DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT SUBMISSION
As a single woman there are a few conversations I don’t like having. One of those conversations is on submission. Now, part of the reason is that I have personally been wounded and have seen my other sisters mishandled under the guise of “biblical submission”. I also believe that the sin of pride in the lives of my brothers doesn’t enter into the conversation as much as it should. However, my opinions on the quality of the conversation don’t trump my biblical responsibility to submit in several relationships in my life, not just marriage. Yet as I take a deep look at some misplaced conversations (talking about submission on the 2nd Date), the current sour sentiment, and what I read in Scripture, I realize that some of us are missing the mark when it comes to this relationship dynamic.
When I hear my brothers talk about submission, what I really hear is a question of compliance. When you prematurely ask me if I would submit to you, what I see is you trying to figure out whether I will listen to your direction or will try to usurp your authority. You want to check off a box on your “traits of a perfect wife list” to ensure that you don’t experience a coup d’état halfway through your marriage. The problem with this is that these questions stem from a place of fear. Biblical submission is not about ensuring you retain the number one power spot in your family, but is about a heart surrendered to self-sacrifice.
Now when women engage in conversations about submission what can naturally rise to the top are also feelings of fear – fear of what submission means for us. With a conversation that leans towards compliance, we fear the possibility of not being truly cared for by our spouse. Does submission give me space to be who I am or does it mean I need to leave my personality behind to become more docile and Proverbs 31 acceptable? Its the thought of being permanently relegated to the background, playing sidekick to our husband’s dreams, that leaves many of us running for the hills.
Both sets of fears are grounded in a poor theology of submission. Submission is more about the heart than it is about behavior modification, but its also about releasing our beloved idol of independence. As a single woman it is me realizing that life is not about me. There are people who God has put in places of leadership over me that I am called to honor with my obedience. Whether it’s my boss, my parents, my husband, or the governmental structures I fall underneath, my love for God requires that I am obedient to those who lead me. When I chose to walk in disobedience my actions reflect a heart that is more concerned with my own self satisfaction than the will of my Heavenly Father. My heart needs to be softened to the reality that in this world the path that honors my God is the path of self-sacrifice.(Note: When our leadership requires of us actions that go against the character of God we are not called to submit, because doing so would require us to step out of line with our ultimate authority- God. )
Yet, this heart of self-sacrifice needs to be present in my fellow brothers as well. As men God calls you to first yield to His divine leadership. You are then called to properly steward those that God has put in your care. So when you want to ask a woman if she’ll submit, first ask yourself how you plan on loving her, even to the point of death – because Christ’s love for the church lead him to die for his bride. (Ephesians 5:25). He gave up his own life for the wellbeing of people who were undeserving. Are you ready to love your future wife regardless of how well she loves you? Rather than asking your potential girlfriend or wife about submission watch her life and pray for God to show you her heart. If she is a woman committed to the Lord, whose spiritual maturity is manifested in a spirit of self-sacrifice, submission won’t be a problem. A woman who truly honors and respects God will honor and respect you.
Ultimately, the deeper root of all our fears is a lack of trust. As I look at my own life, my lack of trust in man really reflects trust issues I have with God. I need to shift my focus to Him, trusting that He can connect my life with a man who will honor and care for all of me. God is also the giver of my spiritual gifts, dreams, and passions. Which means He is committed to finish the work He began in me. Marriage can’t and won’t quench the impact He desires to make through my life. The pathway might look different than I expected, but I’ll still be making an impact for the Kingdom. And even if God’s will is for my singleness to be life-long, He always has my best interests in mind.
So, please please don’t talk to me about women and submission if you’re not going to simultaneously talk about how my brothers need to do the same thing. I want to challenge us to begin to frame our conversations about marriage in such a way where we aren’t merely drawing gender role territory lines on the ground. Instead of living out of fear, we all need to focus our eyes upward, taking the posture of a servant as we honor the God whom we love. And maybe, just maybe, if we focus on developing lives committed to self-sacrifice dating relationships won’t include “submission checks”. I firmly believe that if the convictions of our heart are being lived out through our feet we will naturally honor each other the way God originally intended.