The Crucible of Submission
If my marriage is the training ground for sanctification in Christlikeness, the preparation for my nuptials with my heavenly Bridegroom, then there are things I can both refrain from and proactively do in order to train my heart to submit to the Head, which is Christ. If there is any place for the hotly debated passage in Ephesians 5, this may be it.
While personal circumstances and situations may vary, and while there are probably infinitely many places where discretion and discernment must be exercised, I think it is important to step back and take a look at this verse before making blanket statements.
From Eph. 5:21, we read that we all are to submit to one another, regardless of our gender or role. It is the posture of Christ, putting the needs of others above our own. This does not give husbands, parents, or masters wholesale freedom to do whatever they wish.
In each of these relationships, there is a mirror, a reflection of heavenly realities.
In marriage, husband and wife should—in an ideal world—reflect Christ and the church (Eph. 5:23). For that reason, the parallel response in the wife should match the response of the church (v. 24).
But we often struggle with role reversals. Perhaps that is the ongoing struggle that God foreshadows in Genesis 3:16, that a woman’s “desire shall be contrary to her husband, but he shall rule over you.” Working against this grain will take discipline, practice, and intentionality to choose to relinquish our naturally selfish desires to gain our own ends.
To be clear, this does not mean allowing yourself to be a punching bag. Taking a stand against abuse, even if it results in more problems, is taking a stand against sin. In no way do I construe these exhortations to submit and condone another’s sinful behaviors.
However, we tend to focus on the extreme situations, while overlooking the more ordinary ones. I make excuses of why our particular circumstance does not apply, and why it is okay—maybe even right—to push for my own way.
It is at these crossroads where the hard choices of sanctification are made—when sin is not the issue but love is.
Often, I have pursued the appearance of submission instead the heart of it, doing what looks right but grumbling in my heart the whole time.
For me, my habits fall into this space, consistently choosing to act with integrity because I have purposed so in my heart to honor my husband.
It is in this crucible that I am refined into the image of Christ—through the everyday conflicts I encounter and the everyday choices I make. There is both a “putting off” of old ways and a “putting on” of new ones (Eph. 4:22-24).
I’ll unpack this a little more next time!