On Being Silent

by Sandra Ostapowich

"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says." (1 Corinthians 14:33-34)

More often than not, this passage is quoted to keep women in line, to remind us that we are prohibited from being pastors because Scripture tells us that we are not permitted to speak in church. It's usually quoted by men, and frequently with a scowl.

It stings. It makes the hair on the backs of our necks stand up. We don't like it, and we don't like the people who quote it at us. Silence is not something that comes naturally to us since the Fall. 

Women keeping silent means trusting that the men given to you will speak for you, will represent you, will take your needs and desires into consideration, will do what's best for you, will not forget about you, will put you before themselves.

The problem comes in when we take a hard look at the men around us. They fail us all the time. They forget to pick up milk at the store, they work late, leave their dirty socks on the floor and whiskers coating the sink. They're needier than babies when they get a sniffle. The sink still leaks, the lawn needs mowing. They get angry and say mean things to us. They scare us, they hurt us. And sometimes they just up and leave us, or force us to leave them for our own safety.

Trust men like that to speak up for us? Depend on them to take care of us? They can't even load the dishwasher the right way! How in the world can we just sit back and expect them to do the right thing without us practically doing it for them? It's just as bad at church as it is at home, maybe worse.

Scripture reminds us that the Church is the Bride of Christ. We are there to receive God's gifts for us through Word and Sacrament. And the only faithful thing we have to speak together are the words we have been given by the Lord in Scripture. Women get to demonstrate this faithfulness in silence twice over. There's a reason quietness is extolled as beautiful in women, it's faithfulness.

"The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." 
(Exodus 14:14)

Our husbands are to love us as Christ loves His Bride, the Church. They get to be Christ for us. That means they get to be the ones who fight for us, who speak for us, who tend to us, care for us, protect us, and even sacrifice their lives for us. Not just husbands either. The elders of the church are given that responsibility for the adult women without husbands or other male family members to care for them. 

The Lord, through the men given to us, will fight for us. Even the sinful, flawed men in our lives, whose sins and flaws we know all too well. Those men on their own, no, they probably aren't trustworthy and probably won't make good decisions all the time. But the Lord is working, doing good for us, through these men he's given us. He's also given us the faith to receive all the good they, and He, are going to do for us. We have no reason to expect anything less than the best from Him, and them. 

"...let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (1 Peter 3:4)

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heav'nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in this vale of tears;
Then you will better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, loves purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
(LSB #742)


Sandra Ostapowich is recuperating from the amazing job she did as conference coordinator for Amen. Running on adrenaline and Diet Coke for the month of July, Madre continues to provide priceless contributions to Higher Things and its youth. She currently serves on the Higher Things Board of Director as Secretary.

Created: August 12th, 2008