Does it bother you when they portray women like this?”
My husband, Simon, and I are watching a cartoon movie with our two little boys. The movie is about a male explorer, and he’s just befriended a girl who’s wearing short shorts and a tank top, which is—let’s be honest—what girl explorers always wear in movies. She’s also kind of busty for a film directed at kids.
Simon is looking at me, waiting for an answer. He’s been working on a Master’s degree at Cambridge for the past two years, and has been listening to a lot of talks on gender and equality and social constructs, and something has happened to him. He’s started noticing how women are portrayed in the media, how inclusive he is of women at work, and how men talk about women. He’s become—I’ll go ahead and say it—a feminist.
Simon and I have been together for fifteen years. In 2003, I marched into the study abroad office at my liberal arts university and demanded to be sent to England for my senior year. I was fresh out of a messy breakup and fed up with America and men and my life in general. I had just read Married to Adventure by Luci Swindoll and consequently changed my MSN messenger name to MrsAdventure.
I backpacked around Europe for most of the Summer, and then landed in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in September. I was tanned from days spent lying on the beaches of Nice and San Sebastien and feeling strong and independent. I arrived ready to take a hot shower and sleep in a bedroom without five other dirty backpackers in it. I was also ready to study literature for three months and plan out the next ten years of my life, which at this point I only knew would be spent single and nomadic.
And then two weeks in I sat down on the back pew of a Baptist Church beside a tall boy with dark hair and eyes that crinkled when he smiled. I told him I liked his shoes. He made a joke about the long sermon. At night, I laid in bed and thought about him. During the day, I waited in the computer lab at school for hours for him to walk in, and then pretended I’d only just gotten there. I found out later he did the same.
We dated long distance for three years, broke up once for seven months, and got married in my parents’ backyard in rural North Carolina on an unseasonably cold April day in 2007.
He’s been a feminist the whole time.
I actually think Simon has always been a feminist, but didn’t know it. He, like so many of us, attached a lot of stereotypes to the word—things he’d read and seen on television that only speak for a small portion of the population. But he believed all the right things about equality and respect and opportunity. I think he struggled to believe that was all feminism asked of him.
But in our home, in our marriage, he has always walked those things out. We are a team. We make decisions together. He supports my ambitious dreams. We argue. He listens. Sometimes he admits he is wrong. Sometimes I admit I am.
Husbands, love your wives.
We lived in England for the first year of our marriage. I was fresh out of journalism school and working at a nonprofit when I got offered my dream job at the time: editor of a women’s interest magazine. The catch? It was in Raleigh, North Carolina.
We moved back across the ocean a few weeks later, and I started the job just as the recession hit the publishing industry. Suddenly, everything was shaky and uncertain, and my dream job turned out to be a trigger for crippling anxiety. I cried every Sunday night, and walked into work every Monday morning wondering if this would be the day I got laid off.
Once, in the midst of those long, shaky months, I woke up in the middle of the night with Simon’s hand gently resting on my cheek. He was whispering, and in my half-asleep state I could just make out a handful of desperate, pleading words. He was asking God to heal me.
I’m not a theologian, and I don’t make it a habit to try and rewrite scripture, but I’d like to rearrange the part where Paul mentions submission. I want him to mention love first.
“Husbands, love your wives . . .”
Simon brings me coffee in bed every morning. I’ve never asked him to, but he wakes up before me and makes our favorite Italian espresso and scrambled eggs, and then he walks up our stairs with my favorite cup—a white one with blue flowers—and a bowl full of heavily peppered eggs. He sets them down on my nightstand and kisses my forehead, and then goes downstairs to read.
Love as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Three years ago, before Cambridge, he was offered a place on an MBA program at another university and a significant scholarship. Our sons were small—our youngest still woke up several times every night and was at home all day with me. We sat in our living room the night before he had to make his decision, and tears stung my eyes as I tried to not control him into waiting. I was afraid of how much the course would require of him, of how much I’d be alone. I didn’t have to say much.
As far as I know, he has never resented me. He just said, “I won’t do it,” and I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Wives, submit to your husbands.
I can only think of one time when I have had to submit to a decision Simon was making for us. We’d lived in North Carolina for two years when I finally lost my magazine job. We’d talked about starting a family soon, and I wanted to stay home with our children. Simon thought he could get a better job in England, so we decided to move back. We prayed, and when we both felt like God had spoken to us individually about the same town, the same church in England—it solidified our decision.
Six months went by before we finally left. We were living with friends who had offered us their basement apartment once my job was over and our lease ran out. Halfway into that six months, I’d fallen in love with the little town where they lived, with running around a lake not far from their house, with the restaurants downtown and with seeing my best friend every day.
I told Simon about the pull to stay. And he felt it too. “But we’ve made a decision,” he said, “and I think we need to stick to it.”
My heart ached, but I knew he was right. I also knew that he’d prayed about the move over and over again, that God had spoken to him about our future, though still a little hazy, and that he believed that what we’d chosen was the right thing for both of us and for the family we were desperate to start.
So I submitted to his conviction, because it’s not actually that hard to submit to the greatest earthly love you’ve ever known, to someone who repeatedly puts your needs above their own, to someone who gently cups your face in their hands in the middle of the night and pleads for your healing.
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