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Friday, February 28, 2014
It's Freebie Friday!! See the end of this post for details!
Every marriage is different. But there are many similarities too. That’s why I sometimes have to smile when I’m talking with a wife who’s heard about my biblical submission experiment when I sent a year intentionally studying and living out what the Bible says about submission and applying it to my marriage.
I smile because there’s usually one of two common responses. The first wife will usually raise her eyebrows, physically step back (just in case this submission thing is catching) and say something like, “Well, that’s good for you but I could never do that.”
The second wife will also raise her eyebrows, but then she will step in closer and whisper (just in case anyone might hear), “Tell me more. I’m not sure I can do it, but I would really like to try.”
A Transformed Mind
I relate to both of those women. This summer, my husband Cliff and I will celebrate 16 years of life together. For the large majority of that time, I wanted nothing to do with “that submission thing.” Those verses in the New Testament where Paul talks about wives submitting to their husbands – some seriously out of date ideas, right? As an independent, strong woman, I had no desire to be a second fiddle, even to someone as caring and sweet as my Cliff.
We were partners, we did life 50/50, there was no need for this Follow the Leader marriage stuff. Besides, Cliff and I both recognized how different our personalities were – mine, Type A, his, Type B. God gave me leadership abilities so didn’t that also include my marriage?
These were the kind of thoughts I lived by until just a few years ago, when God really started to pull me deeper into not just reading His Word, but studying His Word. No longer was I just skimming – I hungrily wanted to apply it. I deeply desired to do what Romans 12:2 talks about – I didn’t want to conform to what the world says is right, but I flat out wanted to see my life transformed by God renewing, or changing, my mind to think His thoughts instead of being content with just my own. To see His plan over mine. To follow through with His will instead of giving into my choices and my wants. My marriage seemed to be where He wanted to start first.
After going through a year of applying some of the principles we find in Proverbs 31, and learning some life-changing lessons that changed my marriage and our family life in powerful ways, I knew it was time to face that word I’d ignored for so long.
Ephesians 5:22 reads, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord…” I like how the Message translation words it – “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.”
Of course, this isn’t easy. This isn’t a natural action for most of us – to put someone else first, or to consider his or her feelings or thoughts before our own. Not consistently. Not constantly. Maybe if we’re having a good day. Until we’re not.
Culture doesn’t help. To someone who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord, or view the Bible as an authority, this concept sounds ridiculous. Even in our churches, we hesitate to bring the subject up – this isn’t exactly the topic of discussion most want to bring up in your small groups on Sunday mornings. Even pastors who are brave enough to preach about it from the pulpit can spend weeks afterwards recovering from the emails, letters and angry conversations their congregants or parishioners corner them with in the halls between services. How chauvinistic. How anti-woman. Right?
But biblical submission is talked about in the Bible and I believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and can be used, as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 points out, to teach us and correct us and inspire us for righteousness. So surely, there’s a lesson, an important truth we need to know and put into practice when it comes to biblical submission.
That’s what led me to the “experiment.” I call it an experiment because that word seems a little less permanent. What I found during that year were some pretty amazing changes in my life and ultimately in my marriage, and the biggest surprise of all were the changes that occurred in my husband –and not just in me.
Early on during that year, I realized my husband had questions and uncertainties about his role as a husband and a dad just as I did with being a wife and mom – I was just more vocal about it. (Yes, that’s the nice way of putting it.) Just like me, there were things he still needed to learn, but quite often, I made it all about me (except for the times I was pointing out what he wasn’t doing that I wished he would).
Some things needed to change if we were to apply biblical submission to our marriage. I began intentionally stepping back from always having the first opinion, or always being the first one to make a decision. I waited (not always an easy thing to do). I showed (most of the time) some patience as he might think over a decision we needed to make, and I resisted the urge to decide on my timetable instead of his. I asked more questions instead of rushing to decide something. I looked for ways to be a helper to him instead of a hounder – as in hounding him to do, say and be what I thought he should.
What I noticed after a little while of doing this is that we made better decisions together, and we were often more on the same page than not. We weren’t making decisions where one person had a very definite opinion (usually me) and the other person just went along (usually him). We talked more things out and came to common resolutions more often.
For his part, Cliff began actively leading our family more. He didn’t just leave things to me that he didn’t want to do. He also listened to my opinions more carefully, weighing them with his to make more informed and hopefully better decisions. I think he felt a lot more freedom to do that when I stepped back and wasn’t so eager to be the one to call the shots.
Love His Way
Biblical submission isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible. It’s not an overnight event. First and foremost, it starts with a willingness to obey God. Romans 8:28 has been my life verse for many, many years and can also apply to marriage. “And we know, that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” When I show love towards my husband as an act of love towards my Heavenly Father, I know He works for my good. When I show love towards my husband the way God shows love towards me, I love His way.
If you’re a wife, struggling to figure out what biblical submission looks like, don’t start with your husband. Start with your submission to God first. And if you’re a husband, wishing your wife would be more submissive? Don’t start with your wife. Start with your own obedience to God. There is an incredibly strong connection between the two.
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