I have a rocking chair in which I do a lot of thinking. There’s something comforting and meditative in rocking that helps me sort things out. If I’m just thinking about whatever, I usually rock sort of slow. If I’ve got a real puzzler, I rock faster. The movement seems to help me work out the physical energy being produced by my mental state. (I guess when I quit rocking, they’ll know I’m dead!) But there’s one particular thinking session I spent in that chair that will always stay with me.
Sometime in the summer of 1999 my search reached a crisis point. I had been listening and reading various authors and preachers for over three years by then. Convinced it was necessary, I had worn dresses-only in all that time and wished to wear a head covering. A friend of mine with whom I did a lot of discussing (she was also studying these issues) had started covering full-time, no small change to make in a small town where everyone and everything is noted and discussed. Although I had asked Nolan if I could, he said no because of the problems it would cause at the church if the pastor’s wife started doing something like that when it wasn’t the practice of the church. He didn’t want other women feeling like they had to or that he believed they should, because he didn’t. Like wearing dresses, it was okay if I wanted to, but it was a private practice and needed to remain private. He had no objection to me covering when I had my private prayer time if that helped my sense of devotion, but not in public.
So, I had my struggles with wondering if my husband was as “spiritual” as he should be and being somewhat jealous of my friend whose husband not only supported her decision, but believed it as well. There were those who said that if a woman didn’t have her husband’s support to cover, she should just go ahead and do it anyway, but that didn’t make any sense to me if a large part of the covering was an indication of her submission to her husband. And I still struggled with all the women whom God seemed to be blessing in their public ministries who neither covered nor wore only dresses. If this were so important to God, why would He bless them like that?
Then my friend moved and I was left to walk my path on my own. It was a very hard day when their family left our area and Nolan and I cried as we watched them drive away. They were our good friends and we would miss them greatly. I also sensed that if this path of mine were the right one, then I would be able to persevere on my own, even without her presence with me. But I wondered if, without her encouragement and support, I would continue or if we had been simply reassuring each other in our conclusions.
I don’t remember now how it came about that I had a tape of hers after she’d moved. Or maybe I had gotten it myself, but however it happened, there came the tape that caused my frustration to just explode.
My friend came across a tape ministry by a pastor out in Pennsylvania who led a conservative church, but it wasn’t Mennonite. I started borrowing tapes from her and listening and found much support in my conclusions. However, I then came across a teaching I’d not heard yet, though it had been eluded to in other things. That was the teaching on what colors were acceptable to wear and which ones were not.
The absolute no-no color was red. I was folding laundry at the time as I was listening and couldn’t believe it as he started using the scriptures to prove that red was the color for prostitutes and judgement and, therefore, why no Christian woman should ever wear it.
That was it!!! I turned and looked at the tape player and said, “You took that out of context! Those passages have nothing to do with instruction on what colors to wear and not to wear! Those are judgement and prophetic passages, NOT fashion statements!”
I shut the thing off and felt the steam blowing out my ears! I was so frustrated! So what else had been taken out of context? Taking scripture out of context was what liberal scholars did to justify sinful behavior and what cultists did to justify off-the-wall beliefs and practices. Being faithful to the scriptural meaning was of utmost importance and here he was twisting it into a new meaning!
I had started out just reading the plain scriptures, but now was taking the interpretations of many other people. But what did those passages say, plainly and simply? As I’ve pointed out before, that’s hard to say because it is necessary to interpret the Scripture; it is not always self-explanatory.
Over the next couple of days I began to go back over all that I had studied and started seeing the holes in the arguments that I hadn’t seen, or hadn’t wanted to see, before. And, finally, I realized I was back to square one.
I walked to my bedroom, sat down in my rocking chair, and began to think through what I had just re-read and realized. As I sat there rocking rather vigorously, I started to pray and it went something like this:
“Lord, You said You would never leave us nor forsake us, but You have! How am I supposed to figure this all out? I’m only a pastor’s wife in a small town in Montana and the greatest theological minds in the world debate all these things. How am I supposed to know what to believe? And yet, my salvation and that of my children depends upon me getting this right! God, I want to know the truth. Yeah, I know You’re the way, the truth and the life, but I mean the truth here on earth to know what to believe. Lord, I don’t care what it is, but I want to know the truth. As much truth as You’ll let me have on this earth!”
And in the midst of my deep angst came a deep, enveloping peace and a single word, “Okay.”
That was it. No trumpets. No “thees & thous,” just, “Okay” and a peace that sunk to my very toes and totally and completely relaxed my spirit and body. A burden was lifted off my head and shoulders and I felt like I could really breathe freely. And there was an assurance deep within that somewhere, somehow, I would know the truth.