Moments, Pregnancy

Let Me Count the Ways

Julie / August 13, 2009

It’s funny how perceptions and fears can change over the course of a pregnancy.

At first, I was very trepidatious about how on earth I could ever love R as much as I love E.  E and I have had so many moments–so much time–that R and I won’t ever be able to have, because E was once an only child, if only for these short months.

But now I’ve grown to connect to R, much more than I did E before she was born.  (Because of E, I hasten to add; I was unfond of babies in general before her existence taught me what delightful little creatures they can be.  I know much more what to expect with R, and the lessened terror at her impending arrival certainly facilitates greater expectations!)  I’m wondering things about R that I didn’t wonder with E, and am much more excited to meet her and all her unique characteristics as opposed to the generalized excitement that accompanied E’s birth.

My fears, then, have changed.  I know the relationship between E and me is getting ready to change forever.  I know our quiet moments, our shared giggles, and our lonely little cuddles are all getting ready to disappear, forever altered by the arrival of a third to our little tea party.  What I fear, then, is that as this precious time with E is transitioning to a different time of sisterhood for her and increased motherness for me, that this intense, unabated, unrivaled love I have for E is going to change as well.

I love E in a way that is unlike the way I love anyone else.  It’s fierce and protective, condescending and cautious.  Until now, she has been the only person in the world to whom that type of love could apply.  Until now, she has been my favorite little girl, the best of her kind–because she was the only, there is no division or sharing.

Yet R is going to be the same.  I think I know enough of myself to know that I won’t ever love one “more” or “less,” even from the very beginning.  They are equally my responsibility and equally my blessings.  And I know, too, that a parent’s love doesn’t lessen because it includes more little bodies–it’s somehow a kind of division that takes nothing away from either side.  And yet.  My time will be split, forever; the moments of aloneness will fade; and so many things that E and I share will change.  I ache a little at that loss even as I rejoice in anticipation of R and all the new joys she will bring to me and S and even, especially, to E.  In balance we have no doubt that R is a good thing–a purposeful thing–

But as the weeks draw to a close, I still ache.  Even though what we gain is greater, this time has been so precious and heady and wonderful, and it is ending.

Moments

Cry it out: stubbornness!

So, it turns out that being convinced of cry-it-out and being accomplished at it are two different things!  E has defied all expectations–in a bad way.  After some three whole weeks of misery, we’re still at misery.   A lot less misery than there was a week ago, but the child is still crying every time we put her down, taking unacceptably short naps, and being a wee bit clingy.

But it’s to the point of being quite livable, and is beginning to clearly improve.

She is also clearly doing vastly better in terms of intellect and even happiness.  She takes a much more proactive role in playing with us–inventing her own games commonly rather than rarely–and has actually started to play with her toys, whereas before she mostly ignored them.  Her babbling has increased.  Her physical skills have multiplied; she’s well on her way to being able to do whatever physical task she can conceive (this is scary!).  She has a new smile and smiles so much.  She also doesn’t seem to “wind down” before nap/bedtime as much as she did, although she goes to sleep faster than before.

All in all, cry it out continues to have clearly been the right choice, but I wish the books didn’t all say “10 days or less.”  With E, the 10-day mark left us with no hope in sight, and it’s really only been nearer to the 20-day mark that we’ve seen enough improvement in her sleeping habits to begin to feel confident that life would indeed go on, although many non-sleep-related gains were clear before then.

We’ve also found out the gender of #2–girl!–and named her R.  :-)  Hurrah!

Discipline, Musings

Cry-It-Out: Trials, Trevails, and… Joys?

I was about as anti-cry-it-out as one can be without being a left-wing extremist post-hippie natural mama. Not that I’d go around telling other parents that they were traumatizing their children, but I’d sit there and be quietly smug about the fact that my child could rest assured that her parents loved her and met her needs.

In my defense, the anti-cry-it-out movement is pervasive, especially among parents who breastfeed. Breastfeeding, attachment parenting, cosleeping… three little peas assembled neatly in one pod, while formula, parents-first, and cry-it-out nestle snugly in another. So, since I was so on board with the benefits of breastfeeding, I could hardly help but be persuaded into the camp of attachment parenting. Our failed attempt at not cosleeping (I fell asleep with E in the rocker at 5mo, which scared me to death and began our journey of cosleeping) didn’t help, either.

When Attachment Parenting Fails

But as the months before #2’s arrival shortened, we became more and more desperate for E to sleep through the night. I hadn’t had a single night’s sleep since before she was born, and pregnancy was beginning to make a bad situation even worse: E was waking up more to eat, and I was having an even harder time sleeping thanks to pregnancy’s aches and pains combined with months of sleeping on the floor. Even worse, there was absolutely no way that this scenario could continue after the new baby’s arrival–there’s simply not enough momma to go around!

So we had to do something. First I tried Elizabeth Pantley’s method. It didn’t work. I think it might have worked if E had been younger, or if we’d done it from birth. It also might have worked if I’d had far more energy than I did, or if E was less of a strong-willed child. But it didn’t work for us, and still the months stretched onward. Then we tried the “stuff her full of food before bedtime” method, which accomplished nothing at all.

Finally, we started to contemplate letting E cry. Abandoning her in her crib–where she’d never slept since she was a newborn–and leaving her there all night.

It was a consideration born entirely out of desperation. And a decision founded more in our minds than in our hearts. I was terrified that it would traumatize her, permanently wreck what little “solution” we had to the sleep problem, and, in the end, not even work. But neither of us knew of anything else to do, and so we did it, after surprisingly little discussion and very little time to consider. It was almost as though we, having decided that it was a possibility, wanted to go ahead and get it over with as soon as possible. I suggested that we should begin on the first night of S’s work week, so that I would be the only one home to hear her cries. I thought it was best that only one of us lose extra sleep, and best, too, that only one of us should be traumatized by listening to a child cry because we refused to tend to her.

And So It Began

The first night, I was like a scientist, observing E in a little petri dish. I was pleased to note that her cries sounded angry, but not desperate and not hopeless. I was astounded to realize just how good a job I could do of completely ignoring her. Even when she woke me up in the middle of the night, I found myself only too capable of falling back asleep with her crying in the background–something I didn’t want to do, since we were more or less following the “Ferber method,” which means you check on the child and reassure him/her at regular intervals. I felt cold, and was both disturbed and mildly amused by how indifferent I was to her screaming pleas.

Happily, the first night was not the worst. And the day after, E was as happy as I’d ever seen her; maybe even happier. She had slept a reasonable amount and clearly was not injured by the horror of the night before. The second night, on the other hand, was awful. It was almost enough to make us quit, and I imagine that we would have, if we hadn’t had the better experience of the first night to compare. After taking hours to fall asleep, she woke up in the middle of the night and cried for nearly four hours straight. At the end, I went in and brought her with me after all; I was very much afraid that she would end up not getting any sleep at nighttime, and since we’re not doing cry-it-out for naps, it occurred to me that she might just be smart enough to flip her days and nights around in resistance.

Today is Day 8, and she is “sleeping through the night” in that she is more or less in her crib and not really crying for 12 hours. She still wakes up, but her cries are few and I suspect she isn’t even fully awake for many of them. I’m not exactly sure how much sleep she’s getting, but certainly from a momma’s point of view, she’s “sleeping” perfectly adequately for my needs.

Selfish Parenting?

And here, of course, is where we get to the sticky part. I realized on the very first night, after waking up at 3am feeling more refreshed than I’d felt at 7am on my mornings with E, that I would have been much happier–myself–if we’d done this months ago. The experience of putting her to bed, without being at her beck and call for hours afterward: this was new. Having hours of time that I knew would be unbroken: this too was new. Being able to move freely about, make some noise, and use some light after E’s bedtime: new. An unbroken two-hour-long conversation with my husband: new.

In short, it was clear in an instant that regardless of whether E ever adjusted to sleeping by herself, this new arrangement was infinitely better for me physically and psychologically, and for our marriage. I had forgotten what I was missing, and now that I had the tiniest taste of what it would be like to have it back, I knew I would have a really hard time giving it up, no matter what it meant for E.

Cry-it-out is unquestionably the appropriate course of action for selfish parents.

What about unselfish parents, though? How has it affected E? On Day 8, it’s honestly very hard to assess. On the one hand, the child is clearly getting more sleep. She is clearly learning new independence, as confirmed by those outside our little sphere. In her good moments, she’s less clingy to me than she was before; she’s been much more aggressive about accepting new people. Today a dog two feet away from her barked very loudly, and all she did was jump. She also seems more alert, more intelligent, and more curious. It’s hard to know how much of this is because she’s eight days older than she was before we began, but she seems to have accelerated sharply. On the other hand… one thing nobody told me about cry-it-out is that the days are worse than the nights. On the second and third days, she was just horrible. It was work to make her vaguely happy in the mornings, and in the afternoons she was so tired and upset that nothing either of us did could stop her from screaming non-stop–for hours. It is a horrible thing to not know how to comfort your child when you want to so badly. Only the past two evenings have we been able to hold off her tears until bedtime. She has also become obsessed with being held during the day, although this too seems to be lessening as the days pass. But it’s very slow going, on both counts, and it was all the worse because it was unexpected. I would guess that some of this might have been avoided if we’d done it at an earlier age, but as it is, I’ve often wondered in the past few days if we were ever going to see our happy little girl again.

So the jury is still out, but we’ve seen some positive effects already, and obviously we are hopeful that they’ll continue to grow and that the negatives will lessen and disappear.

A Do-Over

The obvious question, then, is what are we going to do with child #2? I’m still strongly in favor of cosleeping–for my own sake, if not for the child’s. There is no question at all that I got more sleep cosleeping with E than I did getting up out of my own bed multiple times each night to feed her, rock her, and sooth her back to sleep. It’s quicker and less jarring to be in the same bed, and many times I wouldn’t even fully wake up. So we’re planning to cosleep again, this time with a cosleeper bassinet so that I can sleep on a mattress, and so that the baby’s “nest” is physically delineated from mine. E and I never cuddled–neither of us seemed inclined–but a separate bassinet is easier to transition out of cosleeping, as well as safer from the well-publicized “threats” of overlaying and smothering. We’ll have to see how it goes; my only concern is that it will require moving the baby away from me at the conclusion of each feeding, instead of moving myself away from the baby.

In pursuit of sleep, I plan to use many of Elizabeth Pantley’s methods from the very beginning, and take care that the new baby forms as few sleep “conditioners” as possible. With E, I managed to make it so that she didn’t need rocked or “soothed” to sleep–but she did need fed. At the time I thought she would simply outgrow that as she outgrew the physical need to eat throughout the night, but she didn’t. So I’ll try to avoid making that sleep connection, or any at all. Teach the baby from day one to be a self-soother.

If everything went perfectly, that would mean the baby would start sleeping through the night on its own at three or four months, or even sooner. And I’ll certainly be hoping that happens. But if it doesn’t, my experience with E has taught me that I don’t want to wait until one year to sleep-train. That’s too many months of wasted sleep for both of us, and too old a child to be able to negate any “trauma” associated with sleep training. I remember E’s newborn cries, and they were cries I’d much rather listen to than her toddler screams.

So, A Mistake

I was wrong about cry it out. And naive. I certainly would do it differently if I had it to do over. I read so many articles and deliberated so carefully, and came to the wrong conclusion. I’m beginning to realize that parenthood is full of mistakes; there have been many things that I’ve been utterly convinced of, only to be proven wrong.

I think this is the biggest one so far.

Wifehood

Submit in Everything?

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 

[Ephesians 5:24, ESV]

I can just imagine the hordes of feminists getting out their pens and crossing this verse out of their Bibles. Not only does Paul say that wives are to submit to their husbands, but he explains exactly what he means: in everything. Can’t really build any loopholes out of that! The Greek is equally plain and incontrovertible; everything means everything!

So, we have a command from God to submit to our husbands in everything. Let me the first to say that I fail miserably at this! Everyday, probably: very time I’m lazy and spend time on my own pursuits and the housekeeping goes a bit awry, every time I get unjustly miffed at Seth for some little thing or another, every time he asks me to do something–or I know it would please him if I did something–and I don’t do it, I am failing to submit in everything. In short, this is a hard command to follow! It infiltrates every moment of our homeworking, every breath of our marriages, our finances, our families… that’s what everything means.
While the command is clear, I find myself asking two questions tonight:

  1. Are there exceptions to “everything”?
  2. What motivates me to such a massive calling?

These aren’t exegetical questions so much as heart questions, so my answers are not theological so much as personal, although I hope they’re scripturally sound!


Are there exceptions to “everything”?

I think this is sort of a trick question, really, although I suspect it’s the most often asked. The only exception that’s is biblical is, of course, when one’s husband is asking one to sin. Clearly, Christ is our Lord far and above the position of our husbands, and submitting to Him is both first and limitless. And since Christ is Lord of our husbands as well (whether Christian or not), I think it’s fair to say that biblical wifely submission in such a case is to obey God rather than man.

But once we get out of the area of direct sin, things are far less clear. What if our husbands want to teach something we think is theologically wrong to our children? Again, there are times when this would be clear–if our husbands forbid us to tell them about Christ, for instance–but what if it was a more minor point of theology, or even something that barely even touches on theology, like politics? Especially for those of us who tend to be more opinionated, it can be a deep struggle to have a disagreement even in such a small subject.

The most helpful thing to me in these situations is to remember that unsubmission should always be a very sorrowful concept. If we are choosing to act contrary to our husbands, and if we believe that we are doing so out of righteousness, then our hearts should ache unbearably! Our husbands are choosing sin, we’re being ideologically completely separated from them, we aren’t happy with them, they aren’t happy with us, and we’re losing the opportunity to move forward in Christ together. In other words, there is no room for gloating, unholy glee, rashness, or self-centered anger. If our hearts aren’t breaking with every act of disobedience, then we’re not being unsubmissive for the right reasons.

To bring this home a bit–I remember one time when I told Seth something along the lines of I think what you’re doing is wrong, in the sense of sin-wrong, and I’m not going to have any part of it. Which sounds really good doctrinally, except that I was saying it because I was frustrated and you’d have been searching my heart for a long time before you found a holy motive. So was I right? Absolutely not!

Secondly, I think that it’s important to remember that nothing should be important to us apart from God. All of our wants and desires–whether mundane, like a fondness for chocolate sundaes, or serious, like a burning desire for motherhood–all these things we are called to subordinate to God’s will. All these things we are called to abandon to God. Not to stop liking them, necessarily, but to order them in our minds so that if, in God’s sovereignty, they are denied us, we find it joy to forsake them for His sake.

In other words, while submitting to our husbands involves varying degrees of self-denial, it’s nothing more than we should already be prepared to do (joyously!) as Christians. The wants we’re talking about abandoning are nothing in comparison to the sweetness of obeying God. And submitting to our husbands is obeying God. This strikes very near to my own heart, honestly, because I often don’t consider things that far. If Seth asks me to do something, I tend to consider it as him asking me to do something, me giving up something I like for him, when really I need to view it as obedience to God.

What motivates me to such a massive calling?

Submission isn’t natural–check out Genesis 3:16–and submission in everything can sound downright unpalatable. So why do we do it? This is one of those areas of theology that must sound absolutely batty to nonbelievers; we give up “everything,” and what do we get in return? What motivates us? Moreover, when we feel unmotivated, how can we learn to enjoy submitting to our husbands?

There’s the obvious answer: heavenly reward. God will reward us for obeying Him. But I think it goes beyond that, and so it’s the here-and-now I want to focus on tonight. As I was studying to write this entry, I came across the following passage in John Gill’s commentary on the verse:

Her head, being wholly dependent upon him, and entirely resigned to him, and receiving all from him; from whom alone is all her expectation of provision, protection, comfort, and happiness; wherefore she has respect to all his commands, and esteems all his precepts concerning all things to be right; and yields a cheerful, voluntary, sincere, and hearty obedience to them; arising from a principle of love to him, and joined with honour, fear, and reverence of him.

To be less archaic, Gill is saying that since a wife is dependent upon her husband for “provision, protection, comfort, and happiness,” she must therefore do what he says, agree with his opinions and obey them, because she loves/honors/fears/reveres him.

As I read, I thought, hmm, Mr. Gill, that sounds rather akin to the philosophy that we should do good works in an attempt to “pay God back” saving us. Like a cosmic thank-you note from us to God. And since John Piper rather throroughly debunked that idea (excellent book, by the way), I’m not sure that I agree with Gill here. Or maybe I’m reading him more chauvinistically than he intended. But while there is a sense in which wives do subordinate themselves to their husbands out of thankfulness for their provision, I think that motivation alone falls far short.

The parallel Paul makes in this passage between Christ/Church and husband/wife is unspeakably valuable. As believers, why do we do good works? Because they please God. And why does that please us? Because our delight is the Lord; pleasing Him is the sweetest thing we know. And yet that very truth is one that we have to learn a bit as we grow in Christ. Sometimes our thick skulls forget that there is no higher pleasure. Sometimes we do the wrong thing in pursuit of something infinitely less grand. And sometimes we do the right thing trusting that it will bring us the most delight, even though we don’t yet know it experientially.

Very similarly, in the sphere of marriage, pleasing our husbands is the sweetest thing we know. Just as we were created human to worship and glorify God, we were created woman to be a helper to man (Genesis 2:18)! As wives, the height of our gender, our identity as female, is to submit to our husbands. The church is the Bride of Christ to submit to and glorify Him; wives are examples of that relationship. Therefore, if submission doesn’t bring us happiness, our worldview needs changed! As Christians, we sin because we forget that our joy is in pleasing the Lord; as wives, we balk at submission because we forget that our joy is in pleasing our husbands.

But how do we get that truth into our minds? What can we do if we don’t feel joy in submission? I’m sure there are many answers to this question, but I would like to propose two.

The first is this: earnest prayer that God would change our hearts. It sounds cliche, but truly, every step on the road to eternity teaches me more and more that God is sovereign, and that He delights in answering our prayers. When things seem hopeless–when we need a massive personality overhaul, for instance!–God is faithful.

The second is, very simply, to seek out and savor the joy when we do submit. Here’s an example: when everything’s going crazy and I really don’t feel like I have time to get dinner on the table, but I do it anyway, I’ve got to treasure Seth’s smile and appreciation; treasure his happiness more than I disliked the “inconveniences” of achieving it. Then the next day when the same thing happens again, I can anticipate that joy as I work towards it. The joy sweetens the work, until it becomes such a state of mind that the work begins to sweeten the joy.

How awesome the gift of submission becomes once we treasure and learn from it as God intended!

Studying God

the beauty of the Gospel

I have been reading C.J. Mahaney’s book The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing over the past few days, and one thing he says has really stuck with me: the Bible is God’s story, not ours, and that should be a guiding factor in the principles we gather from the Word.

His example is David and Goliath. There’s a spectrum of approaches you can take to the passage (I’m broadening this beyond Mahaney, by the way):

Secularistic:The story of David and Goliath shows us that it isn’t always the strongest that win. A little boy with stones can fell a giant with a sword. Therefore, we should never give up or despair, and if we’re the “big guy” we should be careful not to be over-proud because all it might take is a slingshot to bring us down. 

Middle:The story of David and Goliath shows us that anything is possible when God is on our side. We shouldn’t be afraid of facing off against giants, because if God is with us, we’ll win the battle! Similarly, we see that Goliath was trusting in human power alone and so failed. 

Gospel-centered:The story of David and Goliath shows us that we are utterly hopeless without God. David was totally set up to lose; he couldn’t possibly have beaten a mighty foe like Goliath on his own. But God in His sovereignty is able to use a wretch like David to bring down the mighty. We can also see a parallel to the cross in this story. Like David, we’re in a battle against sin and our flesh that we can’t possibly hope to win. We’re lost causes. But just as God brought David to victory, He brings us to victory in Christ!

Subtle differences, but very profound. From a certain viewpoint, all of these interpretations are valid. You can draw from the text the first implication against overconfidence. You can draw the second implication that with God all things are possible–Philippians 4:13 and Romans 8:31 back up this interpretation very thoroughly. And, of course, you can draw the final implication, that the story shows God’s sovereignty and our weakness.

On the one hand, it seems like the latter interpretation is “forced” on the text. The passage doesn’t talk about Christ, or the redemptive power of the cross. It doesn’t even talk about God’s sovereignty. David doesn’t sit down and compose a psalm of praise when Goliath hits the ground. But. What do we know about God? We know that in Him there is “no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God’s was doing the same thing and working from the same principles in David’s time as He was when Jesus went to the cross. God’s been “preaching” the Gospel to His people from the moment Adam and Eve stepped out of Eden. And the Gospel as it’s written throughout Scripture is that man is utterly lost without God, but that God is a God of love and salvation so praise Him! And that message is very clear in the story of David and Goliath. David tells Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45-47, ESV):

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.

So why did this exchange between a shepherd boy and a giant even happen? That “all the earth” (!) would see God, and that everyone who witnessed the exchange would learn that the Lord saves, not with human implements and might but by His sovereign power. He had dominion over the battle.

And here we come to a clearer reason why this is God’s story, not David’s. I have heard, so many times, that God “prepared” David for the fight with Goliath through using the fight with the lion and the bear. Like David’s a shepherd boy, sure, but he’s some kind of superhero shepherd. Yet that’s not what the passage is saying at all. David told Saul about those fights as part of his “qualifications,” yes, but he wasn’t saying, look, I fought off a lion and a bear, so I think I can handle a giant. No. David was saying, look, My God delivered me from a lion and a bear, and My God is going to deliver me from your giant. The story of David and Goliath has been about the sovereignty of God all along.

In conclusion, then, I’ve been deeply challenged by Mahaney’s book that when I read Scripture, I should be looking for the Gospel. I should be looking for the good news. Every passage should make me exalt God and abase self; to make me more aware of my helplessness without Him and more aware of His infinite power to save. If we’re reading stories like David and Goliath and coming away with only an interpretation like the middle one above–if we’re only seeing what God can do for us without simultaneously seeing how utterly helpless we are by ourselves–then we’re missing the Gospel, we’re missing the heart; we’re missing the whole point. We’re missing the opportunity to savor the beauty of the cross.

Wifehood

As Christ is the Head of the Church

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.
[Ephesians 5:23]

So why is it that God has called one-half of all the people in the world to go against their rebellious natures and put themselves under the authority of the other half of the world? Does God think women can’t make good decisions on their own? Are women just not emotionally stable enough to lead? Are we stupider than men? Or, conversely, does the idea of women being in control just bother men so much that God knew they couldn’t handle it?

I’ve heard these sorts of arguments, and I think that many times when we’re struggling with submission–when we know we should and just find the desire lacking–these questions come to our minds. Submission doesn’t always seem fair. It’s easy to be resentful and think that joyfully submitting must be like asking a slave to be patriotic. And the world doesn’t help. They think we’re nuts. I went to a secular university, and let me tell you, my non-feminism didn’t always go over too well! I’m very sure that it cost me a few grades and made me a few enemies amongst the professors, especially in the English department. This is the world in which we live. “Women can do anything men can do–and do it better,” they insist.

Then there’s the standard legalistic reaction to the world’s errant philosophy, which takes a dollop of true misogyny and mixes it with broad generalizations, missing the beauty of femininity in an attempt to avoid feminism. Women were made in the image of God (Genesis 5:1-2 ): rational, emotional, soul-imbibed human beings. God didn’t decree that we would be the submitters because we’re dumb, irresponsible, and over-emotional! There are so many women in the Bible and throughout history that completely disprove that notion.

So why submission? Because God had a bigger, beautiful purpose to accomplish.

Paul equates the husband to Christ, and the wife to the Church. That’s the “for,” the ultimate reason why we are to submit. In creating marriage, God made sure that His divine love for us would be obvious everywhere we turn, lost or saved. We see marriages around us, and we see how God loves us faithfully! We see marriages, and we see what our relationship with Him is supposed to be! As wives, we have a solemn and joyful duty to illustrate in our daily lives the way that the Church adores and serves and is faithful to her divine Husband. As husbands, they have an equally solemn and joyful duty to illustrate in their daily lives the way Christ unrelentingly and selflessly loves and protects the church–a taller order than submission, if you ask me!

We are called to submit to our husbands specifically as a witness of the submission of the Church to Christ. Wives all around the world at this very moment are displaying in the universal language of action the way that the Bride of Christ submits to her Bridegroom! By His grace, God has written all over the world a great display of redemption and obedience, and this is our part to play. It’s exciting, not inhibiting. It’s part of our created purpose, not a millstone around our necks! God has planned this from the foundation of the world.

There is nothing less dehumanizing than godly submission. Submission is a very real part of what our humanity is at its very essence! God could have created us all to be alike, and left the world to flounder with no idea of how He works amongst humanity, but instead, out of grace alone, He made an illustration and put it in the middle of marriage–the world’s oldest and most abiding human bond–and then, adding grace to grace, He gave us the privilege and duty of carrying it out!

Every time we joyfully submit to our husbands, it becomes a little clearer in our hearts how the Church is designed to submit to Christ. And every time a non-believer sees us being submissive, they see beautiful truths in action that they haven’t seen firsthand. Our submission should be a continual lesson for us as well as a witness to the world!

The beauty in this transcends the merely theological: it affects our day-to-day living and gives us hope and encouragement. At times when submission “stings”–when I totally disagree with Seth–I can take comfort in the fact that even if the particular instance of submitting seems useless from my point of view, it is still serving the primary goal of teaching the Gospel to my heart, to Seth’s heart, and to the world.

Wifely submission is a beautiful illustration of an even more beautiful example of God’s grace. May we live it with thankfulness, not resentment!

Wifehood

“Submit” to Your Own Husbands

Now, the question of a dictionary-like definition of submission. We could just look it up in an actual dictionary, but that would just tell us what G. & C. Merriam and Noah Webster think it means, not what God says it means!

The word here is hupotasso (plus some funny characters I can’t get to show up). Hupo is a preposition meaning “under” or “beneath,” and tasso means “to arrange in an orderly manner, that is to assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot)” (via Strong’s). Or to paraphrase and be verbose, the word literally means to deliberately and carefully arrange beneath.

The word is the same one used to describe Jesus’s relationship to his parents in Luke 2:51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. (ESV) And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. (ESV) (imagine being a completely perfect being submitting to imperfect parents!); in Luke 10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (ESV) Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (ESV) Jesus uses the word to describe how the demons are subject to the seventy sent-out; in Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (ESV) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (ESV) Paul uses the word to describe how creation is subject to depravity; in Romans 13:1 [13:1]Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (ESV) [13:1]Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (ESV), he uses the word to describe how we are to submit to our government; in 1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. (ESV) the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. (ESV) the word is used in telling women to keep silent in the church; in 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (ESV) For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (ESV) we learn that God subjected all creation under Christ’s feet and that Christ shall be subjected to God; Titus 2:9 Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, (ESV) Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, (ESV) exhorts servants to be subjected to their masters; in James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (ESV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (ESV) we are to submit ourselves to God; in 1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV) Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV) we are to be subject to our elders. All the same Greek word.

It’s worth noting that the word used to describe the relationship of children to parents is hupakouo, which means “to hear under… to listen attentively… to heed or conform.” The word is used in many of the same contexts as hupotasso (including in relation to the spirits obeying Christ, servants obeying their masters, the Christian’s relationship to God, and Sarah’s relationship to Abraham), but is never used to describe the “submit to one another” relationship of Christians, nor (except for Sarah) to describe the relationship of a wife to a husband.

Conclusively, then, we are to “submit” to our husbands in the same sense that:

  • we submit to the government
  • we submit to our masters
  • we submit to our elders
  • we submit to God
  • we behave in church
  • Christ submitted to his parents
  • Christ is submitted to God
  • demons submitted to those Christ sent
  • creation submitted to depravity
  • creation is submitted under Christ’s feet
The word for submit is transitive; it requires an object. Submit yourselves. Place yourselves in subjection to your husband. Here’s some other English synonyms from the Greek-English dictionary for hupotasso: arrange under, subordinate, submit to one’s control, yield to one’s admonition, obey, be under obedience; subdue unto. The sense I get is that wifely submission is, at its essence, appointing oneself below, which reminds me of nothing so much as Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (ESV) Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (ESV).

To summarize: we are called to subject ourselves to the government, our masters, elders, our husbands, and God. All the same word, and all emphasized multiple times throughout scripture.

So what does submission actually mean, practically speaking? It’s active: submission is continually bringing ourselves under the authority of our husbands. It’s orderly: submission is joyfully recognizing that we are “outranked,” in a sense. It’s illustrated: we have countless examples of “submission” described in the Bible; wives aren’t the only ones called to submit. It’s selfless: the very nature of submission requires us to put someone else first, and regard their counsel and wishes as higher than our own.
It’s easy at this point to wonder if wives are some kind of second-class citizens: why did God decree that our husbands would be over us? Are we just not as good? More on that… in the next entry. 😉