I want to take an opportunity to share something that was part of my journey to become a peaceful wife early on. My hope here is only to share what I discovered with my precious sisters in Christ. Please, as always, do what you believe the Lord desires you to do. 🙂 No pressure from me!
I was reading along in my Bible when God stopped me in 1 Cor. 11:1-16 and would not let me go on until I wrestled with the issue. Verse 3 is an extremely critical verse that describes God’s authority structure:
The head of every man is Christ, the head of the wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Cor. 11:3
After that, there is a section about that men should not have their heads covered in corporate worship but women should. Paul gave four reasons why things should be like this and he said no church has any other practice than this.
HELP ME UNDERSTAND, LORD!
I had never covered my head before. No women I knew in my present and past churches or my family covered their heads for church. I had always been told that head covering for Christian women “was just a cultural tradition and it is irrelevant today.”
But – was that really true?
WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE SAY? DOES IT APPLY TO US, TOO?
I was struck by the words in 1 Corinthians 11:10, “the wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head” – speaking of covering her head with a veil/cloth during prayer in corporate worship. After taking a class at my church on the importance of spiritual authority, I realized that when scripture talks about authority, it is a big deal.
I wrestled with God for 3 solid days over this idea of covering my head to show my submission to my husband and to His authority structure in the church. I had already accepted God’s design for marriage wholeheartedly – even if I didn’t really know yet how to live it very well. Now, the question was, would I also receive the biblical symbol of God’s design for authority for myself as a woman – if that is what God’s Word was really saying?
It was a small thing. Not a matter of salvation or a “super important doctrine” as humans would rate biblical doctrines and commands. It was just a symbol. But symbols are important because the meaning behind them is important. Things like the Lord’s Supper (which actually appears later in 1 Corinthians 11) and baptism are precious symbols to all believers because of the big concepts they represent. Wearing a wedding ring is a little thing, but it symbolizes something sacred – our marriage covenant.
I could hear God gently asking, “Are you willing to obey Me even in the small things? Even if no one else does?“
I decided that I would obey my Lord no matter what – on this issue and any other issue. He is LORD of my life now, after all. I am no longer on the throne. And what other people think no longer really matters. My only goal has to be simply to please God.
As I studied, I could see that the reasons Paul gave for men to have bare heads and women to have covered heads in worship were not cultural, in spite of what I had been taught in the past. The hard thing for me really wasn’t understanding what this passage said once I studied it and read it with an open heart. Deciding how to live it was the hard part.
2000 YEARS OF HISTORY
I was surprised to learn that Christian women in many other parts of the world still do obey this passage by covering their heads with cloth of some kind (or a hat) during church meetings. I was also surprised to learn that women in other Christian cultures wonder why we don’t cover our heads in corporate worship. I noticed that men still obey this passage in our culture even today, even unbelievers. They take their hats off when they come into church, and even other buildings, as a sign of respect.
It seemed only to be the Christian women in the church in the West who were not following this particular passage of scripture. Why would that be?
As I studied how Christian women for over 1,900 years covered their heads in obedience to this passage (and in many other Christian cultures even today in other parts of the world), I think I found the main reason why women in our culture stopped covering our heads in church decades ago.
During the second wave of feminism in the 1960s-1970s, Christian women stopped wearing hats and veils to church – largely, it seems, because of the messages of feminism.
So – yes, the symbol of head covering became culturally irrelevant in our Christian culture in the West, especially after the 1960s. But the symbol became meaningless primarily because we got rid of everything the symbol meant in our culture, even in the church, due to the influence of feminism.
If that was the only reason why we stopped covering our heads – or if it was just a fashion thing – I realized those reasons wouldn’t hold up before my Lord when I stand before Him in heaven.
I let Greg know what I had been reading and was amazed that he was quite supportive. That was another confirmation from God to me because this was a very new thing for me to do.
Interestingly, covering my head really helped me remember to show proper honor and respect to the Lord and to my husband when I pray and when I am at church. It has been a sweet, tangible reminder to me of God’s authority structure in my life. I love to think about His covering and protection over me and my husband’s covering and protection over me.
At first, I began slipping a scarf over my head during prayer at church. But eventually, I switched to wearing an inexpensive cloche hat throughout the services and have done that for probably 6-7 years now. When I am having my daily quiet time, I also generally cover my head with something, as well, often a scarf or wide headband.
If someone at church asks me about why I wear a hat to church, I respectfully and gently share that it is because of I Corinthians 11. Usually, if people comment at all, they just say, “I like your hat!” Most people never say anything. It truly isn’t as scary as it may seem at first. Now, to me, this practice is very beautiful.
It may even become a source of blessing to you like it has been to me.
I invite you to do your own prayerful study of this passage and the history of head covering for Christian women when you get a chance. Don’t just take my word for it. 🙂 Perhaps you may want to pray about it and then even talk with your own husband about it.
Whatever you may decide about this passage, I am so thankful that we are all part of one body of Christ and that we have His love and unity.
Here is a page of FAQs that you may have about this whole idea from my favorite site on this topic… www.headcoveringmovement.com. (This list seriously covers almost every question believers would think of in very well-written, well-researched articles.) There are also articles by women who decided to cover their heads at church that may be interesting, as well.
There is also a book that goes over all of our questions and combs carefully through scripture on this topic that may be a blessing to read through by yourself or with your husband – “Head Covering” by Jeremy Gardiner (same author as the site www.headcoveringmovement.com.) I respect Jeremy Gardiner’s gentle, humble, respectful style and his desire to accurately represent scripture.
Places to find head coverings:
www.garlandsofgrace.com – a Christian site with some lovely ideas for fabric coverings
www.headcovers.com – a secular site with lots of options hats, scarves, turbans, beanies, etc…