I haven’t written a blog in a while, mainly because life has been pretty busy. But I am doing a lot of personal reflection coming into this year because I am approaching some milestones. My sweet little girl is turning 3 in March. I’m turning 30 in June, and my husband and I will be celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary this year with hopes of actually adding to our number later in the year. So with all of this going on, I am definitely taking my time to stop, think, and reflect over the past few years on my experiences.
Thinking of marriage specifically over the past week, my mind went back to a blog I wrote a couple of years ago on the topic of submission in marriage (you can find it here). I just read over it again, and I can’t help but crack up at myself. I don’t see things any differently at this point, but the blog could have been a bit gentler. Nevertheless, that is why I thank God for growth and maturity as I age. And I wanted to briefly revisit the topic of submission in marriage again (2 ½ years later) and the biggest concern I currently see with it.
Reflecting on Submission
I always have to start by thanking God for His presence in my life, for giving me life in Him alone, and finally for giving me a wonderful husband who also has a solid relationship with Him.
When I think about my marriage and the topic of submission, I understand that my marriage functions well and is joyful because we are two individual people who have personal desires to please and honor God regardless of what His Word says or how challenging it may be or how “different” it may be in this day and age.
Now, I do realize the daily pressures of succumbing to the mindset of the culture and the rest of the world. I realize that the submission of wives in marriage seems to be a very antiquated construct that should be (in the eyes of most) immediately dismissed in favor of the egalitarian view of the sexes and the “liberation” of women from the confines of the home and the drudgery of child-rearing. I mean, why hold on to the past? Why waste my potential? Why waste all of my education? Why not follow my own dreams and my own heart? Why not live a really meaningful life? Yep, those are all questions I have either been asked directly or indirectly over the past few years. But, I do think these questions deserve a valid answer.
Well, if you really want to know why (and I mean, really want to know why), it is because I have counted Christ to be far more valuable to me than my education, my own personal dreams, my own potential, and my own ability to create/do/derive something meaningful in my own life. I guess that sounds pretty stupid and foolish, but it is the truth. He just means more to me than anything else.
And the usual follow-up question I receive is: Well, do you think God would want you to waste all of the gifts and talents He’s given you? Don’t you think He would want you to use the education He blessed you to be able to receive to do something meaningful and good in your life, rather than just be at home all the time? And again, that is a valid question that deserves an answer.
So to answer, I do believe that God blesses us with many talents, gifts, and skills to be used for His glory. I also believe that God can provide opportunities and ways for people to use those gifts and talents in good and honorable ways that can please Him and bring glory to Him. And when I look at my own life, I can clearly see how God blessed me with talents and gifts and opportunities to serve Him and bring glory to Him. However, when I approached marriage, I accepted the words of God spoken through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, that both marriage and singleness are gifts from the Lord (vs. 7) and that we ought to live the life that God has called each of us to (vs. 17). As a single woman, I was completely free to serve God with all of my heart, making full use of all of my talents in any opportunity that He presented me with, and I did. But when I entered into the covenant of marriage, my sphere of work and my priorities dramatically changed, and as a result, I am called to be faithful to the Lord in my home. And if an opportunity arises that I can partake in without negatively affecting my home, my care of it, and my family, then I can exercise some godly wisdom, talk to my husband, and make a decision about whether or not to pursue it. And that’s my answer. But even now, I can see again the same thing that I wrote in my first blog: Submission is an action between an individual and the Lord (and you should add: and all that is revealed in His Word).
The past few years of my life have been marked by increased study of the Word of God. My husband and I have grown from just opening our Bibles on Sundays and occasionally at home to having family worship time almost every single night of the week. We have traversed through the Prophets together. We have studied through the Gospels, most of the Epistles, and even Psalms. We have studied the Holy Spirit, angels and demons, and are now studying Christ Himself. All of this studying together has spurred me on personally, and I have traversed the Historical books a number of times (even Leviticus and Numbers) and a study of the Wisdom Literature. It has trained me to dig in real deep and allow a study to take months (even a year or more) if need be. But ultimately, it has increased my love for God and given me a much deeper love for His Word and actually knowing what His will is and what He requires of me.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17
The result of all of this time in the Word has given me a heart to do those things that are most pleasing to God. It has given me a heart to do the things that I never ever would have wanted to do, but I would do now because it pleases Him. Basically, spending that much time in the Word has furthered my growth in the Lord and my maturity (sanctification). And as you are increasingly sanctified, you become increasingly submitted to the Word of the God and find your joy in being obedient to Him.
So, in an effort to not drag this out too long, by my husband and me spending so much more time in the Word over the past years, individually and together, we have both been growing in our spiritual maturity and in our desire to really obey the Word of God. As a result, our marriage and our home have become more centered on the Lord. As a couple, we are more in love with each other today than we ever have loved one another before. Our flaws and weaknesses are even more apparent in marriage, but they are more apparent to both the offender and the offended. So we are walking in more grace, patience, and humility with one another. Our communication is a lot better now because we have a better understanding of one another and because we call ourselves and each other out in those prideful moments too (we wrote two blogs on that topic: here and here). And we are growing in our unity and “oneness” as a couple because no matter what we are going through, we know that we are striving after the same goal: an imperishable crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), and we desire to help each other reach that goal.
One Unintentional Peril of Submission…
Turning the subject a bit, my biggest concern about the emphasis of submission in marriage at this point is the negative impact it seemingly has on the spiritual lives and zeal of a lot of women, especially in the area of discernment (here’s a good podcast).
Attempting to stay away from the ditch of egalitarianism, feminism, and liberal views of gender roles, some people have so overly emphasized the submission of wives (including quietness, learning at home, etc.) that women have become passive recipients of whatever they are told and taught. And knowing that they don’t have “license” to have a voice in the religious arena, they are often guided by their feelings and intuitive thoughts in matters of the faith.
I understand that one of the biggest concerns loved ones had for me when I got married was that I would somehow, check my mind in at the altar and never pick it up again. If you know me, you know that did not happen at all. But unfortunately, it appears to me that it happens to a lot of women, and it’s really concerning. Just check out a list of the bestselling Christian books in 2014, and you will find the list flooded with “Christian romance” (especially the Amish ones for some reason), ways to achieve your dreams, ways to pursue your destiny, the Jesus Calling products, and other books that stir up the emotions and thoughts of a lot women without ever steering or directing them to the unchangeable truth and relevancy of God’s Word. And so many women love these kinds of books and honestly can’t see a problem with them.
But please don’t get me wrong. I understand the appeal of this kind of literature. It warms your heart. It feels good. It makes you feel good. It offers advice that seems pretty easy to do and easy to incorporate. And let’s face it. That is really attractive because you have some kids to run after, a husband to deal with, and a home to keep in shape. And when you are constantly tested and feel strained trying to do everything you need to do in your hope, why challenge yourself spiritually when it doesn’t really seem like you have to? Now, we all know there will always be large scale efforts to draw in, teach, and train up godly men. And I don’t know a single Christian woman who is going to have a problem with that, especially if they are single. But, by only emphasizing a wife’s role in managing her home well, bearing and raising children, submitting to her husband, and not holding leadership positions in church, an unintended message is being sent out that those are the only things that a woman needs to be concerned about as a Christian wife.
The alarm is not being sounded that you can be led astray in the beauty and comfort of your own home, and fall into temptation when you’re running to the grocery store. The warning is not being given that our enemy, Satan, lurks about trying to devour the Christian housewife, as well as the minister, the mommy on a playdate, as well as young convert. The call for all Christian women to don the whole armor of God is not going forth loudly, and women are failing to be girded with the truth of God’s Word. Women who have spent years in church do not know how to share the gospel with anyone. Women who have access to numerous Bibles and study aids know very little about the work of Christ in obtaining their salvation, have little assurance in their standing before God, and know even less about standing firm against the attacks of the enemy. You don’t see exhortations being given to women to search the Scriptures, to find out if the things they are being taught are true. You don’t see a lot of church leaders actively making sure the women in their churches are being discipled properly, and you definitely don’t see a lot of women making it their mission and goal to learn as much as they can so that they can effectively disciple younger women. (And let me add here: I know a good number of pastors do exhort all of their members to study the Scriptures and examine the sermons. However, a lot of people in general do not believe that the exhortations coming from their own personal pastors and elders are binding on their conscious, nor do they believe that the Lord will hold them accountable to it. So they fail to do it. Please consider the implications of Hebrews 13:17)
So in conclusion, do I still believe that submission in marriage should be upheld? Absolutely, because it shows that we are submitted to the Lord and that we honor and value His approval and ways higher than the thoughts and opinions and ways of this world. But do I recognize how easy it is to slide off into another ditch and produce generations of Christian wives who are excellent wives, mothers, and homemakers, but who have no spiritual backbones, who can offer no reasons for why they believe what they believe, who can’t read a challenging book, who can’t bear to hear a convicting message, who can’t have a discussion or debate with someone who disagrees with them, and ultimately, who can’t exercise godly discernment and have a deepening awareness of the tactics and schemes of the enemy in this day and age.
So to all of you who have issues with submission, I hope that you have found this blog to be honest and straightforward. As much as I would like to refer anyone to a quick self-help book or just give you a few sentences that will completely fix all of your issues on the topic, I can only humbly offer you the Word of God, the same Word that continues to transform my life day after day. And for my sisters in the faith, if you realize that in desiring to be godly and submissive that you have stopped being an actual disciple of Jesus Christ, diligently studying His Word and pursuing His life, I pray that this post serves as a good wake-up call. And I pray that we all find ourselves standing firm, being “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).