Back on Track: 5 Helpful Truths About Submission I Remind Myself
If you asked my husband what kind of wife I am, I think he would tell you the same thing he tells me: I’m devoted, loving, kind, and “the best thing that ever happened to me” (his actual words). Yet, submitting to my husband isn’t always easy.
At times, it feels like a blistering tug-of-war between my two selves: the noble, godly side of me and the not-so-noble, selfish side of me. It’s up and down. Sometimes it’s more up and sometimes it’s more down, depending on how I’m doing emotionally at any given time (if I told you that we have eight children and homeschool, that might help you understand). When I find myself in a down moment, or a whole series of down moments, there are certain things I like to tell myself in order to get back on track. I’d like to share what those things are, in the form of five helpful thoughts.
5 TRUTHS I REMIND MYSELF
Helpful Thought #1: Submission isn’t just for wives. If other people are expected to submit, so can I.
We are told to submit to the government (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). When has the government ever been perfect? Never. But, we need to submit anyway (unless it involves denying Christ, Acts 5:27-32).
Servants are told to submit to their masters (Eph. 6:5-8; 1 Pet. 2:18-25). Masters (bosses, people in charge) aren’t always nice, but servants (employees) are reminded that when they do their job with a willing heart, as unto the Lord, God will reward them for it.
Children are told to honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20). I’ve never met a perfect parent, nor am I one. Though I certainly encourage honesty with my children, I don’t think it’s always necessary for them to feel that I am “worthy of respect” before they give me the respect that my position deserves. They don’t need to understand all my decisions or agree with them.
Christians are all told to submit to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5; James 4:7-10). It may seem to us like it should be easy to submit to Christ because He’s perfect, but when has following Him ever been easy for any true believer? It definitely wouldn’t be easy if submitting to Him meant forsaking your family, leaving behind your home, risking financial stability, being hated by the world, being persecuted, or facing death, among other very unpleasant things (Matt. 10:34-39; Mark 10:28-31; John 12:24-26, 15:18-20, 16:33; Acts 14:22; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 3:12).
So, submission is a theme in the Bible describing God’s way of life for every Christian and is not just for wives. It helps me to remind myself that God isn’t unfairly targeting and bullying wives by telling them to submit to their husbands, though this is without a doubt the earthly role He has assigned women, within His perfectly designed order (1 Cor. 11:3, 7-9, 14:34-35; Eph. 5:22-24, 33; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 2:11-14; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6).
Helpful Thought #2: The office of authority is what is being submitted to and respected, even if the person holding that office doesn’t at all moments inspire feelings of respect.
That happens with imperfect human beings, doesn’t it? They let us down and disappoint us. They don’t live up to our expectations. They can sometimes be insensitive, thoughtless, and selfish. If I’m honest, that describes me at times, too! We all wish this were not so, especially when it comes to the one we’re married to, but there’s no escaping reality. It hits pretty soon after the warm fuzzies wear off — though of course, with effort we can still maintain a vibrant and loving relationship, as I believe my relationship with my husband shows.
I like to think of it this way: just as in the military where everybody is expected to obey their commanding officer immediately and without complaining, God expects me to obey my “commanding officer,” my husband. I may not agree with him sometimes and he may not always treat me the way I want to be treated, but as my head of authority, he has a right to my respect & submission (and I assume all readers know I’m not speaking of submission to blatant sin or extreme abuse).
Helpful Thought #3: Focusing on the negative only makes a bad situation worse — but focusing on the positive makes a bad situation better.
Finding faults is no hard task. We don’t have to look far to find someone else’s shortcomings. But, it helps to consider where all this nit-picking is going: Nowhere Good. At the end of all the complaining, does anything noble ever get accomplished? Do we feel closer as a couple? Does my husband feel the sudden compulsion to do something nice for me? No — in my experience, not ever. But, being patient with my husband’s faults (or perceived faults), as God instructs Christians to do with each other (Col. 3:12-13), not only shows genuine Christlike love but also helps make it easier for me to love him and him to love me. Being honest is definitely important, but then there comes the point of being too honest. Sometimes it’s better to turn a blind eye and pretend we didn’t notice something irritating. Who knows? We may get so good at it we start to forget it ever was a problem. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV).
Helpful Thought #4: Remember where this is all leading. Focus on the object of marriage, the end goal. Have an eternal perspective.
Our children need both of us to raise them. The job of training them in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6) is very important, and we can’t do that very well if we’re at odds with each other. What kind of example are we modeling to them of what mature people should act like? What are we demonstrating to them about marriage? Is it that people who should be acting like adults are actually throwing pity parties like bratty little children? Or is that we are mature enough to set our own desires aside for the sake of a higher goal?
So, we need to model a good working marriage for our children. But, our relationship is also a message to the world around us about Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). I’m an ambassador to this dark place and I don’t want to muddy God’s message of truth and light with childish temper tantrums over silly things (Matt. 5:14-16; 2 Cor. 4:1-2, 5:17-21).
Helpful Thought #5: I’m not always so great and wonderful, myself.
My husband has sometimes had to put up with a lot — and he’s done it most of the time with a patient attitude. If he can do that for me, then I can do the same for him.
And, even if one’s husband is not that patient and unselfish, forgiveness and longsuffering can do a lot to soften a hard heart and draw the other person toward God (1 Pet. 3:1-6). We should remember that this life isn’t about living the comfortable, pain-free lives we envision for ourselves. It’s about reaching out to others who are lost, even if the “other” is one’s own husband, with the love and compassion of Christ.
Our life has a purpose, and that purpose is to love God and to love others (Matt. 22:34-40). The focus should be on how we can help our spouse encounter the heart Jesus has for him, rather than focusing on how we can get what we want out of life. Jesus’ love is unselfish, humble, and sacrificial. Pride can stand in the way of having that sort of love, if we let it — the kind of pride that says, “I deserve, I need, I want.” But humility clears the path to a good relationship by admitting mistakes and being willing to overlook mistakes in others.
WHY MINDSET IS KEY
Those are the things I tell myself to get past those down moments when I don’t feel very much like submitting. We all fall short sometimes; it’s just not okay to stay there. The biggest part of this journey is mental: it’s the mindset we allow ourselves to adopt, and the thoughts we focus on which shape our outlook and become our way of life.
I’m discovering along my own journey of being a submitted wife, according to the Bible’s definition of submission, that I’m not always as good as I’d like to believe that I am. But what’s new? I think we often think of ourselves as better than we really are. That’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is what we do with what we know, the path we choose to take from there.
So, that’s what helps me get back on track, but I’m curious to know: Is there anything you have found helpful for those times when you’re struggling to keep your heart in the right place? Your answer could encourage many other women experiencing similar challenges!