On our wedding day, a guest stood up to share words of wisdom and present some gifts.
A few minutes into his speech, I took a step forward.
“Where are you going?” my husband asked with a smile.
“To receive the gifts” I answered mid-stride.
“Let’s wait.” He tagged on my hand gently. “He hasn’t called us forward yet.”
The guests did not see the twitch on my face.
Or the heart dropping to my chest. But my husband may have noticed the flick of chin and the stiffened back.
I was floored that he didn’t see the obvious (obvious in my world, of course) and completely shocked he had issued a veto on my will.
Years later, I’d look back at that small encounter and recognize it as my first opportunity to talk and partner with my husband.
It was also the first (and not last) time I’d “agree” on the outside while throwing up a storm on the inside.
What Submission is Not
A lot has been said when it comes to allowing our husbands to take the lead.
I have written a few posts on submission and you can check them out
That said, some of my biggest lessons have been on what submission is not.
So let’s look on 6 things submission in marriage is not
1. Submission in marriage is not gritting your teeth and “making yourself” follow
While I love being in charge, I also know what God says about the role of a husband in marriage; he is accountable at the end of the day (what we call leadership.)
So the easiest compromise (since I wanted to be a “good wife”) was to make myself submit on the outside. While world war III raged on the inside.
But God began to show me that submission was a heart issue
It’s doesn’t begin with the “right” actions or the “right” words; He is after the condition of my heart. Being the right way is more important than doing or saying the right thing.
Obviously, all three are important but right actions and words proceed out of a healthy heart.
Any time we wrestle with godly commands, our next step should not be to whip out human willpower or fake obedience. We need to know we can talk to God about our struggles. And He will help us.
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2. It might not feel like a natural fit
I believe God wires us up for our destinies – He gives a passion and disposition to match our role and calling in life.
When it came to submission, I expected a complete personality make over. I thought He’d change me from a strong, argumentative and willful person to a sweet, nice and mild woman.
After a looong wait, I came to realize God was not planning to give me a personality transplant. Instead, He had a heart transformation lined up.
Sometimes we wait for obedience to feel natural, to slide into our lives like a hand into a glove. But our flesh is in rebellion towards the things of God. We have wounds and baggage.
Partnership does not happen automatically.
Wives who want to submit eventually accept that submission is not an automatic switch; it’s something you learn intentionally. You might not change in a day, but you grow every day.
3. Submission isn’t about value
Sometimes we think “whoever leads the pack owns the pack”. Personally, I thought being a partner (not the head) meant I was deficient, weak and helpless (gasp).
It took a while to understand that the roles of love and submission as described in Ephesians 5: 21 – 33.) They have nothing to do with the value of the person but are about function.
Like any institution, God assigned different roles and responsibilities to the man and woman in order to successfully carry out His mission on earth. His assignment is not indicative of value.
Man and woman are valued, accepted and loved equally. Just assigned differently.
4. It doesn’t mean earning
Submission in marriage has always been about trusting God first.
It goes without saying that wives are not to “submit” to sin or abuse or addictions. The essence of submission is devotion to God first; if God doesn’t like what is happening, you shouldn’t either.
(Seek the counsel of other wiser Biblicaly-sound believers if you need wisdom or discernment. If you are in danger, contact authority or find a place of safety and work on your marriage from there)
But for the wives in generally healthy marriages (not perfect), we are not to wait until our husbands are worthy to submit to; if we do, we will never get around to submitting.
Because husbands are normal human beings who make mistakes, fail and generally do things that scream “Not worthy of trust!” The same way we wives do things that scream “Not worthy of love!”
5. It is not playing doormat
Submission doesn’t mean a lack of intelligence or will. As a newlywed wed, I swung from one extreme to another – from heel-clicking defiance to wimpy false meekness.
But submission doesn’t mean a wife shies away from her responsibility as a helper.
Strong marriages are made of two spouses who pull together in the same direction. A wife’s thoughts, opinions and contributions are powerful and needed in her marriage.
A wife who doesn’t contribute to the partnership is robbing her marriage because it’s not partnership if one person is missing.
Case in point, my wedding day.
Instead of clamming up and fuming, I could have explained to my husband why a few steps forward were a good idea; I felt it was a gesture of respect for the older gentleman. Plus it saved us time when it was finally time to accept the gift!
But I didn’t talk and I never got to hear his reason for staying put either. And so we robbed ourselves of our first “hard” but hopefully fruitful conversation as a newlywed married couple.
6. Submission won’t always be demanded of me
I grew up with a tough dad but I married a sweet easy man.
Because of my upbringing, when something is not spelled out in black and white, I tend to excuse myself out of that responsibility.
But most healthy husbands don’t walk around waving “I am the head honcho” placard, demanding acquiesce.
My husband doesn’t make it his business to tell me “how to follow him.” Yet I expect that gritty leadership-style (that would drive me up the wall, anyway.)
I have come to understand that a wife who expects her husband to spell it out for her, to keep her heart in order on her behalf, will never get to submitting.
This is important for wives with gentler husbands to understand; just because you can get away with something doesn’t mean it’s right or it won’t injure their marriage dynamic.
I invite you to take a deep dive and learn about how to create a marriage that is not based on roles and responsibilities (however important they are) but on mutual love and submission to one another. Yes, we are called to submit to one another! Still the best marriage starts with “me” and Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years shows you how to be well so your marriage can be well! Amazon Paperback I Amazon Kindle I Barnes & Noble