On March 16, 2010 – God and I had an intense conversation. I had been reading through I Corinthians and came to chapter 11 and it was like I was reading it for the first time. I had always very conveniently ignored the first 16 verses before and had never had any prick of conscience about it in the past. But this time, I could not ignore it AT ALL. God brought it to my attention. I had to deal with it. He would not let me go any further until I wrestled with this passage. And MAN, did I wrestle!!!!
Studying about respect and how God had ordained my husband as my authority had made me realize that I needed to pay attention whenever God is talking about spiritual authority. That is an EXTREMELY CRITICAL topic. There are some PROFOUND truths about marriage and about God’s design in this passage. I pray that you might read it reverently, with new Spirit-filled eyes, prayerfully and with an open spirit to anything God may want to say to your heart.
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.
In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as a woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice - nor do the churches of God.” I Corinthians 11:3-16
THIS DOESN’T APPLY ANYMORE, RIGHT? CAN’T I JUST MOVE ON TO THE STUFF ABOUT THE LORD’S SUPPER LATER IN THE CHAPTER?
I argued with God. I tried to reason with Him. “I’m doing the long hair thing – that is my womanly glory. Isn’t that enough?” I looked up all the different ways people interpret this passage. I dug deeper – or maybe more accurately, I tried to find a way around what God was asking me to do.
I heard from many pastors that I trust that head-covering was a “cultural thing” and that it no longer applies to us these days.
That didn’t really make sense to me since Paul referred to the line of spiritual authority and headship between God>Christ>Man>Woman, the creation order of man and woman and to angels as the reason for women needing to have their heads covered – and as a sign of their husband’s spiritual authority over them. Those reasons don’t seem “cultural” at all to me.
I couldn’t help but see as I studied the topic that women in the church had covered their heads to pray/prophesy for over 1900 years. Many Christian women covered their heads ALL the time so that they could “pray properly” at any moment, giving proper respect to the “head” of their household – their husbands. It wasn’t until the rise of feminism in the 1960s that women began to abandon head coverings when they prayed and went to church.
WE KNOW BETTER THAN GOD
It hit me.
The reason the symbol of a head covering is no longer “culturally relevant” to us is that we ditched the God-given authority of our husbands.
We threw out God’s system of authority so we no longer “needed” a symbol of their authority. We decided that we didn’t want God’s ways. They were “oppressive,” “sexist,” “patriarchal,” “archaic” and “irrelevant” to the modern woman.
(I will completely concede that there were women who were abused and terribly mistreated by men when men had total power and control over their wives. I believe that was a terrible injustice against women and that those husbands are being held accountable for their abuse of their authority by our just and holy God. Abuse or tyranny is not what God desires for us either. Ephesians 5:22-33 shows God’s beautiful design for marriage.)
So, in the 1960s, we as a culture, even in the church, mostly ditched respect for our husbands, teachers, pastors, government leaders and respect for parents. The feminist movement, the hippies and war protesters in the 60s and 70s gave us “freedom from authority” that God had put in place over us for our protection, our benefit, our provision and to guide us in His ways.
Now it is all about ME. What I want. What I think is best. Who cares about authority anymore? We want FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE!
Then I started to feel angry. Really angry – a righteous anger that surfaced when I saw with horror how much our generation has been robbed as women, how much we have lost - the wisdom of God we haven’t known, the design of God for our marriages, femininity, mothering… that is completely foreign to many of us. The generations before us dropped the ball. We are paying the price and the price is astronomical. Look at the state of our marriages today – and our churches. :( Even my own marriage has paid dearly for my unquestioning acceptance in the past of these worldly, ungodly attitudes that spit in the face of God-given authority and that teach us to brazenly say, “I know better than my husband! I know better than God! I’m in charge here! I don’t have to listen to You, God! I’m doing things MY way!”
HOW DEEP IS MY OBEDIENCE?
My philosophy now is to embrace God’s Word and obey Him. He is my Lord, after all! His wisdom is higher than mine as the heavens are higher than the earth. How can I say, “No!” to my Lord and King, to the Love of my life? So, I am sharing my journey on this topic, because I believe it will honor God for me to do so. I am definitely not seeking the approval of people. If I were, I would certainly NOT write about this. I have read all the sides of the debate on this issue and I realize it is extremely controversial for many women. But for me it comes down to, “Will I obey God when He asks me to do something or will I insist on doing things my way?”
When I did things my own way in marriage, didn’t understand respect well at all, and took over the helm of my marriage – I made a HUGE mess of things! I did not have the intimacy I longed for. I was lonely, stressed, worried, critical, negative, unhappy and prickly to live with. I was not a godly woman in many respects. My life, my attitudes, my words, my actions did not honor God many times. My husband was unplugged and passive. Our marriage was a far cry from representing the very great mystery of Christ and His church.
I actually wasn’t angry about the order of authority in I Corinthians 11. In fact, I welcomed God’s authority structure in my life because I had already discovered that His way of doing things brought me such peace. I accepted that God had placed my husband over me as my covering, my provider, my authority, my protector. That wasn’t hard for me because I had accepted that when I started to study respect and biblical submission over a year earlier.
What was hard for me was to hear that God was asking me to put something on my head when I prayed. I didn’t want to. It was weird. I didn’t see anyone else doing it. (Well, maybe a few ladies at my large church wear hats, but only a handful out of over 2000 people.) I didn’t want to look weird. It was inconvenient. It was uncultural these days. YUCK. “Do I really have to, God? That is going to be such a pain!”
Then I realized how incredibly shallow I must have sounded to God. Christ was willing to die a very humiliating and excruciating death in my place. If it brings glory to Christ and honor to my husband somehow for the angels and for Him to see me pray with a hat or a scarf or something on my head – then who am I to say to God, “I won’t make that sacrifice for You. You’re not worth it to me. My faith in You doesn’t go far enough for me to be willing to do what You ask – even if it is something as simple as putting a hat or scarf on my head.”
So I decided that if God asked me to do this, I would obey Him. I prayed about it and asked God to give me favor with my husband and then asked the my husband if he would be ok with me covering my head with a scarf to honor his authority over me at home when I pray and during prayer at church – and I was COMPLETELY SHOCKED when he said, “That’s fine.”
WHAT?? REALLY??? Are you sure you heard my question??
Well, THAT was a God thing right there. “OK, God. I will obey You. Even if no one else does.”
Am I saying you have to do this, precious wife, beloved of God? Well… I don’t believe this is really about me and you. It’s about your relationship with God. I am not here to tell you what to do, but to pray that God might open your eyes to a spiritual practice we as women have lost and to expose you to God’s Word and the benefits of obedience to Him. Your decision is up to you! You don’t answer to me. We all answer to God.
WHAT IF THAT PASSAGE TRULY IS ONLY FOR THE 1st CENTURY NOT US?
You know, if somehow it’s a “mistake” for me to cover my head when I pray now - if God says to me when I see Him in heaven, “Oh, I accidentally let that passage slip into the Bible. That was a mistake. I didn’t mean for you to have to do that.” Then what have I lost? The only thing I can see that I lose is that I might look a bit strange when I pray. Not really that big of a deal! It doesn’t really cost me much to do this.
Even if God didn’t care that much about me covering my head because He didn’t think it was culturally relevent in 2013 – wouldn’t He be honored by my obedient and willing attitude to do what the Bible instructed me to do? And wouldn’t my husband be honored that I am accepting and honoring his God-given authority over me? I believe that God honors my obedience and my desire to obey Him. That obedient attitude on my part matters much more to God than what is on my head, I am sure. I am confident that He will be pleased with my desire to honor Him.
WHAT IF GOD’S WORD, INCLUDING 1 CORINTHIANS 11, ACTUALLY DOES APPLY TO ME TODAY?
What if God DID intend to have that passage of scripture in the Bible? What if He in His sovereignty meant for those verses to be there – and I decided to disobey Him? What if I waved away God’s commands by using an excuse that “Oh, no one does that anymore. Surely I am exempt from this command of God’s Word.” How would I answer to Him when I refused to do something so small? How could I defend myself? What excuse would I have that would hold water with the King of kings and Lord of lords? I couldn’t come up with any.
I believe that God honors and blesses my obedience to Him – even when I don’t understand why He might be asking me to do something. Even if it is unpopular. Even if I am the only one following Him.
THE BLESSINGS OF COVERING MY HEAD WHEN I PRAY
I was not prepared for the blessings I would experience as I obeyed God about covering my head during my private prayer time and at church during prayer.
- It is SO MUCH EASIER for me to have the proper attitude toward my husband’s authority over me when I pray knowing I have a symbol of his authority on my head. It helps me assume a proper mindset in prayer, a proper mindset toward my husband, and a proper mindset toward God.
- I tend to be much more humble and grateful for my husband when I pray and cover my head, knowing that God has placed my husband over me to protect, guide and lead me.
- I respect my husband more as I pray. And when I approach God out of a sense of respect (for my husband and his leadership), THEN I see prayers answered in mighty and miraculous ways that I never saw when I was being disrespectful toward God and my husband in prayer. I BELIEVE THIS IS A HUGE KEY TO AN EFFECTIVE AND POWERFUL PRAYER LIFE! It’s not that a piece of cloth is magical, or that God doesn’t hear me if I pray without covering my head – but it definitely affects my attitude and posture in prayer and helps keep me from being too prideful. I could be legalistic about it. But that’s not the point. It is my attitude in prayer and toward my husband that matter most to God. The outer symbol is a reminder largely for my own benefit, but also for my husband’s benefit and the angels.
- I feel so much more spiritually connected and close to my husband when I put a scarf or hat on my head and pray alone at home. Somehow, having a symbol on my head reminding me of my husband’s authority and protection over me makes me feel much more secure in his love and in God’s love, and helps me to rest more in my husband’s love and God’s love.
- Putting something on my head before I pray is a daily and continual reminder of the importance of my husband’s authority over me and helps me to maintain the proper perspective about our relationship, it helps me to respect my husband more.
- When my husband sees that I put a sign on my head signalling my willingness to recognize his authority over me – his confidence as the spiritual leader in our family is bolstered and he is reminded of the profound responsibility he has before God to lead me and our children in God’s ways. Men are visual creatures. When my husband sees my willingness to honor him before God in this way, it speaks powerfully to his soul.
THE MYSTERY OF THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD THAT ARE TOO WONDERFUL FOR ME TO UNDERSTAND
Even apart from the blessings I have seen in covering my head during prayer… there are the things Paul himself listed in this passage of scripture.
- Somehow, my covering my head to show my acceptance of my husband’s leadership and authority over me impacts the angels in heaven.
- Somehow my willingness to cover my head shows my respect for God’s order of headship and spiritual authority which is important to Him.
- Somehow my covering my head covers my hair – my glory so that MY glory is not being seen during prayer. My husband’s head is to be uncovered because he represents the glory of Christ. Woman is the glory of man. Man’s glory is to be covered during prayer. This is how God desires our worship and prayer to look in order to serve His purposes and glorify Him.
- My covering my head has something to do with the order of creation with man being created first and woman being created for man, not man for woman. Like God was first (of course, He always was, He was never created) and people were created for God, not God for people.
These are some very intense mysteries of God that I humbly acknowledge I don’t begin to understand. I don’t know how a piece of cloth matters exactly. There are things going on in spiritual and heavenly realms that are impacted by my willingness to wear a sign of my husband’s authority on my head. So I believe it is wise for me to follow God’s prescription for me, even though I don’t really understand it. Thankfully a patient can take a prescription that a doctor orders and it works if she takes it properly and follow the doctor’s directions even though that patient might have no idea what is happening pharmacologically or biochemically in her body. The prescription works apart from our understanding – as long as we take the medicine. I think the commands of God are like that, too. My obedience is required, not my understanding, in order to benefit and to honor God.
ISN’T THIS LEGALISTIC?
It is possible to make any act of obedience to God legalistic – prayer, Bible reading, going to church, respecting my husband, loving other people, tithing, dressing modestly. The key is my motive. If I desire to honor and please Christ, that is not legalism, it is joyful, willing obedience. God wants me to do the right thing for the right reason.
An UPDATE 9-4-2014:
I used to just put a scarf over my head at home or at church when I prayed. A few months ago, Greg decided it would be fine for me to wear a hat to church. I love it! At home, I still use a scarf when I pray. I don’t personally cover full time. Although, if Greg was in favor of it, I would be happy to. I seek to honor him in the way I live out obedience to this passage.
I pray we would be women of obedience, faith and who are filled with the full power of the Holy Spirit who boldly profess the Word of God and who lead many to Christ! Use us to set a godly example in our marriages and families. Let us be willing to make any sacrifice to be obedient to You. Change us! Make us the holy, godly, beautiful women You desire us to be! Let us give ourselves completely to You, holding nothing back!
Thank You for the authority of God over Christ, and the authority of Christ over our husbands and the authority of our husbands over us. Thank You that we have direct access to Christ and God through Jesus’ blood. Thank You for revealing the paths that lead to Your greatest blessings in our spiritual lives and in our marriages and families. Give us ears to hear Your voice! Give us hearts that are willing and eager to obey You in all things! Use us to honor You and bring great glory to Your Name and the gospel of Jesus Christ!