The Dreaded “S” Word

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
(Ephesians 5:23-24)

Like many aspects of the Christian journey, submission does not come naturally for most of us. In fact, according to our modern values, the idea of a wife submitting to a husband is not only unpopular, it is almost shameful.

Yet there it is, plainly spelled out in not one but two ancient letters now accepted as part of the canon of Scripture:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
(Colossians 3:18)

But of course we could object and say that Paul was a chauvinist pig and simply had a grudge against women… except for the fact that Peter used the same Greek word (here translated with a different nuance) in one of his letters as well:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,
(1 Peter 3:1)

As a woman growing up in a cultural climate proclaiming, “What’s good for the gander is good for the goose,” and other girl-power statements, this was not a teaching that I easily adopted when I became a disciple of the Messiah. However, I did adopt it, and I would love to share my experience with the concept of submission.

You see, I became a Christian as a youngish adult whose life had just been turned upside down by some pretty poor choices. At the age of 25, I found myself pregnant and living with the man who would later become my husband. Clearly, neither of us knew or obeyed the Lord at this time.

But God had plans to use this mess, and the new life that was growing inside me fostered a desperation to find out if there was a God. For the sake of space, the nickel version is that I began to read the Bible while challenging God to prove Himself to me if He was real.

He did.

So it was that my eyes were first opened to my sin and rebellion as well as the astonishing love of God and the breathtaking humility of Yeshua (also called Jesus). I was floored. What’s more, as I talked with God through what was to be the first of many readings through His Word, I was guided by His Spirit to take what I read literally where it was rendered literally and symbolically when it was clearly stated as a symbol.

For me, that included submission to my new husband. This did not come easily, particularly before my husband also became a Christian. Yet Peter’s words from chapter 3 of his letter dogged me.

I admit that I implemented submission with a touch of resentment at first, sorry little rebel that I am, even after my husband devoted his own life to Christ.  And I had many, many heartfelt and teary discussions with the Lord about how difficult it was to be submissive.

Until one day, God finally opened my eyes to three truths. First and foremost, He knows. When I say that, I mean He has actual, experiential knowledge of how difficult it is to go from a place of authority to a place of deference. He has done it on a grander scale than I ever could.

Secondly, He showed me that not submitting to my husband had less to do with failure to trust my man than it did my failure to trust God Himself.  If I submit to my husband, even when I disagree, I am trusting in God to lead my man effectively – even if it means difficulty or learning from poor choices. After all, the most enduring lessons I have learned have been through my mistakes… and often the very place where I disagree was the place my husband turned out to be right, after all.

Besides, by not submitting to my husband, I was refusing to submit to my God. This one gave me pause.

As a Christian, I am commanded to act in humility; a necessary ingredient for submission. Now I am not saying I have never spoken a contrary word to my man. I have, and often. I am not afraid to express dissent, yet I present my disagreement respectfully, just as I would to any other authority. While my man always considers my feedback, my man does not always decide in favor of my way.

This takes especial humility on my part when I am convinced that my way is right, and through it I have certainly been humbled to discover that I am wrong much more frequently than I once believed!

Finally, God gave me a sense of the cost of responsibility the husband’s authority carries. After all, right or wrong, it is he who will answer to the Almighty for the decisions made for our family and for the direction of his leadership.

Let that sink in a minute.

Ladies, our husbands are accountable before God for their leadership – right or wrong.

When the Lord put it to me that way, I began to feel both genuine relief not to shoulder this grave responsibility and sincere respect (even awe) for my husband who bears it all.

When I think of it in those terms, submission is not such a bad position to be in, after all!

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