Today’s Equally Yoked post is from Eric Kerr-Heraly who is, it must be admitted, right about the toothpaste.
I should have known that we had not chosen the path of least resistance when we were dramatically kicked out of the Department of Transportation. We had entered the DOT like we had entered marriage, full of hope and perhaps a naïve expectation that the rest of the world would embrace our egalitarian choices as enthusiastically as we had. I did not anticipate that attempting to add my wife’s last name to my own would result in an abrupt dismissal from the attendant at the DOT, but this foreshadowed many challenges to come.
I probably should have been more prepared for this opposition. After all, several people felt the need to remind me before our wedding about my “Biblical” responsibilities as a husband, raising concerns that I was not assertive enough with Lauran and that I needed to take a more dominant role in the relationship. Before we got married, this advice remained mostly innocuous (though usually condescending), so I just assumed it would stay that way. After the wedding, people expressed their disapproval in more flagrant and hurtful ways. Some dismissed us or withdrew from us completely.
I am not writing to complain about these people but to reassure them that many of their concerns have been validated. They assured us that an egalitarian marriage would be difficult, and they were right—egalitarianism is difficult. Lauran and I have our share of disagreements. Egalitarian marriage does not magically erase conflict, nor are our wills mystically merged while we wear our wedding rings. We have our own opinions and desires, and sometimes those opinions and desires conflict.
Some problems have easy solutions—we both use separate toothpaste tubes because I insist on squeezing from the bottom rather than the free-for-all chaos Lauran creates when she squeezes from the middle. Some problems have no easy solutions, and these sometimes lead to hurt and frustration. I must admit that when I am angry and disappointed, I often wish to end the conflict by insisting on my will and telling Lauran that she must submit to my desires. I know many who believe that this is biblically mandated, and in the middle of marital tension, I often wish Lauran would simply submit to me. It would be so much easier. Besides, I am right about the toothpaste.
This is where egalitarianism becomes a difficult choice. As an egalitarian, I believe that Lauran’s opinions matter and that I should submit to her as much as she submits to me. I believe this because the Bible teaches it plainly in the exact same book (Ephesians) many Christians use to support their claims that submission is the wife’s duty only. When we reach an impasse, we stop, discuss, pray, listen, attempt to see each other’s point of view, and keep repeating these steps until we reach some kind of compromise. This process certainly takes more time and patience than it would for me simply to insist that my will is God’s will.
Clearly, people were right to caution me about the difficulties of egalitarian marriage. But living like Jesus is difficult. Forgiveness, love, goodness, generosity, charity, self-control, faith—who acquires these naturally? Love is one of the great challenges God places before us, so we should not expect effortless marriages, whether egalitarian or not. Perhaps insisting on my will would make things easier at times, but I don’t know how I could tell my wife that I love her while disregarding her desires.
To those who claim that egalitarian marriages are impossible, I can only say that you are right. It is as impossible as forgiving your enemies, feeding five thousand families with a few loaves of bread, and changing water into wine. It is just as impossible and just as miraculous because love is transfiguring.
Through mutual submission Lauran and I have learned about humility and self-denial, and the result is a small miracle in which both of us are gradually transformed into the image of Christ who exhibited humble submission even to the point of death. It is that choice that Christ made for us that motivates me to keep choosing to love my wife in the way that I believe Jesus models for me.
And so I keep choosing egalitarianism. It has alienated some people. It has caused some to question my masculinity. And on one September afternoon, it made me get back in line at the DOT to request a name change once again. Our new name is hard to pronounce and even harder to spell, but we welcome the challenge.
Eric Kerr-Heraly and his wife Lauran teach in an American and international school just outside of London, though they originally met in Houston. Since then, they have travelled to 20 countries together, and in July they are expecting their first child. While they hardly ever have time for updating their blog, you can follow them at The Hyphen House.
Want to contribute to the Equally Yoked series? Email Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.