Just a few weeks ago, in a discussion of literature in one of my
classes, my female professor made this comment in response to a girl
who had dared to mention the
topic of a wife's submission to her husband: "Submission is such
a gendered word. It's only
used to refer to women. Why don't we ever hear anything about husbands
submitting to their wives?!"
My first thought was, "Because it's not in the Bible, duh." I mean, we're at a Christian university I think we ought to know that...
However, this got me thinking, even in Christian circles where submission is believed to be what wives ought to do, it is often embraced grudgingly. When do we ever hear it talked about in glowing terms? Instead it's that "thing that we have to do," as if "What was God thinking when He put that in there?" Isn't it true that Christian women largely tend to feel slighted by God because of the instruction to submit to their husbands?
I'd like to share something I learned in my theology classes last Fall that radically changed the way I look at wifely submission.
First, a lesson about the Trinity is necessary. The Trinity, of course, consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each is a distinct person and yet, each is fully God and has the same divine attributes. Even though they are completely equal, in every possible way, the Son and the Holy Spirit submit to God the Father.
Jesus submitted to the Father in coming to earth and before His crucifixion, He submitted His will to the Father's saying "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
The Holy Spirit also submits to the Son and the Father; He must go where and when they send Him, as many verses testify (Luke 24:49, John 14:26, Gal 4:6 to name a few).
If the Trinity can practice submission within it's persons, submission must not be a horrible, annoying nuisance to be complied with. Instead, it must be awe-inspiringly beautiful, because God is the author of beauty and perfection. Something that He practices cannot be vile.
Before I go on, let me say that I believe that women and men in reference to their souls and personhood are completely 100% equal. They share the same attributes that are common to all people: emotions, a will, etc. I do believe that there are physical differences between them, however, and that these are there so that they might fulfill their God-given roles. But apart from this they are equal. A man is not of more value than a woman in God's eyes. That is not what submission is about.
It is not because the man is physically stronger that women are to be submissive; it is not because he could dominate her if he wanted to. Instead, submission is to be a voluntary giving-over of will. That was what Jesus did in the garden before His death. He let God know what His will was (to take the cup from him if He could), but He ultimately put it into God's hands. Because of this, I don't think that submission is about not having a will of your own. It's not that the wife no longer has any opinions or will, it's that she has a will and yet she still chooses to put it under her husband's.
To me, this is so beautiful.
To have the opportunity to do something that God Himself does and bear witness to who He is, is amazing! The thought that my submission to my husband can point to God and bring Him glory is astounding. What a responsibility we've been given!
Though I'm not married yet, I have been learning this hard lesson of submission over the past two years in my courtship, so I know this isn't easily practiced in daily life because we do in fact have a will of our own; but, I would like to challenge you think more about Jesus's example in the garden (not hiding his preference but at the same time releasing it to the Father) and how beautiful submission can be when we realize that we are reflecting God when we practice it.