It isn’t very often that I come across an article on biblical marriage from a wife who is not a pastor’s wife, or who isn’t from the genteel south, or who isn’t trying to appear to have this whole thing figured out (granted, there might be a few stereotyped overgeneralizations in that observation). Since submission is the hot topic of Christian marriages, just for fun, try Google-ing, “How to be a submissive wife.” The first (there are over a million) article literally made me nauseous. I won’t go so far as to list the title or author(s), but I hope beyond hope that the article was satirical (although they fail to give any indication that it is). Nonetheless, it was a degrading and gross misrepresentation of a wife’s role and would do serious damage to an already fragile woman desperately trying to figure out how to ‘wife-well’. Maybe it’s just where I’m at, but I kind of want to hear from a person who is struggling intensely.
So, although I am the furthest qualified from giving relational advice, it seems that I will need to speak up. At least, I have two things going for me: I seriously struggle with life and I can speak to what not to say/do. Really, I have no idea how to make a marriage work well, and will not pretend that I do. That said…
There is one thing that I have learned in fifteen years of marriage: being a biblically submissive wife has very little to do with the man you married.
Within the world of Christ followers, it would do a woman well to come to know that submission is an aspect of spiritual obedience to God. Yes, we practice that in part in our marital relationships, but ultimately it is a reflection of our willingness to be led by our Creator. Trust doesn’t come easily, though, and isn’t always warranted by our spouses. Our experiences make it incredibly hard to say, “I trust you to have my best intentions.” For those of us that have been harmed, the control of self is something that is staunchly guarded; a seemingly necessary by-product of pain. The thing is, it isn’t about humans, but about our relationship with God.
Come to know that to be submissive is not a sign of weakness, but of acute strength. Our skewed vision of submission says otherwise, but biblical submission never requires that you are a doormat to another person’s dominance. It is borne of mutuality and requires that vital piece of sacrificial love (discussed here). An immense amount of strength is exhibited when a wife is submissive. She is giving up her defiant, stubborn nature in sacrifice and deferment to her partner. She is putting others first.*
Yes, these truths require a massive overhaul of our narratives. I get that. I LIVE that.
The role of, “Wife” is to be gentle and respectful…and loved well, and listened to, and taken into account. An imbalance of reciprocity and sacrifice doesn’t change that. What needs to be adjusted is the self-serving pity, negative thought, and discontentment felt within. Not to say that those feelings, or tendencies to guard yourself, or the pull to be hyper-vigilant isn’t a valid response, just that it doesn’t actually help us out in the end.
The idea of sacrificial love, service, and submission is like a braided strand, woven intricately in mutuality with grace, patience, and mercy.
And when you cannot…remember Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
*This isn’t to be confused with the idea that a man should always have his way, that he should require her to bow down to him, or that he should rule with an iron fist. It is not justification for a husband to be abusive, or to demand anything of his wife. Submission has to be a conscious decision on the part of the giver. Read more on this topic in this post: He-Man Woman Hater.
If you are here and wondering about what a good man is and isn’t, please click on this link for more resources: www.armsonline.org