Ancient History 404: The Final NO
As far as I understood it at the time, my problem was with being willing to accept God’s will as He was revealing it to me so I could carry on my Christian life. I had no idea He was moving me, one step at a time, toward a point where I’d have to make a “life or death” decision. I certainly never imagined I would choose to die.
That summer a couple of books were making the rounds: The Total Woman and Fascinating Womanhood. Some of the other church ladies had read one or the other and were saying, “Here’s some really good teaching for wives on how to respect and submit to their husbands.” So I borrowed a copy of one and read it.
Bob read it too, and he hated it. “This is all about how to manipulate your husband into doing whatever you want him to. Such phoney sweetness. Yuck!”
Bob didn’t appreciate the idea of being manipulated and I wasn’t much into pretended sweetness, either. I’ve heard that those books have gone over well in the Deep South, but perhaps we western Canadian women are too imbued with a homestead mentality; we haven’t learned the soft-spoken gentility of the Southern belles.
Not only did Grandma NOT have servants to do the work while she sipped tea under a parasol, but quite a few of our prairie grandmas were involved in butchering, milking, stooking sheaves. Most could hitch up a team; some got crash courses in plowing a fireguard when the menfolk were away and dark smoke loomed on the horizon. A few farm wives found that when their men were laid up, there was nothing for it but to hitch the ox to the plough and put in the crops – or face starvation.
One Pastor I know has illustrated wives being the weaker vessels (I Peter 3:7) by comparing the man to a heavy frying pan and his wife to a bone china tea cup. One teen girl, hearing this example, said “I’d rather be a frying pan any day.” Her thinking would be typical hereabouts.
So the old English mindset of landed gentry with servants, tea parties and parasols didn’t get very far this side of Dixie. (It finally crashed on the American East Coast as well and young women started demanding the male privilege of higher education — but that’s a post in itself.)
We prairie gals obviously needed a little softening. Our MB pastor’s wife invited the ladies over to have an evening of discussion; one of the ladies gave a talk on how to be the submissive wife. Stand by your man and encourage, gently nudge but don’t push him around, etc.
She mentioned the importance of being feminine: wear a dress, fix your hair and look nice when he comes home from work, etc. We all nodded. Every woman is in favour of ways and means of getting our man to do what we want. 😉
Somewhere here, in connection with the thought of dressing like a lady, she quoted a verse from the Old Testament:
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” Deuteronomy 22:5.
This was news to me. I’d lived in pants –mostly jeans– all my life and so did my friends. My self-image even at this point was much more masculine than feminine. (Looking back, I suspect this was because both my dads had dissed my moms so thoroughly that I wasn’t very willing to identify with being female.)
I never searched for this verse to study the matter in depth, but I definitely turned it over in my mind. On the one hand, it’s from the Mosaic Law; a lot of those laws do illustrate spiritual principles but we don’t follow them “to the letter” anymore. On the other hand abomination is a pretty stiff word. When God says something is an abomination to Him, that’s pretty serious.
I knew part of that verse still held true in society as well: if a man would walk down the street wearing what’s clearly a woman’s outfit he’d get some pretty disgusted looks. Some segments of our society would say change is coming and we need to accept “diversity”, but the majority of people even today would find it repugnant. However, any woman may walk down the street wearing a Stetson, western shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots and no one even blinks. Women in offices or doing newscasts routinely wear business suits. Women have worn “that which pertaineth to a man” for so long nobody remembers anything else.
I’ve heard all the ups & downs of this issue. Some women say, “I don’t wear men’s pants, mine are made for women,” but I couldn’t say that. From the time I was thirteen, rebel that I was, I bought quite a few pairs of my jeans in men’s wear stores.
Anyway, I tried to push the question out of my mind but I found it didn’t “push.” Instead, it seemed like the hand of God settled on me – and it felt very heavy. I could sense Him saying, “Just give in.”
My response was, “No. Absolutely NOT.”
I looked at this as an issue of my wardrobe but God was seeing something much deeper that needed to break: my self will. He wanted to do a “heart transplant” and change my carnal heart to a spiritual one, alive to His will, but first He needed my complete surrender.
(Are clothes an issue to God? Considering all the diverse apparel through the ages and in various cultures, I don’t believe clothes are an issue per se. But rebellion is an issue with Him; idolatry & lust are issues with Him. I may not bow down to idols, but if I set up an image in my mind and make my own body its temple, if I dress so others will honor my image, is this not idolatry? If, because of pride, I dress to stir up the lust and/or envy of others, is this not going to become an issue with God? If I rebel against His order, is this not going to need some chastisement?)
For about five days I felt that heavy hand resting on me, asking me to give in, to accept His Word and way. Oh, how I fought it! I went to my Mom and discussed the matter of women wearing pants with her, looking for an answer. I went to my pastor’s wife and hashed it out with her. I heard and presented to God all the good reasons to forget this nonsense, but the conviction just wouldn’t go away. I took long walks lost in thought. SELF writhed and squirmed.
Finally I couldn’t take anymore; I had to make a decision. I was upstairs in our bedroom at the time and I said to God, “Lord, if this is what You are requiring of me, then You and I are parting company, because I am just NOT willing. I’m not going to be Your child anymore.”
I cut the cord that connected me to God; no more would I even try to do His will. He was just asking too much.
I turned and walked out of the room and the truth hit me: I was spiritually dead. I was on my way to hell.