Written by: Sarah Walker
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 5:22-24)
If I am being honest, I haven’t always loved this passage and it’s not because I don’t believe in submitting to my husband. When I hear these verses, I think of times where they have been misused and twisted throughout history, used by men to dominate over women, claiming it as grounds to be “the boss” and to do what they like. When I think of the word “submit,” definitions like “out of control,” “weak,” and “dependent” come to mind. But in actuality, “submit” means to choose to accept or yield to the authority or will of another person.
When I took a step back and thought about what submitting to God looks like in my everyday life, I realized that if I were to approach my husband in the same way that I approach submitting to Jesus, a beautiful love story unfolds! Each day I pray and reflect on God, hoping to hear His still, small voice. I read my Bible in hopes to learn something new about God. I aim to live and speak in such a way that will bring Him glory and honor, because I love Him and I want to please Him. Every day that I wake up, I make the choice to follow Jesus and go where I feel He is leading me. God doesn’t force me to do anything, but out of my desire and love for Him I choose to follow and submit to His ways.
If I take what submitting to God looks like, and translate that into what submitting to my husband might look like, then each day I should spend time talking to him, to hear what he has to say, I should study him, taking note of the way he speaks and lives in order to understand him better, and I should make choices and speak in such a way that make him feel loved and respected.
Within my marriage being “submissive” looks like letting my husband be the leader in our household. This doesn’t mean that he is “the boss” and that he dominates me or only gets his way; it means that he takes the lead. We discuss and make decisions together as a team. We wait until we are in unity on decisions before moving forward. Being in unity doesn’t always mean we are always getting our own way; we honour and respect one another, each of us sometimes agreeing to things that might not be our first choice. There are times when I choose to say “yes” to where my husband is leading, not because it’s my first choice, but because ultimately I respect and trust him to make decisions that are best for our family.
Even though I don’t need my husband’s “permission” to do things, since we make decisions together, I highly value his opinion and discernment when making choices, like “should I lead a small group?” or write for a blog ministry. These choices might not have much effect on him or our family, but I know that he is always praying for me and wants God’s best for my life. If he were not on board with something I was planning to do, it would be grounds to slow down, pray together, and discuss until we find a place of compromise or agreement.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28)
As tough as the “submission” verse might be for wives to work through, the rest of the Ephesians passage is even tougher on husbands! For a husband to love and lead like Jesus did, he must be willing to wash the dirty feet of his family (John 13:14-17), to become a servant by putting his family needs first (Luke 22:26) and to be willing to lay down his life for his wife and children.(John 3:16). Talk about not getting your own way! We forget that leadership in the Kingdom is never based on “being in charge” – it is always based on serving, elevating others, and laying down your own life.
There is great responsibility in being the spiritual leader of our home. It requires my husband to be humble, yet strong and prayerfully wise. He also often puts his own desires aside for what is best for our family and for me.
I serve him by following his lead; he serves me by laying down his life for me. It’s less about “in charge” and more about serving one another in love. When a husband and wife are joined in marriage, two become one. They are a team. And as the expression goes, “There is no I in team!”