. Full scholarship. She's really smart. She loves Jesus. She's convinced at this point in life that serving her God as a professor is her calling. She trusted her tribe (her mixed gender small group) with this information and two men from her group explained that she should be "careful." The more she learns and knows about the scriptures, she becomes less and less attractive to godly suitors because Godly men want to spiritually lead their wives someday and the more godly a wife is, the harder it is to be her spiritual leader. 

She expressed something I hear often. If a woman truly invests her all into her relationship with Christ, she lessens her chances of finding a comparably godly husband. When a man becomes more godly, he is more desirable in Christian circles. When a woman becomes more godly, she becomes harder to lead and her pool of contenders for marriage gets smaller and smaller.

Let's say that a woman can overcome the disengagement that naturally plays out when you know you are going to be demoted spiritually when you get married. And let's say that she finds a godly enough man to be her spiritual leader. If she gets this far, it's pretty safe to assume she has become "strong" in the Lord. Most of the women that get there are decidedly intentional about loving God and loving others and they know very little about passivity. Well then she is truly screwed because she made it past the first two hurdles only to face this fact: she will ruin her marriage.

A young woman approached me in tears and explained to her HORROR that the all-knowing StrengthsFinder test revealed she is an ...ACTIVATOR. She is this crazy-awesome catalyst for change. God uses her to start ministries and lead people to Jesus. She is one of the best evangelists I know. How is being an activator bad you may ask?? Most women associate submissiveness with passivity. 

Activator = initiative taker = not passive = not submissive = bad wife = ruined marriage

So, if a woman lives up to her calling to love God with her whole being and finds the true pinnacle of her life in godly marriage to a one-in-a-million husband, her fierce determination that got her to this point will lead to the ruin of her marriage because she has a hard time being passive. 

It seems women are caught in a terrifying lose-lose scenario. If they love Jesus with everything, they risk passing up the spiritual demotion all godly women should dream of, marriage. If by a miracle they overcome that hurdle and find a godly enough man to be their spiritual leader, they will likely ruin their marriage because they don't have practice with passivity. The other option is to disengage, let up, try less, and sometimes give up all together. And displease God. Which is the lesser evil? And there it is. Satan's checkmate. Damned if we do and damned if we don't.

I'm not suggesting we abandon our convictions on gender roles. I'm suggesting we promote women to the Great Commission, the greatest commandments, the enduring calling on all image-bearers of God. 

You've just read Part 3 of a series of posts on this topic. For further reading...