This topic has been on my mind for a while now because I’ve been married for over a year, and I remember all of the questions and “advice” I received when I got married about this topic. I even remember sitting down with the elder of our church, and his wife, and my husband and I were talking about marriage and the things that arise. Apparently, (and I thought this was absolutely hilarious) my elder did not know that most Black women have a serious problem with being submissive or even talking about it. In fact, I think that submission is the “kryptonite” that will awake most Black women up from the lulling fantasies of being in love, turn them 180 degrees, and present an entirely combative side of them that has never been seen before. Let’s just be real. Most Black women do not believe in being a submissive wife. Now, what are the issues here? Why? (That’s the question our elder asked us)
So, let me briefly mention a few reasons that I know Black women mention:
- I’m not a slave. Slavery ended in 1865. Why am I acting like it hasn’t?
- The Color Purple…….”you told Harpo to beat me…”
- Can’t trust a Black man, or any man for that matter
- I’m strong, educated, and independent….I don’t need you!
- I make more money than you…..let the money do the talking
- I’m not your maid.
- He’s not Jesus. He’s not perfect. Let him meet that Scripture first.
- Oh, I’ve seen “submissive wives” before, and I refuse to let a man walk all over me like that
- Nobody’s going to tell me what to do! I’m a grown woman!
- You’re not my daddy!
Now, are all of these reasons completely invalid? No. I know that there are lots of men who have completely abused the fact that the Bible tells women that they are to submit to their own husbands. Lots of men have abused that. However, I know they will all have their day of reckoning before the Lord, as we all will. So let the Lord judge them. But I do believe that a lack of discernment has made the very idea of submitting to your husband become a nightmare for most Black women.
Here are five basic problems women have:
1. You submit to a man who is not submitted to God.
Ladies, be real with yourselves. Not every man who professes to be a Christian really is, and it does not mean that he has submitted himself to the authority and lordship of Christ. If a man does not want to completely submit to Christ (meaning: if he does not want to submit to the mandates of Scripture: obedience, true worship, devotion to God on a daily basis, salvation), then will he have a clear picture of what submission is? Obviously not. Would that mean that he could have a crazy picture of what submission in marriage looks like? That’s pretty much guaranteed. So, ladies, this is a moment where it behooves you to be discerning and watchful of the man.
2. You submit to a man without really knowing him.
Ladies, this is one of the most obvious problems in almost all marriage today. You want to marry someone because you’ve been in love for a week, and he’s the one you’ve been fantasizing about for a while. And because you know he’s “the one”, you don’t seek or really listen to anyone telling you about his character or personality because “they’re all haters”. Well, at times that might be true. But if you do have people that mean well trying to tell you some things, it probably won’t hurt you to give them a listen, especially if you have not known your man that long. Personally, this is why I advocate building a friendship before you build a romantic relationship. You can see a lot of things when you’re not looking through a rose-colored lens. So ladies, take the time to really know your man before you walk down an aisle with Him. Once you make the vow, you’re a little late.
3. You submit to a man you’re not married to.
Ladies, stop playing house. If you have not entered into a matrimonial covenant with your man, stop pretending to be his wife. Even if you’ve been together for 5 years, you are not supposed to submit to him until you have entered into marriage. Let me be real for a second, shacking up with somebody does not mean you’re married, practically married, or anything else. Cohabitation is not a marriage. A long-term relationship is not a marriage. If you’re submitting yourself to a man who has not entered into a marriage covenant with you, then you are out of order, and there is no reason that you should be trying to submit yourself to him, at all.
4. You’ve never submitted to your own father or male guardian.
Now, I know that there are plenty of women out here that did not have their fathers around or any other male authority figure. But there are some who did. If you did have someone there and you were constantly rebellious, then you will probably have some issues with submission because you have never practiced it at home in a child-parent relationship. If you did not have anyone there, then you probably have never seen submission actually play out in the home, and again, you will have some problems. For me, my father died when I was 10 years old. Although we lived with him, my father was an alcoholic, and that did pose some issues with me listening and obeying everything he said. Now, my mother remarried, but I never had a real relationship with my stepfather. We eventually got to the place where we didn’t say much to each other at all. Obviously, I did not submit to any father-like figure, and I knew that there could potentially be problems if I ever decided to get married. A child-parent (or child-male guardian) relationship is really important because it shows you some elementary things about submission and your response to it.
5. You marry a person you don’t want to submit to.
Real talk ladies: you marry someone that you have obvious problems with. I’m guessing that your intention or hope is that he changes over time and becomes more tolerable later. So, the obvious point here is that if you cannot submit from Day 1, then you won’t be able to submit Day 1001 or Day 100,001. If there are some real and obvious things that you cannot submit to in your man, then do not make that man your husband. Save yourself the trouble and a lot of heartache. Don’t marry, if you don’t want to submit!
So coming back to the point of this blog: can a Black woman be a submissive wife?
Yes, I believe that a Black woman can be a submissive wife, like any other woman can, if she keeps one thing in mind. That is: Submission is between you and God. Let me repeat that:
SUBMISSION IS BETWEEN YOU AND GOD.
Ladies, let me first remind you that it was God who said that a woman had to submit to her own husband. Adam was not barking out commands to Eve in the garden, but it was God who gave this command. And He gave this command just as He commanded husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (this is also something between a man and God). Please check out: Ephesians 5:22-33. Reality is, God gave a command, not a suggestion. Secondly, the reality is that the men walking around here are not Christ; they are not perfect. Now, if they are truly converted, they will be conformed into the image of Christ. But be real. That is a process, and it will not be complete until the day of Christ. So, all men, including your man and yourself, are fundamentally flawed. Yet, we have this command from God. Thus, this is a matter of obedience between you and God. And as with all things that God commands us to do, He will give us the grace to obey and fulfill His Word as we desire Him to.
Case in point, when I was getting ready to be married to my husband, the topic of submission came up, but only once. You see, I asked my husband what his thought was about this because I knew that the women in his church presented wonderfully strong examples of godly, submissive wives, and I knew that I would fall short of that example. So, I asked him, and he told me this response only once: “I don’t have an opinion about it. That’s between you and God.”
So, I humbled myself, and I sought God about the matter after reading the Ephesians passage, and the 1 Peter 3:1-6 passage. I remember telling God that I didn’t think that this was something that I could do like I saw other women do, but I wanted to be obedient to Him. Furthermore, I wanted a godly marriage that had the blessings of the Lord throughout it. So, I want to tell you ladies that God did give me an abundance of grace to be OBEDIENT TO HIM! I did not suddenly get to the place where I saw my husband as this perfect, flawless human being. Actually, once married, I saw even more of my husband’s flaws. Yet, as I did, I also saw my own flaws, and the Spirit of God helped me to remain humbled in my own mind, heart, and in my attitude. Seeking Him, Christ poured out so much grace over my life, and it has had me so joyful being in a submitted relationship to my husband. Why? Because by submitting to him, I have submitted to God and am obedient to Him, and you will never find more joy than being in the will of God.
Furthermore, I know that my husband sought (and still seeks) God on how to actually love me like Christ loved the church. Honestly, I knew my husband for 5 years before we ever dated, and once married, I have never seen him so patient and loving in my entire life. Did I become flawless and perfect as a wife? Pride would say, “Absolutely!” But, honestly, I know that I presented a lot of challenges throughout this year. So, absolutely not! But, God was faithful to our earnest and honest desire to be OBEDIENT TO HIM. He was honored by our earnest seeking, and He met us both with increased wisdom and grace to walk out His Word.
We also found a great balance in all of this too. My husband does not just force his opinion on me about everything, but there are a number of things he just trusts me to decide and handle on my own. In fact, there are some things that he doesn’t have an opinion about at all, but if I believe it is important, he will simply pay for it because he knows that I have submitted myself to God in all things. So, he isn’t worried about me exploiting him or abusing our finances or anything else. Just as much, there are things that I completely trust my husband with that I really don’t even consider or look at anymore. You see, God has given us both wisdom to walk out His Word. We didn’t become fundamentally different people in trying to do this, and our marriage did not look the exact same way that other marriages looked like. But God gave us wisdom specific to our marriage alone. Furthermore, we didn’t just read it and try to find a way to make it work in our lives. But we read it, and we sought Him to work it out in us as we endeavored to be in complete obedience to Him. Another truth is here: any man-crafted way to be obedient to God will always result in misery and failure. But the God-crafted way to be obedient to God will always result in joy, peace, and the fulfillment of His Word.
The last thing I want to mention here is that the reason you submit to your husband only within the marriage covenant is because God upholds your marriage covenant. He does it. If you have both submitted yourselves to God, God will be the One who keeps you in the marriage. In 1 Peter 3, Peter tells women to consider Sarah as an example of a submissive wife. Now, if you read about the marriage of Abraham and Sarah, you will find one point where Abraham pretty much prostituted his wife to the king of a region so that he wouldn’t be harmed. He told the king that Sarah was only his sister, and the king took Sarah to his house. Now, consider this: Most women would not be submissive to a husband like that, but Abraham is considered the “father of our faith”. How can this be? Yes, Abraham had some obvious flaws, but it was God Himself who kept their marriage covenant. Even in Abraham’s error, He protected Sarah, as a submitted wife, by keeping her from the king. In fact, God kept her so much that He told the king that he was a “dead man” because he had taken a married woman (Genesis 20). The king quickly gave Sarah back to her husband Abraham. Now, this example seems extreme, but God tells us to take Sarah as our example. And I believe that we ought to, and we ought to also consider how God kept Sarah, and take that as His example of how he will keep us in the marriage relationship.
So can a Black woman be a submissive wife? Yes, she can. Regardless of her history, her past experiences, poor examples that she’s seen, the movies, and everything else, a Black woman, and any woman can submit to her husband. If you can keep in mind that submission is a command of God, and when you submit, you are submitting to God and being obedient to Him, not a man. If you remember that God gives you the grace to be obedient and walk in all things that He calls you to. Lastly, if you remember that God will keep you and protect you and your marriage when you desire to be fully submitted to Him. You can be joyfully enabled to submit to your husband.
My prayer is that all of you unmarried ladies fully consider the command and responsibility to submit to your husband before you get married. Consider the man that you are looking to marry, and be real with yourself. If you are married, then my prayer is that obedience to God in this becomes a real joy for you and that you experience all of the rich blessings that I have, and even more, by submitting to God in this.