The Scary ‘S’ Word: Submission
I don’t know about you, but the word “submission” pretty much freaks me out, especially when it’s one of the essential parts of a woman’s role or calling in relation to her husband (outlined in Ephesians 5). Actually, when I first read this verse I immediately dismissed it because I found the submission to the opposite sex to be a completely archaic notion; I held feminist rants in my head, got in heated debates over the connotation and meaning of the word within the verse with many friends (who thank goodness extended such grace and love that they still remain my friends today), and just generally pouted over this word’s existence in this verse.
So as the idea of one day being the other part to a marital union went from being completely dead to me, allowing the desire to grow within me, to avoiding the dialogue with God on this subject, and then arriving to where I am right now: demanding answers on the subject of marriage. So, Ephesians 5:21 and forward seemed like a good place to start the dialogue with God, and that brought me to my first question, followed by the inclination to share the conversation that followed, with you.
What the heck is up with this whole submitting to your husband thing?
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the 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 5:21-23 NIV)
The key, I found, towards understanding this word and verse in general was in taking a step back. Taking a step back both from the connotation “submission” to the opposite sex carries, and from the verse itself: scroll up to Ephesians 4. The whole beginning of the book of Ephesians, for starters, is a focus on the relationship with God. In Ephesians 4, Paul further dissects the anatomy of a life of unity with God and life as part of his family.
“That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds…” (Ephesians 4:20-23)
This verse is reminiscent of verses in both Romans and 2 Corinthians: laying aside the lifestyle before knowing God, and becoming new creation in Him. There is connection between this verse and the command to be submissive to your spouse; in order to understand the meaning of submission, it’s imperative to understand your relationship with God. Deciding to follow God, means choosing to soak in His bubble bath of love: where you’re choosing to place God as the core of your being, understanding that you were created in a value based on His truth (love), and that as you seek Him you are also being renewed on a daily basis by the power of the Spirit. That’s the life that we have through Jesus: a direct relationship with our creator.
I strongly believe that submission to your husband is not reflective of an act of retreat under the shadow of the male figure, but reflective of the same submission that Jesus had to God’s plan for humanity through an unconditional love for us. So, as husbands are called to love us like God loves his church, so wives too are called to love like Jesus loved humanity: submitting our lives in service first to our God, and then to the love of our husbands, who also follow God (ultimate love).
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). That’s where it begins: submitting to the ultimate Love, submitting to God. And as wives, we have the awesome responsibility of bringing unity into the marriage as we submit to the love of our husbands; so in submission we become unified, we become one under a love that surpasses all individual power and understanding.
I’m down for that.