“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.