I was brought to faith in a tradition that often said:
- Speak where the bible speaks
- Be silent where the bible is silent
- Do bible things in a bible way
- We read the bible and just do it
I heard preaching that warned of excluding pieces of the bible that seemed inconvenient to a certain agenda or doctrine. The claim was made, if you see anything that you don’t find in accordance to God’s word, you’d be our friend to show us.
I soon learned that friendship extended to just about every bible passage except the first half of 1 Corinthians 11- the head covering.
I heard every excuse that could be reasonably contrived out of the text to not wear one. The only passages that I’ve seen people work harder to explain away are ones that tell us to fast. Mess with people’s food and they will bite!
Well, in my zeal and unskilled handling of the Word of God, I too became a contriver. I studied 1 Cor. 11:1-16 over and over to prove to the cavemen why a modern woman like myself wouldn’t have to wear a stupid doily on my head. I mocked women who became personally convicted and started wearing one. I rolled my eyes at the homeschool moms who readily covered their heads with their neatly stowed veils that were tucked away in their bible covers.
That was me.
I was a fool.
If you ever study the Words of Life looking for reasons you DON’T have to obey it, you are a fool too.
Despite my brash tactics, my Father was patient with me. He led me to the pages of his book, to his message to me, and asked me to not just open the cover but open my heart. He asked me to lay down my preconceived ideas and my pride and just listen.
After fifteen years of claiming Christ and finding my identity in being a hearer and doer of the Word, I found myself convicted that I was missing something. I read the words with honesty and a willingness to obey.
In my journey with the head covering I think that was the number one victorious moment. God needed me to stop defending the don’ts and start embracing the things that bring him glory.
I still wasn’t sure if I was going to put one of those things on. I mean, what would other people think? I was sort of self-conscious to start something so radical. Should I tell people? Should I act like its part of my outfit? How would I even do that?
My journey continued.
I started reading with the understanding that God doesn’t write in secret code, well except for maybe the last book, but that’s another story. God tends to say what he means and mean what he says. I started reading with understanding that his word is truth, pure and always purposeful. What was in this text that was purposed for me?
I read. I read different translations. I read articles. I read commentaries. I read dictionaries. And then I just read the bible again.
I praise you because you remember me in all things. You follow closely the teachings I gave you. But I want you to understand this: The head of every man is Christ. And the head of a woman is the man. And the head of Christ is God.
Every man who prophesies or prays with his head covered brings shame to his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies should have her head covered. If her head is not covered, she brings shame to her head. Then she is the same as a woman who has her head shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, it is the same as cutting off all her hair. But it is shameful for a woman to cut off her hair or to shave her head. So she should cover her head.
But a man should not cover his head, because he is made like God and is God’s glory. But woman is man’s glory. Man did not come from woman. Woman came from man. And man was not made for woman. Woman was made for man. So that is why a woman should have her head covered with something that shows she is under authority. Also, she should do this because of the angels.
But in the Lord the woman needs the man, and the man needs the woman. This is true because woman came from man, but also man is born from woman. Really, everything comes from God.
Decide this for yourselves: Is it right for a woman to pray to God without something on her head? Even nature itself teaches you that wearing long hair is shameful for a man. But wearing long hair is a woman’s honor. Long hair is given to the woman to cover her head. Some people may still want to argue about this. But we and the churches of God don’t accept what those people are doing. (1 Cor. 11:1-16 ERV)
Round 1- here’s what I learned:
I am glory.
I am purposed glory. I am glory purposed for man.
It is shameful for me to have my head uncovered.
If I am not going to be open to the head covering, I might as well shave off all my hair.
Long hair glorifies God.
I had always had short hair. I thought as long as I looked feminine I was OK. But these passages say that “wearing long hair is a woman’s honor.”
The journey continued. I started facing my opposition to the covering point by point.
1. It was only for women who had spiritual gifts.
Joel 2:28 says that a future was coming when sons and daughters would prophesy. Clearly in the New Testament church women were prophesying (Acts 21). I’m not prophesying so I don’t have to cover.
OK, I admit, I am no Greek scholar, but I can flip through a bible dictionary with the best of them, and a concordance too. The word for pray in this text is proseuchomenos which means literally, to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes for His wishes as He imparts faith (Strongs 4336). The term is used for what we would traditionally think of prayer, like talking to God.
But, prayer throughout the Bible often represents worship in its entirety. Jesus said his house would be called a house of prayer. And the same word origin, as used in vs. 4-5, is used in Acts 16:13, to describe where Paul would find Lydia, a place of prayer. Both of those places of prayer were actually places where people gathered to worship.
I am now part of the household of God and I gather at a place of prayer to worship him. So just as Lydia did not have supernatural spiritual gifts, the praying in 1 Cor. 11 doesn’t necessitate spiritual gifts.
2. It was cultural.
Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. vs. 10.
I’m also am not on a first name basis with any angels. But I what I do know of them, they do not care about the culture of men on earth. They are doing crazy spiritual things like being part of the innumerable hosts, worshiping the All-mighty and ministering to saints. So “because of the angels” pretty much dismissed my cultural argument against it in about half a sentence.
3. My hair was covering enough.
I decided to grow my hair out while I was on this journey. But I wasn’t convinced that was it. The text does say “her hair is given to her for a covering” (vs 10). But the context of that sentence is creation. He goes back to Eden. He is talking about nature and the origin of man and woman (vs 12, 14). The head covering in the beginning of the chapter is not talking about out in nature, it is talking about the assemblies when you are praying and prophesying.
Also, for me to be fair to the written words, I had to acknowledge that the woman who is praying with her head uncovered is distinguished from a woman whose hair is short.
In verses 5-6 he basically says, if you don’t cover your head you are the same as a woman who shaves her head. And if you don’t cover your head you might as well cut off your hair, which is disgraceful. The covering, grammatically, can’t be hair.
The Greek word for uncovered is akatakaluptos, which means unveiled (Strongs 177). I had to simply conclude that the head covering is an actual veil not hair.
4. Older women I look up to aren’t wearing one.
I didn’t find my answer for this one in the scripture but in history. The women around me might not be wearing a head covering, but that was a 19th century phenomenon not a biblical one. David Bercot shows the history of the head covering through the centuries. Click here to see for yourself.
The dismissal of the head covering happened in stages. Those stages happen coincide with the women’s rights movement of the 1800’s and the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s.
I had to ask myself the final question, the most important question. Am I will to buck that movement? Am I willing to submit to the hierarchy of the Creator’s design? Am I willing to stop warring with myself and the men around me over who gets to talk and when we get to do it?
I remembered a conversation that Jesus had with two apostles and their mother. Mrs. Zebedee, in Mt. 20:20, was wanting her boys to get center stage in the Jesus show. Those boys were struggling with same thing I was- surrender to others. Jesus told them that the first shall be last. Ugh. Gut check time. The position I should be striving for isn’t the place of preeminence but of humble service. That is what will get me exalted (Mt. 23:12).
Ultimately, am I willing to accept submission to man as my head thus glorifying Christ as his head and God as Christ’s head?
I was willing. And so seven years ago I began to cover my head during the assembling of the Christians to honor man as my head, to glorify Jesus as the Christ and the Father as Supreme over all. I cover my head as a testimony to God’s hierarchy. I cover my head to demonstrate my conviction that I believe in the creation of Eve as a helper for man. I cover my head for angels, my husband and my God.
If you are interested in deeper study into this topic, the most truthful and well-researched information I found is Paul Williams book, available free online here.
Everyone should be sure about their beliefs in their own mind… So each of us will have to explain to God about the things we do. Rom. 14
You may want to check out The Head Covering Movement. It is a helpful site to deal with the “how-to’s” of the covering.