This post is part of Mutuality Week 2012, hosted by Rachel Held Evans.
When I was at university, I longed to find a husband. I wanted the Christian ideal: marry out of college, have children, submit to my husband and receive God’s blessings for my obedience. I believed men and women have different roles: I wanted to submit to a godly man and have him be my leader.
There were two problems with this plan: I am not social, and I’m extremely bookish. Even if I hadn’t been juggling a stuffed schedule of credit overloaded semesters to complete both degrees in four years while working to pay for it, I wouldn’t have dated much because I am introverted and awkward. I hoped God would wash someone up on the shore of my life. It seemed to happen that way for my friends, and maybe it did, but it didn’t happen that way for me.
Like a lot the women graduating from my Christian university, I got two bachelor’s out of college, but neither of mine were men. (I know, you guys, I know. I just couldn’t help myself.)
Somewhere in the post-graduation shuffle, my world was flipped inside out. My two closest friends got married and moved to California. I got a job in a different city in my own state. These are only the highlights: several other events occurred in my life around that time and I found myself living a life I had not intended.
I had to learn to care for myself, something I never expected to do alone.
In my household, I am the breadwinner. I work outside the home. I am my spiritual leader. I decide what church to attend and how often. I do all the praying, all the learning, all the Bible study, all the theology. I am the leader.
This life shattered my understanding of gender roles. Complementarianism only works when there is more than one person. It requires the other to complement. But in my life there is no other, so how can I partake in a complementary role?
What I learned, though, and continue to learn, is that I do not need someone to complement me, to fill a role, to lead me, to teach me. I can be fierce and vulnerable. I can be curious and compassionate and knowledgeable. I can teach my friends and peers and coheirs with Christ, and they can teach me so many more things.
I finally found my other half, deep in my soul where I had feared to look.
What I take from the Genesis account of Adam and Eve is not that God wants me to submit to a man, but that God wants us to have full and wonderful lives in a paradise where we are not alone. That kingdom is already here and is coming. And I am an image bearer of its King, a compassionate man who submitted to his father and conquered evil through silence and death.
The main problem with complementarianism is when we look at Christ, we see that submission and leadership are identical. If men are called by the example of Christ to lead, then they will lead by serving and submitting; if women are called to submit, they are called to be Christ to the world, to lead God’s children home.
I am not an egalitarian because complementarianism is wrong, but because the roles complementarianism claims are different are not different roles. They are identical. They are not only equal, as the complementarian points out, but they are the same.