I am so… tied up with the fine degrees of my understanding of certain words and concepts I think I get myself into trouble.
I really like the way the authors of this book explain what submission is in marriage. They don’t say it’s not part of the job description (what I’m beginning to think people hear when I try to explain it), they say submission is not the woman’s role.
So often in the descriptions I hear, husbands (not just *men*) are to lead and wives are to submit (only to their own husband but that’s another post). These statements are biblical enough, but to line them up in parallel to each other, makes them sound like the two primary jobs.
My quibble just comes in the application of the words. Leading is action, something to do. Submission is a reaction. Not a doing.
There are those who will argue that is the whole point. I argue a not isn’t how you define a role. A role is something you do.
In this explanation, submission is the proper response of the wife to the husband’s God-given role. It enables him to lead. After all, If one thinks he is leading, when no one is following, he is merely going for nice walk. The husband, by definition (Do I live by definitions?) cannot fulfill is role unless someone is following him. That’s the wife’s responsibility.
My favorite part of this discussion, then, is pointing out the parallel response of the husband to the wife’s role. That he does to enable her to fulfill her God-given role (and, yes, there are people who will argue he must lead in order for her to follow. I wasn’t following that track today).
If you look at the woman’s role as one of loving (her husband, her children), giving and nurturing (hospitality, etc.), then the husband’s enabling response is praise. Encouragement.
I just love looking at these things in a parallel fashion like this. It shows the parallel of need from each partner to support and strengthen the other in their God-designed role.
And really, to say that the man doesn’t need submission (of my definition, thankyouverymuch, I’m not going to make a doormat-disclaimer), or to say that a woman doesn’t thrive on praise; to say that each should just do their job without expecting anything of their partner basically says that the partner is not necessary.
Yes, there are those in tough marriages, and God gives grace to them and all of us to make it through dry times; but really, to imply that a woman doesn’t actually need her husband’s encouragement is saying all she needs him for is his paycheck (or maybe not even that), and those of us with good marriages know this is far from true.
I like the image of symbiosis. Or even better: a metal alloy.
Almost forgot to add my whole reason for writing this today.
I was searching last night for an analogy that would convey the fine distinction my mind makes over this submission issue, and this is what I currently have:
My stories are not about the English language. The language is how I communicate my stories. The Stories are what I do.
Submission is not what I do. It’s a means by which I do what I do.
Eh, it’s a work in progress. I’ll suggest it for discussion next time the subject arises.
Hi Amyjane–thank you for the post and the encouragement. That quote was wonderful!
Yes, I do bible memorizations and it helps. But therre are times to mourn too.
I love your discussion on submission. Oh, I can hear the feminists cringe and understandably so. In the past (and present sadly) men have used submission to justify wife beating. But biblical submission is so much more, as you have said. Husbands have to submit to God, do they not?
And hey–I saw that you have Lost Genre on your blog roll-I’m one of the contributors (although not distinguished to be sure).
You have a great blog!
Regards from Chrisd
The reference to feminists in the previous comment was interesting, since I wrote this without them in mind at all. I was defending my… idea from those who might be inclined to say I wasn’t strict enough with myself, or however you can say that– I’m not sure.
Here’s my addendum for anyone who thinks submission is archaic or wrong or foolish; You just *can’t understand* why any woman with a mind would choose this:
That’s okay. If it helps I’d ask you to look at this as a cultural thing. I am in a completely different culture than you are, and until (when and if) you also enter into this foreign culture it is only natural you will not fully understand.
My parallel: a friend of my folks, from Nigeria, tried to explain to me how funny it is for a man to joke with his daughter (or any other randomly young female he finds attractive) asking when she will marry him.
It’s distasteful to me, but somehow acceptable and appropriate to her. I don’t know if I’ll ever really “get” it.
So maybe you don’t need to worry about “getting” that submission thing, either. Is that a helpful parallel?
Did I tell you I finally read “Rocking the Roles” a few months ago?
I really like this line in your post: to say that each should just do their job without expecting anything of their partner basically says that the partner is not necessary.
And I really like your analogy in your comment about cross-cultural understanding btw. feminists and non-feminists. That puts into words something I’ve felt for a while but haven’t been able to express that well. The closest I have come is reminding myself that “the cross is such foolishness to the perishing ones, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God” (as Delirious paraphrases it). People who are not Christians will always be unable to understand the Bible’s teachings, including the BIblical model for marriage.
I like how you’ve discussed this topic and the book you mention seems really interesting although I still don’t really understand the why of putting of people into their boxed roles. I’ve known in so many marraiges that are healthy, the wife leads in some things or encourages the husband. In fact, I’d say that all men need encouragement. I mean, sure, the Bible tells wives to submit to their husbands but does that mean they never lead? Nah. That’s like saying
Polka dotted elephants run.
Mary Ann walks.
Mary Ann is not a polka dotted elephant.
Most of the time, it works out that the huband is more equipped to lead and you have to have cooperation for a smooth parntership, so it just makes sense to tell the wives to submit, but I just don’t like this taking of extremes or putting people into boxes.
Perhaps another analogy may be helpful to balance your argument/contention.
The hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone are all present in healthy males and females, and fulfill physiological functions in each. But the hormone(s) dominant to one sex are so essential and defining they are ascribed (and described) almost exclusively in terms of that sex; testosterone as the “male” hormone and estrogen/progesterone are “female” hormones.
I hope this answers your >>the Bible tells wives to submit to their husbands but does that mean they never lead? Nah. That’s like saying
Polka dotted elephants run.
Mary Ann walks.
Mary Ann is not a polka dotted elephant.
(This is a “straw man” fallacy btw: setting up an over-simplification of an argument that is easy to knock over.)
We’re in a lot of murky land with no explicit definitions, but I’d agree, *yes* a woman may take initiative, under her husband’s delegation. Being a woman does not preclude her from making important decisions.
But for her to lead the marriage (this is not a question of ability, but of assignment) would be an act of disobedience for both the husband and the wife.
As to >> I still don’t really understand the why of putting of people into their boxed roles. The answer to this is that some people never do care to learn the “boxes” (perhaps because they don’t want to be contained by them?) but the fact that God gave them to us tells us they matter to him, and that should be enough for us.
I heard a preacher say once, “What if, your whole life you made God apple pie, only to find when you got to heaven that he *doesn’t like* apple pie?”
This isn’t saying that apple pie is bad, or that God didn’t (perhaps) appreciate the gift. But the best (most mature) gifts really *should* benefit the recipient more (or at least as much as) the giver. (Makes me think of the the Cain and Abel offerings story.)
Ah, the bliss of ignorance.
At 27 I had honestly not experienced the being “boxed in” to roles. I also had an inclination to only focus on the decisions that were important to me, and was thankful I had fewer details to juggle, especially while I was juggling three babies under the age of four.
With the clarity of 20/20 hind sight, that this post was a scary thing for me to write was a clue that the culture/environment was growing more restrictive. My inherent desire for wiggle-room and continued do-what-I-want had me defining terms and drawing lines in the sand.
And nothing scary happened. No one cared that I’d been “so bold.”
And looking back from ten years later I can see that was because my words were never seen as a threat. It didn’t matter what I thought, as long as I never got in the way.
When I did, well, I was *wrong* of course.
It was past time when I left.
For the record, I am now what you call “egalitarian.” I don’t believe roles are prescribed by gender over ability, and I pay more attention to the verse that frames the following discussion of gender, the one that reminds all believers to submit to one another.