Last night we met with our newly wed group, and after some great catching up we began to discuss a chapter of a book called "The language of Love and Respect." It is a marriage book Jeremy and I started a little while ago and even though we are not too far in, we thought the books discussion of more traditional gender roles in marriage especially from a Christian perspective would spark some good conversation. We were not wrong.
It is amazing how six people can read the same words and hear totally different things. Some of the traditional views of womens and mens needs and roles within marriage were challenged in discussion, but what caused the most lively debate was the issue of submission.
When Jeremy and I wrote our marriage vows we didn't include anything about submitting. It was not because we were anti that point of view, but more that there were things we felt were more important to focus on like love and respect. With these things in place I feel confident in the structure of our marriage and the fact that our foundation is on Christ. Which feels like the perfect environment for submission to work.
Until last night, Jeremy and I had never had a specific conversation about how submission works in our marriage. As much as I consider myself a strong and outspoken women I would also say that if it came to it on an important decision in our family and after we had had conversations, sought counsel, and really sought the Lord together if we still didn't agree I would ultimately submit to Jeremy. My submission can come from a place of trust in his love for me and because I believe he would be submitting to the will of the Lord.
I consider us equals in our relationship. We both have roles to play but ultimately we are called to love and serve and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The discussion in our group turned to the way 'submit' has become a dirty word, and how in the church especially it has been used as a license for men to abuse, "Do as I say because I am the man and you have to submit to me." Or has also been used as a reason for women to stay in bad situations, afraid to leave because they feel their role is just so submit - that is the 'good Christian' thing to do.
I am not saying that this is ok, abuse is never ok, but the abuse of submission was never God's intention. Trust humanity to take something beautiful and poop all over it. Marriage is a way for us to reflect to the world Christs love for the church, and clearly if you are being abusive or controlling to your spouse you are not loving them well and scripture should never be used to justify unloving behaviour.
I see the way Jeremy and I submit to one another and I hope it can begin to reclaim the word for good. I see the pain and damage that word has done in the lives of some of our friends and it is so sad.
As our conversation took this turn last night I feel so blessed to be sharing with these friends. God has brought us together to share life and learn about marriage in community. It is conversation like this that sharpen all of us. I hope it begins to challenge all of us to consider others experience and find healing and beauty in our own lives.
This seems to be a pretty explosive topic. After last night I recognise there is so much baggage around the word for some people. I pray that whatever your experience or bias to the word 'submission,' those of us in relationships can feel loved, cared for and respected in a way that feels safe and life-giving. In my marriage, this is what submission feels like for both of us, as we choose to put one another first.