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Thursday, December 31, 2009
A surrendered marriage is one in which, by mutual consent, a couple agrees to live out the principles of the bridal paradigm by working together to make their marriage a reflection of the love relationship between Jesus, our heavenly bridegroom, and the church, his bride. A marriage founded on the bridal paradigm is a journey toward deeper intimacy and increased passion, along with greater freedom and trust.

It is important for me to emphasize first of all that the highest goal for any man or woman is to find and fulfill their destiny in Christ. Along that line, every couple should embrace and pursue this goal as a shared priority, even above the goal of a stronger marriage. Ultimately, your marriage journey is one that should strengthen your life in God and draw you to a more intimate relationship with your ultimate bridegroom, Jesus.

It is also essential to understand that the bridal paradigm is a series of truths in tension; that the principles of a surrendered marriage must be considered as part of an entire paradigm. As easy and tempting as it might be to isolate on one statement or principle, it is also dangerous. For example, if all you consider is the submission part of what is taught in Ephesians 5 (see below), it’s easy to draw the completely wrong conclusion that women are to be subjugated by and subservient to men. Likewise if you only see what that chapter says about a husband being the head of his wife, without understanding what that looks like, you fail to see that the model for leadership is Jesus laying down his life for his bride.

It is with specific purpose that I describe the pursuit of a surrendered marriage as a journey. It is indeed a lifelong journey to a deeper understanding of God’s design for marriage as revealed in the bridal paradigm. In many ways this journey is not unlike your spiritual journey in your relationship with Christ. Surely your understanding will grow and mature as your experiences inform your beliefs and perspective. Don’t expect to get it all at once. I know we’ve been on this journey many years and still have much to learn.

At the same time, however, what you believe about your marriage is also important. I use the term paradigm on purpose as well, because for many it will involve a pretty major shift in your thinking, perhaps even a radical transformation in how you view your marriage and your roles in it. A surrendered marriage is not so much about doing the right things as it is about thinking in the right way. I like to say that it is right thinking that leads to right doing. At the same time, sometimes simply choosing to do the right thing will bear fruit in your understanding. Still, attempting to simply go through the proper motions will be unsustainable unless it is eventually accompanied by the right understanding of what it means to live a biblically surrendered marriage.

The bridal paradigm points us toward a surrendered marriage that is absolutely a partnership, one in which the man and woman are of equal value, but where each has a different role. He loves, leads and serves her. She and loves, honors and submits to him. Let me be emphatically clear on this point: it’s not about who is more and who is less, who is better or worse, smarter or dumber, stronger or weaker. It’s about having a God-ordained order in place in your marriage that reflects His design, as portrayed for us in the bridal paradigm of Jesus and the church.

According to the bridal paradigm, a surrendered marriage means a husband is the head of his home (“as Christ is head of the church” Eph 5:22) and therefore the one who provides physical, spiritual and relational covering for his wife, and correspondingly, his family. His sacrificial surrender means looking out for her interests and seeing to her needs and desires, even above his own. It means that the husband’s priority is to cherish, nurture, protect and lead his wife in a selfless and loving manner (”as Christ loved the church”), leading with strength and integrity. It means balancing authority with absolute love and acting with genuine servant leadership. Ultimately, it means doing everything in his power to see that she reaches her full potential in Christ.

In response to such a love, a wife gives her husband the gift of her submission (“as the church submits to Christ” Eph5:24), choosing to place herself under his loving leadership, and trusting him to care for and protect her as Jesus does. She honors him by surrendering herself to him, not because she is incapable of caring for herself, but because she chooses to live in an ordered partnership with her husband that is free of the struggle for control and power. The wife makes it a priority to support, respect, and submit to her husband, remaining under his covering being attentive to his needs and desires, just as he is to hers. Ultimately, it means aligning herself with him in way that encourages him to reach his full potential in Christ.

A bridal paradigm marriage is not a power sharing arrangement. Rather, it is a power exchange relationship. The husband’s power is given in the form of the sacrificial and selfless way he loves and leads his wife. The wife’s power is given in the form of loving submission to her husband. The beauty of the bridal paradigm lies in what it calls you to give rather than what it permits you to demand. Asserting your “rights” has no place in the bridal paradigm because by design it is uncalled for. In fact, demanding that your partner adhere to their side of the bargain runs in opposition to the bridal paradigm itself.

This is an exciting and fruitful journey. Regardless of where you marriage is right now, I encourage you to explore this fascinating land of a surrendered marriage.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- for we are members of his body.  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:22-33


Rosemary said...

This article so speaks to my spirit and what I believe the Lord has shown me about the roles of husbands and wives in marriage. I can't articulate fully what it means to me to hear a man so in tune with the Holy Ghost and his wife that he actually hears from God,considers what is said and strives be a husband a wife CAN submit to freely. This is so rare and almost unheard of marriages I am aware of. Bless you and thank you.

Strong Man said...

Very good analysis of the Biblical ideal. I don't think I could have described it any better.

A husband whose wife has voluntarily given herself in this kind of arrangement feels no need to force his will on his family--he feels a desire to reach out in love and listen to her goals and hopes and dreams and help her fulfill them.

What a blessing to see another good man writing about these issues, and encouraging other men to "Man Up" and become the kind of people that are inspiring and interesting for others to follow.

Heather B said...

Yes! Amen! You hit the nail on the head. I just finished reading a great brand new book that aligns with this perfectly! It's called "The Wholehearted Wife: 10 Keys to a More Loving Relationship," by Erin, Greg and Gary Smalley. It is centered on changing ME and aligning myself with God and what he wants from me as a wife. Biblical, inspirational, affirming. One of my favorite quotes is, "When we turn to God for help, he fills us with his love and enables us to see ourselves and our husbands through his eyes. Keep in mind that a wholehearted wife focuses first on her own heart!" I highly recommend it!

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