One reason I wanted to start a blog on covering from a Lutheran perspective is that so many head-covering blogs and forums speak of head-covering as a “calling.” I reject this term for it because I believe our callings are derived from the objective Word of God and our station in life, not from subjective feelings or inclinations. So, for example, a woman who is married and has children has been called to be a wife and a mother. A man who is ordained as a minister in a particular congregation has been called to be a pastor. Either God in His Word (and perhaps through natural law) objectively calls all women to cover their heads in worship, or He doesn’t–and that debate is not one I desire to host on this blog.
Some women will especially speak in terms of whether they are “called” to cover full time or not. I am not going to take a public stance on whether head-covering is required for all women in worship, but I will confidently assert that I don’t believe it is required full time or whenever a woman appears in public, unless to do so would cause offense; that is the best conclusion I can reach through my study of 1 Corinthians 11 and the best scholarly commentary on it. It would be better, I think, to talk about this as a choice or a decision, or maybe even an inclination, desire, or commitment, than a calling, because a calling indicates that it has a divine source which to ignore would be sin. (A Christian woman who lives in an area where covering in public is de rigueur might rightfully say that she is called to cover full time, but even then, such language would probably not be helpful.)
My concern is that we shouldn’t attribute commands to God that He hasn’t made; we should not, must not, put words in His mouth. To give an example, when I was in a liberal denomination, I firmly believed for a long time that God was calling me to be a pastor. But when I studied Scripture with an honest approach, trusting that the Bible has the final authority on such matters, I had to confess that God was not in fact calling me to the pastoral office, because He forbids women to speak in church or hold authority over a man (see 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11). The “burning in my bosom” I felt could have been a goodly love for learning and sharing God’s Word, a sinful desire to do what was not mine to do, or some combination of the two–but it wasn’t the Holy Spirit telling me to be a pastor. My belief that God was calling me to this career was spiritually very dangerous to me and almost made shipwreck of my faith. I think the same risk is run with any supposed “calling” that is not truly of divine origin.
Our best bet is to abide by the Reformation slogan sola scriptura. We look to Scripture alone as the ultimate authority for these things. It is true (and the intent of the Reformers) that we shouldn’t lock ourselves up alone with our Bibles, but should diligently look for guidance to how the Church has interpreted troublesome passages throughout the centuries, for our fathers in the faith are often wiser than we. But we most certainly should not leave it to our subjective feelings to determine truth for us–and I think this is usually what people mean when they speak of these types of “callings.”
Make your decision whether and how much to cover according to your best understanding of God’s Word, first and foremost, along with input from trustworthy Christian sources and an honest appraisal of your personal circumstances and inclinations (regarding your inclinations, I mean in areas where you believe there is Christian freedom). Let God’s Word, not your feelings, mold your conscience and decisions. There is great peace and freedom in knowing that we don’t have to look inside to decipher the murky and ever-changing currents of our feelings to know God’s will. God has made His will known and knowable through the special revelation we have in Scripture. His Word is the pure and clear river of the water of life.