I’m struggling with something right now. And when I find myself struggling, I usually read. No matter if it’s Shakespeare or the Bible, digg.com or (insert other website here), it either directly points me to an answer or shifts my brain’s focus so that I’m able to work on it while I’m focusing on other stuff.
Today, it was a bit of both.
I came across a copy of what I had written for another blog which sadly is now defunct, and because it hit me as strongly now as it did then (if not more), I thought I’d reprint it.
Read at your own peril.
Originally posted 23 April 2007.
Head like a hole
Black as your soul
I’d rather die
Than give you control
– NIN, “Head Like a Hole”
When I was young and angsty, this was the theme song of all theme songs. I was an adult, at least chronologically speaking, although far from maturity. I was free; I refused to bow down to any authority other than my own.
At least that’s what my brain told me.
Looking back, it’s laughable, this idea I wasn’t bowing down. I came from a very authoritarian household. I learned rather early on that saying “no” didn’t really matter, and this was reinforced when I lost my virginity to a guy who didn’t understand the word “no.” I felt used and abased and, in that oh-so-surprising way, I managed to repeat that pattern in just about every relationship I had for the next decade.
What did surprise me is how it reinforced how I already viewed God.
Almost two decades of Southern Baptistisms beat into me this image of God as an angry, violent, vengeful, jealous God. One that demanded complete surrender and didn’t give a damn about the consequences. A God who could perform infanticide as punishment for a Pharoah’s stubbornness. A God that could command one of “his chosen ones” to slaughter his own son, only to say “Jokesies!”
To be honest, with the exception of the difference in the grandiosity of the demands, God sounded like a really bad boyfriend.
So I fought the image. And it wasn’t until many years later that I discovered the true meaning of submission.
To cut very long and tedious journey short, I found myself on porn message board. (Just writing that makes me laugh at the unintentional double-entendre.) I was dabbling in writing erotic stories and followed a friend to a message board set up for such writers. One of the major topics, as might be expected, was BDSM. Now, as I am an observer of things, I observed patterns. Most of the people who identified with the role of dominant were male, and most of those who identified as submissives were female. They gloried in this sense of degradation and humiliation. A very large number of them had been sexually abused. They struck me as being weak, for the most part mindless, and obviously repeating patterns that were so obviously self-destructive.
I was horrified.
Before this, my last boyfriend, an extremely domineering personality (to put it nicely) once remarked after one of our in-depth conversations before we even began dating, that our relationship struck him as very S&M. I recoiled, and didn’t speak to him for a long time after that. He later gifted me with a beautiful necklace that I absolutely adored until someone pointed out that it looked very much like a collar. I never wore it again.
I clearly had issues.
As God is wont to do, regardless of our idea of Him, he chose to “learn me a lesson or two.” I discovered a genuine reverend on this adult message board, an incredible man who joined the idea of sex and spirituality. Now, I already had a fuzzy idea that sex was spiritual, a sort of divine union, but I hadn’t really figured it all out yet. But because of this man’s discussion thread, my sleeping soul (for lack of a better description) awoke, and damn was she hungry. I read a lot, and started putting pieces together. It’s actually because of this man I discovered the church I’m currently attending, but that’s jumping ahead a bit. Regardless, he started some wheels turning.
It wasn’t too long after this that I crossed paths with someone else who started some very different wheels turning. He completely turned my concept of dominant upside down. He identified as dominant, and yet, he wasn’t abusive, or even a jerk. He was not into pain for pain’s sake, not into coercion, not into a lot of the things I had assumed that came with the package of a someone who is dominant. He was sane, for God’s sake.
Because of this, I re-examined the concept of submissive. As I took a deeper look, I discovered that there were different types of submissives. There were the pain-sluts and those who need to be degraded, but there were also those who, somehow, in the midst of saying they were submissive, appeared to be mindful, strong, and assertive. Again I was boggling. It was about that time that I finally got a clue. I realized that all of the things that I had loathed about submissive women were things I loathed about myself.
It was then I made the connection.
There is a difference between those who submit out of weakness and those who submit out of strength. The first sort certainly have their own reasons, but I guess it boils down to those who let others walk all over them due to lack of self-respect, due to some unnamed need, due to … whatever are simply a different breed from those who submit out of strength. The second sort value themselves, have their limits, and know the difference between submitting and setting themselves up for abuse. I saw the difference between someone who submitted out of need, and one who submitted out of desire. The first is not truly given but taken, the second is offered as a gift.
Once I reached that realization, my concept of God shifted drastically. I never really bought into the whole “submitting to God thing,” not as He was portrayed in the Old Testament, anyway. But, armed with this new information, I realized that not all submission is due to obligation. Divine submission is a gift to God, something that we offer as a means to fulfill His divine plan. When we consider ourselves a gift to God, we start taking better care of ourselves, not only for His sake, but for ours. Because we are His children, and we are beings of value, made in His image and reflecting His love. And, perhaps more importantly, I realized that submitting to God is not a one-way street. It is mutually beneficial, and allows Him to manifest in our lives as endless blessings.
And that once we
…bow down before the one you serve
as a conscious, joyful choice and not as an obligation, the last line sounds less like a threat, and more of a promise of his endless bounty: