Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How I started to cover my head during worship

Photo from Garlandsofgrace.com

A year ago I began to study a debated passage of the New Testament - the command in 1 Corinthians 11 that women should worship with their heads covered and men with their heads uncovered. My husband had mentioned to me previously that he thought this passage still applies to today, but he emphasized to me that he did not want me to cover my head for that reason, but only if I was personally convinced to do so by study of Scripture. I wasn’t planning on studying the topic at the time, but I happened to search for sermons by a pastor named Milton Vincent to listen to while I cleaned the kitchen. I saw that Vincent has a series of sermons on the head covering passage and my curiosity was piqued. It was a long sermon series, and I was particularly struck by Vincent’s unwillingness for it to be the case that this command applies to today - he said that coming to this conclusion was “the most traumatic interpretative decision in my 10.5 years of preaching.” Nevertheless, in a very thorough exegetical study of the passage and the historical context, Vincent came to the conclusion that head covering does indeed apply to today. And in listening, I became convinced with him.

In addition to the direct teaching on head covering, for many years before I had already  been a Complementarian. That means that theologically, I believe that the Bible teaches that men and women were created by God to be equal in value and even in ability, but different in roles. This has a specific application in marriage as God has chosen (not due to value or ability) for the husband to be the head and the wife to be the helper, for the husband to lead and love his wife by sacrifice and service, and for the wife to submit to her husband with respect. As relates to the church, women are an essential part of the Body of Christ, with many ways to use their gifts and abilities, but God has restricted the main governing and teaching roles for men. That is already a very counter-cultural belief, even among many of my Christian friends. If you are not yet a complementarian, I would suggest you do some study of the topic alongside head coverings if you feel interested in it. (I would be happy to suggest resources to start your study.)*

Since I already had this view, I was easily able to see how the idea of head covering is a very concrete and beautiful out-working of the same biblical beliefs I already held. As the husbands, or men in general, uncover their heads in worship, they are to be reminded of their role to communicate with and submit to Christ as their authority, to be more and more an earthly picture of Christ’s image and glory. As women cover their heads, they are to be reminded of God’s desire for women to support the godly men around them, specifically their husband if they are married, and to be willing even to set aside even their own beauty and accomplishments in order to do this. In doing this, women mirror Christ, who emptied himself and chose not to do his own will in order to do the will of the Father. Head covering is a simple, physical symbol like baptism and communion that carries great spiritual weight and meaning.

Well, once I was convinced that it is still God’s will for women to cover their heads during “prayer and prophesying,” I was in the position where I had to decide whether to obey or not! So I have been wearing a head covering while at church and community group. No other ladies in my church cover and I have only discussed it with a few friends, but now after one year I feel ready to talk about my choice in writing. I think my brothers and sisters at our church have kindly accepted it as one of my quirks (yes there are others...)  and I mostly do not feel uncomfortable covering my head around them. Some people may not have noticed it yet and may just think it’s my style. I guess it is now!

Sometimes I also cover my head at home during bible study or focused times of prayer, though I am not rigid about covering my head every time I talk to the Lord throughout the day. I have not been practicing the discipline of prayer enough lately, but when I do I find that covering my head gives me a sense of peace and focus. As a prayer practice, it also reminds me when I haven't been praying much (like now). It reminds me of the shelter of the Lord over me, and is especially comforting when I am troubled about something.

In my relationship with my husband, I have found that the head covering provides a concrete conscience check as to my attitude toward him. Have I been submissive? Have I sought to serve and help him? Am I contentious, even about small things, with him? I’m realizing that even in small things where we disagree it is good to tell him my opinion, but if he chooses to do it his way, not to argue with him and wear him down to doing it my way. Wearing a head covering while going out the door to church has sometimes kept me from complaining when we are late and I am tempted to blame him!

I do have to examine my attitude as I wear head covering. I don’t want to cover in pride or to look down on my Christian sisters who don’t cover. As I have continued to cover, I think it has grown more routine for me so that I compare myself less with others as relates to this topic. I remind myself of all the wonderful Christian ladies, including my mom and aunt, who have mentored me spiritually, especially in biblical womanhood. None of them cover. I do not think that head covering is a “core” issue of Christian belief or practice. I do believe God is gracious to us even in our misunderstandings or differing interpretations of God’s Word and how we live it out, and his grace shows forth in these ladies’ fruitfulness and femininity. However God’s graciousness to us in our errors doesn’t mean that there isn’t a correct way to understand God’s word, even in such “minor” matters as head covering. In choosing to obey in  this small respect I also find my heart challenged by the question “what else in God’s word is there for me to obey?” There are many clear commands of God, and perhaps some, like head covering, that I am not yet aware of. I am learning, slowly, that obedience bears good fruit. It’s a lesson I think I’ve flunked before. I hope my heart stays soft to continue learning this lesson.

This blog post serves as the description of my own journey with head covering so far. I have chosen not to try to detail the reasons I think this is the correct interpretation of this debated passage. I have found The Head Covering Movement to be a good place to read for defense of this understanding. I found it while listening to Vincent’s series. At first I was suspicious of an entire site dedicated to the topic. I wondered if it would be legalistic, but after a year of following the articles written by Jeremy Gardiner, the founder, I feel confident in sharing from his site. He passionately wants to see a revival of this neglected Christian ordinance, but recognizes that this is something that cannot be imposed and must be an action that is an outflow of the heart. He defends salvation by faith and the areas of Christian liberty that can be found in different expressions of head covering. Another thorough introduction is the ebook Covered Glory by David Phillips, in both the full version and condensed Kindle version.

My next post will examine more of my thoughts on the topic of head covering and how it relates to matters of sexuality that are currently being hotly debated in the Western world.

* I would also note that just like any movement or belief, within Complementarianism there are those who go beyond scripture or become imbalanced in applying it, recent examples being seen in those who teach "Biblical Patriarchy" and minimization of abuses against women. These things make me so angry. But the existence of error doesn't mean that there isn't a true and biblical way to live out these beliefs.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. A friend of mine (from out of state) and I are the only coverers in our two churches, too. I've not gotten any flak, and three older men have made positive comments. Blessings on you!