Sunday, May 17, 2009

Putting on the Prayer Covering

I never was a stranger to the Bible. My parents took me to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night of my life. My grandfather and father were both elders. From my earliest memory, I was exposed to the Bible. I knew God, and was baptized at the age of twelve. I was glad to be a Christian. I wanted to do what God told me to do.

I read 1 Corinthians 11: 1-16 all my life, too. This portion of scripture tells us that while a man is not supposed to cover his head, a woman IS supposed to cover hers during prayer and prophesy. It says that covering her head is a sign she accepts the headship order: God, Christ, man, woman, and that it’s a sign to the angels, who are sent to minister to the saved, and are not all knowing.
As a little girl, I asked someone close to me, who knew the Bible, why we didn’t obey that part. His answer was that it was cultural, that people used to do that, but we didn’t have to do it anymore. I remember walking away with a feeling of awe, and thinking I would be so glad to be grown up and to know which parts of the Bible we were still supposed to obey, and which parts we didn’t have too. I was fully confident that once I was grown, that knowledge would come to me, too!

And so I grew into a woman, married and began my family. I found grown up life was harder than I expected. I still went to church regularly, but the cares of life pretty well took the lion’s share of my attention. There was so much good entertainment out there: soap operas to watch during the day while I ran a home day care, more television at night, movies on the weekends, going out with friends…I loved Stephen King books, women’s magazines and anything else I could get my hands on to read. Rock music played in my house throughout the day. I spent a lot of time making sure I “looked good”: make up, clothes and my hair.
But still, I went to church. I wasn’t real bad. I just enjoyed the things of the world.

Life continued on in this manner until I reached my late 20’s and 30’s. And suddenly, everything fell apart. I thought I was doing everything right, I read all the books, went to all the marriage and parenting classes at our big mega church. And yet, not only did things not turning out like I was very sure they would, they crashed.

I tried several things to make it better. I began to homeschool. I made sure there were date nights. But even so, things didn’t improve.
Finally, as a last resort, which unfortunately is what humans can be prone to do, I turned to God. For the first time, I begged. “Save me!” I cried to God. I told him that I was going to open my Bible and start reading, and whatever I found in there that he wanted me to do, I would do, if he would save me and help me save my family.

I began to read my Bible with a hunger I had never had before. For a year, I would not look at commentaries, or even really tell anyone what I was doing. I only wanted the input of the Holy Spirit. The Bible opened up like it never had before. So many times, I would read something and think “Has this always been in here?” I mean, I had read it all my life, and suddenly, it made sense.

A reoccurring theme I found was that the Lord wants a holy, pure people. He wants to see us separate from the world, and not follow in the world’s entertainment and fashions. I began to clean my house. Out went some of my clothes. Out went most of my magazines. And very hard for me: out went my collection of Stephen King books. Friends watched me in disbelief; they did not think I needed to do all this. One friend tried to convince me to let him keep my Stephen King book collection in his garage until I ‘got over this.’ I replied, “If I ever get over this, just shoot me, okay?”

Then, one day in my reading, I came across 1 Corinthians 11: 1-16 again, and this time, the Lord spoke to me. “I mean this. This IS for today.”
Okay, I might have thought throwing out my books was hard, but this almost seemed impossible. I was in my late 30’s. How was I supposed to suddenly start wearing a head covering? I didn’t even know what one looked like. Did I have to wear it all the time? And most troubling of all: what were people going to think? One thing I was not was a super Christian. Everyone knew all my faults and all the bad things I had done in my life. People were going to stare at me. This was EMBARRASSING!

But I had told God I would do anything he said, and there in black and white, right there in my Bible, God says to wear one. I didn’t think he was just talking about just long hair, because he says to wear it during prayer and prophesy. Our hair is not something we can take on and off, so if he just wanted long hair, why make this distinction as the time to wear it? Long hair would just always be there, so I felt like this passage meant an artificial covering in addition to the long hair. I didn’t think a hat would do, because verse 10 says it’s supposed to be a sign of authority, and that the angels were supposed to be able to look at it and know why it’s there.
The only people I knew who wore a covering were the Amish. I began to research them. Sure enough, this passage of scripture is why they wear a covering. I knew this was something I was going to need help and support to do, but the only Amish I knew were in PA!
Before long, though, I found out there was actually a group of Mennonites just an hour away from me, and they also practiced this. So I visited them, and began to attend their church services. A few years later, I was able to move close and join the church. But that took five years. In the meantime, they taught me.

So I began to wear the covering. To say I felt conspicuous and self conscience is an under statement. I was so unhappy. I felt so ugly. It didn’t help that other people were always telling me I didn’t need to do this. Some family members really were upset with me. One relative said I didn’t need to wear a diaper on my head. Another told me that wearing a costume and joining a cult didn’t make me a Christian.
But I was determined to know God, and obey. So I kept it on, just living day by day. Going out in public, I kept my head down and wouldn’t meet people’s eyes. I knew they were staring at me, and it was hard.
But one day, God spoke to me. He told me that I am his representative here on earth. We Christians are his hands and feet, his testimony. Hold your head up, I heard, and smile! You are a child of the king. Rejoice always, and again I say rejoice, the Bible says.
My whole attitude towards it changed. Suddenly, it felt like the privilege it truly is to wear this sign on my head. I held up my head, like God told me. When I caught people looking at me, I smiled at them, and usually, they would smile back. In fact, once I began to smile, I found that often, people would actually stop and want to talk to me about why I dressed like I do. Some people wanted to tell me they were Christians, too. Some wanted to know about the covering. Some just seemed to want to talk, and often, I would end up listening to problems they were having, like they thought I might have some special insight to help them. And indeed, I was often able to tell them what the Bible would say about their problems.

Two things happened to me that really stand out in my mind. At the very beginning of my journey covering, my children and I were going to go to the State Fair. I agonized over wearing my covering, knowing I would be the only woman there amid thousands who would have one on. Finally, I was not strong enough, and I didn’t wear it. The next Sunday, at church, I told our deacons wife about it, and how I didn’t wear it. I told her the same thing, “I looked around! There was not one person there wearing a covering!” In her quiet voice, she said, “Just think of what a testimony you would have been.”

Five years later, we went to the State Fair again. I had totally forgotten the years before when I was too ashamed to wear it. Now, I put it on everyday without a thought. I had a little girl now, too, in addition to the four sons still living at home, and she was dressed in a modest little dress and wore a little covering too. We all went to the fair and we had a really good time that day. At the very end of the day, we stopped to eat some nachos. At the table next to us were some bikers, with their bandanas, leather jackets with “Harley Davidson” on them and lots of chains. There were two women with them. One of the women kept trying to wave at my very shy little girl, who would not meet her eyes. Finally she got up and came to our table. She leaned over my daughter and smiled at me, and said, “I just had to come talk to you. I have been watching you all day long at different places, and your family is so happy and you looked like you were having so much fun.” I was shocked. This lady had been watching us all day? Suddenly, my friend’s words from five years ago came rushing back “Think of what a testimony you would have been.” This lady and I could hardly have been more different, but she had been watching us.

The other thing was more recent. We became a foster/adopt family for the second time in my adulthood. My first placement this time around was a newborn baby girl. After having her for a few days, a visit was scheduled for her with her mother. I had not met her yet, so when I entered the Child Protective Services office, I walked up to the desk, told the receptionist the baby’s name, and said I was bringing her for a visit. The receptionist pointed behind me, and I turned around. The baby’s mother stood up as soon as she heard her daughter’s name, and came rushing towards me. I smiled at her, and held out the baby. She looked at me incredulously as she reached for her baby, and said, “You’re her foster mother?” Then louder, “YOU are her foster mother?” I said yes, and she said, “OH! I am so glad! I’m not scared anymore!” Now this lady did not know me, but my dress and covering alone had calmed her fears. My appearance told her I was a very conservative Christian, and because of that, she was reassured her baby was safe. And she was. I had the baby with me for seven months, and got to know the mother and grandmother well during this time, and I was determined I would not let them down, and that my God would not be shamed.

I wouldn’t consider not wearing my covering now. I am humbled to be a visible testimony for God. It feels right to obey this passage when I am praying. Over and over, it has shown itself to be an invaluable witnessing tool. While I don’t totally understand the reasoning behind it, I wear it in faith. I wear it without embarrassment or shame anymore. I wear it with joy!

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