I was head over heels in love with Troy and we were barreling toward marriage but if I let myself think about one subject in particular, I nearly broke out in hives. Troy was a pastor and had been since before I knew him. I pretty much figured he was going to be taking those pesky submission verses to heart. He'd never lorded over me before but that was my working definition of the dreaded word. To be lorded over. Ruled with an iron thumb. Stripped of one's former identity.
I wasn't that kind of girl. Submission was for weak minded women who wanted to be rescued. I was strong. Willed. I never backed down from a fight. I was bossy and assumed that, at least 50% of the time, I outta wear the pants. I didn't want to lose my identity somewhere under my husband's thumb.
One day, with trepidation, I brought up the subject with my fiance. And he took me through the verses, in depth.
Ephesians 5: 22 "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Yeah. I didn't much like that one. At that point, at the tender age of 21, I was still working through the part about submitting to the Lord. And He's perfect and His will for my life is perfect. Submitting to my husband, a fallible man? Preposterous. But Troy just kept right on going.
Ephesians 5:25, 28-29 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her...So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." Hmmm. It was, at the very least, getting better. At least my husband was also expected to love me as Christ does. What a tall order. What a much, much taller order than simply submitting.
I remember Troy explaining submission and defining his role. "If I love you and respect you, I will never lord over you." He went on to explain that he chose a strong-willed woman. He wanted a wife who would challenge his thinking, debate, and stand up for her thoughts and feelings. He said that if we had a disagreement, we would talk about it, argue about it, whatever, and that if and when we reached an impasse, after careful prayer and consideration, he would make the final call.
It's never happened. Not in eight years of marriage. Oh sure, there have been times when, in the heat of an argument I've yelled sarcastically, "Fine! I submit to you! You're right. I'm wrong!" (This, by the way, is not submission. These, by the way, are not my finer moments.)
I can only think of one time when I said, honestly, "You decide. I submit to you." Troy didn't have to leave his ministry in southern California. He didn't have to take the job here. We went back and forth and around in circles. I prayed and prayed and never felt that God gave me an answer. So I made the decision that, since Troy is the one with the master's degree in exegetical theology, he needed to make the call. Because, without a clear word from the Lord, I never would have chosen to leave my life, my family, everything I'd ever known. He felt that the Lord was leading us here. I submitted to that decision and loaded my life into a U-Haul.
In eight years he has never told me to submit to him. Not once. That would defeat the purpose. My heart has to be willing for it to work.
To submit means, literally, to put under. To my 21 year old self this looked like an identity squashing at the very least. A heavy boot descending upon all that I was. To my 30 year old self, it looks like deep and abiding covenant love. It looks like protection. To put under as in, a protective arm around me. He will defend me to anyone every time. Christ gave Himself for the church and Ephesians calls my husband to do the same for me. I trust him. He takes the blame. He's held responsible. He gives his life for me, maybe.
This is submission.
I wonder what the world would look like if we lived Ephesians 5:21 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."