to make a decision
My decision-making process usually goes something like this: try to be rational but end up being emotive.
I want desperately to assemble all the relevant data, to make a comprehensive pros and cons list, to assign every piece of information a specific value, to add it all up and make the most logical choice possible. Life should be so clean!
But without fail, I get overwhelmed by my lists, resign myself to the impossibility of tracking down every last argument for one side or the other, cry to my poor patient husband, and collect myself in time to choose—regardless of the logical sense of the decision.
I feel this tension in my spirit every time I come to a major decision: which college to attend, which seminary, where to live, which classes to take, who to vote for.
Part of it stems from my subconscious hope that there’s a right answer for everything, that one side surely outweighs the other, that if only I had the mind for it, everything would be clear-cut. But I’m also convinced that the world is much more complex than our politicians give it credit for, and that collecting all the data is not only impossible but also unfruitful. Much more depends on how you read the data than how much of it you have.
This semester, I’m taking a class called the Ordination of Women, which is requiring me both to consider the arguments for each side and to come to a place where what I profess is rooted in a deep-seated conviction. We’re reading both Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Discovering Biblical Equality. My nighttime reading has been Sarah Sumner’s Men and Women in the Church.
So I was relief to hear one of my professors point me to this piece on NPR, in which two scientists discuss how we make moral decisions. Although they use examples of “moral dilemmas” of the sacrifice-one-to-save-many variety, the tension they highlight describes my mental process surprisingly well. While I’m trying hard to make a cost-benefit analysis, the part of my brain that operates in images is short-circuiting the rational part and offering its own judgment.
In terms of gender issues, this is what it looks like: The analytical portion tries to absorb all of the arguments for both complementarity and egalitarianism, to take in and interpret not only specific Biblical texts but also Scripture’s overarching themes, and to consider the historical data. But the visual part is busy sensing whether or not it could live with a certain set of images; for instance, can I picture my marriage with Dan as the leader? Or can I imagine a church where Dan and I pastor as partners?
The piece on NPR does not suggest that the rational side has better judgment or, by implication, that it’s a better Christian (although, to be fair, classic Christian theology ranks Scripture and reason over experience as sources of revelation). In fact, having read most of Sarah Sumner’s book, I’m convinced that the usual arguments for both complementarity and egalitarianism miss the image captured in Ephesians 3. It’s an image, a metaphor, of the husband as the head and the wife as the body. “And the two shall become one flesh.”
Metaphors aren’t supposed to be prescriptive; they’re supposed to be evocative. What if Ephesians 3 is saying something more about the unity of the marriage and less about the leadership of the husband?
And so I want to be faithful by wrestling with Scripture on these subjects. But I don’t want to ignore the truth of the tear-pricked eyes of people in the congregation as I proclaim that Christ alone is our only hope of salvation.
[All these photos are from our weekend trip to Ludington, where we preached and led worship at Epworth Heights.]