In two simple sentences, a single guy nailed marriage 2000 years ago. It wasn’t a theory, but wisdom straight from the heart of God.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Ephesians 5:22, 25
Those who are already married will fully realize the practical implications of these two sentences; those who are still single should not be fooled into thinking that this occurs “naturally” in marriage. Though it may take many people a lifetime to yield to these words of wisdom, simple obedience results in peace, joy, unity, and strength in a marriage.
I will be the first to admit that I often struggle to submit, and I am afraid I am not very lovable when I resist…
For twenty-five years before marriage, I was being prepared by my family and culture “to leave the nest” and to become a responsible, independent citizen of society. Furthermore, there were many dynamic women in my family whom I looked to as examples of strength. Unfortunately, the men in my life did not match my perception of what strong leaders should be, especially in areas of life I considered most important. My faulty understanding of leadership models only added to my misconception that men are weak, requiring me to be strong.
Unlike millions of women throughout history, and in many societies and cultures around the world, I grew up as an equal to my brothers. I had the opportunity to get an education and voice my opinions as a woman. I could choose my own career path and even decide who I wanted to marry. In contrast, multitudes of women in the world today are still forced into submission, arranged marriages, and even slavery from birth because of their sex.
After years of being groomed for independence, submission in marriage doesn’t come “naturally”. Quite the opposite, it is contrary to the will of our flesh, so we have to choose to willingly surrender our own will to the law of love. And, more often than not, we are not exactly sure what it means to “submit”. The Bible is not as clear on the matter of submission as it is on love, and I cannot help but wonder if our own misunderstandings stem from our error in separating the two. Consequently, men try to force their wives into submission when the Word commands them to “love” their wives, and wives resist submission when it is all part of the nature of love to submit to the Lord.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Paul spoke right into the heart of the problem when he told women to submit and men to love. Normally driven by emotions, women have to learn to be led by the truth and practicalities rather than by feelings. To follow someone else instead of our own stubborn ways and to learn the art of when and how to keep our mouths shut is a challenge. However, simple submission brings respect and honor to our husbands which makes them happy and content, and the husband “blossoms” in the same way that a wife does when she feels unconditionally loved.
Ah-h-h-h….I know that I still have a long way to go and a lot to unlearn and re-learn. We know to do good, but we don’t do it, so we don’t reap the benefits. In the end, it’s all about simple obedience. Perhaps marriage was instituted by God to give us practical training in loving one another. After all, marriage is ultimately a metaphor of our relationship with God. If we struggle to submit to our earthly husbands in love, it might be a reflection of our struggles to submit to His perfect will and plans for our lives. If we struggle to love our spouses, it is a sure sign that we are lacking in love and need to go to the Source for a new supply.
We might liken our life on this earth to a time of preparation to become a bride – the bride of Christ. We are engaged to the bridegroom who has gone away to prepare a place for us, as was the tradition of the Jews. After all things are prepared, He will return to claim His bride and take her to be with Him forevermore. We might even say the marriage of the church to Christ is a “pre-arranged” marriage, planned long before we were born by the Creator of the Universe Himself.
Divorce is not an option to the Lover of our souls, neither would we desire to annul our engagement contract, or run away, if we could only comprehend the perfect love of God, our true “soul-mate” who alone completes us.
To submit to God is the only road to true happiness and true love. Therefore, we should be careful that we do not give more power to our culture, society, thoughts, and opinions in shaping and molding us than we do to the Word of God. As we struggle to maintain control as the “captains of our own ships”, pursuing our own happiness and pleasures in this world, we might be steering towards an iceberg and certain shipwreck.
The perfect love of God love is easy to submit to; voluntary submission makes us more lovable. Love and submission are therefore intertwined.
Do you also struggle to submit or to love? Then, let submission be an expression of love. We all need to encourage one another to be better companions, wives, husbands…. and to ultimately prepare ourselves to become the bride of Christ without spot or blemish.
Photographer: Michelle van Wyk