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Submission – not about submission
As a woman brought up in a strongly Christian community, I have chafed at the idea of a wife’s submission to her husband in marriage for much of my life. For this blog post, it might be tempting to think that a man could exploit his authority to simply order me not to do what I wanted to do. However, on thinking about it, I’ve realised that it is not truly about submission as such, or which partner has to submit to which one, but rather it is more about a co-operative attitude. That is, if your spouse is not prepared to be co-operative, then it does not matter whether you “have” to submit to them, or they “have” to submit to you. Either way, the effect will be the same. This is true for instance where a wife refuses to co-operate with the plans put forward by her husband. She could hinder his plans by her lack of co-operation just as easily as a husband could hinder his wife’s plans by invoking his husbandly authority. The difference would be that the man would still be “allowed” to carry on doing what he wants.
This is a possible scenario that occurred to me and made me shudder. There are some things that I do now where to think about them, to execute them and to get to the point of forgetting I ever did them altogether take place in the time it takes to blink an eyelid. Such is my personal autonomy and my sense of initiative that for many of these things it would not naturally occur to me to even ask my husband whether it would be OK for me to…xyz. OK, so let’s assume that I am actually now in a marriage and I have learned to discuss these issues with my husband rather than just jumping straight in. (And naturally, as with micro-managing bosses, some husbands will simply insist on being consulted on every tiny matter, as it will enhance their sense of power to be able to “authorise” or “veto” each little detail of life….)
And imagine this – if, because of this issue – that (h)is ego, in response to my attempts to discuss in a straightforward, non-threatening manner – he just shrugs – just like that! And then refuses to truly engage with the issue, and it just drags on and on…for days…weeks? Months? And to think that this is something I would have accomplished as a single woman in a matter of minutes, or hours. I don’t think I can tell you how unspeakably irritated and resentful I would be. And you know what? I’m sure that this happens in marriage all the time.
Bringing up sons – Biblical versus unbiblical views of leadership
I think that the fact that this attitude is so widespread among men indicates conditioning that boys receive in their upbringing. I believe that men are brought up to believe that they have to be better than women in the sense that they have to be more successful, they have to be the ones providing for the home, otherwise they are not real men. I am not saying that men should not provide for their homes. However the true, definitive Biblical model for male leadership in the home is not based on who may or may not be more “successful”, or who may or may not be bringing in more money. It is based rather on servant leadership. It is about metaphorically washing the feet of your wife and family. Jesus teaches us that if we want to be the leader, then we have to be the servant. Remember that some women provided for Jesus Himself from their financial resources. And yet there was no question as to who was the leader. And there are no signs that Jesus let His identity be threatened by this. I think that it is so important for us Christians bringing up our sons to teach them correctly. This is because the society that surrounds them will be doing its best to teach them opposite values, that “male leadership” is about being the boss, or visibly being “the more successful”.
To get around this issue, for the sake of at least reaching marriage, some women have devised cunning schemes.
“Pretend to know nothing”, they advise, “Flutter your eye-lashes in wide-eyed admiration at whatever might tumble from his lips”, (whether it is genuinely wise or rather an absolute pearl of mediocrity!)
“Then, once you have secured him in marriage, slowly rise to your full height!”
To which I answer:
“Do I look as I have time for such elaborate games? Am I so desperate to get married to just anyone at just any cost that I would pretend to be impressed by someone who does not actually impress me at all?!”
Let me blunt with you, Mr Man! By God’s grace I aspire to excel in my life. By the grace of God, this will include being an excellent wife and mother. However, my dreams extend beyond these to excelling in my own right – I, me, myself, Tosin.
If that will be a problem for you, then please feel free to take your leave and make an exit now. And please don’t come back, because nothing will have changed!
I have no desire to spend the rest of my life wrestling with someone else’s ego. That is, marriage involves big sacrifices anyway – a few of which I have discussed in my previous post. And on top of those you expect me to lay aside my dreams so that I can around carry your ego instead? And let me get this straight. You are supposed to be the leader of this enterprise called “Our Marriage”, yet you expect me to be the one to actually do all the work, and to take the initiative for dealing in prayer with your insecurities (along with the other million and one tasks I will already have to deal with in marriage)…? Frankly my dear, I don’t think so!
I honestly can’t believe that people expect me to run around, desperately trying to secure this glass ceiling over my head that will most reliably hinder my personal progress. I know that that is a very negative way of thinking about husbands and marriage, and I know that I have to deal with the negativity of my outlook. I guess I still feel so disillusioned about Church and Church people (but not God, and not the Bible – I cannot emphasise this point enough!) that by default I currently cannot think well of any husband that would be found in the Church. If you are thinking “Tosin, you have got to stop thinking like this!” , you know what, I sincerely agree with you. The Bible tells us that marriage is a good thing, and I have let myself develop such a negative attitude to it. I have to develop some faith, very quickly that there is at least one excellent single guy out there whose path will cross mine, who is as desperate to pursue God in every way as I am, and as eager for an excellent marriage as I am.
That said, you know what, when thinking about this issue, it is the one thing that makes me most happy that I am not yet married, and happy that I discovered it/it occurred to me before marriage (so I can emphatically deal with it in prayer when considering the husband to marry). If I never get married, know that it will be because I never find a guy who is sufficiently prayerful, who pursues God enough.
“Well Tosin, ” you might say, affronted, “Perhaps they did not find you prayerful enough, and they did not want to marry you!”
Well maybe they did not! (Shrug!) What can you do?!
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Photo of Glass Ceiling by Montaplex on Pixabay