I was selfish. I wanted things just because they made me happy, not because they advanced God’s kingdom or helped spread the Gospel. I knew the desires of my heart were sinful, because I’d been told they were from a very young age. I’d long hated all the things I’d been told were expected of me for being female and Christian and the only conclusion was that I was selfish. If I wasn’t selfish, I would like, enjoy, and be happy performing God’s will. I just had to keep setting one foot in front of another. At some point, my service to God would be rewarded with the peace that passes understanding, and I would experience joy, which was better than mere happiness.
I was promised this. The Bible said so, and Christians shared testimonies of how their life became so much better when they stopped doing what they wanted and started obeying God. If I could just do a good enough job obeying God, my life would be better, too.
It was so hard obeying God and hard submitting to my husband. I was supposed to obey willingly with a cheerful heart and all I could muster was a grudging determination to continue fulfilling my role as a wife and mother. I was losing the things that made me happy, and replacing them with nothing but the things I hated, and I was not growing to love the things I hated. I was so stubborn, and so selfish.
I had liked my reasonably attractive body, but that was vanity. I wasn’t supposed to care how ugly my abdomen looked after pregnancy, how I never stopped looking vaguely pregnant, and how my wonderful metabolism crapped out and I went from a size 6 to a size 12. I wanted to write fiction and work on my art but both of these required energy and uninterrupted time so that I could focus, but I was always tired and rarely had uninterrupted time, anyway. I had treasured my social life, such a wonderful experience after having no real friends my own age from 13 to 18, due to the isolation of homeschooling and conservative Christian beliefs. That social life couldn’t be maintained, though. I had tried to keep taking college courses, aiming for my two year degree, but after our third child came along I gave it up. I was too tired and I’d slipped from earning As to earning Cs.
I gave up the things that made me happy, or that could help provide me with material success later in life, because it was selfish to want those things. In spite of this, I clung tenaciously to the things I did not have to give up. I still had a D&D game with a handful of friends willing to make the trek to our house, an hour away from where we used to live. I played World of Warcraft, delighting in the fact that I could nurse a baby and PVP at the same time. Any time my twink killed another twink I’d cackle over what their reaction might be if they could see the person that had beaten them. I blogged earnest, conservative, Christian posts and browsed conservative Christian or libertarian blogs.
I found community in the anti-feminist, conservative Christian blog community. There were other women like me, that believed the wife and the husband had separate roles and that a happy marriage was best obtained by adhering to those roles. There were many more men than women that believed that, too. Feminism brought easy divorce and children raised by single mothers didn’t have a good, masculine role model from which to learn. Girls couldn’t learn what kind of man they should seek out and boys couldn’t learn what kind of man to become.
I believed in sex-based roles, but I never believed that men were innately better than women. There was no evidence for that. It became a sore point for me with God. I was angry with Him for giving me a brain as good or better than that of most men I knew and yet giving me the subservient role. It was cruel to make me smart enough to feel the sting. If he’d just made me too dumb to recognize the problems with my existence maybe I could be happy. I would read men complaining about how their wife didn’t give them enough sex or wasn’t submissive enough and I wished they could understand that if it was hard for them to submit to God’s will, it was so much harder to submit to a man’s will. They only had to submit to a perfect being, a God of love, and we had to submit to very imperfect beings that made bad, thoughtless, selfish decisions and expected us to go along with that.
Suffering was how God showed us that He loved us, you see. We couldn’t learn how to be a good Christian through an easy, happy life. Suffering – chastisement – punishment for our sins – that was how we learned to be good, and pure, and holy. We were placed in the Refiner’s fire, so that our dross would be burned away. Life wasn’t supposed to be easy. Easy lives led to sin and sin led to death and to Hell.