Monday, August 25, 2014

Why I Started Covering My Head

Although I have been attending church my entire life, I can't remember hearing a single sermon that taught on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. A pastor or speaker may have skimmed over the passage occasionally, but it certainly isn't a subject that is frequently discussed. What am I talking about?

Head coverings.

In spite of the absence of teachings, I always knew how most women felt about the issue of head coverings. On the rare occasion that the subject was broached, no matter how briefly, Paul's instruction to the Corinthian women was almost always disregarded as irrelevant for today. It was seen as a cultural practice that today's Christian women were not bound to, and if an argument was made against that perspective, then a few words were said about being "free in Christ," and no longer "slaves to the law," at which point the subject would be firmly closed. A few people believed that a woman's hair was enough of a covering, since it is called "a covering" in verse 15.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that even as a child, the idea of covering my head in some way appealed to me. One reason may have been because I am a "doer." I love doing "what's right," and being obedient to rules. I liked being told what to do and how to do it because it gave me a clear sense of direction, and I knew exactly what was expected of me. A similar reason could be that I have always struggled with legalism. Though I knew there was nothing I could do to earn my salvation, that it was a free gift from God, that knowledge didn't stop me from feeling like I had to repay a debt (which would be impossible, anyway). This is still something I struggle with today. Whatever the reasons were, I was attracted to this display of submission and wished that I could cover my head. Fear prevented me from doing this, however; fear that my parents wouldn't allow it out of embarrassment, fear that family members and friends would ridicule me, and fear that other people would shun me because I was weird.

When I hit the teen years, I gave very frequent and serious thought to covering my head (and becoming a nun, and adopting a mennonite lifestyle, but that's irrelevant to my story). It seemed like such a sacred and beautiful practice, and whenever I would see a woman wearing a head covering, I was struck by how clearly the glory of Christ shone through her countenance. I wanted people to look at me and see Jesus the way I saw Him in those women. They had such a distinct grace and purity about them, and I wanted to be like that. Unfortunately, the same fears that held me back in middle school held me back in high school as well.

Fast forward to now. My husband and I had discussed head coverings many times since our marriage (to the point that I was sure he was sick of hearing about it), and he graciously listened to me talk about my growing desire to cover my head. His opinion on the matter was different from mine, and although he understood my heart, he wasn't comfortable with the idea of me wearing a traditional head covering. After giving the matter some thought, we decided that it would be appropriate for me to keep my hair long. I had noticed the growing trend in women cutting their hair short, so I suggested that I keep mine long as an outward sign of submission to him and to God. We agreed that my long hair would serve as an adequate covering, and though we both had many unanswered questions, we left it alone for a while.

A few months later, a friend from my previous church married and soon began covering her head. She blogged about her reasons, and documented her progress. Pictures of her different head coverings, and statuses about her experience wearing them appeared often on her Facebook page. All the while, I was watching, reading, and thinking. We even had several conversations about head coverings, and she added me to a group for head covering Christian women. The interest I've had in head coverings over the course of my life sparked inside of me again. Though I had studied the subject for myself many times in the past, I began searching for more answers. Then one day, a few weeks ago, I came across a website called The Head Covering Movement. It turned out to be exactly what I needed, and it answered all of the questions I had. At first, I was hesitant to bring up the subject again with my husband, but an opportunity presented itself one evening, and he was willing to hear what I had discovered. I walked him through the website's dissection of the head covering Scripture, and read aloud several of the articles that answered our questions. From what we learned on the site, it seemed very plain and clear that covering my head was a biblical command, and that my hair did not qualify as a covering in the context of that passage. We talked for over an hour, and made the decision that it was necessary for me to cover my head in some way. The tricky part would be to find a head covering that I felt gave me adequate coverage, yet also made my husband feel comfortable. Anything that looked foreign, elderly, amish, or outdated would not be an option. After searching high and low for a few days, looking at everything from scarves to hats, we both agreed that I would use wide headbands. I found a website that sold a wide variety of head coverings, including wide headbands, and ordered two in different styles. They arrived in the mail last week, and not only do I like them; I plan to order many more when I am able!

This is my 19 week pregnancy photo, in which
I am wearing one of the headbands I purchased.

Now that my long-winded story is finished, here are some of my personal reasons for choosing to cover my head in church:

Why I Started Covering My Head
  1. It paints a clear picture of God's created order, and brings glory to Him. As the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 states, God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. There's a biblical hierarchy - not of importance or purpose, but of authority. When I cover my head, I become a physical representation of this truth, and I am displaying my joyful acceptance of God's created order. It's a small, yet significant way I can bring honor and glory to the Lord.
  2. It brings honor to my husband. Submission is not a popular subject in our feministic culture, and when I cover my head during church, I am showing the rest of the world that I have decided to submit to my husband's authority. 
  3. It's taught in Scripture. I won't get into a debate about biblical interpretation, so if you would like to see what I believe the Bible says about this topic and why, The Head Covering Movement website has a great resource that allows you to study for yourself, and a list of articles that address the common questions (with their answers) that typically arise. Those articles answered all the questions we still had about the subject in general, and the meaning of several verses that were hard to understand.
  4. It makes me aware of my sin. Another thing that I didn't expect was that wearing a head covering would make me so very aware of my sin nature, and even sins that I had not repented of. In ways I can't explain or understand, the headband was a constant reminder that I was covering my hair, which reminded me of why I felt led to cover in the first place, which in turn made me look more closely at my own heart. It's not like the headband is magical or anything, but because I'm always aware of it when I have it on, it's as if it focuses my heart and mind on the church service and the Lord.
  5. It makes me aware of opportunities to love others like Christ. Because I'm always aware of the headband (and what it represents for me), Jesus Christ is at the forefront of my mind. I've found that the more I think about Him, the more I recognize opportunities to show love to others. Whether it's a smile, or compliment, or small-talk about a person's day, little things make a huge difference, and I notice those moments much more since I started covering.
  6. I feel more beautiful, and more myself. This was the most unexpected revelation I had over the last few weeks. When I covered my hair for church, I felt more feminine, graceful, modest, and beautiful than I ever had before (and I've never had issues with my image or self-esteem). You would think that the opposite would be true; that wearing a head covering would make you feel less-attractive, or like your personality was being stifled. I found that who I am deep down seemed more obvious (at least to me) than it was prior to using a covering. I felt like my true self could be seen by the world for the first time. Whether this is reality, or something I've imagined, I don't know. But there's something freeing about feeling like you aren't wearing a mask around other people anymore.
You've probably noticed that I only talk about covering my head in church. At this time, that is all I feel led to do based on my study of 1 Corinthians 11. Whether or not I will start covering my head full-time at some point in the future is not decided right now. It wouldn't surprise me if I did, because I enjoy it so much. For now, however, I am only covering while in a church service. 

- What are your thoughts on head coverings? 
- (Men) What do you think of women who cover their hair?
- (Women) If the command to cover was not a cultural thing, would you cover? Why or why not?
- Do you have any questions for me about my decision to cover? If so, ask away!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Secret Blessing of Unsolicited Advice

One of the things I was - and still am - looking forward to the most about this pregnancy is getting advice from friends, family members, and strangers about how to parent my unborn child. You may think that was meant to be a sarcastic sentence, but I assure you that it wasn't. I really do enjoy getting advice from the other people about anything and everything. When I got engaged, I assumed I would be flooded with unsolicited advice about how to be a good wife. Surprisingly, not that many people spoke up. As soon as I saw that the pregnancy test said positive, I was positive that this time around, advice would come pouring in. You know what? It hasn't come yet. In a few weeks, I'll be half-way through this pregnancy, and very few people have offered me advice that I haven't asked for. Some of you are probably thinking, "Lucky you!" However, I don't agree.

When did we become so arrogant, by the way? When did it become acceptable for us to condescendingly reject anyone who feels the need to give us advice about our lives? I'm sorry ladies, but whether I have no children or TEN children, I would be a fool to think that I had it all figured out and didn't need any outside perspective. The Proverbs have plenty to say about this subject:

"Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid." -Proverbs 12:1

"A fool's way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise." -Proverbs 12:15

"Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." -Proverbs 15:22

"Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life." -Proverbs 19:20

Furthermore, are we Christian ladies so far along on the road of sanctification that we now scorn anything that remotely resembles Titus 2?

"Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. [They are] to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God's message will not be slandered." -Titus 2:2-5

I hate to blow the roof off of the dome of isolation and self-righteousness that some of us have so carefully constructed for ourselves, but being in each other's business is not only okay; it's biblical. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). Does this mean anyone has the right to step in and make decisions about what is best for me or my family? Are other people obligated to know every intimate detail about my love life with my husband? Is it perfectly acceptable for people - strangers or otherwise - to openly comment about any aspect of my life whenever they want to and say whatever they want to say? No, no, and no. That's not what this is about at all. 

There's no way I can be the kind of wife or mother I want to be without any input or suggestions from anyone else whatsoever. I know myself, and I know what I am. I am a sinner, saved by Jesus, who is just trying to live a life that honors His great sacrifice. Maybe you have it all figured out, but I certainly don't, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Yes, I do have my own opinions about what it means to be a good wife and mother, or the best way to discipline a child, or whether stomach-sleeping or back-sleeping is better for babies. If I'm passionate about it, you can be certain I've researched it to death. 

I still want your advice, though.

Because no matter how much I've read about vaccines, ways to make a husband feel respected, or the benefits of keeping and maintaining houseplants, there's at least one perspective I haven't considered: yours. I would be remiss in my role as a wife and mother not to at least hear what you have to say. Together, my husband and I will make the final decisions on the options we're faced with and do what we think is best, but we're honored that you think so highly of us as to share your thoughts and beliefs on a subject with the intent to be helpful. To all the family and friends, and yes, even strangers, know that I welcome your advice. This doesn't mean, however, that I am desperate for you to come up and tell me - without hearing my perspective on a matter - that I'm a bad wife or mother for doing (or failing to do) x, y, or z, or that my baby should or shouldn't wear this style of onesie or hair accessory. But if you have a genuine concern or wisdom you would like to share with me, I would love to hear it!

To all the fellow pregnant ladies or women with children, please don't be so quick to dismiss or be angered by the advice of others. Do you know why most people offer advice out of the blue like that? They're most likely afraid, on some level. If they truly think they're opinion or method is right one, then they are afraid of what will happen if you make the "wrong" choice. If they have some kind of personal relationship with you, then it's safe to assume they have your best interests at heart. Even if they don't know you, they may regret their own choices and hope to spare you the same disappointment. God moves in mysterious ways. Years from now, you may look back and realize that the Lord was trying to show you a better way to do something. As we get on with the rest of the day, let's carefully consider the warning of Proverbs 16:

"Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall." -Proverbs 16:18

How do you feel about receiving unsolicited advice from others? What marriage or parenting advice would you like to share with me?