Submit. Can I be really honest? The word actually makes me cringe a little bit. I like to believe that one day soon enough it won’t. But currently, I have zero good thoughts come into my mind when I hear people talk about biblical submission. I’ve always prided myself on being a feminist, though I may not ascribe to all tenants of the ideal, and submission is a tough pill to swallow.
I would argue my disdain for the word has a lot less to do with what God’s original plan and purpose was for it and a whole lot more to do with the blatant abuse of it.
Let’s start simply.
Ephesians 5:22-24 “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.”
What Does it Mean to Submit?
Submit can be defined as “to yield to governance or authority”.
Can I tell you where I believe christian culture has really damaged this word? I’ve seen submission become interchangeable with silence. I’ve seen it mean a woman cannot have her own opinion and most certainly not an opinion that differs from her husband or other christian men. I’ve seen it become oppression. I’ve watched it rob the world of the gifts God has purposefully given to woman to utilize.
In fact, the misuse of feminine submission has become a popular movement in certain sects of modern Christian churches where women with leadership gifts are suspect of bucking church authority. This leads to squelching God-given gifts as well as removes male church leadership from having to humbly accept God’s gift to her and empower her to succeed in walking it out.
The Bible is clear. Wives are to submit to their own husband. That’s not men in general. That’s her spouse, the man she loves, whom God has given to her. The passage in Ephesians goes on to give the husband even more commands on how to protect and love his bridge – likened to how Christ has died for us.
What Does this Look like, Practically?
I wish that people who immediately scoffed at the notion that a wife could happily be submissive could see how it really plays out practically. To be honest, I can’t think of a single scenario where I felt like Caleb abused his leadership or heavy handed me into doing something I didn’t want to. Because in a true biblical marriage, a husband is going to honor his wife and lovingly communicate with her to guide her into understanding rather than throwing down out of fear of “personal defeat”.
If I immediately disagree with something Caleb is bringing to the table, we talk about it. There’s no “laying down the law” going on, because he loves and respects me. One of us will end up compromising. We aren’t always going to see everything perfectly, but we can always come to an agreed upon choice. This happens because we mutually respect one another.
Some may see this approach as unhealthy leadership, but it is biblical. A woman submitting to her husband does not automatically mean the man is entitled to a “chest-puffed-out” list of demands for his bride to “follow”. Christ-centered, biblical, servant-minded men lead their wives – they don’t shove them into following.
The Beauty of God’s Design
God’s plan was never to quiet the woman. Absolutely not. He created man and woman in his image. We are both image bearers of our God, and God has a purpose for each of us. Marriage was designed to be a picture of the gospel that dignifies both the man in and the woman in their respective roles.
True submission implies a loving, sacrificial leader has called her into a life of pursuing purpose that supersedes the here and now. Submission is the healthy byproduct of a tender-hearted selfless leader guiding his bride with love. Yes, even in these moments submission requires trust (in Jesus). I am not implying that good submission can only happen when leaders lead well. But God’s design for submission is that it grows out of a response to leadership that exemplifies Jesus.
I am a strong, opinionated and educated woman who chooses to submit to my husband. I am all of those things, because that’s exactly how God designed and created me. He did not ask me to submit to my husband to quiet my heart and feelings and teach me blind submission. No. He calls me to much greater things by learning to deny myself for His plan for not only my life, but my husband’s. My obedience in submission is an act of vulnerability and love. Love for both my husband, and my Creator.