It may seem odd that I would venture into a discussion on submission within marriage, being that I am not married. However, I’ve been wrestling with this topic due to the place I’m at in recovery and the counseling degree I’m about to pursue. I’ve seen relationships done poorly… and that’s about it. My frame of reference for a healthy marriage is slim.
In the beginning stages of my codependency recovery, my view of relationships was completely dysfunctional. Instead of looking to God to be my everything, I was searching for that man. Slowly, my eyes have been opened to the value, gifts, and purpose I have in Christ. God has brought me to a place of active engagement in the present and I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy life as a single woman in my thirties. I now know that a husband cannot fix me and that marriage is not the be-all-end-all of life. My contentment and joy come from Jesus.
However, a trend in recovery is that when you begin to see a flaw or pattern within yourself or when a truth about God is revealed, it’s easy to swing passionately to the other side of the emotional pendulum. Now that I know God is everything and that I don’t need a man to be my god, I find myself reacting in a feisty manner toward any concept that remotely makes women seem “lesser than” men.
Comments about men being the “leaders” of a marriage or “letting” their wives do this or that just makes my blood start to boil. I’m like, Shoooot. A woman can make more logical, intelligent decisions than a man. We women can do anything a man does and we can make improvements on it. Heck, we can even look better doing it. Why on earth would a man get to make the calls just because of his gender? That’s misogynistic.
Bottom line: If submission is a thing, I don’t find men worthy of this role.
In addition to my place in recovery, I’m also about to enter into the biblical counseling program at Dallas Theological Seminary. It’s occurring to me that a counseling degree probably involves providing families an ideal scenario for a healthy family. I felt that I needed to figure out what my stance is on a functional family unit. I know that in biblical pursuits, I cannot ignore the glaring scriptures on the topic of submission.
I started my research in Genesis, because that’s where you always start, and the only difference I found in the creation of Adam and Eve (minus their gender) was the order they were created in. Outside of when each of them were created, God did not give them different jobs. They were both to be fruitful and multiply. They were both to subdue the earth and rule over it. (Genesis 1:28)
From what I read, it did not sound like the typical sermons I hear of a marriage relationship, which often boils down to this: Adam had a really big, important job to do and he couldn’t accomplish it without his trusty administrative assistant, Eve. And just like he had a big job to do, men today have big boy jobs that they need help with. So, they let their wives do some stuff around the house and maybe in the workplace to lighten their load.
I looked further in Genesis, but besides that really mysterious verse within the Fall’s curse about Eve desiring Adam, it basically confirmed that after the Fall, people were sufficiently screwed up. So, I went to the New Testament to check out the controversial scriptures on marriage. Let me just say that Paul was right when he said he didn’t have eloquent speech. I think with sensitive topics like submission, verbage is everything, and Paul didn’t soften many blows. Just reading the portions of his letters about wives and their husbands got me feeling very defensive.
I was reading the scriptures “in emotion” and getting really confused, so I stepped back and listened to some sermons on those scriptures for outside insight.
I didn’t like what I heard. Basically, the argument for men being the leaders of the household was that they were created first. In Genesis, I couldn’t find anything written that proved that idea. I wasn’t about to place my beliefs on a symbolic implication.
I looked through scripture to see if the “created first” idea was anywhere else. And lo and behold, it was. Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Ouch. Now, the context surrounding this scripture had to do with a local church issue, but I believe verses 13-14 were written as a universal truth. Paul brought it into the local church scenario to back up his word of counsel to his readers.
For me, personally, that was the end of the road. Paul was an apostle chosen by God to grow the church and expose the truth of the gospel. He was given special insights by God and has unique authority. I submit myself to the Bible as the inerrant, authoritative word of God. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t make it false.
There are sacrifices a man makes as he enters a marital relationship, but I want to keep this particular post very basic. My intent for initial research was to see if submission was legitimate and according to my findings, it is. So, on that most elementary of levels, these are the two thoughts I concluded with:
1. Choose wisely
Marriage is not a game and it’s not a place to go looking for all your problems to be fixed. In my past, I have played the dating game and succumbed easily to the emotional pulls of love addiction and love avoidance. That was not fair to myself or the person dating me. And despite the fears of intimacy and abandonment, I continued to pursue romantic relationships because I believed marriage would give me emotional rest. I thought marriage was the epic climax where life really got started. Everything else I participated in (school, work, friends…) were all hobbies God had given me until The One arrived.
This is a horrible mentality because it does not promote the kind of healthy patience and trust that is needed to choose wisely. Scanning the globe for that person who is going to fix you almost guarantees a poor choice in a marriage partner. It’s important to find someone who is satisfied in God. They are submitted to Jesus Christ and have a teachable heart. As a potential husband, this person should be more concerned about their responsibilities to Christ than your submission in marriage. If the person you’re dating is fixated on how you will submit in marriage, you need to pause and evaluate your relationship with that person.
You want a man that understands the weight of his place in a marriage relationship. You want a man that is connected with God and following God’s leadership. A married couple that is equally submitted to Christ and sacrificial to one another is a power house couple. That is a relationship that can have deep impact on their family and their community. It can be a life transforming relationship for both husband and wife.
Be very careful about who you marry. If you are a recovering love addict or love avoidant, make sure you bring the person you are discussing marriage with to see your counselor (If you don’t have a counselor, I highly recommend finding one. They offer valuable insight that is difficult to get anywhere else.). You want wise people to look at your relationship from an outside perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in fantasy and unknowingly step outside of reality.
2. Submit wisely
After you’re married (hopefully to someone who is surrendered to Jesus), there will be times you need to submit to the leadership of your husband. I can’t give you all the details because I don’t know where God will take you. I am also single (never married) so I can’t give you any personal insights on submission within marriage.
What I can tell you is that you can submit wisely. Being a wife who chooses to submit to her husband’s leadership, does not equal a woman without a brain or her own relationship with God. If, as a wife, you feel that your husband is asking you to do something that is against God’s character or will, you can say no. You are first and foremost under the authority of Jesus Christ. God has not called you to become a doormat to a man who thinks he can command you to participate in anything sexually immoral. God has not called you to put up with emotional, physical, spiritual, or mental abuse. These things are always outside of God and His will.
If your husband is asking you to submit to him, it should most often involve something to you and your family’s benefit. Your husband has just as great a sacrifice as your submission because he is to love you as Jesus loved the church. That is huge. Your husband is carrying a serious responsibility. He is not going to be perfect at it but it is his job.
In conclusion, as a single, choosing someone to marry is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. It should not be driven by love addiction or love avoidance. You want to make sure that you are not trying to fulfill a fantasy you have created. The highs from the addiction and the magic of your fantasies will eventually fall apart. Once that happens, you may find yourself in a position you don’t want to be in. Walk with God in your singlehood and trust His timing. Your marriage timeline may be different than God’s, but that’s okay as long as you are willing to surrender it to Him.
There’s more to life than a wedding ring and a relationship with a man. What other wonderful adventures does God want to take you on before you get married? Ask Him and start noticing your surroundings. What people are in your life? What opportunities are presenting themselves? What things of beauty and joy are around you? Life is wonderful as a single and it can be wonderful as a married person. The key is choosing wisely and prayerfully and with many trustworthy witnesses! And even then… you’re going to have hardship. 🙂 However, both singlehood and marriage are gifts from God to be cherished and enjoyed. Surrender yourself to God and let Him guide you through life. He knows what’s best and He loves you. He will provide you with what you need.