Wife, SUBMIT! Seriously?

Republican Steve Pearce (R-NM) has written a memoir entitled, “Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!” that has stirred up a ton of controversy. Guess what he talks about in one of the chapters?

Submission.

As in wife-to-husband style submission.

The Washington Post reported on January 22, 2014, that Peace writes, citing the Bible, “The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.” He also states, “The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice.”

The media is eating this guy for lunch. Not surprisingly, the book talks about the struggles he and his wife had with the concept. The articles leave that part out, of course. Gotta make headlines and get those ad dollars! And of course, it helps if the GOP gets blamed for not understanding women’s issues or how to speak to women.  And given that it’s a man saying this, I can understand.

But why all the fuss?

Because people don’t understand what it means. Even Christians can’t talk about this topic well, and that probably includes me.

I feel led to try, however, so how about an example that might help?

Let’s say your husband is allergic to peanuts and doesn’t know it.  Let’s also say that you LOVE peanuts. So much so that you even wear peanut perfume.  (I know this is a bit ridiculous, no one actually does that, but play with me for a moment…) You eat peanut butter for breakfast daily, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Trouble is, when you talk to your husband, when you get close to him, he has a reaction.  He starts itching. He starts sneezing, he can’t hear what you are saying because of the peanuts setting something off within him, something neither of you know is there.

peanut butter sandwich

Submission is the removal of the peanuts – it’s the end of the harsh start up in conversations, the accusatory approach, the argumentative attitude, the contentious demeanor, the competitive approach, etc., to interaction – which btw, seems to be relatively common to those with a chip on their shoulder – so if you are anti-submission, it might be some of the cause of a bunch of defensiveness and arguments in your marriage.  At least that’s what we’ve heard from women who have done The Respect Dare book. Submission is respect for the position of accountability that your husband has to God for your family.

In just two words, submission = RESPECT COMMUNICATED.

It’s deference in the midst of a difference of opinion that occurs when two people can’t agree. It’s a willingness on the wife’s part to align herself with her husband’s decision, after the two of them have talked through options in a situation where they disagree.

But it isn’t absence of voice, lack of opinion, or being a doormat.

And I can count on one hand the number of times I formally “submitted” to my husband. For those of us who finally “get it,” it is simply not an issue. When a Christian couple can’t agree, the wife can put her trust in God, and pray for her husband and the outcome. I’ve learned through doing this that I can be wrong (gasp! yes, can we please all not be so arrogant?) and that my husband will sometimes make mistakes. I can hold a grudge and try harder to control the next time, or I can let God do His thing with him.

Sometimes I think those who don’t understand it have the same perception I used to, that submission equates to some S&M experience or where the wife is really like “hired help,” or a “slave.”  It has nothing to do with anything like that. It’s really just being wise in how you communicate, and realizing that God holds your husband accountable for the family. Check Genesis 3 if you don’t believe me.

But if you don’t believe the Bible is true, then it really doesn’t matter to you what I, or anyone else has to say about it. I happen to believe that the Bible IS true, and that it is a living document, one that along with relationship with Jesus Christ, can speak into any moment of a given day. But that’s another story.

The other thing people don’t understand is that a wife can confront her husband’s sin against her – and that’s not being non-submissive. She’s an equal heir in God’s eyes, and her husband is her brother, so if he sins against her or the kids, he should probably be confronted Matthew 18-style.  The point is, she’s not a doormat and she’s not invisible.

Frankly, any husband that lords authority over his wife should probably be confronted for being harsh with her, as that is sin on his part. Submission isn’t something we’re forced to do – it’s a willing choice we make. And one few people understand.

A Christian wife is her husband’s equal. And you should know God doesn’t even want to hear her husband’s prayers if he’s not treating her with understanding and respect. Check 1 Peter 3:7.

A Christian wife shares her thoughts with her husband because she knows her thoughts are important.  She understands her unique perspectives are crucial to the success of the family.

A Christian wife shares her opinions with her husband and disagrees with him in a respectful way.  Don’t get riled up over that comment, either. We should disagree respectfully with anyone, just because it is the right thing to do.  Unless, of course, we think it is somehow better to be a disrespectful person. The wise wife knows God put her on the planet for a ton of reasons, but since she chose marriage and since she’s a follower of Christ, she also knows she is to help her husband.

So when he’s interacting with the kids in an unhealthy way, she’ll respectfully pull him aside and ask him if everything is okay, gently listen to him, encourage him, and if he is open, offer up a different approach in an effort to help him. Note also that this is different than trying to control her husband. If he chooses to ignore her, that’s his choice. If she’s a woman of strength and dignity, however, it is more likely he will listen to her. Having said that, however, know there are those men out there who will not listen to anyone, and men who have issues listening to women in any circumstance. Let’s please acknowledge that there are women out there who feel the same about taking direction from a man. There are also women out there who are so immature in their communication behaviors that they believe they either need to shove their opinions down others’ throats, or talk so much no one can figure out what’s important.  I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. Know I used to be both of those types of women. All that to say there are other factors to consider. And yes, it is true that the church is imperfect and has messed up the understanding of these things, much to her detriment and His reputation.

The truth is out there, however, if we will but embrace it.

Given that the typical (not all, but on average, according to research) male brain is wired to be on the constant lookout for threats, submission avoids creating an environment where the husband perceives his wife as a threat. You can choose not to like it, but women who are wise and mature know how to interact with these men, get their ideas across, and do so in a way that they are received. More on that here.

It’s getting rid of the peanut butter.

And you can whine about how it’s not fair and women shouldn’t have to do things this way, or you can believe that God made men and women differently, and understand the brain research about a female’s wiring for relationship. You can choose to accept this gifting and maximize your potential, or you can choose to wish you and the men you interact with were made differently.  Neither gender is better than the other, but they are different.

And we should also note that there are a few places in the bible that talk about how it is good for a man to find a wife. I don’t recall any saying it’s good for a woman to find a husband. And there’s also a passage in 1 Corinthians 7 that clearly tells us we will have more “troubles” if we marry.

Well, isn’t that the truth!

And for the record, the concept of “mutual submission” which is also talked about in the Ephesians passage, has been seen to apply when both husband and wife are mature in Christ. He’s going to be interested in her opinion. He’ll seriously consider deferring to it. She’s going to be interested in his opinion, and she’ll consider deferring to it. Both are more concerned about getting what God wants than their own agenda met – that takes maturity. There won’t be some big discussion about feeling “less than” because BOTH people in the marriage receive influence from each other, which according to research done by Dr. John Gottman (the guy that can predict with 91% accuracy whether a couple will divorce after spending just 5 minutes with them) receiving influence from our spouse is a super-important ingredient to marriage, regardless of what gender you are.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that the whole Bible is true and applies (instead of arguing with man-made terms such as “complementarian” or “egalitarian” – instead, I believe the entire Bible is true.

And that’s what I have to say about submission today.

Where are you in the journey? Are you still arguing with God about this? Have you wrapped your mind around any of these concepts?

Would love to hear from you today. Hope you’ll subscribe to the blog, as we’re walking through The Respect Dare. Next week is Dare 2!

Love to you,

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Comments

  1. says

    How do you draw the distinction between respectful submission and keeping my mouth shut or speaking truth and not “winking at sin”. Example, husband lies a about the amount spent on golf clubs and then later prays aloud that God will deliver us from a financial shortcoming. He does not see the direct correlation between his spending and the shortfall. When I point it out, I get screamed and cursed at as an unsubmissive nag. What should I have done differently? And does it matter that I am the sole breadwinner-meaning, am I not accountable for how money is spent or is that his job as Head of House?

    • Nina Roesner says

      K8 -
      Glad you are here! And I’m sorry for what you are going through – it IS hard when financial situations are not what we would want, and when we feel alone in them.

      To answer your question, I don’t know how you brought up the question about the golf clubs, but however it happened, it sounds like it made him defensive and he reacted that way. Is it possible your approach was critical and unloving? You are not responsible for his outburst, however, nor the name-calling, but we can set up an environment where we cause less defensiveness. Here’s a couple of thoughts, and again, please keep in mind that I don’t know the specifics of your situation.

      Does it matter that you are the sole breadwinner? No. Both of you should be on the same page about how the money is spent, regardless of who earns it. Your husband is held accountable for his family and how they glorified God according to the bible (Genesis 3). If your church offers a Dave Ramsey class, might I suggest you take it together?

      Regarding the distinction between “submission” – “keeping my mouth shut” or “speaking/not speaking truth” there are a few things to consider. First, submission doesn’t mean you have to keep your mouth shut. It means if the two of you disagree, you go with what he says, AFTER you’ve discussed the issues. You are on the planet for a number of reasons, but in marriage, you are to be helpful to your husband, so you need to offer an opinion about the things that matter. And when he sins against you, God will either tell you to “overlook an insult” (turn the other cheek style), or to confront his sin (Matthew 18) and so you need to have a deep relationship with God to know what He would have you do in any given moment.

      What I wonder is whether you are bitter (and I can understand it if you are) and resentful about your circumstances. If that is the state of your heart, consider working on what you can impact, which is your relationship with the Father, and your own heart. God means all of these things for good – I have found that in my most ugly, angry moments, even if they were justifiable by someone else’s actions, that God’s had just as much learning for me in the middle of it all, as He has for the person doing the injuring.

      You might also benefit from this, as there’s some tangible ways to approach in a non-defensive way.

      It’s also important to give people a good reputation to live up to, to treat them with honor. In other words, how we approach others is important. So if I were to confront my husband about a discrepancy between what he told me he spent on something and what the Visa bill said, I would likely just walk over to him and say, “I might be wrong here, but I thought you told me you spent $abc for the golf clubs – and we got charged $xyz. Is that right?” And see what he says. If he insists he paid $abc for it, ask for the receipt and then see what he says. If he insists that it’s right but he doesn’t have the receipt, I’d bring him a phone and ask him to call the credit card company and deal with it, and I’d do so by saying, “Since you are more familiar with the transaction, can you track it down with the store and the card company? I need to make payment by tomorrow, so if you could just take 15 minutes and deal with it now, that would be awesome.” If he didn’t want to do it then, I’d say, “That’s fine, no worries. Thanks for handling this. When should I follow up with you about it?” And then I’d let it go until then.

      Anyway, free suggestion. Might be worth what you paid for it, which is nothing. :) At any rate, I’m praying for you and glad you are on the journey with us!

      Love to you,
      ~Nina

      • says

        Nina,

        Thanks and you are righ-I am embittered and want desperately to work on that. Wish hubby and I had a relationship where we communicated about finances, but we aren’t there yet. Thanks for your prayers!

  2. Sabrina :) says

    Holy Moly, Nina, did this ever speak to me today!

    After commenting I am going to re-read this post. Upon first initial read, though, I have found myself in all the writings about the negative ways we, as women, can be.

    For the last month, I have been changing a lot of my ways! What influence on our surroundings and our husband we, as wife’s, have! It’s powerful! It’s amazing how much change for the better I have already seen in my marriage in just one short month!! I am going for consistency and I believe it will result in me responding more “naturally” the way I should be responding to my husband, because it is the right thing to do for the Lord, rather than how I had programmed myself to respond until now, which was….nasty.

    SO glad to have this resource and suppport from you, Nina, and the community you have established. We need each other, truly, for encouragement. So glad I am here ;)

    Blessings to everyone!

  3. Lisa says

    For years I called myself a slave (in reference to my womanly duties) and my husband and I would fight so very much for leading position in our family he would always tell me how i should behave and respect him – my response would be u don’t have a clue what respect is!! All the while I have been the one who was blind and had no idea what respect was! Thank you so much for opening my eyes and heart. I am truly excited to embark on this journey!! I will live as He intended and obey His word! I have seen a change already and can’t wait for what the future holds for us and our family!
    God is Great!!

  4. Mary Lou says

    What a great analogy that helps explain so well the need for submission. You’ve definitely given me food for thought. I plan to pass this on. Thanks!

    • Nina Roesner says

      La, so glad you are here!

      And the submission isn’t mutual as a directive for husbands because they are held accountable by God for their families. (Check Genesis 3). The submission isn’t mutual also because of how God wired men. See link above. What we’ve seen is submission only shows up as mutual when both are mature and in their relationship with Christ, can behave as brother and sister, if that makes sense. If the wife is aggressive and defensive and harsh in her communication, the husband has the same instructions, as if she was not – that is to love (Eph 5:32-33) and to respect her (1 Pet 3:7).

      The wife has her own relationship with God to work out, and the husband, after he’s demonstrated that he is fulfilling his responsibilities, can confront her if God leads him to do so. Why does God often wait until then? Because of the verses about planks in our own eyes – we need to get ourselves in line, obediently, before we are to deal with someone else’s sin.

      Matthew 18 walks through how important other people are and then what to do when a brother sins against you. Read Matthew 18 and notice that before the confrontation verses, it talks about how precious people are to Him, and after the confrontation verses, it talks about how much forgiveness we should be dishing. :) http://ninaroesner.com/2014/01/24/wife-submit-seriously/

      I wish you well.
      Glad you are here!
      ~Nina

  5. says

    Love this, Nina! I thank God for what you are allowing Him to do in you and through you. :) I pray for His wisdom and direction for your marriage, your life, your faith, your family and your ministry for His greatest glory and to reach many people with the life-giving truth of His Word.

  6. Tami says

    At the risk of being overly simplistic, it boils down to treating your husband the way you would want to be treated. I wouldn’t want to be disrespected, nagged at, etc. etc. so I try my best (don’t always get it right!) to not treat my husband that way.

  7. Cole says

    “There are a few verses that speak on finding a wife is good and no where is there a verse where it’s good for a wife to find a husband”

    Ain’t that the truth!

    But why is that? Why do we have to do him good all our days?

    I would love someone to do me good all my days…

    One thing The Lord has taught me in the last few days is “to the faithful, You show yourself faithful. I won’t expound here in the comment section. It’s powerful to muse over.
    Papa, help me to submit to my husband. To be faithful to your commands to chase after them I trust that you will enlarge my heart. Amen.

What do YOU think about these things today?