Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Will You Still Love Me If I Cover?

I've wrestled with head covering back and forth off and on for years and years. I was first charmed by the order of Swiss Reformed Deaconesses (think protestant nuns) who were in the church were I grew up. I liked the simplicity of their uniforms. I was intrigued by the idea of a prayer veiling during my early 20's, and tried it out at home "in my prayer closet". It felt right. I was ready to jump in whole-hog when I was a part of a Mennonite group, later in my twenties, but in so doing, found myself running in the opposite direction from the rest of the women in our congregation, much to my sadness. I liked what I was doing but I didn't like feeling "weird".

Enter Orthodox Christianity ca. 1998: There is a tradition of wearing a head covering, based on the Scripture, during Church worship. But barely anyone practices that here in America. It's almost a ludicrous "convert thing", silly American women trying to look like Russian Babushkas, or semi-monastic wannabes. But there was enough of a head covering element that I did not feel too strange. In good conformist fashion I traded in my doilies and caps for things like paisley head scarves and mantillas. A gal's gotta fit in, after all. And besides, everyone at my first Orthodox parish knew me back in my Mennonite days and I figured they figured I was just weird.

So where does this urge to cover my head (full time even outside of "Church") come from? Why can I never get this off my back, or let it go? Is it a God thing? That seems the height of hubris, when I can think of many baser motives that might be pushing me.

The wrestling with this question and not resting about it, however, almost defines me. Should I? Shouldn't I? What's my real motive? I don't have to but I want to...or I want to want to. Unless I don't want to. And back and forth. Basically, I want to but I want it to be easy instead of hard. I wish I were in a situation where everyone else were dong it. Where it was normal. But I'm not, and it's not.

What is this about for me? Am I obeying/disobeying a Scriptural mandate? Tradition? A pious custom? Am I using religion as an excuse to do what I want to naturally do anyways? What does it all mean to me? (rhetorical questions)

On any given day, my answer to these questions differs. Depending on what? My mood? The weather? My need for privacy or a sense of "modesty"? My desire to "not be weird"?

Does feeling "a call to cover my head" all boil down to an urge to be "different" and to stand out from the crowd? Perhaps I just like scarves and lacy things? Could it be that simple? Perhaps I want to sort of stick it to an anti-feminine culture that would tell me that in order to be a "real woman" I have to be more like a man.

Maybe I just like Fiddler on the Roof and the Mrs. Bennet look (Pride and Prejudice, y'all)?

Maybe the answer to all of these questions is "all of the above".

But I think underneath the waffling lie some very important questions that I'm asking every time I encounter another human being with whom I am in community: Will you still love and accept me if I cover? What if you don't like my reasons for covering? What if my reasons for covering offend you?

What if it's as simple as the fact that I like scarves sometimes? Or that I'm broken, and I tend to make everything about "religion"? What if I'm really feeling like I need to literally obey 1 Cor. 11 and the "pray without ceasing" bit?

Because the kicker is: When I can simply put on that scarf and go about my day, for some reason I'm more prayerful...at least in those moments when I'm not worrying about my scarf.

Broken?...methinks me is.


Veiled Glory said...

Love you, waffles and all. The look is darling, what I would expect from you. :-)

elizabeth said...

Yes. Loved regardless.

I am broken too.

Xenia Kathryn said...

Great post, Alana! I'd been wondering where you were on the headcovering thing, since you took down your blog on the subject.

I still don't really grasp why some people (namely Orthodox Christians) have such a knee-jerk reaction against them. I mean, I "know" the reasons... and while I'm glad it is not a mandatory practice (well... at least at my parish :D), I am sad that people within the faith have negative responses towards it.

I like scarves and headcoverings too, and if I weren't so exasperated by the stares of strangers (my own insecurities, no doubt) I would wear them in public more often... almost more for "fun" and style than anything.

I strongly believe there is a deep correlation between femininity and headcoverings... it's almost like the last "flag of femininity". Maybe I'm getting old, but so many of the fashionable clothes today are so incredibly androgynous. I'll drive by a teenager walking down the street (with skinny jeans, a loose t-shirt and shaggy hair), and I often can't tell if they're a male or a female.

Anyways... great post! Loved regardless, as Elizabeth said :)

L. said...

Maybe, instead of the "why" of headcovering, what matters more is the "what" -- the end result? Whether you do it to please God or please yourself (or both!), if the result is that it makes you feel and act more contemplative and godly, then I'd say it must be a good thing.

Hezra said...

Your picture is awesome! You are so adorable it made me smile. Ya know, I always try to figure out the WHY of everything. I ALWAYS come back to the scripture of "work out your own salvation in fear in trembling". Though I feel the fear there is respect and trembling is more like awe. But I do feel we are to work out our own relationship to God in that way. Not to say abandon the Bible and just do what feels right. But to be authentically our own selves while doing the two major things: love the Lord our God with all of us, and love your neighbor as yourself. Show compassion, live compassion, for others and yourself. I love to love and be loved, by God and others. I have other more inner issues that I waffle over. Waffle away my friend. It is just our way of figuring out ourselves and our place in His universe and living our true selves. love you and so glad to have found you.

Amy said...

When you stopped writing Free to Cover, I prayed that you would find peace on this issue. Whether you covered or not, that you would just be at peace with the decision. I know it was such a struggle for you at the time. I'm so sorry that it's still not a peaceful decision. Looks like I need to keep praying...I most definitely will!

Anonymous said...

I am an orthodox christian woman as well, and, while we don't wear headcoverings in Greece, I really respect what you are doing.

If the trouble inside you comes ONLY from other people's reactions, then I say wear your headcovering proudly and don't think twice about it.
After all, the muslim and jewish women do it, and don't feel they have to answer to anyone. Why should we?
I have read blogs of muslim girls in western countries, who wear headcoverings and give their own battle. Somehow they touched my heart. You should read some of their stories.

I have another argument: headscarves are amazingly feminine and beautiful. Both trendy and classy.

This page you may know, but here it is anyway (jewish site): I love these ways to tie a scarf!



Anonymous said...

Do people say anything negative to you about it or do you feel like they're judging you?

I don't cover, but I certainly don't judge you for doing so. If you feel that you should, then do it.

You care too much about what other people might be thinking about you. The truth is, most are too concerned with themselves to give others much thought.

Has said...

I'm sorry you feel you have to justify covering. I go to a Russian parish where everyone covers. Often I've felt that Christian women should justify why they don't cover, given the Bible refs. Your scarf looks beautiful in the picture.

Father Thomas said...

I love this, Alana. And I do love you--either way.

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

De-lurking to say:
Definitely loved regardless.

I have started covering for my daily prayers in front of the icon corner, and to me, it makes a difference and keeps me more focused.

Anonymous said...

I wish you show us more headcoverings, as you wear them daily.
I miss you old blog...