Submission & Respect 101… Foundations for Wives (The Respect Dare)
I spent the nearly six years trying to figure out why I was so disappointed with my marriage, all the while still growing in my faith. I was really just filling my head with Biblical knowledge, which is a necessary part of growth, but the relationship aspect of faith and the joy and peace elements were completely missing. There were times when I was angry at my husband, and like many women, sometimes afraid of my husband when he was angry. Mostly I just yearned for deeper connection with him, and the friendship we enjoyed so much before we became husband and wife.
Jim and I joined a small group to study marriage. One night, about two years into our journey together, we had to “rate our marriage” as part of an activity. I kept telling everyone I did not want to participate. They pressed. Finally, I acquiesced. I gave us a “two” out of “ten” with “ten” being “great.” My husband nearly fell out of his chair. Mouths agape, our friends stared. By this time, we had attended a number of marriage conferences, read several books together, taken marriage classes, and studied marriage with our small group. Everyone in the room was surprised, including Jim.
Obviously, I was still miserable, and still did not know why. My head was filled with “if only” thoughts. If only Jim worked fewer hours, if only he bought me flowers, if only he said nice things to me, if only he asked me questions, if only he listened more, if only he told me I was pretty, if only…if only he were more like so-and-so on television or so-and-so’s husband, if only he commented on the positives, if only he appreciate my efforts to maintain my body and looks for him. I constantly focused on the negatives. Completely blinded by selfishness, I judged my husband. I did not even know these thoughts were sinful. I had a “plank in my own eye”  and was blinded by it.
I was also seriously busy judging myself. The “if only” thoughts directed at myself went something like, “If only I were thinner, if only I were a better cook, if only I had better hair, if only I were more adventurous, if only I always had the laundry done, if only I was more like his mother, if only I were better at managing money, if only I were smarter…if only I could be more fit, if only I was prettier, if only I was better in bed…” I thought if I were somehow “better” that Jim would demonstrate his love to me once again.
In addition to the plank of judgment in one eye looking at my husband, my other eye was blinded by judgment toward myself. This was self-condemnation, which is an unhealthy perception of self, originating in pride, desiring the praise and approval of other people.
These thoughts, which unbeknownst to me at the time, rooted in these sins of idolatry, judgment, and condemnation of my husband and myself, resulted in my having a weak relationship with God. I was immature and did not even know it. Since I was seeing actual Christian marriages that were genuinely fulfilling for both people, I was even more frustrated because we did not seem to be living things out.
Another thing I did not know is two couples can look the same on the outside and be completely different on the inside, as in one couple having real fulfillment within Christian marriage when both people are focused on God, compared to another couple who are pretending to be fulfilled, like I had been. I was working on outward appearances – both my own, my husband’s, and the appearance our marriage gave. My idolatry and judgment emerged as criticism. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I was quick to criticize. My husband, also a perfectionist, responded in kind.
As I grew in my knowledge of the Bible, I had mixed feelings. I wavered between being angry at God for telling me to respect and submit to a man who I felt did not love me. I was wrong to assume he did not love me, but it was what I believed. I began to judge my husband even more, based on what I was learning from the Christian studies on marriage we were doing in our small group. The “if onlies” morphed into, “If only he were more of a spiritual leader like Dr. James Dobson… If only he were as patient as Gary Smalley…” I started adjusting my expectations to include those within the Christian culture.
Firmly convinced that spiritual leadership specifically looked like an episode from one of the Christian radio programs we listened to regularly, my judgment deepened. Certain that Christian folk spent their evenings with dear husband reading a verse from Proverbs and the entire family gathered around the dinner table, I placed even higher expectations on my husband. As God was beginning to untangle my secular beliefs based on lies, I felt confident that surely the Christian culture had it right.
How have “expectations” either secular or Christian, impacted your marriage?
Bear in mind that I am not discounting how some families live out their faith. I appreciate examples for those of us who did not grow up in homes where Christ was a focus.
What I completely missed, however, was the grace-love-forgiveness of the heart of God. I completely missed the Biblical message of “Trust God and you will find peace and joy.”
Somehow I also missed the message of, “Knowing Him changes your heart – the goal is to become like Christ from the inside out – and in that order.” Instead I spent my time trying to “look” like a Christian, instead of simply being one. I tried very hard to “do” Christianity, to “do” faith, instead of asking Him to teach me how to follow Him and surrender my life to Him.
Have you struggled in the area of appearances, either Christian or secularly? How much energy have you put into trying to “look” a certain way?
How does the idea of surrendering your life to God strike you? Does it scare you or empower you?
The secular culture communicates confusing and contradictory concepts to women, often resulting in eating disorders, unreasonable expectations for marriage, and frustration as we attempt to gain our sense of value and self from people around us. What we should be reinforcing to ourselves and teaching our daughters is the worth that is within us simply because we are God’s creations and He loves us. This understanding of where our worth comes from helps us have our desire be for our God, instead of our husband. Another one of the concepts that frightens the tar out of us and hinders our growth experience and relationship with God is that of “submission,” and “surrender.”
Think about the words, “submit,” and “surrender,” for a moment. Chew on them.
What emotions begin to attach themselves to these words?
What negative ideas has the world communicated to us with regard to the word, “submission?” When you think of that word, what images come to mind for you?
What about the word, “surrender?”
I have seen numerous Christian and a few secular teachings on the word, “submit” as it pertains to a woman in a marriage relationship. Before discussing those, however, we need to address how this word fits into our relationship with God. How we view the concept of submitting to God’s authority (by obeying His Word, the Bible) shapes our entire experience of relationships. If we view the Bible as a book of “good ideas,” we leave ourselves a lot of room to make decisions outside His will (aka, “disobedience”).
The other deeply impactful truth here is that notion of how He views us – if we see Him as angry or aloof, instead of a loving Father who deeply cherishes us and wants to interact with us daily, we will not view “submission” or “surrender” in a positive light. If we ascribe our own negative experiences with our earthly fathers or other men to Him, we are also not seeing the truth clearly.
We need to open our hearts up to His truth of who we are because we are His. We can then more easily see the Bible as a living document through which God Himself speaks into our daily lives with helpful instruction. Trusting God as the perfect Father means we have someone more knowledgeable than us, stronger than us, and deeply motivated to protect, grow, and nurture us, in charge and that we are safe. This trust is the element through which a deep relationship in God can be formed. When we trust, we can more easily submit – and we will even want to do so.
One of the best descriptions of who we are in Christ came from a woman named, “Angie,” who wrote the following on my blog:
I think our correct understanding of who we are in Christ is critical to understanding our role in all of our relationships, including marriage. How do I relate to others? I need only look to Christ for my example. Ideally, my husband is doing the same. Regardless of that, (my husband’s actions), I can still look to Christ, cling to Him, and be renewed in my mind and have my heart attitudes and actions conformed to the living Word. I can trust Him because there is nothing He cannot do and nothing that can separate me from His love. (Rom.8: 38-39; Job 26; Psalm 62; Isaiah 40:28-30; Eph. 3: 14-20).
Nowhere does the Bible say woman is less than, inferior, at “the bottom of the barrel” or “the lowest form of human life”. Quite on the contrary, Christ came, was sent by the Father, to lay down His life for human life – sinful man and sinful woman. Does God like women? Just look at Jesus and His interactions with women. It is breathtaking and beautiful. In a society and Jewish culture that gave woman no status, rights, or freedoms, where Jewish law subjugated women and reduced them to a possession to be discarded at a man’s will, Jesus went to the woman at the well, spoke to her heart, and met her need for living water. (John 4:7-42) Jesus turned around and looked at the woman washing his feet with her tears, and he praised her, he used her to teach the Pharisee Simon about love and lay bare the arrogance and pride that prevented it, and then He forgave her sin and gave her peace! (Luke 7:36-50) When He saw a crippled woman, bent over for 18 years, He called her to Him! He immediately healed her. He gave a woman with no hope a new life that glorified God. In many ways her bent over body represented what the women of that time must have felt like – no hope, defeated, helpless. Jesus again used a woman to point out the hypocrisy and shame in the Pharisees attitudes and behavior, while at the same time giving hope to all those in bondage. (Luke 13:10-17) The woman caught in adultery, brought to Jesus in humiliation, and used by the scribes and Pharisees in the hope of trapping Him, found mercy instead of condemnation. It was the men that brought her forward that had their sin, shame, and hypocrisy revealed by Jesus. (John 8:1-11) God chose a woman to carry and give birth to the Savior. What a beautiful portrait of courage and humility we have in Mary of Nazareth. (Luke 1:26-56) There have been many women God has commissioned in His work, and He named them in His Holy Word so that we would know it. Abigail, Anna, Rebecca, Rachel, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, Sarah, Deborah, Dorcas/ Tabitha, Esther, Hannah, Lydia, Ruth and Naomi, Huldah, Eve, Elizabeth, Jael, Priscilla, Phoebe…to name some. Many have said, rightly so, that Christianity – Jesus, is the liberator of women. Truly, Jesus is the emancipator of us all.
To be clear, I do not think I am superior to my husband, just like I am not inferior. I see us equal, different obviously, but equally loved by God, both sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ. We are both joint heirs with Christ, we are both by faith children of Abraham, and we are both of equal value and worth to God. There is “no partiality with God”. (Rom.2:10-12; Eph. 6:8-9; Acts 10:34-35)
At the end of this chapter, I have included a list of some of the verses about “who we are in Christ,” from the Bible. Remember – God’s ways are not our ways, and frequently fly in the face of “conventional secular wisdom.” We are weak when we are strong; we are raised high when we humbly lower ourselves. Our flesh will not like the concept of submission, but we must lay this down, not struggle against it, and ask God to teach us. Nothing I (or anyone else) tell you can teach you this – this is something only God can teach you.
He is not wrong.
Perhaps your ability/inability to submit is rooted in what you believe about God Himself and how He sees you. What is true for you in this regard right now?
What, if anything, needs to change for you in this area?
Confess the truth of where you are and how you see yourself to God, and either respond with thanksgiving for what He has given you, or ask Him to help you create a new, healthier, more accurate understanding of Him so you can grow in your trust of Him.
My struggle with submission ended when I realized that God’s plan for marriage had nothing to do with God’s views of women. Clearly, He would not encourage women to teach other women or raise their children if we were not worthy of influencing others. He would have told us to keep quiet 100% of the time, yet when we examine the Bible, we see women who are prophets and involved in ministry activities.
We are all familiar with homes where the family is completely run by the wife – some of us even grew up in them. What is interesting is that in many of these homes, we are frequently also seeing passive husbands. I do not know about you, maybe you want a passive husband. I, however, do not. Granted, my evidence is anecdotal, but I have seen this so often that I have wondered, “What if God put men as head of the family, as a gift He gives through the wife to him?” Being fully capable of leading (what mother is not a leader?) and with so many strengths in relationships, perhaps we are to willingly lay down this gifting in this one context to make things easier for our husband and family to function. Perhaps they are told to love us to make it easier for us to respect. Perhaps we are told to respect our husbands because as women, we are naturally gifted at being loving, but struggle with showing respect. We should be respecters of all people, not just our husbands, but unfortunately, many women struggle with this concept, and not just in the home, but in all areas of their lives.
Perhaps we need to submit to God by submitting to our husbands, whom God uses, to direct us and our family. Having done a ton of research on the subject of headship and submission, what I can say about it defies labeling either fully complementarian or fully egalitarian, and I am refusing to join the debate about which aspect is “correct.” If there were just one right answer, the debate would not exist. There is enough discussion over whether Junia was a female apostle to last both sides a lifetime. Regardless, my point is simply this: God created families as an organization with marriage at the heart, and each marriage is going to look a little different – and that is okay. We have to figure these things out within the contexts of our own marriages. Being respectful, however, is always the way we should treat other people, whether we are married to them or not.
I remember reading years ago by a teacher that a woman was never to correct her husband’s driving, but rather to allow him to take the wrong turn, be late, whatever, but not to let him know he is making a mistake. When I asked my own husband what he thought about this method, he basically told me that if I were to allow him to miss an exit and be late, fully knowing he was doing the wrong thing, I was not being a very good friend to him. He also added that if I gave him the information in a way that made him seem stupid, that would be disrespectful, and he would not appreciate this kind of treatment. Too many of our sentences have a “you idiot!” tone to them. There is a dramatic difference between saying, “Honey, I think that’s our exit right there,” and “I can’t believe you are going to miss our exit – you never pay attention to how you drive!”
While the author I spoke of may have had a husband who would have been offended by her help, mine would not – just the opposite would have been true. This is why we stress communication for the wife in Daughters of Sarah® and The Respect Dare. Yes, we are to sacrifice and be loving with our husbands and our children, but they are to do so as well. Such is the life of a Christ-follower, submitting to God’s teachings of love in the Bible, regardless of gender.
We often travel back to the Rocky Mountains for family vacations. White water rafting often captures our attention, and sometimes we go. Instead of renting kayaks or a boat and venturing out on our own on a turbulent stretch of the river, however, we pay a guide service and join a group of other rafters so we can experience these thrills in a safer way. In the middle of each boat of about six to ten rafters, an experienced guide sits on a perch, with two long oars, one extending to each side of the boat. He hands us a life jacket, helmet, and a single oar, and then tells us the basics. We sit on the sides of the raft, rather than in the middle. Half of us are rowing to the right, the other half row to the left. When we are in the calm water, he gives us some more training so we know when to row. It is important to pay attention to this instruction so we know how to respond when the river is not calm. When we hit the rapids, sitting in the middle of the raft, expertly commanding the oars, he directs the boat and shouts instructions for us to follow. Each side rows only when he tells us to. We paddle either forward or backward, depending on his instructions, which are based on his deep knowledge of the river.
In the thirty years I have been rafting, I have never had a guide tell us to do the wrong thing. Also unheard of, is a rafter choosing to argue with the guide, or do the opposite of what he says. I literally have never seen it. Given the dangerous nature of what we are doing, the novice abilities of the majority of participating rafters, and the fact that the first thing you do when you show up is sign a “hold harmless” release, people just seem to “get it.”
In the river of life, however, we sometimes miss the opportunity to do the right things and make the choices that would ultimately keep us safe. Instead of paying attention to the guide (God) by reading the Bible and doing what it says, we try to strike out on our own. We judge the river as always safe (believing lies), our skill level as high enough (pride), or we want to sit in on the perch and direct the boat and the other rafters (pride again). Or maybe we refuse the safety equipment (following His Word, the Bible) and when the rough water hits, we have nothing to hold onto, and we find ourselves in trouble. We fail to follow His advice when the waters of life are calm, and do not know the simple, foundational behaviors that create relationship with Him that girds us with safety and comfort when we find ourselves in the rapids.
One time many years ago, a rafter fell out of the boat after we crossed a dangerous rapid. Because he had the safety equipment on, he immediately floated to the top of the white water and his head was uninjured. Our guide directed our rowing, while shouting directions to the estranged rafter. We retrieved our friend easily, but not without opportunity for disaster. Had he chosen to not listen to the guide, he might have drowned. The guide shouted at him to stop swimming against the current toward shore. He then told him to turn around and let the current carry him, and start stroking toward the middle of the river, where we would be soon, but were not yet. In the boat, we could easily see this was the best course of action. The plan was obvious to us: we would paddle toward him and pick him up.
Our friend, however, hesitated a moment before complying. He told us later that he wanted to fight the current and swim toward shore instead of head out towards the middle of the calmer, but still rushing, river past the rapids. He said that the river scared him when he found himself in the middle of it, and he wanted nothing more to do with it. Contrary to his natural desire, however, he chose to do what the guide said (submit), and we easily got close enough to him to grab him. During all of this, I glanced at the guide, and noticed he was watching the river and our friend, while rowing the boat with all his strength. He did not seem concerned in the least.
Romans 15:13 (NIV) says, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The key part of the above verse is “as you trust in Him,” because it is to the level we trust in God that we will submit to (obey) His Word. To the level that we do that, we will have hope. To the level of hope we then have, we will receive joy and peace through the Holy Spirit. Do I trust God even though modern Biblical scholars debate the specifics of the roles of women? Yes. Can I submit to God’s authority and even my husband in the rare circumstances where we cannot meet in agreement on a decision? Yes. God is omniscient, which to me then means that He knew ahead of time that our culture would have these understandings of the texts and be disagreeing about them. He has placed me in this day and age for a reason, and while people continue the discussion, I can move forward in the discovery of my own relationship with Him, trusting that He has it all covered, even if I do not understand it all yet.
An underlying theme in many of author Max Lucado’s books is that we will not understand the good that God has designed in this life (which would include marriage) until we understand who we are in Christ, and gain our identity from Him. When we come to believe the things God thinks about us as true, it helps us interact with our husband (and others) in a healthy way, regardless of the way he is acting.
And regardless of any man-made label we put on our marriage, until our husband gains some or all of his identity from Christ, no amount of love, respect, or submission from us will impact him the way only God can anyway. Most men will positively respond to a wife’s submission and respect by loving her more gently and deeply, recognizing they are called to do so. Some, however, do not. This is not ours to change – God has a plan He is executing with our husband and the timing is His. God does not waste anything, either. He will use the time to teach our husband as an opportunity to teach us more, as well.
If you have become aware of your lack of respect, friendship, submission, help, or love towards your husband, if you have worked hard to change and be obedient to God, know this: until God intervenes in your husband’s life as He has in yours, and your husband responds to God the same way you have, out of repentance, love, and obedience, your marriage will not be one where the world sees Christ’s loving and gentle relationship with His respectful loving church. God will be teaching you the spiritual benefit of being long-suffering and garnering your identity from only Him in full worship with your life, while He works in your husband’s heart.
The most important thing you can do is stay focused on living life for the Audience of One, and pray for yourself and your husband – not to change your husband, but rather that He come to know the Lord on a deeper level, and you do as well. Most of the wives we talk to say that they thought God needed to change their husbands, but it was really them that also needed continued work. I have found this true for myself as well. We may be committing the sin of pride by thinking we are further along in our walk than our husbands are.
Is your marriage “one-sided” in any way? Are you living with a gentle, loving, kindhearted man whom you respond to with contempt, disrespect, and a lack of loving submission? Or have you been obeying God for many years and are dealing with a hard-hearted man who behaves un-lovingly toward you? Or are things somewhere in between?
Take a few moments to pray, asking God to forgive you for your lack of obedience. Pray for your husband to grow deeper in his walk with God. Pray for both of you and your marriage to be one that represents Christ’s loving, gentle leadership of a loving church.
You can, however, not only survive, but thrive in a marital relationship where your spouse does not “get it,” or even neglects you. God can more than fulfill your needs. God has chosen you, and will not ever leave you.
John 14:18 (NLT) No, I will not abandon you as orphans – I will come to you.
John 15:14-17 (NLT) You are my friends if you obey me. I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me, I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. I command you to love each other.
Matthew 6:26 (ESV) Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
The promise in 1 Peter 3:1-2 (that our husbands who do not know Christ will, due in part from our behavior) has come to life in many women’s marriages. A friend of mine ran several Respect Dare studies, and one of the participants shared how she was led only by the Holy Spirit how to respect her husband, without any assistance from another human. Many of the exercises in the book were familiar to her. Her husband had been aggressive and condemning of her relationship with Christ, and she continued to turn the other cheek. She walked closely with God, listening and obeying the cues of the Holy Spirit, and not mentored or helped by any other materials or women in her life. Her husband ended up weeping, confessing to her that he was so sorry for how he had treated her, and that he was amazed at her responding in love toward him all those years. He asked how he could also become a Christian. They met with her pastor that day, and her husband began his journey of faith. They are still married, and both are growing.
Another woman wrote to me to let me know she had left her husband for a week. He had been verbally abusing her and her son for many years. Interestingly enough, she did not want to leave, but rather sensed God directing her to. She learned through 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 that she should aim to not leave (which she had) but if she did, it was to be for the purpose of restoring the marriage. God used her leaving to get her husband’s attention, and he was ready to work on his end of things for the first time. They are also still married and moving forward.
Perhaps the most gut-wrenching story for me is the woman who wrote to let me know she was a martyr in her own home, privileged to share in the sufferings of Christ. She felt privileged to shed blood in Jesus’ name and at the hands of the man she had married. She felt led by God to do so, and felt He had confirmed this to her. How could I then question?
When I think of the video of Sarah, from Voice of the Martyrs, I am humbled at the incredible strength of her relationship with Jesus. As editor of an underground Christian paper, she was captured and tortured. Her captors made her walk for hours, shackled, until her ankles bled. She was beaten in an attempt to glean the names of others who worked with her. A man put out his cigarette on her arm. She lives in China.
I stand in awe of the faith of these women who suffer verbal and physical abuse for the cause of Christ, and some suffering from the hands of the men they have married. I want to tell them to, “Get out! Save yourselves!” In doing so, I would be challenging their relationship with God, because some have told me they feel led to do what they are doing. Who am I to question their relationship with God when it provides them with such incredible strength? These women have shared the stories of how they called the police, after gently asking him to not be harsh with their child, and he assaulted them both. They tell me how God encouraged them to forgive him, and led some to separate, and others to return. I marvel at the depth of their reliance on our Lord, and the intimacy with which he heals their wounds, and encourages them to be women of strength and dignity, communicating with them about what to do next, repetitively throughout the day. I feel privileged to pray for each one of them. To say that there is but one answer would fly in the face of everything I believe about God, and diminish their sacrifice, whether they have separated, or whether they have stayed.
Perhaps one can best think about submission by first understanding what it is not. Here is a list of “myths” we have put together, based on Biblical truth:
- Submissive wives are stupid, irresponsible, weak and passive women who need to be taken care of by men. Many men are actually threatened by a woman’s ability to multi-task, connect deeply with others, and handle both analytical and non-linear processes simultaneously.
- Submissive wives are invisible in their homes or elsewhere. Someone once asked me about the “lifestyle” I had chosen, wondering how I dealt with “not having a voice.” I had no idea what he was talking about, because my voice is always taken into account, if not the instigator of many opportunities in our family.
- Submissive wives are wives who spend all their time waiting on their husband to tell them what to do. We were competent when he married us, why would we cease? Most men have no interest in what color the napkins are, or whether you paint the bathroom blue or yellow.
- Submissive wives always protect their husbands from any problems so he does not have to deal with them. Marital Math is 1 + 1 = 1 (remember, “one flesh” from Genesis). Let your husband interact with his children, even when they are behaving badly. Sometimes take care of the issues yourself so he can rest, particularly if he has had a bad day.
- Submissive wives always allow others to fail. There are both men and women who are domineering and controlling who need to stop and allow others to learn, figure things out, etc.. It is wise to also have the discernment to know when to offer up a, “I don’t know if this will help you, but when I ran carpool for soccer, the route I took was…to save time.” Sometimes people need to learn by experiencing the consequences of a decision.
- Submissive wives ask their husbands for decisions on everything. Sorry, no. I can think of fewer ways to more quickly drive a husband crazy than suddenly becoming incompetent. Many men who work in corporate America are mentally exhausted when they come home and do not need the stress of added decisions. Some men, however, want to be more involved at home – so it really depends on the guy you married. A woman of strength and dignity knows her domain, and she carries out the role she has in her marriage and family as agreed upon by both her and her husband.
- Submissive wives think the “helper” role means knowing how to solve his problems and then manipulating him toward specific action. Sometimes your husband might ask you for advice – if he does, let him know what you think, especially if it is in an area of your expertise. Because men often learn best from other men, and need the friendship of other men, however, you should also encourage him to check with another guy friend or mentor. He might not do that without your encouragement. Mentioning to him how the other man would benefit and feel useful might encourage him further to do so. At surface glance, this might seem somewhat of a strange thing to do, but if you think about it, do you really want to be the one teaching your husband how to be a husband? Or be a dad? Would it not be better if he learned some of these things from other men and then you and your children benefited? Or are we experts on being a husband, dad, and man?
- Submissive wives constantly give their husbands advice when not asked for it, in an effort to “help” him. No one, male, or female, adult or child, likes to be bossed around, and advice that is not sought out is often not wanted.
- Submissive wives do not give input, even when asked, taking the “quiet and gentle spirit” admonishment to extremes. Our husband needs us to be his friend. That means having discernment, and not withholding information. If he asks, answer.
- Submissive wives have to do whatever their husbands say, even if it is sinful, because they are under their husband’s authority. Sorry, no. We serve God first. We have the freedom to refuse if our husband and God are in conflict with an action – but know that our God loves us and protects us, just like He did Sarah, whose husband Abraham gave her to Pharoah not once, but twice! If God told us to do that, would we? Do we have that kind of faith? Are we that close to the Father to know what He wants us to do, and then do it, no matter how crazy or dangerous it might sound?
- Submissive wives know our role is only that of “maid” or “slave” to the whims of the family members. No again. We are women of strength and dignity, with interests of our own, activities we enjoy, friends we want to spend time with. We encourage our family to understand “the preciousness of others,” regardless of their gender, which includes us. We train our children to have life skills. This means they need chores to do at home, which then means we are not doing every bit of manual labor. We sometimes work alongside our children, and other times, they complete the task on their own. Remember we are equal heirs to the throne, and made in God’s own image!
- Submissive wives rely on their husband’s relationship with God instead of developing their own with the Creator. Sorry, no. God will tell us moment to moment what we should do in any given circumstance. We need our own relationship with God to live this out.
Someone once asked me if “submissive wives ever miss their freedom,” or if they “have any rights or privileges, or do they just do as the husband commands?” Just to be clear, wives are not property. Granted, in ancient times, women were considered second class citizens, but Jesus Christ turned the world upside down by not only teaching women (which was unheard of at that time) but by engaging in dialogue with them, and declaring His deity to a woman first.
We spend way too much time fussing about this topic, in my opinion. “Submission” is merely an active choice to view our husband as CEO of our family. We are then the President. If/When we have a disagreement, which, because we should try to be respectful in our communication behaviors and respectful as a person, if after we engage in dialogue we still disagree, the wife then defers to his judgment. I do not just agree with everything my husband says, and he wants my opinion when I disagree. Having said that, however, know that sometimes people (not just wives) can be just plain disagreeable, which consistently arouses resentment and causes conflict. You know who I am talking about, maybe it is the guy in the cube next to the door, or the woman three houses down from you; these people would argue with you about anything, just like your toddler or teenager who is trying to establish independence. Being argumentative is evidence of poor communication skills and being disrespectful in general as a person. People that argue over everything are difficult to get along with, regardless of what gender they are. Being submissive has everything to do with a simple understanding of who is CEO, and nothing to do with being considered “less” than someone else. This is referred to as being “contentious” in the Bible.
Respect, however, is a larger issue. We will spend some time in a later chapter talking specifically about how to communicate respect as in Ephesians 5:33, “And the wife must respect her husband.” For now, however, just like “submission,” I want to supply a list of what the opposite looks like (AKA, “How to Be Disrespectful” – be sure to add the “you idiot!” tone of voice):
- Ask questions that you really don’t want the answer to, but are just pointing out how stupid you think he is, like, “How could you possibly think/do XYZ…??”
- Roll eyes.
- Purse lips and scowl as he contributes his thoughts.
- Argue without acknowledging his idea.
- Don’t ask questions about what he thinks.
- Start all questions with “Why did you…?” because “why” is a word men use to challenge each other.
- Withhold compliments instead of looking for opportunities to build him up.
- Leave him with a list of things to accomplish when you go somewhere – then criticize him for not getting all of it done.
- Correct him when he’s interacting with the kids – especially if it’s his first time doing something. That will stop him from feeling like you think he is a good parent, so he’ll stop trying.
- Criticize him instead of praising him first when you have something constructive to let him know.
- Expect him to read your mind like your sisters, girlfriends, and mother can.
- Say really helpful things like, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.”
- Answer for him when he’s asked a question.
- Don’t pursue him. And make sure you say, “Not tonight.”
Disrespect often means taking the condescending tone out of our communication. It means ditching the sarcasm. It means ceasing criticisms and the cessation of poking fun at your man, as if he were a child, or did not have any feelings. It means treating him like he was a prized possession of God Himself, which by the way, he is.
I remind myself of these things by choosing to be respectful with all people, not just my husband, including my children. Much of our conflicts with our teenagers could be avoided if we would simply treat them respectfully. I try to not do things to them that I would not like to happen to me. I apologize when I am wrong, or hurt their feelings, even inadvertently, and when I am overly demanding. I often call the guys in my life, “sir,” even if they are young. It helps me remember how much God values them. My value, is not affected by their value in any way.
I also call women, “gorgeous,” or “beautiful,” for the same reasons. I apologize if that offends you, but all women are beautiful to God, and to me, and frankly, we do not get told that enough. Maybe I am a little archaic in my thinking, but I started doing this after my firstborn son’s pediatrician greeted me with a, “Hey gorgeous!” when I brought him to his first well-baby visit. I was a mess. Spit up stains on my shoulder, hair barely done, no makeup, and this doctor woman was calling me, “gorgeous.” I said, “Why on earth would you say that?” She told me, “Every mother is beautiful.” I thought long and hard about that. The extra pounds, the sagging skin, the haggard look, and I was beautiful. And I believed it. In that moment, I knew God smiled down on my tired, lumpy body, leaking breasts, dark-circled eyes, and He was pleased. What woman do you know needs reminding that she’s beautiful? I think we all do.
Believing that the Creator of the Universe values me deeply helps me serve Him as King, even when I do not fully understand the lesson at hand. The contexts of marriage and mothering obviously provide enormous amounts of opportunities through which to further discover our identity in Him. My favorite testimonies always include a wife coming closer to finding her full identity in Christ, taking a step along the journey of desiring only Him, which always results in a deeper trust of our Lord and a higher ability to love others well.
We all have to come to terms with our level or lack of trust in God. No matter how long we live on this earth, we will struggle with obeying and believing Him fully 100% of the time, because the voice of the world is loud, as are the voices of our own desires, and we easily become swayed by these things. Sometimes, because all of our interactions are with other fallible humans, we forget to trust His Great Love for us. We expect other Christians to behave perfectly towards us, placing unrealistic expectations upon them. We judge God by the behaviors of other humans, and that negatively impacts our trust in Him, though it should not. We do not completely believe He is for us, and as a result, struggle with submitting to Him.
Romans 8:37-39 (ESV) tells us, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Recently, a dear friend of mine who has a vast knowledge of the Bible and has been in ministry longer than I have been alive was lamenting to me about her inability to love others well. I reminded her of how well she knows the Bible. In a moment of frustration, she remarked about how “young I was to ‘get it.’”
I asked her, “Do you know every word, in order, of the whole Bible?”
She said, “Of course not!”
I said, “But you do know more than most, right? You are always the person I call when I can’t remember where to find a verse. You have most of them tucked away. I would love to have that resource in my own head! We like to compare ourselves to others, but the reality is that this side of heaven is all about learning. Learning to think like Christ and act like Jesus, learning to love others well is like starting in Genesis, and then memorizing every word of the Bible, in order. You are born, and it’s ‘Ready, set, go! See how far you can get before you die.’ We will never get there. And no matter how far we do get, comparing ourselves to other people is pointless because they have infinity staring them in the face as well. Learning to love is just like that. We never fully get it this side of heaven – we just have to keep moving forward.”
We have to learn to use the opportunities we are given. They are all about learning to let Christ’s love and compassion flow out of us to the world.
A Note about Silence
Many of the dare-takers who write to me share something they have in common with my own experience. We have all come to a place of submission to God, living our lives for the Audience of One by beginning with the practice of purposeful silence.
We create noise in our lives not just through the television being on, the radio running, or streaming music or podcasts through our computers, but also through the newspaper, books we choose to read, friends we surround ourselves with, stores where we choose to shop, checkout line magazine covers we pay attention to, and the plethora of busyness we pursue, running from one activity to the next either for our kids or ourselves. If we do not actively choose to create extended periods of time within our day for silence, we grow deaf to the voice of our Creator.
His voice is still and small.
At some point in our walk with Him, He will stop responding to our requests for “billboards,” and instead challenge us to become better listeners.
This is only accomplished through daily time in His Word, not only for the purpose of learning, but for listening.
It is also often given to us in moments of stillness during prayer, when we receive, and allow Him to bring to mind prayers for others.
We spend too much of our time with Him rattling off requests, instead of remembering we are in the presence of the King, and should be awaiting orders. As you read through the dares for today, you will notice a beginning for developing our practice of purposeful silence.
We also asked you to catch your own tongue and practice adding silence to your communication behaviors for a very specific reason. Current research proves that men typically speak as many words in general as women do, however, most of a man’s communication occurs at work because he feels it is purposeful. Most men tend to speak less at home, which unfortunately, is where most women want communication, because they are focused on relationships.
We asked you to add silence to your repertoire of communication skills because it will allow you to recognize two things: 1) your husband may be “tuning you out,” because of the plethora of communication; and 2) if we speak respectfully, more complimentarily, and less frequently, our husbands are more likely to pay attention to the communication we do have, because we will be having less of it.
Another positive impact of silence is the restraint of interruption. Most people consider it rude behavior to interrupt another when speaking. Men view this as disrespectful, which it is, and because women interrupt to show concern, we can be perceived as less disrespectful by not interrupting. Anecdotally, we have observed that many men do not perceive an interruption as concern, but rather as disrespect.
Some of us also need to realize that we offer up advice too often and are not good listeners. We should offer advice only if asked for it. We have found that when we add silence to our communication skills, we become aware of some of our own thoughts, which when coming out of our mouths are simply unnecessary or harmful, and we can be more purposeful in what we do talk about, thus resulting in a husband who actually asks for and wants our opinion and advice on things that are important to him.
Dare 1: Make a list of all of the strengths and talents God has given you. Thank Him for these things in prayer. Ask Him to show you how to develop them further, for His glory. If you struggle with feelings of self-worth, ask God to reveal to you the lies you believe about yourself and help you to see His truth of who He made you to be. Look up Jeremiah 29:11 and write it on a card, tape it to your mirror or put it in your Bible, along with the list of strengths, and ask God to help you be who He created you to be every day.
Dare 2: Write down the verses that speak most powerfully into you from this chapter (and the list at the end) about who He says you are. Put them on another card, and keep them with the above cards from Dare 1. Remind yourself of who you really are each day, because if you do not fill yourself daily with His truth about you, the other voices will rule your day.
Dare 3: Continue the “noise fast” in which you intentionally create more silence in your life. Shut off the radio, the TV, the computer, the magazines, etc. If anything from the previous page speaks to you, ask God what He would have you do with that. Start this practice with your children, encouraging them to read a devotional. Discuss with them daily what God is teaching them, and share what He is teaching you, letting go of any preconceived notions of the need to be perfect in front of your children.
Dare 4: Ask God to continue reveal to you how the culture has influenced you and shine His light of Truth into your life. Ask God to make Psalm 119:11 part of your daily time with Him, hiding His Word (the Bible) in your heart that you might not sin against Him. The Appendix of this book will have a section on great Scriptures to memorize and weave into the fabric of your being. If you are reading the book as part of our course, Daughters of Sarah®, the “Steps of Faith” Scriptures are a great place to start.
Dare 5: Apologize to God, your husband, your children, and others, for sinning against them, as these offenses occur during the day – don’t wait! Apology should be a normal part of your relationship interactions with others, unless you are struggling with pride. Spend some time in prayer, confessing and asking God to help you “do the things you did at first” in your marriage. Know He forgives you. If you did not do this last week, write your husband a short note, apologizing for not being a better friend. Tell him you are sorry you have sinned against him, and that you want to do better. Ask him to forgive you. Put the note on the steering wheel of his car.
A great apology typically begins with, “I’m so sorry I…” and speaks to the impact your behavior may have had on him. For example, “I’m so sorry I came across that way to you, I can tell I’ve upset you and I’m really sorry about that,” is different than, “I’m so sorry you don’t understand what I said.”
Empathize with the person – “That must have made you feel …”
Set an expectation for change – “I’ll not do that again.”
Ask for forgiveness – “Will you please forgive me?”
Dare 6: Keep making new memories and adding to the list on your refrigerator for your family, with a special section titled, “Just The Two of Us.” Add current things you are doing that are fun, making one list per year, and storing some of these away for your children when they are older.
- Add a few details about something the two of you did together when dating or during your marriage that was fun for both of you.
- Send your husband a brief email or text every few days, or a note on his steering wheel, letting him know you were thinking about “the time we went … “and how much fun you had.
- If you have the chance to dialogue, ask him what his favorite part of that trip/event was and why it was his favorite.
- Listen and laugh and enjoy.
- If you are feeling brave, invite him to do the same thing soon – and make it happen.
- Get creative – focus on old happy memories, creating new ones, and adding to the favorite memories on the refrigerator!
Dare 7: Continue the practice of “silence” to your communication repertoire – and do not take offense at the suggestion. What is God revealing to you through your own lack of speaking? Are you aware of how disagreeable or disrespectful you are as a person? Do you find yourself arguing over minutia? Catch your tongue before it lets unwholesome talk come out of your mouth and instead only speak that which is edifying (building up) toward others by STOPPING these communication behaviors that if pervasive, have the power to destroy your marriage:
- Criticism (pointing out another’s mistakes or flaws)
- Contempt (disrespect, disgust, etc., usually via tone and facial expressions – eye roll, sarcasm, pursed lips, scowl, etc. when communicating)
- Defensiveness (keeping a list of wrongs such that when asked a question, you feel attacked and respond by defending yourself)
- Stonewalling (refusing to engage in communication verbally or non-verbally with your husband when he wants to talk – many men do this, but women do also when they have given up on the relationship).
Dare 8: Choose daily to be interested in your husband’s, your children’s and your friends’ worlds, regardless of whether or not others are interested in yours. Freely share what you are struggling with or good news you have, but do not dominate the discussion. This means the following:
- Become a student of others (especially your husband and children), by asking, “What can I pray for you about today?”
- Follow up at the end of the day and ask how things went with something you prayed about.
- Be a respectful listener when someone else is speaking, including your children, and ask questions, encouraging others to open up about themselves by:
- Facing him when he is speaking to you
- Making eye contact with him when he is speaking
- Stopping what you are doing when he is speaking
- NOT interrupting him when he speaks – and correcting your children if they do, then asking him to continue (do this with your kids, too, if they interrupt each other)
- Nodding your head with interest as he shares
- Asking questions during the conversation that can NOT be answered with “yes” or “no” but are “open ended” in nature
- NOT offering advice unless asked, but instead empathizing with his struggles if he shares them, ie: “Honey, that has got to be hard for you. I’ll certainly pray about that situation.”
- NOT offering an opinion on what he shares unless it is supportive or encouraging to him.
Dare 9: Pay a compliment about your husband, your children, or other’s character when listening, ie: “Bill, I know it has been a sacrifice for you to serve on that committee this year. The church is benefiting from your involvement and your wisdom.”
My Identity in Jesus Christ
I am God’s child. John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
I am a friend of Jesus Christ. John 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
I am one with God. 1 Corinthians 6:17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
I am worth a great price, and have been purchased with God’s own Son. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
I am a member of Jesus’ body, the Church. 1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
I have been specially chosen by God, adopted into His family, redeemed and forgiven. Ephesians 1:3-8 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
God wants to talk to me any time I want to talk to Him, and I can approach Him with confidence because of Jesus. Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
No one can judge or condemn me. Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
God has a plan for good things for me, regardless of what I am going through right now. Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God has a plan for me, and listens to me, and allows me to find Him when I look for Him. Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
God started a good work in me and He will finish it. Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
I have a citizenship in heaven. Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
My fear and lack of self-discipline is not from God. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Through Jesus, my work will have a lasting effect. John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
I am a temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
I am made new and am a reconciler and ambassador for God and His people. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
I am made in God’s own image, and a joint heir with Christ. Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Galatians 4:6-7 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, ” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I am a saint. Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 1 Corinthians 1:2 to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ their Lord and ours:
I am righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
I am the devil’s enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
 Matthew 7:3 (ESV) Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
 Luke 6:29
 10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
 Proverbs 10:19 (NIV) When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
 Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
 Gottman calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” because these kinds of negativity can be deadly to a marriage. Gottman,pg 27.
Nina, I am a little behind on this but as I said before, I’m writing letters to my husband about this devotion time and what I learn. This is the letter I wrote him concerning “submission”.
Right before we started dating, I remember Jeff Carter asking me if I was ready to submit to a man. I laughed at him and asked what he meant by submit. He told me that it’s in the Bible as a marital practice and if I really wanted to be in a relationship, then I had better be ready for it.
I fought submission. If you think to the first year of our relationship, I wanted to make it clear that I didn’t need anyone and I certainly was gracing you with the privilege of being with me and don’t you forget it. I could not have been an easy woman to be around. But my goodness man, you are patient and full of grace. It just flows out of you.
As the idea of marrying you sunk further and further in and we were discussing more and deeper and spirit-filled things, it hit me at some point that to be in a solid, Christian marriage, we would have to do it biblically. I would have to submit.
And while I tried to fight the notion, a peace came over me like none other. The peace welled up inside of me and told me that if God had in mind a husband for me to marry, wouldn’t He also grace that husband with the ability to lead well so that submitting was a joy not a chore?
I was overcome by this thought. How simple : God taught me to submit by showing me that you were a great leader. So I didn’t need to run everything. So things wouldn’t always go my way. So things weren’t the way we did them in my family. So what? All of the stress I had felt about appearing a certain way – strong, independent, fully capable – I could have any of those things but I didn’t need to wear them as armor. I needed to open up to new ideas, new leadership, and know that you and God had it worked out.
Now, when my girlfriends get married, they almost always ask me about this. I say this : it’s a relief to me in marriage now to know those weights are not on my shoulders. I am confident in his leadership so much that I don’t worry about money, or major decisions. I give my input. I talk through things. At the end of the day, it’s simply not my stress. I am a helpmate. I get to support and build up so that he can make these decisions confidently and in the best interest of our family. If I don’t trust him to do it, he’ll never try.
Matt, I love working on submission every day. I love having you as a leader I our house. I love that in response to my submission, you got down at our wedding and washed my feet and promised to die for me, just as Christ did for his bride, the Church.
I love you.
Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing this!!! 🙂
Love to you, girl!
Wow! What an on time word! My Wife & I are working on a series about what it really means to submit (both husband & Wife to submit one to another) on our weekly tv program “The Doctor of Love Show” great input!
Nina, I am absolutely blown away at the wisdom brought through this! I will probably re-blog this later when I have some time, but you’re right. The part that stuck out most to me is the “seen a home that is run by the woman and a passive man” I have seen that in my own family, and it’s devastating. It’s no different that having a CEO run a company amok while the President just sits back and lets it happen: the employees don’t know what to do, everyone’s confused, and chaos reigns supreme.
Today, my husband and I celebrate our anniversary, and I can relate to the whitewater rafting analogy (which was perfect, by the way) This past August, we went to Rocky Mountain National Park, and I took the Hubs whitewater rafting for the first time. We rented kayaks, but, like you, we went with a guide and others in a giant raft. While the big group was in the safety of their giant inflatable raft, Hubs and I were in our inflatable kayaks paddling with all our might. The perfect analogy for what has been our marriage these few short years!! What was hilarious, was the guide shortly realized our potential, and would help us find harder rapids, crazy turns, and would cheer us on.
When you’re married to a soldier, you know life is going to be a little more interesting. And, there are days where I do have to make executive decisions because he’s out of town, and someone has to have an answer. But it’s crazy to think that I’m somehow less capable, when in truth, God put the two of us together for His purpose and calling. This last year has been a year of deep growth for us: not one that has changed our outward appearance, but our roots have gotten deeper and stronger. We are constantly striving to show each other what is in our hearts – that’s what has been the hardest for us. We are both multi-taskers and it’s hard to put the cell phone away, look each other in the eye, and listen. Thank you so much for sharing!!
God is good all the time, Jenn! 🙂 Anything good is totally from Him. 🙂
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