Sometimes, God asks us to do things that don’t always make sense. Sometimes they seem to be completely against any kind of common sense, or maybe seem just plain weird. People may accuse someone who chooses to be obedient to what God asks them to do of being legalistic. They may even feel sorry for the person because they believe they’re in bondage.
But, what other people think really doesn’t matter.
I’m going to share my story about something God has asked me to do, not once, but twice. To many people, it won’t make sense. It will seem weird. I may get accused of being legalistic, misogynistic or belonging to some cult. I may be pitied because of all the bondage I’m in. But, what matters to me is being obedient to what YHWH has asked me. I am not trying to convince you that YOU need to wear a covering or condemning anyone who doesn’t. I am merely sharing my story. If you disagree with the conclusions I came to, that’s fine. If you can identify with my story and have not yet made the decision to cover, I pray that it helps you in some way. I am not the Holy Spirit and I will leave his job of gentle, loving conviction to him.
As you read this, here is a little background information to keep in mind. My husband and I were attending a church that began as a Mennonite church, smack dab in the middle of cornfields in Amish country. There are many conservative sects in this area and women wearing a headcovering is not uncommon at all. At the time we started going there (about 10 years before), the church was in some major transition and over the years has become what I like to call a “conservative, charismatic church.” It’s a place where the holy spirit is welcome to flow at will, but yet still somewhat restrained as is in keeping with tradition in the area I guess. There used to be many “conservatives” there, women wore somewhat plain kind of dresses or others wore more “stylish” denim skirts and such, but they all wore some kind of covering on their heads. Over the years that has changed and now no one does.
Oh, and I’ll warn you, this is a long post. Grab a cup of coffee and a snack before you start reading!
In the summer of 2010, I began to have this very strange feeling that God wanted me to wear a headcovering. I tried to push it away, out of my mind, but that gentle conviction was very persistent. So, I asked my husband what he thought and if he would mind and he said if that was what I felt I should do then to go ahead and do it.
Since I didn’t want to look Amish or Mennonite, the only thing I could think of to use as a headcovering at the time was a bandana. I think I only had one then, it was dark blue with a white paisley design. I thought well, that won’t be too bad (I won’t look too weird, anyway). But when it came to what I’d do on Sunday when going to church, that was another story. I didn’t want anyone there thinking I was legalistic. I remember a lady once commenting about another lady that would always put a hanky on top of her head when she came up front to share scriptures or something, and the tone of that comment was not really what you’d call accepting.
I had an oval-shaped piece of leather with a design stamped on it and a wooden stick that you stuck through the two holes (I don’t know if they have a name or what in the world to call them!). On church day, I’d put my hair up in a bun and put that leather thing on and call that my “covering.” Even that kind of made me nervous, although I don’t know why.
After a while, I finally came to the conclusion that it’s just a matter of personal conviction. At the time, I couldn’t find anything other than the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 that addressed headcovering – and that sounded to me like it was a cultural matter. Paul even said if anyone wants to be contentious about it, we have no such custom, right?
The big thing I took away from that experience was realizing that I had kind of had a judgmental attitude toward conservative women because they had to wear a headcovering. Not in the sense that I thought I was better than them because I was so liberated and didn’t wear one, but that I felt sorry for them because I thought they were trapped in legalistic bondage. I now thought, “who am I to say that a woman who wears a headcovering, out of a sincere conviction and desire to be obedient to God and honor her husband, is trapped in legalistic bondage?” It’s a personal matter between God, a woman and her husband – no one has any business getting between that. And no one can know whether a woman is wearing a covering because of a personal conviction or because someone told her she had to…and even if someone did tell her she had to, who’s to say she still isn’t doing it out of personal conviction?
Fast forward three and a half years or so and we find ourselves around mid- to late January, 2014. To my surprise, I find myself again feeling that gentle nudge to wear a head cover.
What?? YHWH, I thought we worked this out a few years ago. Why do we need to revisit this?
At this time, I had been trying to do the “no-poo” thing for about a couple of months. That started out OK but by this time, my hair had developed this seemingly permanent oil slick and it was driving me up the wall. Covering my head while enduring the greasy transition phase was actually very practical. Only I knew the Father wasn’t asking me to cover my head to try and prevent some tragic environmental disaster from the oil leak on my scalp.
Nope. This was more about obedience. This was about submission. And headship. And I have a completely different perspective this time around. I have a Torah mindset and perspective now, and that changes everything.
So, I started covering my head. I had several bandanas (I had continued to wear them on occasion, but more because I didn’t feel like doing my hair than from any sense of conviction), but on top of feeling convicted to wear a headcovering I also felt like I should cover all of my hair. I guess if you’re going to do something weird, go all the way with it, right?
I also studied 1 Corinthians 11. I read the verses over and over and over. I felt like I was missing something and prayed for understanding. Then, I read the beginning of 1 Corinthians. I’m pretty sure I’ve read this more than once but never saw this one tiny detail:
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
Wait a minute…I’d never noticed that before. Unlike other letters Paul had written (to the church at Ephesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, etc.) this particular letter was written not only to a particular body of believers (at Corinth), but to all believers in every place. Since I first had to discern whether or not what Paul wrote in verses 1-16 of 1 Corinthians 11 was addressing a cultural issue that no longer applies today, this seemed to wipe that argument clean off the table. If it was just for the Corinthians, as many suggest, why would he write all believers in every place?
That settled it for me, really, so the next step was understanding what was for all believers in every place. There is a lot in 1 Corinthians, and some very controversial things like women being quiet in church. I have not studied those out and have not felt conviction to do so yet, but I have a feeling that will come in time. For the time being, my focus was on headcovering. Since I’d determined that I believed what Paul wrote was applicable for me now, in modern-day America, how does that work? Especially in our culture!
I studied the specific words Paul used that are translated as “covering.” One word means hair, the other means veil. The argument is often made that a woman’s hair is her covering (which he says should be long), but when you follow that line of logic out and actually replace the word covering with hair, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
So Paul says, it you will forsake the veil, go all the way–and identify yourself fully with the world. In verse six (6); if Paul meant that the woman’s only headcovering were the hair itself, this verse would be saying, “If a woman does not have hair on her head, let her also have her hair cut off.” It is linguistically impossible to say that the woman’s headcovering is nothing more than her hair. If the hair were the only ‘covering’ then an ‘uncovered’ woman would be a woman who already had her hair cut off. It would be like saying, “Let the bald man get a haircut” or “Let the beardless man shave his beard.”
What verse six (6) means is this: if the woman refuses to wear a scarf or shawl, she should also remove the natural covering, her hair. In other words, she should wear both coverings or none at all. Watchman Nee comments on this verse with these strong words: “Today people keep neither of these two commands of the Bible. If a sister will not cover her hair but shears or shaves it, she may yet be reckoned as hearkening to the words of the Bible. But today woman neither shaves nor covers her hair…. A double disobedience.” [source: http://hmisrael.net/OlevaHeadcoveringStudy.htm]
Not everyone agrees with this position, but I do.
I studied the reasons Paul gave for why a woman should wear a headcovering. I had always believed, probably because that was either what I was actually taught at some point or heard in discussion somewhere, that it was just a cultural thing or because it was a way for godly women to distinguish themselves from prostitutes. This post addresses some of the myths about headcovering and is quite interesting. It is often said that headcovering is for modesty, and many Jewish women believe that their hair is only for their husband to see because hair is “sensual.”
In the scriptures I read, I did not see that Paul gave those reasons for women covering their hair. In fact, the reasons Paul gave were because of the order of creation and because of the angels. Neither one of those things are bound by culture or time period. If they are not bound by culture or time period, then it must apply today.
3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is the Messiah, and the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of the Messiah is God 4 Every man who prays or prophesies wearing something down over his head brings shame to his head, 5 but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame to her head — there is no difference between her and a woman who has had her head shaved. 6 For if a woman is not veiled, let her also have her hair cut short; but if it is shameful for a woman to wear her hair cut short or to have her head shaved, then let her be veiled. 7 For a man indeed should not have his head veiled, because he is the image and glory of God, and the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man;9 and indeed man was not created for the sake of the woman but woman for the sake of the man. 10 The reason a woman should show by veiling her head that she is under authority has to do with the angels.
What do the angels have to do with it? Why would a woman need to show she is under authority by veiling her head? I had always wondered that, even years before I ever felt led to wear a headcover. I don’t remember now if I read this in a commentary somewhere, or if it was a thought that formed in my mind, but I remember thinking “if an angel looked down on a room full of women, how would the angel be able to distinguish those women who are submitted to God’s authority structure from all the other women if they all look the same? Angels are not all-knowing.” We are admonished in scripture to be holy because God is holy, and one meaning for holy is set-apart. Something that is set apart is inherently different, but if it looks like everything else, how can you tell it is set-apart?
One friend of mine, who wears a headcovering, told me that one reason she does it is for protection. Just as angels see that a woman is submitted to God’s authority structure, their evil counterparts see it as well and know not to mess with her. She has been tremendously blessed by wearing a headcovering and really feels the protection of the Father over her life.
But, what about Paul saying “we have no such custom”? I had always read the following verses with the understanding that Paul was saying they have no such custom of women wearing headcoverings.
13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her[a] for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
It suddenly occurred to me that Paul was not saying there was no such custom of headcovering, but rather no such custom of a woman praying without her head covered. If you look back over the centuries at religious art and other historical pictures, you will almost always find women portrayed with veils. Even in America, women wore hats to church or scarves on their heads in church or when they left the house up until the last several decades. It wasn’t until liberal theology and feminism made its way into the church that women quit wearing some kind of headcovering. Of course, that’s not to say that all women who wore a hat or scarf were doing it to follow 1 Corinthians 11, but it was far more a prevalent sight to see a woman with covered hair up until then.
After studying and praying for a few weeks, I had decided that headcovering is just as relevant today as it was when Paul wrote those words. Now, is headcovering a salvation issue? Certainly not. Is one type of headcovering better than another? I don’t think so. Scripture doesn’t say “Thou shalt wear a doily on thy head”, but rather that a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head. One could argue that, because the word Paul uses for covering translated veil, it needs to be a veil or something long that comes down over the head. Perhaps that is where culture comes in, as that was the custom of the day. But, there is no specific instruction regarding the style of headcovering as far as I could tell.
When I decided that yes, I believed headcovering is for today’s believing women and that yes, I was going to do what God had asked me to do, I experienced quite a liberating feeling in my spirit. Those who hold the belief that headcovering is legalistic probably find that hard to believe. But, as I continued to cover my hair I began to feel like, for the first time, I am realizing who I really am. I have felt like an oddball all my life, always on the outside looking in. And while this may seem odd to you, stepping into my identity as a woman set apart for YHWH, the Holy One of Israel, brought me freedom and joy, not bondage and oppression.
And then…I realized that at some point, my family and people at church are going to notice something a little different about me. I really fell in love with the tichel (pronounced like “tickle” but with a kind of throaty k sound), and the ladies at Wrapunzel: The Store have an amazing inventory of beautiful and very colorful scarves. They also have several video tutorials on how to tie them. I learned how to “tie tichel” by watching Andrea’s videos. I love that I can be way more creative without one lock of hair showing than I could ever be with my fine, thin hair and tons of products. There are endless ways to tie them, here’s a few that I’ve tried…
As you can see, especially if you live where I do, this is not something many women do (unless they are Jewish or believe as I do and cover out of obedience to YHWH…or are cancer patients). I was once again confronted with “what will people think?” I also realized that the last time I did this, I was more concerned about what others would think of me than I was with actually being obedient to what God was asking me to do. Ouch. I also realized that I have grown so much in my walk with the Father and I didn’t really care what other people think anymore. Except maybe for my husband. I needed to tell him about what I’d learned and the conclusion to which I came.
I had asked some ladies in a online group to pray for me because I felt nervous about talking to my husband. I didn’t think he would mind me covering again, but I wasn’t sure he would go for the style that I prefer. Since I want to honor him as well as God, then if he didn’t want me wrapping my whole head up like that I wouldn’t. I had put this conversation off for days, and finally I had to bring it up since we were going to a banquet soon and I had to know if he’d think I was a freak and not want me to dress like that for the banquet. I just needed an opportunity to bring up the topic.
Those prayers were answered within a few hours…my husband called and asked if he wanted me to bring supper home (hhhhmmm, that would free up some time for talking now wouldn’t it?) and I said that would be great. While we were eating, we were also discussing the recent debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. I can’t remember exactly what we were saying, but somehow I found myself pausing and carefully rewording certain thoughts before I spoke them out. Then I realized every time I was rewording, I was missing an opportunity I had been praying for. Somehow, this debate discussion kept opening up opportunities to talk about headcovering. I really wish I could remember what things we said that headcovering would pop up during the conversation – it really doesn’t sound like the two things would be related!
As I knew deep down he would be, my husband was fine with it. He was even fine with the style of headcovering I like. He said maybe I’d start a fashion trend at the banquet. I’m thinking sure…a bunch of Ducks Unlimited women are going to start wearing tichels. Maybe if they were camo tichels….I love how my husband supports me in everything I do. He may not understand why I do what I do, but he never says no, you can’t do that.
One of the reasons I gave my husband for why I want to do this is because I want to honor him. You may be asking “how does covering your hair honor your husband?” I will admit that putting a piece of cloth on your head doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. It is a symbol, and as I pondered on the matter I realized that this may be the whole reason that God wants me to do this. Yes, he always wants us to obey him and walk in his ways, but this particular thing, for, me has a specific purpose.
You see, I realized that every time my husband sees me with my head covered from now on he will remember the conversation we had. The one where I expressed my sincere desire to honor him, his authority in our home, and his ability to be the spiritual leader of our family. It may not always be a conscious thought, but his mind will make that connection. Our society far too often sends the message to men that they are inept, bumbling idiots and only women can keep things together. Our men do not have confidence in themselves and their ability to be the heads of their families.
One of the resources that helped me make this decision is a book called Coverings, by Gary D. Naler [affiliate link to a free (at time of posting) Kindle download]. I can’t say that I particularly agree with everything in his book, but two paragraphs really opened my eyes:
But herein lies the breakdown. Yahweh and Yahshua fulfill their responsibilities; but when it comes to the man, he falters to varying degrees in some of his responsibility. And an even further loss of responsibility in covering occurs as very few women today cover their glory; and those who do, some of them do not adequately do so. Ladies, do you want to establish a proper and correct message to your husband, to the angels, to Yahweh God and to the world? Then begin to thoroughly cover your glory. Do you want a husband who will thoroughly cover and protect you or do you want one who will only partially cover you, or not cover you at all? You proclaim that desire by the covering you wear, or fail to wear.
Many women today complain that their husbands are not the spiritual leaders in their homes. I would ask: are you spiritually obedient and giving the message to Yahweh, to the angels, and to your husband that you acknowledge his covering by thoroughly covering your head? 1 Peter 3:1-2 days that you may win your disobedient husband to Yahshua “without a word” by your “chaste and respectful [with fear] behavior.” You, ladies, can begin that process of restored headship by presenting before Yahweh and the angels the kind of covering you want your husband to be – evidenced by thoroughly covering your head. Do you want your head, your husband, to be in submission to Yahshua? Then correctly submit your own head as covered to your head’s Head. Begin to practice as an INTERCESSORIAL act of obedience what you desire for your husband. ” (emphasis mine) I can’t give a page number for reference because this was a (free!) Kindle download but it’s in chapter 6.
The second paragraph in particular really spoke to my spirit, and I really believe this is why YHWH has asked me to wear a headcovering. Along with my husband having a very visible reminder of my willing and loving submission to his authority in our family and trust in his abilities, it is also an act of intercession. And having a headcovering on my head reminds me to pray without ceasing…and to mind my tongue and attitude.
I’m sure if you’re a radical feminist, or maybe even just have feminist tendencies, you’re either foaming at the mouth or bristling over the the words “submission,” “obedience,” and the idea of men being leaders or heads of their families. It’s really sad that the structure designed by our loving Creator has been so twisted and perverted that so many women believe men to be evil oppressors out to keep women down and hold them back. Certainly, that happens – when men have a twisted and perverted belief about what it means to be the head of the home and for a woman to be submissive.
Authority and headship are not the husband lording his power and authority over his wife and either physically, verbally or emotionally beating her into doing his bidding. Submission is not a woman being a doormat and never expressing her opinion or being allowed to pursue her dreams. It doesn’t mean a wife can’t make any decisions without consulting her husband, either. A husband and wife need to agree, together, on what decisions for their family are ultimately up to the husband. I don’t ask him what I should wear or eat or other basic day-to-day decisions. But when it comes to important spiritual, financial or family matters, I know that it is my place to give my opinion and allow him to make the decision. And I am perfectly OK with that.
The authority structure set up by YHWH is a beautiful relationship between the husband, who is ultimately responsible for the decisions made in the family and the wife who walks beside him, giving him counsel and sharing her opinion, but deferring the responsibility for the decision-making to her husband. If her husband loves, honors and cherishes her as he should, as Yeshua loves the church, he will value her opinion, not dismiss it because she is “under” him.
Personally, I find letting my husband shoulder the responsibility for decision-making a relief. But that only works because I trust my husband. Even though he may not always be leading our family the way I think he ought to spiritually, I know that I can trust his judgment the majority of the time. He values my input, and if I say “Honey, I really think this is a bad idea and here is why…” he will listen to what I have to say and many times, after prayerful consideration, realizes that I’m right about that particular situation. He also understands that making bad decisions doesn’t just affect him, but the whole family, and is more careful most of the time about the decisions he makes. He is human, as am I, and we both miss the mark sometimes, and by having a kind of “checks and balances” thing going on, we can help keep each other on track.
There was a time in our relationship where I wore the pants in the family. I had to, because I could not trust him to make good decisions. Then there came a time where God said I needed to hand the reigns over to him and let him do the job he was designed to do. That was a real turning point in our relationship. It wasn’t easy at first – old habits often die slow, hard deaths – but over time it became easier. And the more I stayed within the authority structure YHWH designed, the more confident he became in his role. The more confident he became, the better decisions he made. The better decisions he made, the more I could trust him. And the more I trusted him, the better our relationship became.
Today, we have a wonderful marriage. It wasn’t easy getting here, we had some really, really hard times and for a while I wondered if we were going to make it. I’m glad I hung in there and honored the vows I made on our wedding day – for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Oh sure, we’re not perfect and don’t always agree but I can’t remember the last time we had a fight. When we disagree, we both know to leave the other alone for a while until we can talk about it calmly. We have a deep bond and connection that means we don’t have to say a word to communicate. He is my best friend…no, more than that. The Bible says when a man and a woman marry they become one flesh and we understand exactly what that means because we live it. I don’t think that would be possible without both of us submitting to and walking in the authority structure that God designed from the very beginning.
I’m not on a “Covering Crusade,” and unless someone asks or I feel like the Holy Spirit wants me to say something about this “thing on my head,” I’m not going to say anything. I often struggle with sharing my beliefs, because many of them any more are so different than what most people in our Sunday church (I also attend a Sabbath fellowship on Saturdays), for example, believe. I always feel like by me simply saying “I believe THIS” it inherently implies “YOU are wrong.” That is not my heart at all! Even if it is true, I don’t want to go around telling people they are wrong – and that is a sign of growth in me, believe me! I honestly believe that the way you live your life is more effective than anything you can say, aside from something the Holy Spirit inspires you to say. Just ask people who have left the faith why they have left – I believe many say it’s because of hypocrisy. What is hypocrisy? Saying one thing and living another.
So, if you disagree with me, well then God bless you – and may he give each of us more understanding of his word and his ways. A person can argue with the conclusions I’ve come to in my own studies, but no one can argue with my convictions – those are mine, they are personal. I believe this is right for me to do, whether anyone else does or not. That is between a woman, her husband and the Father. If you feel offended after reading my testimony, I would encourage you to prayerfully ask God why you feel offended, because there is not one iota of offense or contention intended in this post. This is the journey God has taken me on, and I believe he leads each one of us on a journey that is, in many ways, the same as other believers but ultimately very personalized for the individual.
So there you have it. I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences with headcovering – whether you do it or not. All I ask is that your comments be respectful! Those who serve God are all in different places in their walk with God, but we should have one goal – to love him and serve him wholeheartedly by doing what he says to do the way he says to do it.