Yesterday afternoon I was really unkind to Wil. To drop the sugar-coating for a minute, I was hateful for no apparent reason other than that I felt like it. It’s pretty embarrassing in retrospect. I quickly apologized and he forgave me, but it prompted a good conversation between the two of us about how there are aspects of submission and leadership that nobody ever really told us about. Stuff we had to learn the hard way.
Here are some of the things I wish people had told me about being a submissive wife in a Christian marriage:
Submission begins in the heart
If you smile and “yes sir” your husband’s every request while inwardly raging at him, then congratulations. You aren’t being submissive at all. Passive-aggressive responses with a veneer of pleasantry may fool your friends into admiring your submissiveness, but they won’t fool your spouse for long and will never fool God.
Marriage wasn’t intended to be tolerated through grit teeth and fakery. A husband’s Christlike, sacrificial love, and a wife’s respectful submission are supposed come from the overflow of a regenerated heart. Too often however, we settle for actions that mimic submission so that we can look pious and mature, leaving the true contents of our heart to eventually leak out and poison our marriages.
Submission has nothing to do with your worth or abilities
There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that states wives must submit to their husbands because women are incompetent or stupid. And yet I’ve heard both believers and non-believers claim that the Bible states as such. This is a straw man trotted out by both groups to either undermine the worth of one gender, or to paint scripture in an unflattering light.
Submission within marriage exists as an earthly representation of the relationship between Christ and the Church body. We are called to submit to our husbands as a demonstration of the submission Christ asks of His bride, the church. Additionally, Christ was always walking in accordance of God’s will. Would anyone assume that Jesus submitted to the Father because Jesus was a big dumb idiot? Nope. Instead, the perfect Savior chose to humble Himself through submission to our sovereign Father’s perfect will because that’s what was required for the salvation of mankind.
We don’t know why God chose to illustrate submission to Christ this way. The Apostle Paul famously refers to our union with Christ as “a great mystery” when making the comparison to marital relationships. But for whatever reason, submission within marriage is the illustration of union with Christ that God chose for His people. Christians honor that representation through our marriages because it’s the choice God made for us, not because women are stupid or inferior.
Submissive wives help husbands become better leaders
One of the more frustrating aspects of submission in marriage is when your husband doesn’t seem interested in leading.
Some people eschew leadership roles even when it’s required of them, and others just struggle to lead well. However these issues don’t give you a pass to be un-submissive. Submission even may be what helps turn the situation around for the better, because it’s a silent witness of your testimony to a husband who may be struggling with his own. A wife who submits to her husband’s authority rather than taking over is giving him the chance to grow in leadership qualities.
Don’t rob your husband of the catalyst he may need in order to mature as a leader. Sometimes this means letting him fail.
Submission isn’t easy for anyone, but there’s grace for all anyway
This is true of wives under authority of husbands. Of Christians under authority of church elders. Of the worldwide church body under authority of God. All of us, regardless of gender and marital status have wrestled with what it means to be submissive and obedient at some point in our lives. The good news is that Christ was perfectly submissive for us, and provides grace for us when we fail.
Seek it out.