April 7, 2009

You're Not the Boss of Me!

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)

I don’t know if there’s a section of scripture that’s caused me more angst than those infamous verses in Ephesians. Submit? To my husband? Are you kidding?

I’m a modern-day, independent-minded, girl-on-the-go. Girls like me, we multi-task. We rule. We roar. We bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan. But, we do not submit as the weaker partner in our marriage.

When Dan and I took our pre-marriage class 20 years ago, the teaching eventually came around to the biblical model for marriage. Offensive, ridiculous and archaic! I slammed the door on those ideas faster than on a door-to-door salesman.

Yet try as I might to perish the thought, through the years “wives submit to your husbands” returned again and again. Each time I pushed it aside with the same disdain.

Mind you, Dan and I have a good marriage that’s more of a partnership and less of a hierarchy. We’re both happy with the way things are. And in my mind, why fix something that isn’t broken.

But when I finally, truly gave my life to Christ seven years ago, I started to read the Bible and tried to heed its teachings. I began to fear there might be some truth to the biblical model for marriage. If I believe the Bible is really God’s manual for our lives, when it speaks on marriage shouldn't I actually listen and try to understand?

Last Friday night our couples’ Bible study addressed the topic of roles in marriage, based on, you guessed it, Ephesians 5:22-32. The wives and husbands separated to discuss the topic more deeply. During our conversation my usual resistance emerged, but then a strange thing happened—for the first time I began to gain insight into the verses.

Presently the divorce rate is about 50% for both Christian and non-Christians. Clearly something in marriage isn’t working too well. Maybe God actually does have a plan for marriage that works better than ours does. After all, biblically speaking, marriage isn’t a place for power struggles, score keeping or self-protection. It’s a place where two, united by Jesus, become one. It’s a place where the image of God becomes complete.

While us women may bristle when Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord, he follows it up with a command even more startling: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy…” (v. 26) This is a shockingly high calling for men as husbands, especially in Jesus’ day when women were certainly second class citizens.

Think how much Jesus loved the church and how he served without regard for his status or position. Imagine what marriage would look like if a husband loved his wife that way? What if in return the wife respects, cherishes, serves and yields to him? In this life-giving continuum it might be hard to tell where one spouse ends and the other begins.

What a far cry from the “husband bossing the wife around” picture I’ve had in my head (and has been carried through history). Who wouldn’t want a marriage like that?! Submit? You bet!

In theory I finally see the light in Paul's teachings. For as wonderful as my marriage has been, I see God has a plan to make it even more beautiful and perfect. I’m certainly not there yet, but I’m encouraged to dig deeper.

This faith journey is a continual process of "less of me, Lord, and more of you,” isn't it? Submission and obedience are at the crux of our transformation. But we’re a stubborn lot and it is oh so hard to give up control and power, especially when we don’t know what, if anything, we’ll get in return. I think marriage magnifies this struggle. Thankfully God is faithful and He promises we’ll receive WAY more than we ever give up.

Submit to my husband? Well, not yet, but this independent-minded girl is starting to see a much better way.


Dan said...

Let me tell you...Kelli submits to NO MAN! :) Kidding aside, this was an excellent discussion last Friday with our group. For anybody who challenges you on Ephesians 5:22 ("See, Christians are old-world, narrow-minded, misogynistic prigs."), urge them to read Ephesians 5:25-33("Ohhh....never mind.").

Peggy said...

This is quite a subject for discussion, and there are many ways to be submissive for a wife just as there are many ways for the husband to be totally loving.
After almost 30 years of good and bad I found that to be totally and completely a caregiver is part of what God wanted me to do in His name for our spouse. In return, His total love and trust that I would care and give my all to my husband and make the right decisions was his gift of love to me.
Yes, God knows how we will handle all situations, and when we choose to ask Him to help us, the bond between the spouses will be heavenly.
Blessings and Love...Peggy

Nicole said...

Awesome post, Kelli! From one independent-minded girl who longs for a stronger marriage to another, Thank you!

Cheryl Barker said...

Kelli, thanks for being so transparent. I think most women who grew up in the past 40-50 years have struggled with this at some point. You're right on when saying it will take more of Him and less of us. Reminds me of John 3:30 -- "He must become greater; I must become less."

Blessings to you and your hubby and your growing marriage!

Gail W. said...

Kelli, I had a big LOL of self-recognition when I read this post. Thanks for being brave enough to bring up a sore spot with many women. The best teaching I ever heard on this came from a pastor who ALWAYS preached verse 22 (wife's challenge) and verse 26 (hubby's challenge) TOGETHER. He said, "I have never met a woman who would not yield to any man who loved her like Christ loved the church."

Sue J. said...

There's nothing to get the gals more riled up in Bible study than to revisit this verse again and that dreaded word! (And the Greek translation doesn't make it any more palatable! Submit; subdue; obey; etc.!)

But, here's another place where we need to step back from the single verse and look at God's bigger picture for women. Because, He never intended for us to be treated as 2nd class.

How else can we win over an unbelieving husband or anyone if we don't "back off"?

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and DO NOT GIVE WAY TO FEAR." I Peter 3: 3-6 (Ooh, that's a point!)

Not to mention the Proverbs 31 woman!

We also have to understand the hierarchy--submission to God has to come first. If we don't submit to God, fully and completely, how can we hope to understand submission, much less actually do that with our husbands in mind?

Kelli may not submit to any man, Dan--not yet anyway :-) --but she's surely taking her steps there as she submits to our Lord!

Terri Tiffany said...

I remember the first time I read the second half of the verse. TO have my husband love me like Jesus does? Wow--submitting took on new meaning for this independent gal too!

Joy in The Truth said...

Kelli, I love your always refreshing honesty. Have I told you that too often!?!? :)

You say you are -- "I’m a modern-day, independent-minded, girl-on-the-go. Girls like me, we multi-task. We rule. We roar. We bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan. But, we do not submit as the weaker partner in our marriage." I remember you writing before where you defined yourself as "understated"...hmm....you must be "all of that" in an understated kind of way. :) You are so funny..."we rule, we roar". I getcha, I hear ya....I've been known to roar myself (ask the hubs!).

Our church is doing the Love & Respect video series. Good stuff! :) (we've been through it before with our home fellowship group) Emerson Eggerich points out that God's command "Wives respect your husbands, and husbands love your wives" was the last thing He directed us to do regarding our marriages, and how often the last words we say are the most important.

It's always beautiful to see what He does in and through a surrendered marriage.

Laura said...

Hey, Kelligirl!

I understand.

Been there.

Still have one foot in, one foot out.

I think you have the key, though. Paul is urging mutual respect, urges us all to honor one another--both male and female.

I can live with that. If my husband honors me, there will be some give and take in that submitting thing, right?

I bet that was one lively discussion in your small group! Sounds like my kind of fun. :)

I like the way you think, lady.


Pierre said...

Great post! Obviously one that stirred up the hornets nest - ouch!

Speaking from a male's perspective, there is nothing more frustrating and painful to the heart of a GOOD husband than having a wife who kicks and screams at the hint of submission.

Please note, I said, a GOOD husband. Men who operate under God's guidance want to lead their wives and families in ways that will be the best, making decisions that will bless and not curse, protect and not destroy.

And to have a wife who then says, "I’m a modern-day, independent-minded, girl-on-the-go....yada yada yada" becomes just as offensive to a GOOD man.

It all comes down to trust. God calls woman to submit to their man as we the church are to submit to Him. And why should we submit to Him? Because He's completely trustworthy and has our best in mind.

And why should a woman submit to her husband? Not because their Hubbie is a perfect resemblance of God in the flesh, but because they trust that their obedience is ultimately unto the One Who Is.

Melanie said...

I have found, especially lately, that it is a relief to submit.
Still working it out!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Submission is much easier when the husband takes his role in the matter...to love a wife as Christ loves the church; well, when my husband loves me that way ... to die for me ... to wash my life with the truth of God's Word, girlfriend, I'll bow to that! But when that doesn't happen, it's much harder to embrace. I know. I've been part of that 50% statistic.

It doesn't mean that man holds all the weight, but he holds a lot of it. May we all, both men and women, be willing to learn of God's Word and to bend to another's best interest in the heart and flavor of a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.

Great thoughts, Kelli. We're cut from a very similar cloth.


Chatty Kelly said...

Hi Kelli! I could have written this post. As a matter of fact, when I saw the title after you posted it, I waited to read it until I had more time to look it over.

My "a-ha" moment came when I read the verses in 1 Peter 3 "Wives, in THE SAME WAY be submissive to your husbands." In the same way as what? Back it up to 1 Peter 2, it's talking about slaves submitting to masters. It says "For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

Not the beating part, but I could never submit because I thought I was right...so I would submit when I was wrong only. But how was this to my credit? If I submit EVEN THOUGH I know I am right, then that is to my credit. Submitting is "suffering" to me. (I am a modern-day, independent-minded, girl on the go.) But when I submit it is commendable to God. That is what I'm banking on.

And let me assure you I am a WORK IN PROGRESS here. Cause I still want to be RIGHT!

Anonymous said...

The truth is, these verses have utterly destroyed my life, my marriage, my kid's lives, our future, and my faith. I wish I had never learned of God's design for marriage. It was pounded into my head how fulfilled I would be submitting to my husband, my marriage would be blessed, it God's plan and it works! I was told I could trust God's plan for wives, that it was for my good and protection! Well, I'll never be capable of putting my trust in God again, I read His word, followed my pastor's teaching and submitted everything to my husband, trusting God that this was the best for my family but it failed big time! I can't even begin to tell you the horror these teachings have caused me and my children! My marriage was so healthy before joining a Baptist church and learning these "roles", my husband and I were happy, we worked as a team, I was free to be me, there was no hierarchy, we saw each other as equal. Now, I don't know who I am anymore, I forget what it's like to be happy, I have constant anxiety and worry, my life is in utter chaos due to my husband being "head" and making all sorts of terrible mistakes. Please wives, don't ever let people tell you that when your husband makes the decisions he has to live with them because let me tell you, the consequences fall on the entire family, all suffer!!! I can truly say I have hatred in my heart for my husband, my life would be so much better without him. My faith is ruined due to this experience, it has taught me that God can't be trusted and He definately doesn't have the same love for women that He has for men, we are definately of less value and second class citizens.

Anonymous said...

To the last poster: I'm sorry you're going through this trial in your marriage but don't blame god's word for destroying your life. Turn from your own sin and repent from your bitterness. Forgive your husband for his mistakes and be the helper god calls a wife to be. For the sake of your children and their salvation become a godly wife and mother and set an example. Submission to our husbands is a gift we give to them without expecting anything in return! I'll pray for you.