“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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 5:22-24
Although I still consider myself a newlywed, God has taught me more about marriage than I ever believed he could in such a reasonably short amount of time. I look back on my wedding day 8 months ago and think, “Wow, you made a covenant to submit to Kevin until death do you part?! Did you have any idea what that really meant or what you were getting yourself in to?!” I’ll admit, when I got married I had a very limited view of submission. Sure, I could point you to the passages that command wives to submit to their husbands, and how this practically plays out in marriage. I had even witnessed other wives submit to their husbands, but I hadn’t personally lived out wifely submission. It’s one thing to know about submission, it’s another thing entirely to actually submit.
It’s ironic. I’ve heard pastors preach in sermons that we will always look back at the younger version of ourselves and be shocked by the person we once were. For example, our 30 year old self will look back at our 20 year old self and think, “Really? you were that naive, dumb, clueless, etc?” Hearing that you are short-sighted and arrogant to think you are the best version of yourself now can be offensive to some people, but this bit of insight has always been an encouragement to me as a Christian. What it means is that as we walk with Christ and navigate through life with him, we are continuously being sharpened, sanctified, and made more like Him. (The fact that I am seeing this play out on a micro scale after being married for a short 8 months, makes me eager to think about how much more I will see this to be true in 10, 30, 50 (Lord willing) years from now!)
I’ve learned more about submission than I was prepared to learn since November. One primary source outside of Scripture that has helped me is the book Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney. In reading and discussing this book with my good friend Brittany McIntyre, I can’t fully explain how beneficial this book has been to me in this new season of marriage! I’ve been challenged, convicted and stirred to really seek out what it means to be a godly wife. I read her chapter on submission this morning and it really had me thinking. In the chapter she states,
“The requirement to submit to our husbands comes straight from God, to us as wives. And we are answerable to Him for our obedience. We cannot blame our husbands for our lack of submission. The responsibility is entirely ours!”
I am not commanded by Kevin to submit to him, I am commanded by God. And as a part of this calling, I am commanded to respect him. Carolyn provides the Greek definition of respect, which means “to be in awe of, to revere, or to treat someone special.”
Carolyn later depicts an example of a”submission moment” she encountered in her marriage and keenly observes that we all have moments in our marriages when we don’t agree with our husbands and think our way would be better. I knew I needed to prepare myself for those big, life-changing moments in our marriage when Kevin and I disagreed about a major decision, but I didn’t realize how much I would need to heed the call to submit to him everyday.
On our wedding day, I vowed to submit to Kevin and to love him with tenderness and respect. However, in all honesty, there are little moments everyday when I don’t desire to respectfully submit to him. Whether it’s seeing dirty dishes in the sink and ignoring them because we decided that that would be “Kevin’s chore”, or disagreeing about how much money we can spend when we go out to eat, I am constantly being tempted to not submit. I see it whenever I think I have a better idea, a better system of doing things, or overall a better lifestyle. I see it whenever Kevin’s desires invade my kingdom and I selfishly resist letting go of my agenda in order to love him.
In this new season of learning what submission looks like, I have been blessed beyond belief with an abundance of sound teaching on this topic, including sermons at the Oaks, podcasts, conference messages, and books on marriage. The most transformative book I read on marriage was The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller. I was struck with the thought that both husband and wife get to play out a “Jesus role” in their marriage. The husband imitates Christ by being the nail-pierced servant who leads with love, humility and selflessness. The wife imitates Christ by submitting to her husband in the same fashion as Christ submitted to the Father by dying on a Cross. Both weighty callings, both impossible to obtain without the help of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what I need to remind myself of daily: I serve a God who lovingly provides all that I need, in every season of life.
In John’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples,”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).
Looking back to 8 months ago when I vowed to submit to Kevin the way the church submits to Christ, I am overwhelmed with how weighty that vow was, is, and will remain to be in our marriage. I am flooded with numerous accounts of submission failures. I am struck with an inadequacy to fulfill this vow on earth until death separates us. But, thanks be to God that because of Jesus’ life and death in my place, I am set free under his grace! I am set free to live another day, seeking to submit to God and Kevin. I am set free knowing that even though I will fail, I have been given the Spirit of truth – who promises to help battle the lies that I need to be a perfectly submissive wife on my own accord. I am set free to not perform. I am set free to rely wholly and completely on him for strength, love and wisdom in my marriage. Praise be to God!