Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recent Headcovering Experiences

Here is a photo of me (next to my husband), at a service in which our mission agency was celebrating our imminent departure to the mission field with prayer. I am wearing the lightweight scarf I mention later in this post.

After 5 years of raising support, my husband and I were commissioned as missionaries about a month ago. The church which commissioned us has never practiced headcovering, and honestly, I felt pretty nervous about going up onto the stage and covering my head in front of everyone. We had to speak first, show a video, talk a little more, then the chairman said they'd be praying for us. But God really prepared the way for me: in the weeks leading up to that Sunday, the pastor 'accidentally' started teaching on the verses in 1 Corinthians 11.

I say 'accidentally' because he hadn't planned it, but it was clear to me that God had planned it! Pastor W. was teaching on headship and brought up the passage in relation to male leadership within the local church and couldn't avoid discussing headcoverings, since the ladies in the audience began asking. He expressed the opinion that it IS for today and that we really ought to be doing it.

When we arrived for our commissioning, then, it wasn't such a huge deal that I had a headcovering. My husband and I were on stage, waiting for the men to come up and pray for us and I quickly unfolded my "pashmina" scarf and--as discreetly as possible in front of the whole congregation--put it on my head.

Then I realized that they only meant for my husband to stay on the stage, and intended for me to go sit down. I felt a little sad, since it would've been much easier to just put it on in my seat, but knew it must have been for a reason.

Later, I heard from our friend L. how it affected a young lady in the audience (A.), whom I know to be concerned with obedience to God in this area. A. said that I covered my head in a non-distracting and ladylike way and that when I sat down it was also clear that I was not drawing attention to myself, but instead "showing off" my submissive spirit in relation to my husband.

WOW. Just what I needed to hear.

In my last post, I said I'd tell you about covering my head for prayer at a Ladies' Tea. It was another interesting situation, because it was an outreach and I was seated at a table with some ladies who don't normally attend church at all and 2 Christian ladies who don't cover their heads to pray.

I used my lightweight scarf, and faithfully pulled it on whenever we were praying or singing. At the end, the lady next to me said, "So, what's with the scarf-y thingy?!" It wasn't rude or anything, just a genuine question. I was happy to explain, but did find it a bit difficult to explain why I found it so compelling and the 2 other ladies whom she knew to be Christians didn't. Which leads me to a quote from Momma Jo. [Click on her name for her website.]

"When I read those verses it seemed very clear in my mind that a woman's head being covered was of significance. It did not read to me to be a simple custom but a command to obey; that it was important for women to remember and be marked as being under the authority of God and man. It seemed to me to be an issue of serious weight so I was a little dumbfounded as to why I'd NEVER heard any pastor ever preach on this subject or any Christian I knew talk about it."

Isn't that so true? Why is it that pretty much no one talks about it? Because we don't want to do it? Because we don't read the Bible through enough to realize it's in there? Because we don't feel like submitting to our husbands?

I'm not much for resolutions, but it seems to jump-start a lot of people, so...

How about a New Year's resolution to talk about it? Let's discuss it. Let's do it, even if we don't want to. Let's actually read the Bible to see if there's anything else we're missing. And let's submit to our husbands and other male authority in our lives, even if we don't feel like it.

And, lest I forget, KUDOS to you ladies who are obeying God in this way. Kudos to those of you who are truly thinking about it! And kudos to the pastors who ARE preaching and teaching on the topic, whether they plan on it or not!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A question from a reader and an answer from me. :)

Question: "There is also the consideration at the end of the text where it reads that 'For long hair is given to her as a covering' hmmm??"

My answer:
Paul is appealing here to the very nature of being a 'lady' as another reason for women to cover their heads to pray. In all of the cultures I know of, women wear their hair longer than the men of the same culture. You might think, "Yeah, maybe you have long hair, but what about Sinéad O'Connor?" Well, she's not the norm, is she? Neither is Bill Choisser, whose website says men with long hair constitute 2-3% of the adult male popluation in the USA. In the 1960's-1970's hippie culture, when more men wore their hair long (at least longer than they do now), women usually wore their hair longer, at least from what I can tell--I wasn't born until '79!

From a less cultural standpoint, the hair given to women as a covering cannot be the covering required for prayer because of the rest of the passage. If hair was the only covering Paul was talking about, then a couple of his other points wouldn't make sense.

1. Men are told to pray with their heads uncovered in the sentence just after women are told to cover their heads for prayer. If hair was the only necessary covering for women, but men are to have their heads uncovered, then each man trying to obey God would shave his head before each prayer.

2. If the consequence for a woman's refusal to cover her head is to have her hair cut or shaved off, she apparently has hair which was - until the time of her refusal to "cover" - covering her head. So if the hair was the covering, there would be no 'refusal' because she would be automatically obeying.

3. It was at A Pilgrim's Ponderings that I recently read Paul's (not the apostle *smile*, but a former pastor) thoughts about automatic obedience. It occurs to me, too, that there really are no other commands of God which we are, as he puts it, "naturally endowed to obey." Considering hair as the only covering necessary for a woman in prayer seems inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

AN UPDATE ON MY CURRENT PRACTICE: I have been covering my head still in nearly every (not in the shower or the dentist's chair) prayer situation. A couple of times recently I've been 'prayed on' (or was it 'preyed on?') when I wasn't expecting it. I didn't have my scarf anywhere nearby and wasn't wearing a hood. But, in a couple of cases, I had my husband's hand. So I asked him to put it on my head. I figured that it was better than nothing. Also, since a main reason to wear a covering is to show submission to my husband, I decided his hand would help show that better than my hand and better than nothing. A couple of other times I have put my own hand on top of my head and find it awkward, but I feel like it's also better than nothing.

Hopefully in my next post I'll be able to tell you about wearing my scarf in front (as in, "on the stage") of the whole church and at a ladies' tea.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Current Practice, Overscrupulous, & Because of the Angels

We have been extremely busy preparing to leave the country, but I feel like I need to post an update. I know that there are some comments here which I haven't answered yet, but I plan to do that in my next post. I apologize for not having time for more now, but I am grateful for your interest in the subject and my thoughts.

MY CURRENT PRACTICE: I have been covering my head with a scarf (which happens to be from the Middle East) whenever I pray, unless I'm wearing a shirt or sweater with a hood, in which case I use that as a covering. My husband asked me after I'd worn a hood on Monday how I had decided it was a proper covering, and I explained that I was going by a quote from Tertullian which had caught my attention:

"For some, with their turbans and woollen bands, do not veil their head, but bind it up; protected, indeed, in front, but, where the head properly lies, bare. Others are to a certain extent covered over the region of the brain with linen coifs of small dimensions— I suppose for fear of pressing the head— and not reaching quite to the ears. If they are so weak in their hearing as not to be able to hear through a covering, I pity them. Let them know that the whole head constitutes the woman. Its limits and boundaries reach as far as the place where the robe begins. The region of the veil is co-extensive with the space covered by the hair when unbound; in order that the necks too may be encircled. "

So, since the hood covers as much of my head as my hair does (sometimes more, since it often covers my ears), I decided it would "count". Also, I thought through the issue of "the angels" and also the fact that my wearing a covering on my head to pray shows others that I understand my role as a woman. Then I considered that a hood is not completely unusual and that I am often very cold. So, then, would wearing a hood for prayer show my heart's desire to show submission? Yes, I think it does, since I put it on my head for prayers and take it down directly after.

OVERSCRUPULOUS? In my last post, I discussed the possibility that I am being "Overscrupulous", and today I must say that I don't think I am. Today I was listening to a Sunday School teaching by the pastor of our church and I think he made a great point about the passage: 1 Corinthians was written by Paul to the church which he intended to visit.
  • 1 Cor. 11:34, "And when I come I will give further directions."
  • 1 Cor. 16:5-7 "After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.").
Therefore, the instructions contained in the letter were the issues which Paul thought were most essential for the people to know before his arrival and further teaching. So, I'm definitely not ready to ignore the instructions he wrote through inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.

BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS Also, in my last post, I promised to get back to the phrase "because of the angels" used in 1 Cor. 11:10. As I discussed it with my husband earlier today, we talked about the fact that it is truly a mystery and that I don't think we'll ever fully understand what it means.

Some people speculate that a fuller explanation includes the facts that: 1) the angels understand the God-ordained roles of men & women, 2) they are watching in our church services (and other places where we pray), and 3) it is important for us to show outwardly that we understand our roles too.

While these reasons make sense, but don't fully explain "because of the angels" to me, the command would still be to cover my head if the Apostle Paul had written, "And there's another really valid reason." So, because he says, "because of the angels, " I obey.

For further thought-provocation, listen to this sermon by Rev. Dr. Timothy A. Williams

How much thought have you put into this issue?