Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Beauty in Submission

Everyone hates that word - submission. Especially women. We hate being told we aren't as "good" or as "strong" as men. We want to be equal. The new trend these days is fierce, independent, strong women.  These are the women who get all the attention. These are the women the young girls I teach want to be. The standard to live up to is now BeyoncĂ©.  Girls are growing up wanting husbands who don't push them around.  They want to be recognized as women who don't need any man; and they certainly don't want a man around telling them what to do.  And no one can argue with that.  None of us like being told what to do.  
I think this is where women get confused about the word submission.  Submission doesn't mean "blind obedience."    Submission is a biblical principle. 

"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do The Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:22-24

We've turned submission into a dirty word because we've forgotten that we are called, as the body of Christ, to submit to Christ in all things. It's an easy concept to forget because we can't "see" Christ the same way we see our husbands.  The idea is this: I've given my life to Christ, so I know I can trust him with it.  That's what submission is, trusting someone else with your life.  I wouldn't have married Jake if I didn't trust him completely.  I don't always have to agree with what he says, but in the end I do have to submit to his authority as the head of our household.  
I realize how outdated and archaic that sounds, and I will also be the first to tell you (as I'm sure Jake would) that I am not very good at this most of the time.  I am loud, boisterous, and very stubborn.  Those qualities don't make for a submissive wife.  In fact, a verse I've been praying for myself is 1 Peter 3:3-4, which says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment . . . Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."  I look at women's role models today and I don't see many with a "gentle and quiet spirit."  In fact, you could almost argue that women are shooting for the exact opposite of that.  

There's nothing wrong with being a strong, independent woman.  Esther was strong and independent. She risked her life trying to save her people from genocide.  She placed her life at her husband's feet, breaking the rules in order to get his attention.  He was the king of one of the world's greatest empires at the time.  Because he loved her, not only did he spare her life, he also listened to what she had to say and executed the man responsible for the decree declaring the upcoming annihilation of her people, the Jews.  

Did you catch that?

Because he loved her

King Xerxes loved his wife; therefore, he listened to her.  He knew that she wouldn't have approached the throne uninvited (a crime punishable by death) without a legitimate reason.  He set aside his pride for a moment to listen to her.  
Men, this is important for you to understand.  Wives are called to submit to their husbands regardless of whether or not our husbands are kind and compassionate.  However, you play a role in this as well.  It is much easier for us to submit to a husband who actually takes our opinion into account.  Marriage should be a partnership.  The husband may have the final say, but his decision should equally consider his wife and her opinion.  

Now, I can't speak for husbands or what they should do or how they should think.  I am not a man.  Also, I've only been married for about a year.  I don't have the years under my belt or the wisdom and experience to back up what I'm saying.  I just have about 52 weeks worth of newlywed marriage experience, a lifetime of watching my parents, who are still married after roughly 30 years (which is a miracle in this day and age), and a ridiculously minuscule level of biblical knowledge.  I say all of this to bring something to your attention: 

What kind of person are you looking for to spend the rest of your life with?

Obviously I'm speaking primarily to women.  And if I'm being completely honest, I have my students and my younger sisters in mind specifically.  There are certain qualities girls should be looking for in their future husbands, and from what I've seen these qualities tend to barely make it to the bottom of their lists.  

What makes it hard for me to submit to Jake is my own stubbornness and my own shortcomings.  What makes it easy for me to submit to him is his gentle, quiet strength and his unconditional, consistent, crazy, unfailing love for me.  That man loves me the way Jesus does.  And I do not say that lightly.  I am a hard woman to live with.  I spend all my time with teenagers, so I talk like one way more often than I care to admit, I am stubborn, careless, oblivious, stupid (sometimes), defensive, overly sensitive . . . well, you get the idea.  I'll take some time to brag on him, because I believe he has some qualities that I want my sisters to find in a husband one day.

"Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless - not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.   He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." Titus 1: 7-9

This has been my prayer for Jake ever since we seriously started talking about marriage (about 3 years ago).  To my students, to my sisters, and to my single friends, these are things I think you should look for in a husband:

First and foremost, he loves God.  He seeks Christ in all that he does.  He prays.  He seeks God's wisdom in his decision making and he knows who his Savior is.  When a man submits himself to Christ, it is much easier for his wife to submit to his authority.  Where we, as women, screw up here is that we find a man and we fall for him, but it's clear that Christ isn't his priority.  We doom ourselves by thinking we can change that.  We can bring him to church and we can strengthen his relationship with Christ.  It took me almost 4 years with the wrong person to figure this out:
You can't.
You can't change a man's relationship with Christ.  You certainly can't create one for him.  And you especially can't do this if you are in a romantic relationship with him yourself.  If his relationship with Christ wasn't there before you came into the picture, you're not going to be the one to put it there.  And even if you do seem to be making some progress, do you really want to spend the rest of your life with a person who is probably only faking some of that spirituality in order to please you?  Eventually that will wear out and blow up in your face.  You aren't supposed to be the spiritual leader of your household, he is.  Choose a man whose faith existed before you came into the picture.  You will save yourself a lot of heartbreak.

Of course, the second most important quality is that he loves you.  He always puts you first.  In spite of all the stupid, unlovable things you do, he still loves you - unconditionally, no matter what.  Wives are called to submit to and respect our husbands, regardless of whether or not they are acting in a way that is deserving of respect.  Husbands are called to love their wives regardless of whether or not they are always lovable.  Jake has his flaws, but one thing he has never failed in is loving me.  Even when I am the most unlovable person on the planet he still loves me.  Because of this, I know he is thinking of me in every decision he makes.  I don't ever have to worry about whether or not he is taking my thoughts and my feelings into account.  This makes submission a little easier (because if I'm being honest . . . it will never be easy).

I want to focus on the part of the verses above that say "not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, and not pursuing dishonest gain."  It is one thing for a man to have a quick temper.  I can relate to that because I have a quick temper.  However, if he has a quick temper and loses control with you that's typically a bad sign.  If he loses his temper frequently and punches holes in walls or - heaven forbid - hurts you in any way . . . run.  It seems so obvious but I see so many people who make the mistake of thinking it won't happen again.  You don't want to be there the day that temper goes to far.
Avoid the guys who go out to the bars every night and stumble home drunk early the next morning.  Most guys go through that phase in college, but a man knows his limits and knows how to be responsible.  I'm all for having some mature, responsible fun every now and then, but if you are always the one having to drive him home, clean up after him, or take care of him because he's been drinking too much, that's not a good sign.  One aspect of maturity is knowing your limits.  And you want to marry a man, not a boy who doesn't know when to say "when." 

Here's a big one.  It's so obvious, but we overlook it so often.  Honesty.  If he's lied to you before he will lie to you again.  And unless you make yourself aware of it right off the bat you're going to regret it later.  This is one of the things I love most about Jake.  He has so much integrity.  He values honesty above almost every other virtue.  It's easier to submit to him because I know he would never lie to me. I don't have to question the things he says and I don't have to second guess him or go back and fact-check any information he gives me.  I trust him.  It's that simple.  You'll spend a lot of time feeling miserable if you don't trust the man you're with.

Maybe I'm young and stupid and one day will look back on this and laugh at my stupidity.  If that's the case, I apologize in advance.  And I'm aware that my husband isn't perfect.  That's not what this is about.  In order to be the kind of wives that God calls us to be, we have to marry godly men, that's the first step.  If you marry this kind of man then he will encourage you in your walk with Christ.  He will be patient with you when you screw up and you will do the same for him.  In a country where over 50% of marriages end in divorce, I believe that bringing back marriage principals from the bible is a huge step in lessening that statistic.

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