I was 24 years old when I started walking with God. I had no church, or religious background, was pretty independent and leaned toward feminism— although I never referred to myself as a feminist. I remember my outrage watching my sister iron her boyfriend’s shirts. Everything in me wanted to shout, “Don’t his arms work? Why is that your job?” So, you can imagine my response to scriptures telling wives to submit to their husbands! It didn’t make sense to me, but I’d embarked on a faith journey with my whole heart, and I took God’s Word seriously. I started seeking the Lord for His perspective on the entire issue of submission, not just in families but also in the church.
I found it easy to trust God and believe He had my best interests at heart, so submitting to His authority was no big deal. On the other hand, submitting to people was an entirely different story. I was shocked to learn I was expected to submit to my pastor and follow his guidance regarding decisions about my life.
I started swinging between extremes, submitting without question or shutting out every voice other than God’s. I wanted a formula to apply to every situation but discovered the subtle danger attached to this kind of thinking. We have an enemy who uses Scripture against us, and we need both wisdom and Godly counsel to walk in the truth and freedom that the Lord has for us.
We need to draw clear lines between Kingdom authority and the oppression unleashed when we yield our authority to the enemy. Our enemy seeks to keep us from our full potential, and one of his schemes is to keep us oppressed and contained through control.
In his book Breaking Intimidation, John Bevere explains:
“If you don’t walk in your God-given authority, someone will take it from you and use it against you “.3
He goes on to say:
“It is important to understand that there is a dwelling place or position in the spirit that we hold as believers in Jesus. With this position comes authority. This authority is what the enemy wants. If he can get us to yield our God-given authority, he will take it and use it against us. This not only affects us but those entrusted to our care” 4
Jesus said that the truth would set us free. Unfortunately, there are many theological and doctrinal extremes that undermine our God-given authority and lead to captivity. Either the accuser will oppress you, or you will stand in your authority and rule over him. When we’ve been living under oppression, we must be re-positioned. It’s like the Israelites moving from slavery and oppression in Egypt to taking their rightful place in the Promised Land, where they were victorious over their enemies.
The story of the Israelites is a helpful metaphor for living in bondage to an oppressor. Jesus often used parables to explain spiritual concepts because they’re relatable. Just as there came a moment when God set His people free and led them out of Egypt, He’s leading Christian women out of oppression.
A new picture emerges as we look at Scripture through the lens of love and address issues that work against freedom. An over-emphasis on certain doctrines combined with the prevalence of childhood abuse and neglect have greyed the lines between Godly submission and the containment that comes through oppression. Sadly, many of us have felt trapped, believing it to be God who put us there.
I’ve helped Christian women find freedom and healing for over 20 years. As part of my master’s degree, I researched the impact of Christian church culture on the re-victimisation of women.
A study by Hana Al-Modallal in 2016 found that those traumatised by childhood abuse are more likely to be victims of sexual assault or domestic violence in adulthood.5 They called it re-victimisation. Many survivors of abuse and assault ask, “Why does this keep happening to me? Is there something wrong with me?”. They observe many of their friends and relatives having no similar experience, while they have repeated incidents throughout their lives.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Study 2016 confirms my experience as a counsellor.6 Most of my clients who’ve experienced domestic violence as adults have a childhood history of abuse. The research backs up their lived experience, confirming re-victimisation as a genuine issue.
“Compared to their counterparts, risk of severe physical partner violence was three-fold greater in women who experienced childhood physical violence and five-fold greater among those who witnessed mother-to-father violence. Victims of childhood maltreatment may encounter social and personal problems that increase their vulnerability to violence in adulthood.” 7
Disempowering church culture
As my research progressed, it emerged that a woman’s vulnerability to domestic violence increases if she’s been immersed in conservative church culture.
I was shocked and horrified to discover the mindsets of powerlessness learned through childhood abuse were being reinforced in church. Rather than finding healing and freedom, many women were taught the way to please God was to surrender their rights and freedom to their husbands and church leaders. I’d always believed the church to be a place of healing and restoration. But now, I saw first-hand the negative impact of a religious church culture on abuse victims.
God is bringing women into freedom by releasing truth to expose the deception they’ve experienced. The tables are turning; women are coming out from under shame and captivity to walk in their destiny and trample the works of Satan. God destined, right back in the garden of Eden, that the descendants of Eve would crush the head of the serpent, and we are that generation. Shame came upon Eve in the garden, but God doesn’t leave us in shame; He takes us into glory.
From Shame to Glory
Colossians 1:27 tells us that we have the hope of glory. In this context, glory denotes honour, renown, and high esteem. It’s the opposite of shame. Women have a vital role in ushering in the Kingdom of God, and now is the time to receive your breakthrough and healing. Do you want to break through the containment lines and live in the freedom of all Christ made you to be? It’s time to walk in the freedom of true Kingdom authority and leave religious captivity behind. We’re the radical ones who know no bounds, who will search for the truth and break through the traditions and containment of past generations.
We’re entering a season of momentous shift for the women of God. God is leading us out of Egypt – out from under the oppression that has kept us bound. Out from under the shame of the curse and into the glory of our redemption.
As we align with God in this battle for our freedom, the struggle itself will strengthen and equip us to set others free. As we partner with God, the enemy’s plans will come into sharp focus. No longer fighting shadows, we’ll get him clear in our sights and, with swords sharpened, lead the way.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the last will be first, and the first shall be last. His words are pertinent right now. God’s justice is being released on the Earth as He brings women out of shame into glory. The tables will turn in the coming days as the oppressed rise up to take down their oppressor. Not just for themselves but for all those who have been held captive.
Excerpt from Escape from Egypt: A Pathway to Freedom for Women