Monday, November 15, 2010

To submit or not to submit, that is the question

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.


  1. Really interesting post! I'm still wondering though what is the thinking behind the "if we still didn't agree I would ultimately submit to Jeremy" bit. You go on to say you submit to one another, but then this line doesn't make sense to me!


  2. I'm reading this book right now called "Lost Women of the Bible" that has an introduction that I really resonated with. She talked about how she grew up in a great Christian home, went to a Christian college, and left college without a husband. Who was she without being a wife and one day a mother? Then she went to seminary, and still no husband. One year became ten years and still no husband. What then?

    It's been incredibly affirming for me to read! I've especially enjoyed her discussion of the Biblical understanding of the word "helper" in the Book of Genesis and how every other time that word in the Bible is used how it has militaristic and battle implications. The helper God speaks of is someone who joins her husband in battle. I've also really loved how she talks about the relationship between men and women as being the "Blessed Alliance" and how regardless of one's marital status that all men and women need relationships with the opposite sex wherein they can urge one another to draw closer to God. Talk about the world pooing on something great - men and women are made to be in relationship with one another, and it's gotten to the point where a man and a woman can't be just friends because all this other garbage is put up as barriers.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this!

  3. I see your point. Our desire is to submit to one another and that is how it generally plays out day to day. But if at some point there is a big decision we get stuck on, I would submit to him. It is not that I think God can't speak to me, or that our family would never be led in a direction because of that. I just think that if it came down to it, and we hit an impasse. I would defer to Jeremy as my husband who loves me and is seeking the best for our family.

  4. Chrissie

    We covered this at homegroup recently. That ultimate chunk in Ephesians 4:22 which is always seen as the wife must submit but what people fail to read is the few verses before it and after it! We came to the conclusion that we do not have to submit and be doormats. The husband also has major duties which he must fulfill before we have to submit! Sounds very feminist but it truly isn't. These verses as you say have been and still are used to this day as justice for abuse. The overall message though is that both must have respect for each other. Funny we avoided this study for so long as it had always made everyone cringe but we learnt so much more from it than we thought! Sarah

  5. So true, it seems like a hot-button topic. Truly it is about mutual love and respect. Reflecting Christ's love to one another. We had a great discussion last night and I am sure it is just the start of the conversation. Did your homegroup go through a specific study or did you just read through the passages and discuss?

  6. Hey Chrissie, I'm curious about the reasons for this final choice to submit. Is it a matter of you deciding your husband is individually more attuned to Christ than you are individually, or do you submit because he's a man and you're a woman and men are just better at that sort of thing? That's the heart of this issue, I feel.

  7. yeastcapp, thanks for your comment/question. It is not a case of believing one of us being more attuned to Christ or anything like that. When either of us hears something we believe is from the Lord we use discernment but then generally go with it - whoever had been praying or sensing his voice/direction. But if If a situation ever does arise when we felt conflicted, I would submit because I do believe that ultimately he is the head of our household. As I said though, this is not something he would EVER use to manipulate me or a situation, and I believe that submission can only work when there is mutual love and respect. And repeating myself again, I am not sure how or where such a situation would manifest in our marriage but I guess we'll see. Does that make sense? I guess we are still processing through what this means, we have made it this far without it being an issue but it feels as if it's something that people have strong opinions on from both sides!

  8. What a great topic to discuss among a group of friends and in a safe environment!



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