There is a lot of talk about submission. My husband, Matt, is here to share his views. I don’t know why this has scared me to post this, but here we go.
How can submission be bad? It is in the Bible after all —
Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” There it is, in black and white. That is what I thought early in my marriage — soon after I said “I do”. I made sure that Jen knew that I was the leader of our household and she had to submit to my leadership. I was not like that before we got married, but I definitely was after we were married. I honestly don’t know why. If we had an argument in which we reached an impasse, I would throw out submission. If I felt I was in the right and she was wrong, I would throw out submission. And, because she was led to believe that she was being obedient to God, she felt she had no choice but to accept that — at least for a time.
But, I slowly wore away her spirit. She was no longer as carefree and easygoing as when we were first married. Instead of treating her like a teammate, I treated her as an employee and I was her over-bearing boss. I treated her as if I was smarter than she was, almost like a child. Finally she shared with me how I was making her feel. Once I knew just how deeply I had hurt her, and how I was wearing down her spirit, it made me want to change my ways.
Then later on I also learned that Ephesians 5 did not stop at verse 22. I especially had missed the most important part for husbands: Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. When the full extent of the following verses started catching my attention, I was ashamed of how I had treated Jen. I realized that I had been demanding that she sacrifice for me, instead of the way it should have been, me sacrificing for her. I had been a dictator, not a servant leader. And, I had been leading from my own desires, not chasing after the desires of God.
Now that I had these pieces of information (Jen’s hurt and Ephesians 5:25), I wish I could say everything was better. But, years of thinking I had a right to absolute rule of my household did not go away overnight. I was hard-headed and God had a lot of work to do on me. It took more hurt on Jen’s part and marriage counseling to finally drill into me how much I needed to sacrifice. Even to this day there are still many times when I make Jen feel like far less than she is because of my arrogance and selfishness. And, the hurt that I caused over the years will not go away overnight. That does not mean that Jen is not willing to forgive, it just means that healing and trust take time.
Husbands, it is our job to lead by example. That is what Christ did for us. He did not say things that He did not also walk out in front of the world. I know that if I want Jen to feel love from me, it takes action on my part, not just words. If I want to be a husband that she is proud to have lead our home, then I must first be a man after God’s own heart. I must follow Christ and His example each and every day. I must serve Him and seek Him to know how to lead. Will I be perfect? No. But, that is not an excuse to not do my best — for myself, for my family, for the Church, and for the world.
And her submission does not mean she is a servant or a slave. We are a team, fighting side by side as we face the enemy of our souls. There are many areas that God has gifted her in that I need help in and vice versa. I think that is what Ephesians 5:21 is all about, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is also touched on in Romans 12:4 where we are told that “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function“. By each of us following the others lead where we are weak, we make each other stronger — each part of the body of Christ. And, above all we both need to submit to Christ and His authority over both of our lives.
Also, submission is not something that is demanded, it is something earned. If I demand submission from Jen, then that is putting her into the role of a subordinate. That is not what I want for her. I love her and I would rather serve her any day of the week rather than her feeling that she is being forced to server me. And, even if she does not feel like an employee, I want to love her with the same sacrificial love that led Christ to the cross. I must die to self each and every day, giving up my rights to living a life focused on me. I must consider others as better than myself (Phillipians 2:3), especially my wonderful wife, Jen.
Do I have this all down pat? Once again, I wish I could say yes. But, I am very much a work in progress. I hope you can learn from my bone-headed mistakes and arrogance. I am just grateful that Jennifer has stuck with me through my learning and growing. I want to be a husband that Jen can be proud of. So, I will continue to work at it, no matter how hard it is, or how long the road seems.