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Saturday, February 25, 2012
Don’t worry, this post is not about what my somewhat sensational tongue-in-cheek title implies.

However, the S and F words I will be discussing might incite an even stronger reaction than their four-letter-word counterparts. I’m talking about submission and freedom. I’m following up from my last post, A Picture of Submission, where I talked about the many wrong pictures we have of what submission looks like.

Today, I want to dispel one other erroneous, yet pervasive notion about submission. That wrongful notion is that marital submission is somehow akin to enslavement. In fact, I argue that the opposite is true: submission actually brings freedom and power.

Don’t buy it? Read on!

Rick Warren, in a post on his Purpose Drive Blog, says this,
This is true worship: bringing pleasure to God as we give ourselves completely to him.
Of course a wife who lives in submission to her husband is not “worshiping” him, but we do know that her submission in marriage is to mirror her submission to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). In fact, a wife gives her husband pleasure by giving herself completely to him.

But what does she get out of the bargain?

Freedom in Surrender?

In giving ourselves fully to God, we enjoy the freedom and power that He offers us in exchange.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

The martial parallel of this verse means that when a wife gives herself fully to her husband, as to the Lord, she no longer has to strive to earn his love or fight against his leadership. She knows that she already has his love! All that he has is hers also. So, instead of striving to get his love and acceptance she finds joy from doing things for her husband out of his love and for his pleasure. This is a huge paradigm shift for many.

Submission to the Lord also makes us free to enjoy unbounded intimacy with him. God’s love and grace free us from shame and guilt, so that we have the freedom to come to him boldly and confidently:

In him and through faith in him [Jesus] we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Ephesians 3:12
So too, a wife who yields herself to her husband has the freedom to be naked and unashamed with him. I’m talking about the freedom to be who she really is: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically – naked yet without any fear or shame before him.

The truth is that a wife will often feel the need to control her husband as a result of fear or shame: fear that she won’t get what she wants or feels entitled to, fear that she won’t be loved and cared for as she desires, driven by shame over her own self-hatred or perceived flaws. The truth is that trying to control other people or manipulate your circumstances makes you a slave to your fears.

Submission, on the other hand, releases you from the need to control, from the natural tendency self-protect and self-promote, and the desire to hide your weaknesses. Submission gives you freedom and peace in a way little else can. As you allow yourself to fall completely into the arms of your husband, you are free to enjoy the blissful  peace that his love and protection provide.

Freedom is Not License

Now let me pause here to remind you that there is a dramatic difference between freedom and license. The freedom that comes from submission does not imply the license to do what you please, how you please, when you please. For more on this, see my post, “Liberty and License in Marriage.”

Who Has the Power?

The other distortion that goes along with the “submission = enslavement” notion is that the wife loses all her power: the power to make her own decisions, the power to be who she is and find fulfillment, the power to reach her destiny.

First of all, let me point out that because biblical submission can only come by choice, as a freely given gift, the power ultimately lays with the wife. It is hers to decide.

Second, I see the marriage relationship as one where power is exchanged rather than shared. Rather than trying to split it all down the middle, 50-50, each should give 100% of themselves to the other. When you both have the understanding that "All I have and all that I am is yours," the question of who has the power becomes moot.

Don’t confuse power and authority. I believe a husband has a God-given place of authority in marriage, but the power that comes with that authority is to be used to serve and bless his wife. Ultimately, he does all in his power to see her fulfilled and to see her reach her destiny in God.

There is also great power in submission, but it is power of a different form. Rather than the direct power that comes from authority, it’s the power of ravishing your husband’s heart. It’s the power of deep and abiding intimacy. It’s the power of propelling your marriage to new heights and of helping to propel your husband into his own destiny in God.

In truth, in submission you are exchanging perceived power for real power. You give up the power to control your husband, which you don’t really have anyway, and you gain the power to capture his heart completely.

You give up the power to live independently from your husband, which you gave up when you decided to marry him anyway, and you gain the power to that comes from joining yourself intimately to him in every way.

There are other exchanges of power to be found in submission, but hopefully you get the idea. When you cede elements of your power to your husband, you get back an altogether different and better kind of power – real power.

What is your own experience with discovering the freedom and power of submission?


Colleen Coombs said...

I don't fully agree with this "when a wife gives herself fully to her husband, as to the Lord, she no longer has to strive to earn his love or fight against his leadership. She knows that she already has his love!"
I think that as wives, we need to give ourselves to our husbands even when we don't feel secure in their love.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post Scott, I especially like your comment about the exchange of powers!! What a terrific insight and so true!!

John Colyer II said...

I can kind of see where you are with that but, for me, it's more like yours is the BEFORE and his is the AFTER. He's not saying wives have to wait until they feel secure, to give themselves fully. Instead, when they DO give themselves, they realize the peace and strength of their husband's love. From that point, they won't have to wonder if their husband will protect them, make good choices, support them, comfort them, etc.
By giving themselves fully, the door is opened for their husbands to respond in turn. They then see that their wives will honor them, lean on them, allow them to be the man that the Lord has called them to be. They can give themselves completely to their wives.
It really is a two-way street, and neither one should be waiting for the other. That said, it's just our nature whether man or woman -when one jumps in, the other will follow. That's why Peter tells us...

"In a similar way, you wives must submit yourselves to your husbands so that, even if some of them refuse to obey the word, they may be won over without a word through your conduct as wives, when they see your pure and reverent lives."

Bottom line... don't wait.

John Colyer II said...

That was for Colleen, by the way...

Anonymous said...

1. To give yourself to another is not the same as submitting in the sense of subordinating to authority. A wife can give herself completely to her husband and he can receive pleasure from that without her being prescribe or willing assuming a subordinate position to him.

2. The Galatians text is not speaking of freedom by submission in marriage, but finding freedom in justification in Christ rather than being a slave to the traditions of the law, specifically circumcision. From what I see, there is no parallel or application of this text re: marriage.

3. A wife, and a husband for that matter, can give her or himself to their spouse completely, and, yet, have no guarantee he or she will be loved in return.

4. The desire to control another is far from the exclusive domain of women. Men, too, try to control or manipulate circumstances making themselves a slave to their fears.

4. It would be helpful to me if you defined your terms, specifically: submission, authority, power. For example, the dictionary has authority as a potential definition of power. It appears as though you at times are using them synonymously and then other times not. What exactly is this "power that lays with the wife", this "power of a different form" that is exchanged with the husband's? She gives him her power in exchange for his? Can you help me understand better what that means?


Anonymous said...

Wrong numbering is what happens when the post moves up the comment box, and I didn't remember the previous bullet number. The last "4", obviously, should be "5".


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