I didn’t become a Christian until I was fourteen years old so I didn’t start asking questions about God-honoring relationships for a couple of years…but when I did, the numerous attempts at explaining the concept of submission seemed mindless, formulaic and simplistic. Although pastors, youth leaders, mentors and well-meaning friends could speak more confidently about what submission wasn’t, they struggled with practical illustrations that showed me what submission was.
I was a strong woman, a natural leader, a young Christian and a “why”person – none of which lent to gentle surrender of any kind. Perhaps I was a slow learner… perhaps I had a rebellious spirit but as I look back, I believe it was primarily fear of trusting that stopped me from embracing what seemed to be such an unnatural “way.” I wanted to honor God but I just didn’t understand that biblical submission wasn’t so much a behavior – rather, it was an attitude.
I had so much to learn.
Fast forward to 2012.
Chris and I were watching “The Dog Whisperer” on TV last week. I’m not sure why we switched to that channel, since we don’t have a dog but it turned out to be very interesting. Training a dog is all about establishing roles and letting the dog know who is in control. In this context, the dog is most definitely submissive and this is what we culturally think of when we hear the word, “submission” – being under the control of someone.
But marriage is not a contest of wills and biblical submission is not about about being dominated.
I think the best explanation of submission that I have read comes from Mary Kassian, who is an author, speaker and professor of women’s studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.
Submission is about having a spirit of amenability. It means being soft, receptive, responsive and agreeable. “Amenability” comes from the French word, “amener” to lead. An amenable woman is “leadable” as opposed to “ungovernable”. She’s responsive to input and likely to cooperate.
It takes time to learn how to live out biblical authority and submission in a marriage – it’s all part of “becoming.” Although every marriage is unique in its mixture of personalities, maturity, sin patterns and giftedness, there is a similarity in all spiritually healthy marriages that involves mutual submission, confidence in each other’s God given man and womanhood, gentleness, selfless love, vulnerability and respect.
Mary Kassian continues:
My husband takes his responsibility to love me as Christ loves the Church seriously. I take my responsibility to submit to him seriously. That means that I am cherished and have a voice. That means that he is respected and supported. I work with him and pull in the same direction and as a result, ur marriage displays a unity, intimacy and mutuality that is deep and real. The way of faith is the way of paradox: lose your life to live it, give to receive and honor God’s pattern for authority and submission in marriage.
So… “the opinions expressed by the husband in this house are not necessarily those of the management” and that’s OK. What’s important is the pattern, not the exceptions. Chris and I are moving in the same direction, constantly learning new ways to express love and constantly challenged to die to self.