Laura Kauffman of Shorthanding Sanity
I remember the first time I was shamed for being a woman.
It was my senior year of college and I was a less-than-conservative Christian woman at a more-than-conservative Christian college. Sitting in swivel chairs in our student government conference room, a man I barely knew had waltzed in and picked a fight. Honestly, I don’t even remember what it was about. But I remember going around and around in a philosophical debate about the Bible.
A few good quips, a well-articulated argument, and three years on the high school speech team paid off, and I had painted the guy into a proverbial corner. I remember the look on his face as he turned red and sputtered “well…well…well..”
Then came the unexpected.
He regained his composure, looked coolly into my face, and said, “Well, that might make sense if you weren’t a woman. But you are. And everyone knows you women aren’t capable of coherent thought the way we men are.”
If he was attempting to get me speechless, he succeeded. His verbal sucker punch left me breathless, and ashamed, and defenseless. And for a brief moment, I was embarrassed to be a woman – which only added to my shame.
I remember the first time I studied submission.
I remember recoiling at the idea of being subservient to a man. I remember being confused at the whole concept – at why a God that I knew to be impartial and loving and validating would ask me to do something so seemingly 1950′s housewife-ish.
I equated it with being shamed for being a woman.
We carry that baggage into Ephesians 5, don’t we? We read “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
We read that and we are confused. And we recoil.
And once again, I see that red-faced man telling me to know my role. I hear him belittling my gender in a way that is simultaneously shaming and silencing me.
But that is where the problem is, isn’t it.
His is not the face that is asking me to submit.
The Face that is asking me to submit is the Face of the One I love.
The Face that is asking me to submit is the One who was revolutionary in His counter-cultural validation of the importance of women.
The Face that is asking me to submit is the One that made me in His image and then commanded me to impartially value every single human life.
And most importantly, the Face that is asking me to submit is the One that is covered in the blood of submission, who has tasted the tears of shame, who has sacrificed every one of His legitimate rights.
When He asks me to submit, it says nothing about me. Or my husband. Or men. Or women. It says something about Him.
How can I really give myself up to the God of Submission but refuse to lovingly submit to my husband? How can I look into that broken face and tell Him that I’m not interested in being like Him?
Now, submission is a tricky word. We’ve so misused and abused it that we don’t really even know what we’re talking about. And Ephesians 5 doesn’t help. Talk about confusing. This whole passage is a veritable minefield of theological sticking points that we could literally spend hours dissecting and analyzing.
Beth Moore sums it up well when she affirms that submission does not mean (1) general masculine authority over all women, (2) gender inequality, (3) deification of spouses, or (4) unwilling slavery.
But here’s where things get sticky (because they weren’t already, right?!).
When we read this passage, it’s nice to define what submission isn’t. It’s nice (and- don’t get me wrong- important) to dispel all of the false definitions and uncomfortable twinges under the surface of those verses. It’s nice to focus on the husband’s calling in this passage to sacrificial love and selfless devotion to his wife.
But we still haven’t named what submission looks like in marriage for the wife, have we?
Here it is.
We are to die to ourselves in our marriages.
Maybe you’ve heard that definition of love that goes something like, “Love is to continually put the best interests of another person ahead of your own.” I think that sums up submission pretty well, too.
Submission doesn’t mean being some passive, silent, opinion-less waif. Submission means that I will put my husband’s best interests ahead of my own desires, opinions, and practices.
It means that when I see a sin in his life, I will gently confront him – because I value his holiness more than I value my own unruffled exterior.
It means that when I am determined that I am right, I will give up my own smug determinations and allow the Spirit to lead my husband.
It means that I will put his best interest ahead of my own every single day of my life.
Uncomfortable yet? If you aren’t, you’re missing something.
Dying to ourselves is the most uncomfortable thing we will ever do.
Dying to ourselves in our marriage is even worse. (Darn that Eve. Maybe that whole curse business is why God specifically has to have a chat with wives about how they approach their husbands. But that’s another post for another day).
So instead of arguing about what submission isn’t or what the rights of the genders should be, maybe we are just supposed to die.
Maybe submission to our spouses doesn’t really have anything to do with our spouses. Maybe it’s just the litmus test for how much we’ve surrendered to Jesus.
So may we bleed submission as we sacrifice ourselves for one another.
41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.May we stop demanding our due and start sacrifice our image to love broken people.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”May we use our last moments on earth to get into the filth and dirt and crap of other people’s lives so that we might serve them.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.May we model the One who didn’t claim His rights but humbled himself.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,2 being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.And may we die. Over and over and over.