Every Tuesday we engage in one big question, topic or idea. You are invited to write in with a suggestion you want to share. I surely do not have all the answers but know that together we can generate some great conversation and have fun in the process. (Feel free to post your topics, questions, and your great thoughts in the comments below!) Together, we will stay informed and equipped about topics that matter!
Today’s Blog Contributor:
Brie and her husband Jonn serve as youth directors in Port Orchard, WA. They are passionate about people making life transforming connections with Jesus. Aside from being a youth director she is also an avid cyclist, foodie, coffee connoisseur, and cat lady.
Being a Christian wife, I’ve been to my share of Bible studies and church-y things. Without a shadow of doubt there always seems to be one topic that divides the room more than gay marriage or speaking in tongues. A topic that is so close to all of our hearts that we can’t stand the idea of someone disagreeing. Just discussing it can make us feel as though we’re standing naked in the middle of on-coming traffic. It rubs an area that is soft and uncalloused with 60 grit sandpaper. It’s where our theology collides with our everyday. Where the stubbornness of our beliefs meets the most vulnerable relationship this world offers: marriage. Not just our marriages, but the heart of our marriages. Our hearts that beat with a desire to serve God and a sometimes stronger desire to serve ourselves. There is one word that seems to rile us up like none other…Submission.
I tend to have a more egalitarian and ‘feminist’ approach to this word (If you haven’t picked up on that yet, I’m sure my bias will be made apparent even as I try to write objectively). Others strongly disagree. When we approach a topic this deeply vulnerable, we have to come to it in a state of submission or we won’t see the other side. But if we can’t agree on what submission means, how do we approach it submissively? So the circle goes. The unfortunate result of our disagreement and lack of humility with one another is an inevitable end with hurt feelings, hardened hearts and 3 backward steps.
I was once in a Bible study where this came up, and one woman told me that our feminist, head-strong society has caused us to manipulate the scripture in a way that allows us an equal plain with our husbands. I retorted that the chauvinistic culture of the early Christians could have just as likely nuanced the writing of the scripture. As always–when interpreting the Bible we have to understand the place in history that it was written as much as we have to understand our place in history as we read it. The political intricacies of the 1st century culture have skewed our view just as much as the political intricacies of ours. Looking objectively is impossible.
It’s important for all of us to admit that we’re probably doing it wrong. We have to allow space for grey. Even to lean in to the tension with open hearts. Allow our political views, cultural standards and our spiritual convictions come together in a chaotic calamity. It’s sounds so beautiful and poetic doesn’t it? But the reality of our humanity makes it ugly and complicated. Our irrational emotions are entangled with our rose-colored glasses and we can’t separate or acknowledge that either exist. We have to just say to ourselves out loud that we all want the same thing: to cling to Jesus. If we don’t do this, we run the very high risk of forgetting that ‘she’ has the same heart as me. It becomes a ‘her and I’ where it should have been an ‘us.’ We are the ones stumbling through this mess, trying to see clearly through milk glass. If we don’t remember her heart behind her opinion, that’s all she will be, an opinion. We have to be grounded in unity or else the diversity will ruin us. For what good is the body of Christ without the flexible cartilage of joints?
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”
This is my humble attempt to start the conversation; to put some tangible points to a controversially ambiguous topic. Because it’s important. So here are my meager thoughts on what submission is and what it isn’t.
Understanding that he loves me more than I want to let him
It’s hard to allow people into your world fully. It’s even harder to let them love you in spite of your imperfections. My husband loves me a lot of times more than I want him to. It’s easier, I think, not to love or be loved. So the first step in submission is allowing someone to do just that. To come into your world and love you with all of your faults.
Realizing that he has my best interest in mind
When we submit to the will of the Father, part of our apprehension is not believing that He truly has a plan. That He does not, in fact, make all things work together for our good. Yet He does have our best interest in mind. In the same way, part of my apprehension in submission (yup us feminists are twitching the more I use that word!) is that I have a hard time really believing that my husband has my best interest in mind. Because he loves me more than I want to let him. Ugh so many circles..
Recognizing when I’ve pushed too hard
Some things are worth fighting for and some aren’t. Sometimes we (meaning me) want our husbands to be the person we want them to be rather than who they currently are. Unfortunately, this can seem like conditional love. (Oh wait, that’s EXACTLY what it is!) Sometimes it is far wiser, and harder, to understand and love my husband for who he is instead of who I want him to be.
Keeping his best interest in mind
My husband is phenomenal at letting people have what they need. He will intentionally lose arguments because he understands that sometimes people just need to win and he is enough of a man to let that happen. (Thank God because I need to win a lot!) I think we can take a page out of his book. Sometimes I need to let him have something. For no other reason than sometimes he needs it. He needs that stupid fishing boat that you have no place to store. Not because he needs it, but because he needs it. And I need to keep his best interest in mind.
Submission is not:
Being a doormat
There really isn’t a whole lot more to say about this other than that. “Doormatedness” (Yes I made that up. Definition: The state of being a doormat) is not true submission. The point of submission is to further the glory of God. We become less so He can become more. It’s not a shallow mat to be trampled on.
For the Weak
If you think that submission and weakness are synonymous, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, you’re an idiot. Please stop reading this. True submission is the woman who choses to love her husband even though he doesn’t believe in her God. Or the woman who continually stands by and supports her husband even though he is drinking himself into a shallow grave. Or the man who sits quietly while his raging wife is flying off the handle. The most submissive people I know are often the strongest.
Does the Bible tell wives to submit to their husbands? Yes absolutely. It also says that husbands ought to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Jesus gave us a phenomenal example of true submission–He submitted his life for His people. So I would say (don’t smite me!) that submission is a two-way street. To what level? I’ll leave that one for debate.
This is a complex, multi-faceted issue. We so badly want things to be black and white when they are grey. Living in the tension is far more difficult. It requires vulnerability, humility and you guessed it, submission. Because grey is messy and tension isn’t particularly fun, but that’s life. That’s Christian life–constantly leaning in to tension, never knowing for sure if we have this thing figured out or not. Yet we condemn people who think they believe the opposite of what we think we believe. Can’t we just acknowledge that we’re all sinful and wrong and human? Thank goodness for Jesus. In the complicated mess of marriage and relationship we can cling to the one truth: Jesus.
I realize you may all disagree with my sentiments and that’s okay. Because submission is not simple. But I don’t claim to have the answers. I just want to boldly and humbly begin a conversation that is 2,000 years overdue. This is me, naked in on-coming traffic. Remember that this is my heart and I’ll remember that it is yours.
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