Sunday, August 30, 2009


When Paul and I selected our marriage vows and scripture readings, we both avoided Ephesians 5:24, which reads, "Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

The idea of submission, which defines as " to give over or yield to the power or authority of another" rubbed us both the wrong way. Paul certainly does not see himself as an "authority" figure, nor do I consider myself to be in need of guidance. This kind of relationship is like an unbalanced see-saw--somebody is bound to get hurt, and neither person is having a good time.

So, submit to my husband? I might as well vacuum in pearls and high heels.

Of course, the joke's on me, as it so often is when I attempt to out-smart God. I'm far from a Biblical scholar, but this is the way I've come to accept this passage, rather than hide from it:

The WHOLE POINT of the Christian life is: It's not about you. This, naturally, should extend to marriage. This doesn't mean that you allow your husband to treat you poorly or disrespectfully. What it does mean is that wives AND husbands should try to think of their spouses' needs before their own. You should yield your natural selfishness to meet the needs of the person you love.

An example: I get up with the boys every day of the week. I get them dressed and fed and started on their merry little way. Every. Day. Sometimes, I really would prefer to roll over, ignore their little noises, and return to my dream featuring Antonio Banderas (the back-in-the-day version).

Before you feel too sorry for me, let me add that the reason I always get up with the kids is that by the time they wake up, usually around 7:00 AM, Paul has already run eight miles, completed his forty-minute commute to work, and is sitting in his chair at work.

Yet, on Sunday morning, the ONE MORNING A WEEK* that Paul is not required to wake up before dawn, I lie in bed, listening to Joel's grunts and moans, and silently beg Paul to get his butt out of bed.

This morning, though, it kind of hit me---allowing my hard-working husband a bit of sleep is an act of kindness, an opportunity for me to submit to his needs rather than focusing on my own.

It's not about his gender. I don't let him sleep in because he's the man, and is thus more deserving of sleep. (As somebody that breastfed twice, I believe that the scales of lost sleep will NEVER be fully balanced.) Rather, I let him sleep because I love him, and part of love means letting the selfishness die, one kind choice at a time.

When I think of the ways that Paul submits to me---allowing me time on the computer while he plays with the boys outside, cooking dinner while I retire to my room with a trashy magazine, never grumbling when I take a girls' night (or weekend)---I know that I am fortunate indeed.

Marriage--and parenthood for that manner---is another opportunity to become closer to God, and I will submit that this is a very good thing.

That being said---I still wish that the Bible asked husbands and wives to submit to each other---most versions ask the wives to submit and the husbands to respect. Anybody have any insights or experiences to share regarding this sticking point?

*He does his long runs (20+ miles) on Saturdays, and needs to wake up before dawn so he doesn't die of heat exhaustion. True story---on Saturday, it was so muggy out that he lost FIVE pounds by the end of his run. He started at 150, ended at 145. And yes, he drank a TON of water.


Corrie Howe said...

Nancy, great insight! May I suggest that the bible does, in away, suggest that your husband submit to you. Actually, it says that he should love you as Christ loved the church. What did Christ do for the church? He submitted his life and died to himself for his bride.

My husband reminded me that in Ephesians 5:21 says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." And therefore, the next verses are actually "subsets" of this verse.

It sounds like there is mutual loving and submitting to each other. May God bless you even more!

Paul said...

I'll comment at more length soon - either here or through my blog with a link back here. As soon as we escape from crappy hotel in Armpit, CA.

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. Go back and read the end of that passage - the part that nobody bothers to read because it makes our head hurt and we've still got our respective undergarments in a bunch from the previous verses. Verse 32.

Does verse 32 add any grist to the mill?

Melani said...

I will have to get my bible and read what has been suggested. I know I do EVERYTHING from the time we wake up every day to the time I can finally get Brandon to sleep. I usually do this on the weekends too. Sometimes I am resentful, to be honest and other times (probably when I am not tired) I just go with the flo and it doesn't bother me in the slightest, since he is the one who has to get up every day and drive to work to support us (me, my 2 older children, and our younger 2 and himself) I feel it is the least I can do...

Nancy Campbell said...

My old LCMS self-study Bible notes that "marriage is a human echo of that relationship," meaning God and the church (re: 5:32). How profound is that!

Marriage is an agreement to treat the other person as God treats us.

All the pieces are coming together. Ever since the Sacred Marriage book got on my radar, I've been thinking about the idea that marriage is a path to holiness.

You become the best person you can be by being less selfish, following Christ's example.

And Corrie, your thinking makes so much sense to me.

Melani, good for you!

This isn't a male-female thing; it's a pride thing. Since pride gets me EVERY TIME, this is why I resisted the verse in such a militant fashion.