Kabeer’s argument on women and the image of God lost steam as he found little to support his beliefs. Even Google, his highly-used resource, wasn’t of much help to him. Of all his findings at that time, there was only one that stated that women were not created in the image of God — but that one was all he needed. “A woman is not the image of God unless she has a covering; a husband.” Immediately my thoughts raced to all the single, godly women that I knew. What about them? I rolled my eyes and I pursed my lips to keep from opening my mouth in rebuttal. He had an answer for that anyway. A woman’s father was her covering until a husband came along. So, according to Kabeer, a woman in God’s eyes needed a direct connection to a man. It was the man’s covering over the woman that defined her and determined whether or not she was in His image. Thank God He had already made it clear to me through scripture that both man and woman were a reflection of Him. Because of that, I felt the freedom to rest in His truth without argument. Covering, however, that was perfect segue into the next item on what I referred to as the “good wife” to-do list.
Although there was little dispute regarding women and the image of God, according to Google articles and YouTube videos, arguments for and against headcovers, (referred to in 1 Corinthians 11) were many. The image of God debates were placed on hold and headcover talks took over. “I’m not going to ever force you to wear one. Just pray and ask God to show you. From now on though, I want her to wear one during prayer at church.” He was referring to our one and only daughter, age of 2 at the time. As much as I fought it, his stance was firm and unbending. In disagreements between us, it came down to this: If he “was doing it as unto the Lord ” then that was my cue to zip my lips. So I put my dukes down and gave it to God. “Lord, if I’m right, show him. If he’s right, show me.”
During the first few Sunday mornings I would slip her thin white blanket over her head, then slip it right back off when prayer was done. At that age my daughter often napped during the service, which made the issue of the head covering a minor thing. As time passed and she became more mobile the blanket was more of a distraction to both of us. I would try to pull it off while Kabeer would try to put it back on. I’m pretty sure neither of us listened to the sermons then — just a preoccupation with the white blanket on (or off) her head.
Tensions grew with every passing week. Covering her head only during prayer turned into covering her head throughout the whole church service. It also went from covering during bedtime prayer to covering whenever we prayed, even if it was the short “Lord, bless this food” prayers. With the frequency of the headcover requirements, the white blanket no longer cut it. As much as I didn’t want to, I was told to get a “real one.”
Wraps, scarves, and various headcovers filled my Amazon cart. They remained there for quite a while as I couldn’t get myself to make the purchase. I then came across a Christian website that specifically sold headcovers in reference to that same scripture. Some headcovers on this site looked more like stylish, wide headbands; ones that were trendy with runners, and ones that had more of a bohemian feel, (very much my style by the way). I figured, if she’s gonna have to do this, she might as well look cute in the process. These bands would sit right at the hairline and reach to about the middle of the head, with hair exposed in the back. I finally took the plunge and purchased a few for my daughter. Upon arrival a few days later, I was excited to try them on her and excited to show Kabeer my find. As the kids and I sat at our long, 12 chair, “Last Supper” looking table, I eagerly waited for Kabeer to join us for dinner. He sat down and took one scowled look at our daughter. With a tone of disgust, he blurted, “What is that thing on her head?!” Then, before I could even explain, he interjected, “No. I want all of her hair covered. Take that off.” Deflated, hurt, and seething, I pulled the headband off her head and flung it across the dining table. I yelled, “Guys, get the sheet!” Needless to say, dinner that night wasn’t all too pleasant. Sadly, days like that were more often than not.
The headcover search continued. While looking online, I started looking up Christian women who did this. I found videos of women who covered their heads and heard the reasons as to why they did. Some were Law-related but some just felt led by God. Those specific ones intrigued me. I couldn’t refute their testimonies and had no criticisms against them. These particular women had one thing in common. They CHOSE to do it. They were never forced. It brought me back to Kabeer’s promise to me, “I won’t ever force you. Just pray and ask God.” Over time he did add, “Eileen, you would have such an impact on women if you did that. God would use you in a big way if you just covered your head.” So although it wasn’t forced, it was highly encouraged.
With all of this in the back of my mind, I prayed about it a lot. I continually inquired of God — asking if it was a requirement for prayer, asking Him if He looked down on me for not having one on, asking Him for wisdom and clarity on what became the consuming discussion between Kabeer and I. Even during the 5 a.m. prayer sessions I toyed with the idea of covering my head — thinking that I would hear God more clearly, as some of the women claimed in the videos. As I typically had a blanket already wrapped around my shoulders during the cold Wisconsin mornings, I conveniently pulled it over my head and prayed.
“Ladies, I think I’m gonna start using a head cover. I’m not sure yet but I feel like God is leading me to this.” This was a text I sent to The Circle in early May of 2017. Soon after, Steph texted back. “Eileen, if you feel like God is leading you, then go for it. But if this is not from God and it’s just from your husband, know that it won’t stop there.” I took heed to what she said but wanted to think the best of Kabeer.
I finally purchased the head covers that were in my Amazon cart. I even bought one for me, just in case. Tucked away and hidden in the top dresser drawer, I would take it out when he wasn’t around. I would fiddle with it, seeing how it looked, debating on if I would actually go out with it. I never made it past my bedroom door.
“I think I’m gonna do it. I think God is convicting me of it now.” This was the start of a conversation a few days after I told the Circle. I was sitting on the edge of Kabeer’s bedside as he was sitting on the floor across from me. Taken by surprise, a look of acceptance came across his face. Finally, I was getting the approval I longed for. Finally, I was doing something right in his eyes. “God is going to use you now. You’re going to be an example for a lot of Christian women. Just imagine when you stop wearing makeup and change your clothes, and…” At the moment: a screech, just like the sound of the needle on a record player. The initial bliss of the praise of approval was short lived. My shoulders sank as I remembered what Steph said. She was right. It wasn’t going to stop with headcovers. That was just one of the many hoops I would have to go through. I realized this wasn’t conviction from God, just pressure from the one who I wanted so badly to please. After that conversation, my head cover stayed put in the back of the dresser drawer.
As he talked more and more about head covers, no makeup, and his definition of modesty, I felt uncomfortable just getting ready around him. I didn’t think I was one to use a lot of makeup, and I was always conscientious of what I wore. After hearing him, however, I felt very superficial and vain. So in addition to dodging him to avoid fighting, I would get ready whenever he wasn’t around in order to avoid the shame as well.
As summer vacation approached, I started making plans for the change in routine. With more time in the mornings with the kids, I would typically have daily devotions or bible studies with them. I approached Kabeer and told him that I was heading downstairs to go through Proverbs and pray with them afterwards. I assumed that this would be a harmless and fight-free interaction as I walked from the bedroom to my closet. Then from the bedroom, he questioned, “So what’s your spin?” Confused, I questioned back, “Spin? It’s Proverbs. What spin would I have?” Not answering my question, he told me to hold off on that “for now.” I clenched my jaw and I told him that I would just pray with them then. Then under his breath, but loud enough for me to hear, he said, “Not without a head cover, you’re not.” I could feel my heart pounding at this point. I stormed back toward him to get clarification. I heard him right — no headcover, no praying. I then reminded him of the promise he made at the beginning of all of this. Patronizingly he chuckled, “You don’t have to put it on and you don’t have to pray with them.”
Pacing and crying in frustration, I grabbed the headcover out of the drawer and pulled it over my head. Wanting to just leave and pray with the kids, I shouted, “Happy now?” and walked out of the room. Again in that tone, “God wants a cheerful giver so take that off your head.” I came to a halt at the doorway, pulled the head cover off and dropped it on the floor. I ran upstairs to the prayer room and sobbed. I felt trapped, defeated and helpless. How could I not pray or read the Bible with the kids? What was I left to do? “God, do you see this? I’m asking for help!” Then the words “As unto the Lord” came to my mind. It hit me. This wasn’t my husband, it was the devil using him as a mouthpiece. Since I had gained spiritual strength throughout the last several months, Satan knew he couldn’t get to me anymore. He had another target now. He was after the kids. To not pray or read the Word of God with my kids? Was that as unto the Lord, all because I didn’t have something over my head? Was that really how God operated? As much as I was told to be a submissive wife; as much as I wanted to be a submissive wife, something was wrong with this picture.
More than ever I had to seek God and be in tune with the Holy Spirit. No longer was “As unto the Lord” my criteria for him, it had to be the criteria for me. There’s such a fine line between obedience and submission to man versus obedience and submission to God. It’s not an easy task and it’s not a one-size-fits-all manual, as much as we’d like it to be. God directed me to two scriptures that I carried with me moving forward in this journey.
“God does not see as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
“One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:2-5
God was so faithful to give me the peace that I needed. Whether I had something over my head, whether I had makeup on or not, God was concerned with my heart, not how I looked on the outside. He also instructed me to focus on what He was telling me and not to worry about anyone else. They had their own walk and convictions and I had mine. My eyes had to stay focused on Him, and Him alone. Again, this was all in preparation for what was yet to come. As much as these things aren’t at all fun to go through, He uses them — to build our character, to strengthen our faith, to draw us into such an intimacy with Him that we truly know and hear His voice above the clutter of this world.
Lastly, God showed me that anything done by force is not the basis of relationship — whether in marriage, with kids, in sharing the gospel, or in any conviction we may have. Force repels not draws one closer. God’s character is displayed in His kindness. It’s this loving kindness, not force, that leads to repentance and change. As we go through the times we’re in — with politics, with racism, with all the different agendas, views and opinions that are out there, only as we display God’s character, love and kindness will we ever be the voice of influence we desire to be.
Lord, this was a hard one for me to get through but thank You for getting me through it. Thank You for solidifying Your love, closeness and intimacy as You did when I went through this season. Thank You that You are concerned with my heart, not my outward appearance or my performance! Lord, it’s Your kindness that draws people unto You. May we as believers reflect that same character. May we love as You love so that we can influence and impact others in the way that You desire. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.