Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.-Ephesians 5:21
Seems rather straightforward to me. We can go to Galatians 5:13, “…serve one another in love.“ Or 1 Peter 5:5 “Young men, in the same way, submit yourselves to your elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” So to submit is really just a matter of having good manners, surrendering some pride, being kind to one another. It is to engage is some fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.“
So it is somewhat amusing that when we get to “wives submit,” there is so much controversy, outrage, hyperbole, and hysteria. Well, it would be amusing if it weren’t actually something that drives people away from faith itself, if those words had not been used so often to try to justify abuse, if the number of divorces in this country were not so painfully high.
It’s such a simple thing, a benign thing, a boring thing even. Not an easy thing, not for the faint of heart that’s for sure. To submit often requires strength and courage. To take offense is actually far easier. It takes a great deal of strength not to punch people in the nose sometimes. If submission were something easy, done by the weak and cowardly, the world would look a lot different today. We’d all be submitting one to another and living peaceful lives. That’s the problem, it isn’t easy, it can be really hard. It takes strength and courage.
I’m not suggesting that all conflict and division is bad, just that to submit one to another is how you create more peaceful and fruitful interactions. The world could use more love and kindness, no?
Submitting isn’t really “submitting” when you are in perfect agreement with one another. That’s just enjoying some like-mindedness. So it can be hard, because sometimes you must submit when you are not in agreement, when you do not approve.
In marriage submission can be so ordinary, so routine, one hardly takes note of it. Today my husband said, “I’d like some coffee.” So I set down my blog, dropped what I was doing, and made him some coffee. Then we sat under the roses and had coffee together. Very sweet, very romantic, but hardly earth shattering. Submission isn’t really all that dramatic. Not usually.
Now the opposite of submission would look more like, “You want some coffee, make your own %#*&! coffee. I’m not your servant!” To not submit is generally all about defiance, lobbing baggage at someone’s head, expressing contempt. To submit is to yield, to not submit is to resist, to fight.
Those are the basics, just simple interpersonal skills that create peaceful marriages, that help men to feel loved and respected, that create calm and safety among small groups of people, to submit one to another.
Things get a bit more difficult, a bit more advanced when your husband decides he wants to get into a business deal with a good friend of his and every ounce of your being is screaming that this won’t end well, that this will cost the whole family dearly, that it’s going to take years to shovel our way out, that the risk is too high, but after you express your concerns a few dozens times there is nothing else to do. So you submit and decide to invest in reducing the harm, in making this the best financial face plant possible. You know this won’t end well, but you make a choice to love anyway, to hold hands all the way down the slide. Way, way down the slide….
When it all falls apart and your spouse is trying to blame you because you are the only one safe enough to rant at, you don’t scream defensively, “I told you so!” Instead you overlook the offense, the injustice, you empathize, you pour praise and encouragement all over them. You protect relationship and connection. I admire how you take risks. I appreciate your integrity. We’ll get through this. I’m with you.
Submission protects relationship and connection, it makes a choice to love. Scripture is full of wisdom, it is tried and true, and it works. So why do wives submit, while husbands love and give honor unto the wife? I suspect because giving love and honor is hard for men, while submitting is harder for women. It is our weaknesses that scripture often calls us towards, teaches us how to strengthen. Women often struggle with submitting to husbands, but conversely men often struggle with knowing how to love and honor their wives. Submission is sometimes a concept they understand better than we do, while women are usually all about love. Scripture teaches us how to reverse that and in the process of reversing it you come to see things from the other side of the equation.
Submission protects relationship and connection. That simple really.