If there was a time to disobey, this was it. Maria Dyer had finally summoned up the courage to ask the superintendent of the girl’s mission school under whom she worked. She was but twenty, but in face of the loneliness creeping in at every side, the newly-arrived missionary Hudson Taylor was all she could desire. Here was a man who offered friendship in the vast sea of destitute Chinese. Here was a man with similar longings after holiness and intimacy with Christ. And here was the man with the very heart for souls she embraced.
Her superior, Miss Aldersey, was unmoved by the girl’s plea. “Mr. Taylor! that young, poor, unconnected Nobody. How dare he presume of such a thing? Of course the proposal must be refused at once.” Immediately she had Maria draft a response – mostly of her own dictation. More alone than ever, Maria could only wait – wait on the Lord, for He alone could make a way.
Hudson, ignorant of her real feelings, emptied himself before the Lord, unable to see Maria under Miss Aldersey’s close guard. It wasn’t until months later when the two once again stood face-to-face that they faced yet another daunting decision.
Hudson was as convinced as ever: “I have never known disobedience to the definite command of a parent, even if that parent were mistaken, that was not followed by retribution. Conquer through the Lord. He can open any door.” They would write Maria’s uncle in London. Without his permission, they would not proceed. Miss Aldersey had herself written to dissuade him from approving the engagement, and four months seemed an eternity to await a response. Approval did come, and Maria and Hudson would serve side-by-side as husband and wife for ten years until Maria passed from this life.
Their stand revealed something far more than their staunch belief in authority. It revealed their view of the God that created the authority – no matter how ignorant or harsh it seemed. Either God is a loving and sovereign Father prescribing authority for His children’s benefit, or He is inept and harsh, subject to the whims of tyranny. And regardless of our creed, our theology (who we believe God to be) reveals itself in either questioning authority or embracing it, seeing God as merciful or despotic.
Questioning God’s goodness began not with Margaret Sanger and the women’s rights movement but with Eve. Eve did far more than succumb to appetite. In that one act, she exchanged the truth of who God was for her own version: a God of ignorance and cruelty, concealing good from His creatures merely for His own benefit.
Ever since, woman has struggled with authority. “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). From the defiant glance of a daughter to her father to the outright rejection of marriage in our day, the message has come across loud and clear: our God is not good. His “messengers” – our authorities – are tyrants, His principles restraining, and His design for women cruel.
The declaration has resounded so widely across our society that this redefinition of God is considered normal, heroic. I’ll never forget the time our family had a non-Christian acquaintance over. We were telling her about a friend of ours who had just given birth to her tenth child, a little Down syndrome baby, and the incredible blessing this journey had been both to the family and many others. Her response shocked me. Why hadn’t this mother had her tubes tied years ago? And surely she would stop having children after this! The “hand that rocks the cradle” has given way to the dominating “regiment of women.” And the result isn’t pretty.
For the first time, I realized how deeply engrained feminism has become.
We see it all around us. From women CEOs to defiant single moms determined to live independently from any man, the western woman has vowed to become the “master of her fate” – no matter the men and movements that must be pushed out of her way.
Yet the domination of women has hardly added to the prosperity – much less morality – of our culture. After working a twelve-hour shift and coming home to unruly children and a string of broken relationships, the modern woman has indeed discovered she can’t do it all. Nor should she. Instead of enriching the culture as did the Sarah Edwards and Abigail Adams of two centuries before, she has found in all her exertion the futility of playing another’s role.
Yet a handful of women throughout history have refused to bow to the petty god of our culture. If the powers that be (whether civil, ecclesiastical, or familial) are ordained of God (Romans 13), then our perspective of authority reveals our perspective of God Himself. Redefining authority as harsh, negative, and limiting implies a harsh, negative, and limiting view of God. But if He is a loving Father, He will place the precise authorities in our lives we most need.
That’s not to say some authority relationships won’t be difficult. Could you imagine your husband asking you to lie about your relationship and then leaving you unprotected in the hands of other men? No doubt Sarah struggled to understand God’s purpose in putting her under Abraham. But instead of rejecting authority – and the God who ordained it – Sarah used the situation to proclaim God’s goodness. “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (1 Pet 3:5-6).
God has ordained authority for our good, and stepping outside this circle of safety leaves us exposed to the darts of the enemy. I saw the fruits of such a choice firsthand in a single mom who arrived nearly penniless at the doors of our church. After severing ties with I-don’t-know-how-many husbands, she had to flee her state with Social Services hot on her heels for homeschooling her five children. She remained for awhile under the loving but firm authority of our elders. Sadly, she deserted our church, not wanting to continue submitting to our elders, only to find herself vulnerable to Social Services, who took her to court. One decision, one rebellion, can change your life.
As young women, when we first meet the daunting realization of years of uncharted territory before us, the last thing on our minds is our view of God. It’s tempting to take our cue from the world, the church, or even our own desires. Each of those options, though they may gain applause, robs us of the joy, blessing, and productivity that could be ours. But even more – they rob God of the glory that comes from a life spent reflecting His goodness in the way we respond to authority. The world around us notices not our creed but our character, not our words but our ways.
How does that look in the life of a daughter? As we enter adulthood in our father’s homes, we can no longer passively respond to authority; we must actively seek it out. As an older sister, my siblings come to me for advice about my parent’s principles. (Is it okay if we do this?) I realized I tend to make exceptions in the urgency of the moment without realizing I’m shaping how they think of rules. Are they created for our protection or merely inconveniences to avoid?
As we grow older, honor changes from obeying rules to following principles. In the busyness of life, it’s easy to never truly connect. Are we actively seeking accountability, not just from our parents but also from other wise women in our community? Are we asking the hard questions? Are we willing to humble ourselves enough to admit: I need counsel?
It all comes down to God’s purpose for our lives: to reflect His character by glorifying and enjoying Him forever. And our response to authority is a major part of that. The world, the church, and yes, my younger siblings are watching. Will my life proclaim the majesty and grace of God, or will I exchange the God of the Bible with a puny, indifferent, and cruel tyrant? I have but one life to reflect Him. I pray it will count.
 Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, (Peobody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 64.
 Ibid, 66.