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?
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.
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,