#ezerspeak: On Wives’ Submission

ErichAndBaileysEngagement-44

One of my biggest hopes in creating an egalitarian community is getting practical advice for egalitarian relationships. I’m in week four of marriage, so I’m particularly excited for this!

Let’s chat about submission. We know that Ephesians 5 teaches mutual submission, but how does an egalitarian woman apply this in real life? How does she practice mutual submission with a selfish husband, or a complementarian husband? How do you deal with fear that he’ll take advantage of your self-sacrifice and/or fail to submit to you too? What happens if you can’t agree?

I’ll pop back in later this week with my own thoughts. In the meantime, have at it in the comments with questions, answers, stories, and whatever crosses your mind! (While I appreciate all feedback, please only comment from an egalitarian viewpoint for this post — thanks!)

Something to Talk About

girlfriends

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with small talk. Every Friday, I put together a bunch of different things to talk about as you head into your weekend. Hopefully they’ll spare you a few awkward silences!

If you encounter a wardrobe malfunction, mention the cool new pants that alert you when your fly is down.

When your friend chokes on her drink during your girls’ night out, tell her that the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver only just used it.

Ask your favorite sci-fi geek to give their opinion on why there isn’t more Christian fantasy.

Speaking of sci-fi, go find a science nerd to help you figure out the technical language about how an AI machine watched The Blade Runner.

Did you and your college friends lament paper-writing? Send them this manifesto against writing papers. (For the record, I disapprove…but I like controversy.)

And finally, when somebody mentions Harambe the gorilla, change the subject to the ethics of mob justice and then leave while you have the chance.

Enjoy your weekend! Make conversations! Be brave!

Falling in Love

We met at a school dance our freshman year. He asked me to dance even though he thought I had a big nose and dressed like a frump. I still wasn’t used to guys paying any attention to me, much less leading me in the lindy hop. So I said yes, even though I thought he was crazy (but kind of cute) and exactly like my Inky Bob. After a “dance” of he making me laugh so hard that I flubbed up my footwork, he led me back to my roommate and asked for a high five. I declined. A fist bump? Heck no. How about a hug? For some reason, I gave him a hug — not a high five, not a fist bump, but the most awkward physical expression on this planet: a full-frontal hug to a tall stranger.

We forgot about each other until he saw me reading the Western Heritage reader underneath a tree. I had just come from chopping off thirteen inches of my hair. He introduced himself. I told him we’d already met.

“No, we haven’t. Bailey has long hair.”

“I cut my hair.”

“You’re not Bailey. What have you done with her? You must have murdered her. Did you stuff Bailey in the closet? You’re not Bailey. You’re…Miranda. I’m going to call you Miranda.”

I smashed a spider between the front cover and the title page. (The guts are still there, dried out, if you want to verify it.) This guy was nuts. But we did discover that we were taking the exact same Western Heritage class and that he had sat one person over from me for the first few class periods. He had moved to the back so he could fall asleep without bothering the professor. (It was an 8 AM class. Nobody was awake.)

But for the rest of the semester, three days a week, bright and early at 8 AM, he sat next to me in the front row. We poked each other to stay awake, and sometimes we scribbled stupid things to each other in our notebook margins. One day, he slipped me this note:

Can I have your phone number

— without a question mark, because he was a chemistry major and didn’t care.

That woke me up for the rest of the class. Short answer, no, he could not have my phone number. A phone number meant he wanted to date me, and I didn’t want to date him, and why the heck would any self-respecting young man ask a girl for her number in the middle of class?! But maybe he just wanted to be friends, and then I would look stupid for not giving him my number. Whatever, I’ll give him my number. I blushed, wrote down the number, and shoved the scrap of paper back at him. He put it in the breast pocket of his coat and forgot about it for weeks.

He mostly ignored me outside of class. He was lucky enough to find a group of three close friends right off the bat, and they weren’t exactly interested in letting me in on their adventures. I was good for entertainment, for showing me horrifying YouTube videos that I’d never seen in my sheltered life, and for laughing at my innocence as it died away with my screams. In any case, he only paid attention to me when his group of friends were busy with something else.

I got so mad at him for that, particularly because he sometimes flirted with me, but really because he had abs and most of the time didn’t flirt with me. I thought he was selfish, unsocialized, and hot. I ignored him too — until we got stuck driving back to Wisconsin together over winter break. My dad and I tried to make small talk with him, but he was shy and spent the entire time texting his crush. Weirdo.

Second semester freshman year started off terribly. His best friends (the crush and another guy) fell for each other, and my group of friends started falling apart. I cried a lot. For some reason, Erich was always there, a quiet, nonjudgmental person who let me talk without interrupting.

“Can I give you a hug?” he asked me during one outpouring of sorrow. I still hated physical contact, but I let him put his arms around me. “You know,” he said, “this would work better if you put your arms around me too.” I gave him a side hug from the front and kept crying.

For some reason, he found my unending emotions attractive — or, as he put it, fascinating — and developed a massive unspoken crush on me. When President’s Ball came around, he drew a huge heart in the snow that said, “Will you go to President’s Ball with me?” — for his friend group. That took care of having to ask me out. But since he didn’t want anybody else to take me either, he forced his roommate to escort me to the ball.

prez ball

The roommate date abandoned me thirty minutes into the crowded dance, and a guy who I was avoiding found me, took me by the hand, and dragged me around looking for my date. (So much handholding from so many men in one night. It was gross.) And then I bumped into Erich — the biggest relief of my life. His hands weren’t clammy, and his fingers laced through mine as we weaved through the crowd.

I felt like a sinner for lacing fingers with a guy I wasn’t going to marry.

All semester, he walked me to and from class, opening my doors and tagging along wherever I was going. He was like a friendly shadow.

My roommate knew better: “Do you like him?”

“Ew, no. I like somebody else.”

“I think he likes you.”

“I think you’re wrong.”

“You need to define the relationship.”

It was the easiest DTR ever. We took a walk around campus in the lamplight, and I told him that people thought we were dating, that don’t worry, I wasn’t interested, and that I thought of him as a little brother. (I had lectured myself not to use the brother line, because how cliché is that, but I panicked.) Then I cheerfully said, “I think it’s best to give each other some space. We shouldn’t talk to each other for a week. Good night!”

At the end of the week, a week without noticing his absence, I got this text:

I don’t like being away from you

I realized I hadn’t asked him how he felt about me.

We met in the student union, he sitting crosslegged on the couch, I sitting crosslegged on the glass table. I asked how he felt about me.

“Well,” he said, “I like you, and I thought you liked me too.”

None of this was going according to plan. “We can’t date,” I insisted. “You’re Catholic, and I’m Protestant. It wouldn’t work.” (What I meant to say was, “You’re probably not a Christian because you say, ‘Oh, my God’ and ‘sex’ in mixed company.” Those were the days when determining someone’s eternal salvation was easy.)

We met again the next night beneath the fluorescent glare of the chemistry overpass. I drew out our relationship on a napkin: “Here’s friendship. Here’s dating. We’ve already crossed the line into dating territory, so we need to take a step back.”

He stubbornly maintained his crush for me. I ended up bluntly saying I would never date him. He ended up confessing, “I will always respect your boundaries, but I will never stop trying to make you like me.” And then he sent me a recording of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up on Us.”

The next day was horrible. He didn’t show up for class at 8 AM, and when I saw him at that couch in the student union, he was sick, pale, and crying. I cried a lot too, but there wasn’t any Erich to comfort me.

We spent the rest of the semester arguing about whether we should date or not. There were many things against it. When I asked him to explain the gospel, he sat in silence for five minutes before saying, “I don’t know.” He kept talking about Christ’s grace without reference to theological arguments. When I said, “Shh,” he whispered, “It” afterwards. He kept trying to hold my hand and snuggle close to me (and I actually liked it). He was infuriatingly not the guy I ever imagined myself dating.

But, there were many things for it. He took my theological lectures well, letting me read aloud The Reason for God and explain the Protestant emphases of the gospel over and over to him while we walked through the rain. He was a great listener. He put up with my emotions. He was a true friend to others. Again, he had abs.

And despite our differences and many other arguments too technical and redundant to speak of, he won me over. Now I get to hold his hand whenever I want.

Happy Birthday, babe!

On Being “Mrs. Erich Steger”

I have really strong feelings about being called my husband’s name. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership between two equals, not an absorption of the woman into the man. While calling a woman her husband’s name is just an etiquette rule, it’s based out of a patriarchal view that the husband is the head of the household and his wife is a representative of her husband more than she is her own self.

Charlie at Just Charlie, a fellow egalitarian and Christian feminist, featured my take on being called my husband’s name and why it bothers the heck out of me. I’d love for you to give it a read and let me know what you think — does being called by your husband’s name bother you as an egalitarian? Here’s the link: I Have a Name.

// I took an egalitarian spin on addressing wedding invitations too!

Goodness Will Lead You to Truth

goodbeautifultrue

I’m a rational, hard facts kind of person, but I didn’t question complementarianism because it seemed like poor Biblical exegesis or because I heard a great argument for egalitarianism. In fact, I was convinced there was no other interpretation of those hot button verses but the complementarian one. “I do not permit a woman to teach.” Bam. An obvious sentence, if I ever saw one. To be honest, I thought egalitarians were a bunch of angry liberals who ripped the Bible out of context to satisfy their feminist agenda (not that I knew any egalitarians, but strawmen sufficed).

For the first time in my life, I questioned a seemingly-obvious theological teaching on the grounds of morality. God gave women the same gifts as men and forbade them from using them for no other reason than they’re women? That’s the definition of sexism. Sexism is discriminatory. Discrimination is unjust. If that’s how God operated the universe, fine — but I refused to honor a sexist, discriminatory, unjust God.

Did I mention I have a strong sense of justice?

Since I wasn’t a fan of cosmic rebellion, I worked up enough courage to Google egalitarian interpretations of Scripture, hoping there was some sort of explanation for these sexist passages that weren’t kooky or liberal. I, the nitpicky theological geek who had long ago made feminism my personal enemy, was blown away by the egalitarian exegesis. It honored Scripture; it made sense of the historical context of each passage; and it assured me that God was just as grieved at sexism as I, his image-bearer. I was expecting a struggle. Instead I found healing. Egalitarianism salvaged my belief in God’s goodness, and that ended my cosmic rebellion…for that issue.

I’ve struggled with many questions about God before and even more questions after that experience, but I noticed a difference in my questioning. Before, I questioned mainly the logic of Christianity. Does it hold together? Does this make sense of the world? Does this seem plausible? After, I questioned the goodness of God. How can a good God allow such disturbing, disgusting, and totally unnecessary suffering? How can a good God send people to hell when he makes truth so dang difficult to know? How can a good God order not one but multiple genocides? Why did he zap Uzzah for steadying the Ark of the Covenant when it fell? Doesn’t God’s behavior go against Christian morality itself?

After my encounter with egalitarianism, I allowed my sense of justice to pursue these questions and to reject pat answers that excuse monstrosity on the grounds of God’s divinity. My experience with the gender issue taught me that logic and reason weren’t the only factors in discovering truth: goodness was an indicator too.

I think many Christians rely solely on “rightness” when searching for the truth. Arguments about morality, love, justice, and equality can ring hollow with Christians because using anything but literalism and logic sounds like a slippery-slope to being wrong. Christians are willing to say, “The Bible says it; I believe it” or “That’s the truth; tough luck for you” whenever anyone asks a question on the grounds of goodness. They’re so caught up with figuring out what’s right that they forget to ask, “Is this good?”

I used to think this way too — figuring out if something “made sense” or “fit with the Bible,” and never asking any questions beyond that. It’s a normal way of pursuing the truth, and pursuing the truth is an admirable thing. But I don’t think truth and goodness are separable. It’s not possible to have an unjust truth (speaking of truth as a transcendental, not as a fact). And it’s not possible to have an untrue good. If a “Biblical truth” is grating against my soul, I start looking for a new answer.

Now, whenever I’m evaluating a new issue, “Is this good?” is my go-to question. I’ve found more peace, challenge, and mystery by asking this question — because goodness, like truth, is the nature of God.

How This Egalitarian Addressed Wedding Invitations

wedding invites

The traditional address for a married couple is, “Mr. and Mrs. His Name + Their Last Name.” Maybe this was too crazy feminist of me, but for my wedding, I addressed every invitation to a married couple as “Mr. His Name + Mrs. Her Name + Their Last Name.” About a hundred invitations in, I Googled whether that could possibly pass as proper etiquette now that we’ve had multiple waves of feminism. It still can’t. I probably offended every woman over forty, but since it was my wedding, I felt entitled to address each beloved woman in my life (plus the random relatives on his side) by her actual name. “Mrs. Jane Doe” it was.

For one thing, it felt awkward inviting “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe” when, in reality, I’m only friends with Mrs. Jane Doe and her husband’s coming along for the cupcakes.

For two, professional women with titles get singled out: “Drs. John and Jane Doe.” To me, a woman doesn’t need a title or a degree to earn equal representation on the address line. By virtue of being herself, a woman deserves mention as a person—not as an anonymous “Mrs.”

For three, writing out John Doe’s wife’s name required me to know her name. If I didn’t know her name, I didn’t give myself an out and stick just a “Mrs.” in there. I emailed John Doe to ask for his wife’s name—because I’m inviting a person, not just a relationship to John Doe.

And for four, I don’t support the old social system and the patriarchy behind it. Nobody calls a woman by her husband’s name anywhere else. Women live and work under their own names. A husband doesn’t control, own, or absorb his wife. What good reason would there be to not address a woman by her actual name—especially as an egalitarian?

Let me know what you think! How did you address your wedding invitations? Would you add any more reasons?

// How to feel about women who want you to call them by their husband’s name and a quick refresher on why women ought to be called by their own names

PC: Wedding Paper Divas

A Prayer When You Don’t Know What to Believe

praying hands

A year ago, this was the only prayer that felt sincere to me. If you’re struggling with belief but still want to pray, say this:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. — Thomas Merton

Do you have any special prayers that helped you through hard times?

Meet #stegersrus

This is Erich, my hubby of three weeks and best friend of three years. We love each other a lot, we’re total goofballs, and our couple hashtag is #stegersrus. You can pronounce it Stegers R Us like the toy store, or stegersaurus, like the nickname my siblings gave him while we were dating.

We thought it’d be fun to demonstrate some date night activities, starting with a showdown between Catholic and Protestant upbringings. We bring you…Bible trivia, #stegersrus style.

A Tip for Cutting Down on Dishes

dishes

When I was growing up, my sister and I washed the dishes. We played a game where we’d pile all the dishes into the dishwasher at lightning speed. Even though we were washing up for around nine people every single night, dishes weren’t so bad when we played the speed wash game.

Now that the speed washing days are over, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for dishes. Gloriously, Erich and I made this deal long before marriage that whoever cooks gets off the hook for dishes. Not so gloriously, I don’t cook much — so I do the dishes. By hand. Every day. Twice a day.

But right at the beginning of our marriage, we established this great hack for dishwashing: we use only one plate, bowl, cup, and set of utensils per person. This eliminates piles of dirty dishes festering in the sink, which makes dish duty much shorter. Plus, with only item per person, I have to wash the dishes if I want to serve up Erich’s home cooking on clean plates. It’s fast, and it’s lazy proof — the adult version of speed washing.

How do you feel about dish duty?

Something to Talk About

LightDomes

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with small talk. Every Friday, I’m putting together a bunch of different things to talk about as you head into your weekend. Hopefully they’ll spare you a few awkward silences!

For sporty friends: Have you heard of kick volleyball? The acrobatics are incredible!

For your dad who loves politics: Since Trump earned enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination, what does he think of J.K. Rowling’s defense of his free speech? Or her comparison between him and Voldemort? Or maybe the more interesting question: Does your dad know who J.K. Rowling is?

For the social activist: What do you think of the #giveelsaagirlfriend and #givecaptainamericaaboyfriend campaigns?

For your girlfriends: Is there a kind of Christian guy you wouldn’t date?

For your techie friends: Check out the artist who paints light.

And if all else fails, read aloud the Wikipedia entry for Guam retold as a YA novel.

Enjoy your weekend!

PC: Eric Staller, “Light Domes”