Rethinking Submissiveness: Losing the Stigma of Complementarianism
Wives, yes you, I’m talking to you, submit to your own husbands. You read me right, I quoted scripture. So actually, I quoted God. Perhaps the most biblically-minded and faithful woman among us still cringes at the thought of submitting to the authority of a flawed man. It is a curse, I’ve been told (Genesis 3:16).
I have been married for six years now, in light of marital longevity these days, I consider any anniversary a success, but you may be asking yourself, “why is this girl trying to tell me how to be married?” Well, I’m not. God is the ultimate and final authority.
See, I heard about submission long before I even considered being married, long before meeting my husband, and much sooner than I learned to submit to God. Growing up in the “Bible Belt,” that is heavily laden with “Cultural Christianity,” probably played a role in this. When it came time to get married, we had enough marriage counseling to just fulfill the requirement. It felt a little like, “Blah Blah, unmet expectations, blah blah wedding night…” I am sure my mind was more preoccupied with other things, but I cannot recall any discussion about, practically what it meant to submit to my husband. My only concept of what submission was, “he has final say.” Well, that’s easy, any time there is a hard decision, the husband has the say so. Consider that box checked.
D.J. (my husband) and I, ran headlong into marriage. Bulls in a china shop were more like it. All the while, I was affirming and arrogantly claiming to be a ‘submissive wife.’ In fact, I recall an older woman in my church, not just suggesting, but boldly stating, that submission should be easy for me because I am passive. I really hope someone is laughing, because this is nonsense! This statement, in the hands of a prideful and immature girl, playing house, proved damaging. Much to my dismay, feminism had been on the scene for longer than I had been a Christian. I was not raised to be a wife and a mother, but by default, I was raised to fend for myself. So imagine this scenario, a young 20-year-old, armed with selfish-ambition, and an understanding of marriage, starting and stopping at “Husband=decision-maker.” It was a disaster, to put it gently. But God is faithful, and because God is faithful, I am writing this blog.
I know, I am not alone. Many women who have gone before me, and so many walking behind me, all have ill-conceived notions of what marriage is supposed to be. When our minds are not centered on God’s Word, it is easy to buy into cultural interpretations of marriage. Culture places a low-view on the husband and wife relationship and much more emphasis on the individuals in the marriage. Genesis 2:24 tells us that husbands and wives are one flesh. We are no longer separate beings. What I chose to do, think, sin, etc., directly affects my husband. Likewise, my husband’s actions directly affect me.
In our culture, it is acceptable to talk poorly about our husbands. It appears completely harmless to just vent about his shortcomings. It is not harmless and you should consider stopping, immediately. He is not a “man-baby,” this is a truly awful oxymoron. He is not the “burden” of another person you have to care for, in fact, he does not need another mother. What he needs, is his wife. The woman that stood before God and family, and declared to love and serve him. A wife that is his companion, whom his heart trusts in. (Proverbs 31:11) He needs your encouragement, and your gentle, wise counsel. He may at times need a gentle rebuke. I have found that one of the best ways that I can submit to my husband’s leadership, is by holding him to the same standards he holds me to, set by Christ. It is also, not your responsibility to “pick up his slack.” The husband is supposed to be the leader of the home. Help and serve him in this role, do not, I repeat, do not enable him to be a consumer in the home. Not because, he is a dirty awful dog, but because you love your husband enough, to see him succeed as the man that God called and commands him to be. In the times, where he fails, engage his heart. See past the task that was not done or grumpiness and minister to him. Our view of our husbands greatly impacts our marriages. If you view him as a means to an end, or another child or burden, you will inadvertently treat him as such, and I can guarantee you, this is not honoring to God.
There is another type of woman, that we can all be. The type of woman that knows just enough, to abuse it. This woman knows that God has called her husband to sacrifice for her (Ephesians 5:25-27) and uses it to her advantage. It can be as simple as, passing off your normal duties to him, knowing he sees it as an opportunity to serve. Or maybe you are like me? I know that my husband’s number one ministry is myself and our family. He faithfully provides, protects and serves sacrificially. He longs to do ministry much more than what time allows, I love this about him, but in my selfishness, I have often placed him in situations where I have made him feel like he has to choose. Because he is faithful, he is willing to forsake it all for me, and I know this, and it is wicked for me to use it against him. Our whole family’s purpose is to glorify God. The Gospel at the center of this mission, sharing the good news, it should be the heartbeat of our family. I am not the heartbeat of my family, as no woman should be, in their own. My sinful desire should never detract from the gospel. As my husband labors, for the Lord and for our family, my role is to make this easier. As wives, we should be freeing our husbands up to do ministry. How great the need of our neighbor, to hear the Word proclaimed! How wonderful and mighty, is God, and we get to serve Him!
Submission truly is a matter of the heart. Knowing that I would be writing this blog, I asked D.J. if he would consider me a submissive wife. There was a pause, a little hesitation, overall the results were not too bad. I truly am a passive person, and because of this, my rebellion looks a lot more subtle, even to the point where I can fool myself. (I was completely convinced, I would receive a hearty, “Yes!”) The example my husband used was, recently an issue of having reliable weekend childcare. He told me that I needed to get information about babysitters and pay someone to watch our daughters so that we could have more consistent childcare. I did not push back. I did not fight. I simply thought of a million reasons why this was not what I wanted to do and went on with my life and forgot. That is until, the same situation came up, again. If only I had submitted to my husband… That almost seems like a trivial example, but that is real life, folks. My husband was not honored and he felt it.
Submission is, yielding your own will and false sense of control. Recognizing, that this is not about you. That your marriage is designed to depict Christ and His church.
Christ, who is fully God and man, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (Philippians 2:6-9) We are equal to our husbands, in value and in worth (Genesis 1:27), but we are called to a role of servanthood and humility, like Christ. What an honor!
Examine your hearts, ladies. Who do you believe your husband to be? Trust him enough to ask him how you can honor him better. If necessary, repent of the way you have idolized yourself and ultimately, trust God’s design for marriage.
(To the woman that is suffering, whose husband is not faithful to God’s call. I am so very sorry. It is with a heavy heart that I encourage you to persevere and remain faithful. “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, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” 1Peter 3:1-3)
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