Sidenote: It has been suggested in a comment that I might define “submission” before I continue. So I’m going to do that in the next two posts. First, in this post, I want to define the depth of submission (how much do we submit?) and in the next post, I’ll be more grammatical about it and look at the meaning of the word in Greek, other uses of it, etc. The next post is already half-written and will, Lord willing, be posted sometime tomorrow. Now for today’s post…
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
As to the Lord. Wow. Intense.
If there is one thing in the whole topic of submission that I find both most insightful and most terrifying, it’s those four little words. I know to what extent I’m to submit to the Lord: totally and completely and unquestioningly.
This is the same sort of command qualification as “love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s just so far out there–so extreme–that it’s really hard to wrap my head around it. It’s one of those instances where it becomes plain that it’s impossible to live Christianity as a simple rulebook… it’s too far-reaching… it’s who we are. They way we submit to God invades every aspect of our life, from sleeping and breathing all the way to decision-making. In the same way, Paul is telling us, we are to submit to our husbands.
When I think about submitting to God, I think about total, unquestioning, unwavering obedience. While I’m not perfect at achieving that level of submission, I do know very clearly what I should do. I don’t imagine myself talking back to God, or arguing with Him. I mean, if God were standing in my living room telling me that we are not going to buy a new coffee table, I think I’d probably give a frightened squeak and nod obliquely; end of discussion.
Of course, part of the reason for that is because God is scary, and also because He’s always right. Husbands, on the other hand, are neither! And the real question is, how does one submit to an imperfect husband in the same spirit as one submits to a perfect God?
I mentioned yesterday that I tend to endeavor to do whatever I think is right. I don’t mean morally (although that too!) but pragmatically. I do a lot of careful research before I make decisions, and I’m the sort of person who applies for scholarships and compares insurance companies. And sometimes, I know that I’m “right,” objectively speaking, but Seth doesn’t agree. And sometimes doing what he wants to do has negative consequences that I want to avoid for the good of both of us.
God doesn’t make bad decisions. Husbands do. And, unless it’s a moral issue, we’ve got to go along with those bad decisions. That’s our calling. That’s where the rubber meets the road! It isn’t just blind trust. It isn’t being brainless and not thinking for ourselves. Sometimes it’s doing something that goes against every fiber of your being! Sometimes it’s doing things that we know are stupid! And doing them cheerfully!
I remember when I was in junior high or high school youth group, and we’d go on retreats. And there’d be all sorts of really silly rules. No hairdryers. No going from point A to point B without an adult. The buddy system. As an adult, I understand the reason we put such things on teenagers, but as a teenager I thought, hmm, I wandered all around the camp by myself before the rest of the kids got here, but now that they’re here, I have to follow this stupid rule, like I’ve suddenly lost my sense of direction. It didn’t make sense. But I followed the rules anyway, because they were the rules, and being obedient to them was the right thing to do.
I think submission to our husbands is kind of like that. Sometimes the “rules” are stupid. Truly, objectively stupid. Our husbands are wrong sometimes. And sometimes the we don’t understand the reason for “rules,” because sometimes our husbands see things that we don’t see. (Hopefully that happens more often!) But either way, sometimes we don’t get what our husbands are trying to do, and we don’t agree with them. And what we have to do at that point is recognize that just like our camp counselors, our parents, our government–whomever–we are under their authority, and we follow that authority because to do otherwise is to sin and to displease God.
When God commands us to do something, we have to follow it and trust Him even if we don’t see the reason in it. Similarly, we must submit to our husbands’ leadership and decision-making even if when we don’t see the reason in it! And by submitting to our husbands “as to the Lord,” we also submit to God. To return to the child metaphor, we obeyed our babysitters because our parents left them in charge, and in a sense, to obey the babysitter was to obey our parents. In the same way, the authority our husbands hold over us, the source of our submission, is ultimately from God.