Submit to My Husband? Seriously?

One of my kids left something of importance at a school building last week.

As he relayed to me how he had called the office and asked a lady who worked there if she would look for it for him, I noted that he had been a bit clinical in his request. He was direct, polite, but not super-personal. He had, however, taken responsibility for finding the item.

“I appreciate how you’ve taken responsibility for retrieving it,” I praised.

“I feel awful that I left it, just a stupid thing,” he replied.

“I know. Things like that happen. Thanks for manning up,” I said.

He smiled.

“Question?” I inquired.

“Sure,” his eyebrows rose.

“I’m not saying she won’t but, why would she help you?” I asked.

“Um, cuz it’s her job?” he replied, puzzled.

“It may or may not be on the list,” I said. “You don’t even attend the school.”

“Um, I dunno,” he replied.

“What could have motivated her to help you?” I asked him, waiting.

Pause.

“Oh! I didn’t make her feel valuable. I treated her like it was just a task to complete,” he said.

Lightbulbs.

I added, “And apologizing for the inconvenience, sharing your story and how you are trying to solve the problem and really need her help, yes, all those things could have communicated to her that you see her as an important person, someone who is a key person in being able to solve this problem, someone of worth… Which, by the way, she absolutely IS, simply because God made her.”

“Yes. I’ll call back later. I need to get her name, too. I didn’t do that, either.”

More lightbulbs.

Some would call this, “manipulation.”

Others would label it, “good human relationship skills.”

Still others, (and this is the camp in which we hope to continually fall with our hearts in the right place) call it, “Love.”

I’ve heard it said that a true measure of a man is not how he treats those above him, because anyone can be kind to those of importance, but rather how he treats those “beneath” him.

Proverbs 13:2 reads, “From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence.” (emphasis mine)

If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Proverbs 12:14 reads, “From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things, as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.”

Proverbs 12:16 says, “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.”

What fruit is flowing from your lips these days? Are you building others up, or causing strife? Are you foolishly calling attention to people’s mistakes? Or are you practicing 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which reads, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,” and spurring others on in the way they should go? Honestly, if we check with the behavioral psychologists, they will remind us that the criticism and constant pointing out of mistakes and failures SELDOM breeds the behaviors we desire, but if we encourage and pay attention to what we want more of, then THOSE things are repeated. Yes, we have free will, yes, we are more clever beings than dolphins, but through Daughters of Sarah®, The Respect Dare, and our own lives, we see time and time again what works in relationships…and it is positive, relationship-building love and respect, based on Biblical truth.

If you don’t have much time today, you might want to stop here. Things kind of took on a life of their own today and I spewed out over 2000 words, which is a lot for a blog post. Dare you to keep going, however. J

Anyway…

Some would label me a “doormat” because I actively subscribe to what the Bible says to wives: submit to husbands, and respect them unconditionally. Others would label me as “complementarian.” I don’t like that label, either, as in some circles, it has come to bring a list of behaviors and rules to turn today’s wife into “shadow” of her husband, but that also is not Biblical. Rules that very thinly define the roles of wife and mom, ignoring some of women in the Bible. I know over the last 20 years, in the beginning stages to first third of our marriage, I have been what still others call, “egalitarian,” and a “feminist,” and have ranged from one who “has equal control and equal power,” to “being in charge,” in my marriage and everything in between. I will tell you that those last two labels caused a lot of conflict.

I am thankful I am no longer trying to figure out my role in my home and marriage.

But that doesn’t make me a doormat, either. Nor does it mean I have no voice. As a matter of fact, I have greater influence now, and my husband trusts me as his best friend, more so than ever before because he knows I respect him. Not as head-knowledge, but via experience. The intimacy, influence, and relationship as partners in life that we wives deeply desire is fully there for us – if we’ll just trust God and His Word and obey it, even when we don’t fully understand it.

How do we know God created this hierarchy in marriage? The Genesis account (links and deeper explanation below) explains this:

  1. God designed man first
  2. Then God designed Eve from Adam’s rib, instead of from the dust like the other living creatures and Adam
  3. God held Adam accountable for the sin committed, not Eve
  4. God specifically tells us that we will desire to control our husbands (going back to the original language) and that this is a bad thing
  5. God specifically tells us that our husbands will “rule over” us

Some men take “rule over” us as an edict to become dictatorial, hard, directive leaders. That creates problems for Christianity and our families. Some husbands, however, understand what servant leadership is. Whether our husbands understand their roles or not, it shouldn’t affect our freedoms and responsibilities as wives who follow Christ. We like to excuse ourselves from obedience to God’s Word sometimes, don’t we? More on the
freedom Christ brought to women here
, in case you are interested.

Been there. Done that.

If you want to know more about this hierarchy and more about the Scriptures behind it, you can read more here.

God created hierarchy in marriage, because that is how He created organizations to work, even His own, and He knows that. It has nothing to do with greater or less worth. Do you know any companies with two CEO’s? Any governments with two presidents? Teams with two head coaches? Come on – that’s how you spell “power struggle.” Organizations need hierarchy. Even God the Father, Son, and Spirit are under God the Father’s authority. It is patriarchy (another label), but it’s not a bad thing, unless we decide our earthly experience define and trump Biblical truth (and just because we have had bad experiences, doesn’t mean that the Bible isn’t true – it means we’ve had bad experiences with other sinners). The best corporations have leaders that serve their people and their organization. Marriage isn’t any different. It’s not about power and fame, it’s about serving, whether you are the husband or the wife.

What bothers the modern Christian wife is simply this: we are afraid of submission because we 1) define it secularly without recognition of God’s ideal of servant leadership, and 2) mistakenly think it takes away something from us. I know this from personal experience and from the hundreds of wives we have talked with about loving their husbands and communicating respect. I also, being further along in my walk than I was when I was a “feminist” and then an “egalitarian,” know that it simply works. And it is not something to be threatened by or afraid of. And yes, it took me a while to figure it out – like nearly ten years – but now, it’s honestly a non-issue.

One of the enemy’s biggest lies is that wives should not submit to their husbands. And before you get your knickers in a knot, I know Ephesians 5:21 communicates that we are to submit to each other – but we only get to that place in our marriage when our husband feels respected by us. When we can get to a place in our walk with God where we allow our husband to be our brother on the journey, then we have an amazing relationship. But clearly, if he constantly feels like he’s threatened instead of cheered and supported, he’s going to react the same way we do when we feel threatened and unsupported instead of cheered. It’s just tough to get there and it takes time. The “dictatorial” husbands (another label – often falling in the “complementarian” camp) also make this a scary place for women to go. But go there they do, and we stand back in amazement at what God does as they submit to Him, and start treating their husbands with respect. In this day and age of rampant divorce, someone has to stand in the gap to figure this out and help our children understand, otherwise they get swept into believing these types of things about putting themselves on the throne, like Ilusion Millan, wife of Cesar Millan did.

What about you?

Who would you submit to?

Would you submit to Christ? To God?

Or do you expect others to submit to you?

Are you secretly or subconsciously defining “self-worth” as “power” and therefore fighting against what God could create in your family…? And meanwhile are you failing to recognize that the pursuit of “power” is also a response to “pride?”

If God put your husband as the “head” of your family, holding him accountable, holding him responsible, would you submit to him? Would you do your best to encourage and support? Or would you only submit to the authorities in your company, or your city, or your township? If a police officer told you to get out of your car, would you submit to him or her?

What if God asked you to lay down your life for your child or a friend?

Would you do that?

Would you allow a bunch of liars and hypocrites to beat you and hang you on a cross if your Father asked you to submit to that?

What if He asked you to do it for a bunch of sinners, like you and me? J

Doesn’t it seem like a significantly lesser deal to let your husband have his way over yours if the two of you can’t come to an agreement or work out a win/win, which is the ending place of a “submissive” wife?

“Submit” as used in the Bible for wives, is a military term. It applies in marriage when the two cannot work through an agreeable solution to a conflict or difference of opinion – when that happens, the husband’s vote is the one embraced and followed.

I can count on one hand, in over 20 years of marriage how many times I’ve had to do what is considered formally, Biblically, “submit” to my husband over something BIG. We usually work out solutions that incorporate both of our ideas, or land upon entirely different solutions all together.

I will also tell you that I “submitted” (at the time, it was known as, “just didn’t disagree with him”) on a number of small things, just to communicate to him that I respected him. It took me a while to see that God could change my marriage if I stopped needing to control everything. Often this control presented itself as “disagreement,” and I was argumentative. Stopping this had a huge impact. It sped up the process of creating a more trusting environment for him, and I honestly didn’t care which hamburger place we had dinner at. The Truth is, that I needed to also learn to not be a disagreeable person at an even higher level. If the only ideas that matter are yours, well, you’ll struggle more with these things. If you have to have your way and be right all the time, and if you don’t define yourself by how the Father sees you, but instead by having people obey you or only care about your ideas, then you will struggle more, too. At least that’s what the wives have told us.

And do you really want to lead when you dance? Or figure out how both of you can do it at the same time? It doesn’t work.

Those of you who have read The Respect Dare are familiar with the story about submission where the mom and the dad were discussing sending their son to Scout camp. The mom was actually me. You know the surprise of what God did because I chose to give in to Jim on a decision where I absolutely wanted the opposite choice made.

I was wrong.

What’s cool in marriage, however, and I am going to say I don’t accept any label for my marriage or my position (only because I see most people who spend their time arguing about these things are trying to find and define more rules to follow, when Christ came to give us life abundant, not more rules), is what works. And what works, as far as I’m concerned, is defined as “God’s Best,” and is spelled out in the Bible and seen when both people are moving forward in their relationship with Him, such that they glorify Him.

It’s not about power. It’s about responsibility for the husband. That makes a difference. Some husbands get that right.

And yes, it’s true, some don’t.

But that doesn’t change God’s Word.

Or at least, it shouldn’t.

I will also add that I have never personally experienced any kind of discrimination in the workplace, even though many of the people at my level and above were men. There were women in our company who were not treated as well – with one exception; they were difficult to deal with. There might be a correlation. Or perhaps I just worked for really great companies.

We can label, refute, argue, and instigate, but the bottom line is simply this: if we treat others with respect as the precious beings they are to God, most often, we will earn their respect as well and be able to work out win/win/win in relationships, whether they are corporate, church, or family. In a world where I see women openly criticizing, threatening, complaining, whining, demanding, nagging, berating, and arguing to get their points across regardless of the context of work, church, or family, I remind us all that the Proverbs 31 woman (who was also a business woman in charge of servants) lived centuries ago doing this well. Her children called her blessed. Her husband was praised at the city gates. She was highly regarded. And I’ve worked in two large corporations and several small businesses and not experienced discrimination (and have a number of loving, gentle, strong women as friends who have had similar experiences) – simply because applied Biblical truth works. I have experience that demonstrates this applies in a church setting, as well, but today we are focused on marriage and family relationships, so let’s not start that discussion!

Dare you today to refuse to be labeled, and spend more time actively pursuing a relationship with God. Double dog dare you to stay out of frivolous arguments. Triple dog dare you to let other believers find their own way, instead of causing division over issues that aren’t matters of salvation. J

Sometimes I wish we Christians would present more Light to the unsaved if we’d stop having all these discussions with each other (and unfortunately doing them badly – I don’t think I’d mind if we were all more loving in how we talked about things we disagree upon) and focused more on reaching the lost.

Okay, one more – Dare you to ask God to show you what LOVE looks like in the moment to moment interactions of your day, and maybe, just maybe, wonder if maybe there’s no need to “fight for rights,” if we simply treat others with Love. J Dare you to persevere while the people around you figure out their walk in the wake of yours! J

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Glad you are all on the journey with me. It’s more fun! J

Love to you,

~Nina

Comments

  1. katys9blessings says

    Another aspect for me is a very simple lesson I am learning through work – my job at Chick-fil-A. For those not familiar with this restaurant it is hard to explain but the goal for our company is to make the customer feel as if they matter. If a customer thanks me for doing something, I respond “my pleasure”. The reality is, I work in a fast-food establishment, my job description is to meet the needs of my customer, when they are polite and actually thank me for doing my job, I don’t want to respond with “you’re welcome”, I don’t want my response to be a “trained” acknowledgement of their thanks, I do want them to know that I enjoyed being of service to them today. So my own personal challenge has been to bring that home to my husband and family. It is in my (and not necessarily true for any other women) job description to do things like cook dinner and keep the laundry taken care of … I do it because I love my family and I enjoy being of service to them in these areas …. BUT is it my pleasure? That is where these words hit me today. Because if my heart can truly respond to my family saying thanks with “my pleasure”, then I must take it to the next level of respect for my husband and choose to keep silent at times, submit to his plans and expectations at times and to do so with the heart of “my pleasure”. THAT is hard to do. That is the dare that I am walking away with today.

  2. says

    Lots of food for thought today. I want to respond to so many different areas but I may run out of time ….. The very first thing that came to mind for ME is the alternative to not being submissive: either a miserable marriage or divorce. Since I have lived through both of those things and am now blessed with (though still learning each moment) a Godly marriage, I can truly see how being submissive in LOVE makes such a difference.
    The following was taken from my divorce decree: “In the event the parties do not otherwise agree, then the following schedule shall control the exercise of the parties’ parenting time with the children.” And there-in I am required to submit to the judge – some man (or woman) who knows nothing about my family, set up some agreement (that this world seems to think is best) and if I choose not to submit, I could lose parenting time with my OWN children. Seems to me that it would have been a lot easier to be a submissive wife …. and even now, my reality is that being a submissive ex-wife WINS every.single.time !!! In the last 6 months I have chosen to listen closely to my ex-husband when he requests a visitation change, I have chosen to not judge his reasons, I have chosen to take a time-out to think and pray about my response, I have given in to his requests even when it has caused me to change my own plans. More than that, I am following the example of my own husband, my Knight, as he responds to his ex-wife. I questioned him, out of my own anger at my plans being change, about a decision he made regarding his ex-wife and his response … “She said it would be easier for her. When people say that to me I choose to go above and beyond to meet their needs. Why would I treat her different?” That brought an immediate apology from me to my husband and echos loudly in my heart whenever I hear … it would be easier for me …
    BECAUSE God has convicted me about respect and given me tools to understand and allow Him to change me, submission is becoming more of my “nature”, which truly should already be Christ-like. No more hammer and nails for me, praise God.