I’ll just come right out and say it…I was raised in a matriarchal family. And since my mom was a pretty smart lady and I was the oldest of 3 daughters and no sons, I thought that was pretty cool as I was growing up. We girls were encouraged to pursue our dreams, set goals, have confidence, and above all let NO ONE hold you back or tell you that you can’t do something! Of course, the driving force behind all this cheerleading was my mother and, to be quite honest, her ways were pretty typical of the all-American mom. Mom passed on just over a year ago, and I have done a lot of remembering and processing since then.
My mother was just 17 when my father and she married. He was in the navy and they met when he was “in on leave”. I don’t really recall how long their actual courtship lasted, but I do know that he proposed and pressured her to make a trip to the courthouse before he left again for foreign waters. Later, she would say that his motivation for the rush was that he was afraid she wouldn’t be there, aka available, when he returned. He would sheepishly agree that she was probably right. It was almost a total of 3 years before they would actually live together as a couple on a base in El Centro California, far from the hills of southwest Virginia and any family support. Pictures that I have from that time in their lives reveal an apartment with few furnishings, along with a grassless yard. Money was beyond tight, as was typical for military families at the time, yet dad had a difficult time imagining a better life after the navy. And so began the dynamic between my parents.
I describe my dad as loving, but extremely passive. Though he was 5 plus years older than my mom, he lacked confidence and vision. As an adult looking at the big picture of his dysfunctional upbringing, I understand why. But growing up in a family where mom was running the show because dad just really didn’t know how, sent many mixed signals and caused much confusion, especially when sermons on the family entered the mix.
We weren’t consistently churched as I was growing up. I refer to our attendance at various small Southern Baptist congregations and subsequent spiritual growth as “spurty”. In my late teens I became curious and hungry beyond what the pastors’ answers could satisfy so sought scriptural truth on my own. Throughout those years, mom and dad carried on as usual, making a living and raising a family in the best way “they” knew how. But there was growing resentment and bitterness in their relationship. Mom resented him for not stepping up and taking the lead, and he grew more sullen and quiet as time went on. As I became more and more aware of just what God’s Word had to say regarding headship and the proper roles of man and wife, I contemplated their marriage and wondered if it all could have been turned around. Where did it all go wrong for them? “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” And more importantly, who should change first? I seriously did not have the answer to that.
All of us girls eventually married, without much of a clue as to what to look for in a husband. To some degree, we each made some of the same mistakes our parents made…go figure. My husband and I divorced, and one of my sisters married and divorced twice. Looking back, the same dynamics to some extent ruled our failed relationships. I would say we were fearful of submitting due to lack of trust in our husbands to lead, due to their lack of trust in the One who would lead them. But I am learning! As my faith and understanding in this area continues to grow, I have graciously been given an opportunity to get it right…a “do-over” you might say. May He continue to lead us all in His ways, for they are always best!