What Submission Looks Like in Modern Marriage

woman-975339_1920I’m a strong-willed, bull-headed, opinionated, outspoken modern woman married to a man who continually challenges me to pursue my dreams and make an eternal impact. And yet, I take Ephesians 5:22-23 literally, which says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of His body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything” (NLT). 

Yes, the verse preceding this says we are to “submit to one another,” but here’s the deal–I have no control over my husband’s behavior but I have full control over mine. And in this instance, I can choose to obey Christ, trusting He truly does know better than I how to build a happy, intimate relationship, or I can operate on my own faulty, self-absorbed, deceived thinking.

Hm…

So, what does biblical submission look like in modern marriage?

It’s not oppressive. It doesn’t mean suppressing my God-given ideas and intellect and following my husband around with the remote and an iced soda. In fact, in my home, it’s rarely seen, until a major conflict arises. When that happens, I’m given a choice–dig in my heels and fight for my way, or surrender and submit, trusting God to work things out according to His will.

Let me illustrate with a story. When our daughter was young, I felt a clear and strong call to homeschool. Excited to embrace this new journey God had laid out for me, I shared this with my husband.

His response: No.

Not, “Let’s talk about this,” or “Let me think about this.” Nope. Nothing but a firm, “No.”

So, being the stubborn, opinionated, and at times self-righteous, woman I am, I fought, nagged,

photo by marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

photo by marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

argued, pestered, and cajoled in an effort to get my way–which I firmly believed was God’s way.

The result? The tension in our marriage increased and our home became a battle ground. Steve and I grew further apart, far from the united front our daughter needed.

Convinced I was right and Steve was wrong, I turned to prayer, expecting God to rally behind me.

He didn’t. He told me to submit. To put my marriage above this thing, as important as I felt this thing was. So, with confused reluctance, I did, figuring I’d either heard God wrong or He’d change my husband’s heart.

God did the latter. Shortly before our daughter was to start her kindergarten year, my husband said to me, “Have you considered homeschooling?”

My stomach dropped. Had he seriously forgotten about the major battle we’d had over this issue? I’m not sure if he had or if his question was a way of initiating conversation, but regardless, in the two years I’d gone silent on the subject, God had begun speaking–to my husband. He’d changed my husband’s heart, and that fall, I began teaching our daughter from home with the full support of my husband.

Consider how different things might’ve turned out, had I continued to fight for my will. I may have worn Steve down eventually, got him to concede to my desire, but he probably would’ve resented me and our homeschooling for it. It would’ve been a mess for years to come. He certainly wouldn’t have stood beside me, supporting my efforts.

God’s way was better. But then again, isn’t it always?

I could share numerous other stories like this, of times when Steve and I stood on completely opposite sides of an issue with no signs of compromise and God gave me the choice to keep fighting or submit. And every time when I’ve chosen to submit, God has worked things out, in His timing and His way, and always, always for our good.

Because He’s good. And He’s sovereign. He has a plan for me, my family, and my marriage, and He’s committed to working out that plan. And in my marriage, when wills collide, God’s plan for me is submission.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Ladies this is a hard one, right? I think because we’re fearful. We’re fearful if we concede to something, we’ll be trampled on or something will go wrong, or we’ll miss out on or lose something we hold dear. But faith is the antidote to fear–faith not in our fallible husbands but rather in God.

What areas are hardest for you to submit? When have you surrendered an issue to God, conceding one of your husband’s wishes, and what were the results? When have you dug in your heels and fought for something and regretted your behavior? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

(If you missed part one and two of this post, you can read them HERE and HERE.)

For those following me online, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Yesterday I chatted about my novel, coffee, and other randomly fun things on Sarah Ruut’s blog. You can join our conversation HERE.

On the Internet Cafe’, I asked then addressed the question: Are You Training Your Child For Divorce. You can read my post HERE.

On Tuesday I stopped by Johnnie Alexander’s to share the spark behind my latest release, Breaking Free, which I offered as a give-away. You can join the fun and get entered into the drawing HERE.

Monday I stopped by Whispers in Purple to participate in a fun interview. You can join me HERE.

Last Friday I shared what seems to be y’all’s favorite post, a special road trip romance and how an anniversary trip to Seattle added color and depth to my latest release. You can read this story HERE.

And finally, last Thursday I visited the Inkslinger Blog to share an excerpt from Breaking Free. You can read that HERE.

 

 

Because You Both Can’t Lead

anger-19063_1920It’s the word that makes nearly every woman cringe, grit her teeth, stomp her foot and clench her fists. Probably because someone they’ve encountered has used this word to oppress and dominate, which is so far from God’s intention. But isn’t that just like Satan to twist something God meant for good into something burdensome and repulsive?

Before we go further, let me assure you, God never oppresses. He uplifts, equips, transforms, and sets free.

Jesus said, “The theif’s [Satan’s] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them [us] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).

Satisfying. Abundant. The Greek word Jesus used here means “more than”, beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectations, and going past the expected limit.marriageverse

That’s the type of life I want! I get it by living out God’s will, and in marriage, for me, His will is submission (Eph. 5:22-23). But before you cringe and close out this window, let me explain.

Things hadn’t been going well in our marriage. And when I say they weren’t going well, I mean our marriage stunk. Steve and I were so far from being the united couple we vowed to be, we spent most of our time living as enemies. In self-imposed isolation.

We had two options: divorce or get help. By God’s grace, we chose the latter.

Sitting in a small, homey counselor’s office, tears pouring down my face, I shared all the hurts I’d been holding on to for so long. I’m not even sure I made sense. All I knew was that I was lonely and felt rejected, and I was desperate for things to change.

When I’d finished crying, wining, and venting, the counselor looked at me with a rather stoic expression and said, “You want him to be the leader.”

I jerked back, blinked. Stared at her for a long time.

Um… what? Where in the world did she come up with that?

At the time, I thought she had completely misunderstood me, but looking back… she’d been right on. My heart was crying out for a spiritual leader. The problem was, every time Steve stepped up to lead, I slammed him down.

Through criticism. And “instruction.” Constant instruction. When he’d interact with our daughter: “Hold her this way.” “No, she can’t have that. Give her this.”

When he’d help around the house: “No, you’re folding those wrong.” “Use this cleaner.” “Those don’t go there.”

man-690201_1920And being the loving husband he was, he began to follow, and I’m pretty sure it was killing him. It for sure was killing our marriage. That afternoon as the two of us sat in the counselor’s office, God began to intervene, working in each of our hearts in order to create a united front. Helpmates.

The road getting there, however, was terrifying.

God’s inciting incident (for those familiar with writing lingo) happened at a quiet beach front house in a tiny fishing town in Oregon. My mom found and booked the place and the four of us–Steve, myself, my mom, and our daughter who was probably eight at the time–spent the greater portion of a week unwinding and reconnecting. With ourselves, one another, and God.

While there, my mom gave Steve and I a book, unfortunately I don’t remember the name, but it was about one man’s journey of learning to recognize and heed God’s voice. I loved the book and read it periodically on our trip. My husband, however, devoured it. Every time I looked his way, he was reading, his thick brows pinched in that studious expression that indicated he was deep in thought. He remained pensive for the rest of the trip and on our drive home from the airport after.

As we drove, he played one song over and over. It was by Third Day, “Take My Life.” You can listen to it here:

Watching him, I knew, I mean I knew-knew, God was doing something, but I had no idea what, nor did Steve tell me. Until maybe a month later when he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m quitting my job. And we’re moving.”

My stomach plummeted. “What? Where will you work?”

“I don’t know. Home Depot?”

“Where will we live?”

“I don’t know. Pick a place.”

At this point, I started to reach panic stage. This was so uncharacteristic of my husband. It didn’t make sense. But in my heart I knew, this was from God. I hated it. I was terrified. But something in me kept me quiet. At least, to my husband.

Fast forward another month, and with still no definite job in sight, we decided to put our home on the market. (Because I guess if one’s going to be jobless, they may as well become homeless, too, right? Oy.) The decision had been made–we were moving. Where? I had no idea, and I wanted my marching orders! So, as I tore our old, weed infested grass off our yard in preparation for re-sodding, I cried out to God, wining, venting, complaining, and begging–yes, begging–for Him to tell me what He was up to. Where we were going to go, and that everything would be okay.

He didn’t give me that. All I heard was, “Submit.” Again and again, “Submit.”

woman-83177_1280I’m not sure how or where I got the strength, but I did. Not because I trusted my husband. He was totally freaking me out at that point, but because I trusted God. Or at least, I was trying to. Maybe I should say I chose to trust Him, regardless of how I felt.

That was when God began to make a leader out of my husband. A strong, confident, sexy, loving, gentle leader. But he didn’t get there overnight, nor was the journey easy, for either of us. One of the biggest challenges for me? I learned I had to get out of God’s way.

Ouch, right?

This is a heavy, complex subject, this S word thing, and one that can’t be addressed, it seems, in a single blog post. Which is why I want to expand on the topic. Come back in two weeks to learn how I feel this biblical principle plays out in modern-day marriage. In the meantime, join me next week to hear from a very special guest, Tanya Eavenson, who will be talking about godly relationships in general and four in particular she believes God wants to cultivate.

FB Cover PhotoBut before you go, fun news! Breaking Free releases (online) in four days! Woo-hoo! (Which means I’ll be all over the Internet, and the midwest, in the days to come. 😉 ) (It releases in bookstores on April 4th.)

For those looking for deals, Christian Book Distributors is currently running a pre-order discount. Go HERE to buy the novel at 31% off! You can read the first 30-some pages for free HERE. You can check out scene location pictures HERE.

Oh, and for those who’ve read Intertwined, my publisher posted book club questions. Grab a friend and chat about your favorite parts of the novel and what it showed you. 🙂 You can find those questions HERE. And if you live or will be in the Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, or Austin area, I’d love to see you! Visit my Event Page to see when I’ll be in your area.

Finally, for those in the Omaha Metro, my church is hosting an amazing marriage conference with free childcare the night before. Check it out and register HERE and HERE.

 

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When have you felt God asking you to do something that made no sense or evoked panic? How’d you respond and what was the result? Do you have any thoughts on the S word? What do you think God means when he tells wives to submit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

It Starts at Home

On occasion, especially when tired or distracted, our family has a funny, yet not so funny, habit of looking for ways to be served. It normally starts at dinner time as we each, comfortably sitting at the table, watch anxiously to see who might enter the kitchen first. The moment someone shifts in that direction, requests fly, “As long as your up, can you …?”

By the time nightfall rolls around, the “serve-mes” have reached their zenith. Of course, by then, we’re all reclining, me with my Kindle, my husband and daughter with their television program. Those lovely snacks we crave so incredibly far away ….

Once again, we go in go into hyper-alert, ready for that slightest shift, that sideways glance that might indicate someone is heading to the kitchen.

Why is it so much easier to serve those outside our home?

The gimmes can be quite contagious, but so can the givies. Often it jut takes one person to get things started. Acts of service can create a safe, loving, nurturing environment where each family member submits one to another.

Taking that first step might be hard. Perhaps we fear our loved ones will take advantage of us–will come to expect our service. But there is no fear in love, my friend.

If fear and distrust is holding you back from truly giving yourself to your loved ones, ask God to help you. To heal you from whatever wound has created that fear. Is there a real issue creating this fear? Then address this, speaking the truth in love. If need be, seek help. Commit to moving your family toward intimate, authentic, honest mutual submission and total trust. A trust that says, “I trust you with my whole self. I trust you enough to give myself away.” And recognize, if your relationship suffers from distrust, this healing and relationship building could take time.

Perhaps our pride gets in the way. It’s hard to humble ourselves, to willingly take a servant’s role. But love is not proud, and pride is not fun. Pride creates intimacy barriers that ultimately lead to isolation.

For me, it often comes down to plain selfishness–self-absorption. I get so focused on my needs and wants, it’s easy to forget about those around me. I need to become actively aware of the needs and wants of others. Outside the home, my attitude changes because I know I’m “on mission.” It’s an attitude change that heightens my perception. But somehow, when I come through my garage door, that alertness fades. I get lazy. Compliant. Selfish.

Lord, help me to focus more on the needs and desires of my family. Show me how I can serve them daily. Show me how I can tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ not just “out there,” but within my home.

25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28 NLT).

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about submitting one to another through daily acts of service. When we read of God’s commands to submit to one another, it’s easy to say, “Yeah, but God says ‘one to another!’ My husband, daughter, co-worker doesn’t serve me! As soon as ….”

That’s conditional obedience, my friend. We are each responsible for ourselves. Focus on your obedience and leave your spouse, brother, neighbor to God. In regard to your sons and daughters, train and model. 🙂

I’d love to hear from you. How can we serve one another in a healthy manner without it becoming co-dependent or skewed? I’m thinking this one could be a book, although I suspect the answer might lie in the motivation. Are we serving out of obedience to Christ or out of guilt or fear? Are we serving without obligation or have we attached strings?

How can we actively combat selfishness in our homes? Do you have an example of a way you served a family member or perhaps how they served you you can share? What was the result? How did it change or enhance the atmosphere of your home.

I’ll give an example of something I did that had greater results than I’d expected. The other day, after my husband went for a long, hot bike ride, I brought his dinner to him along with a cold drink. (Normally, although I prepare the meal, we each serve ourselves in buffet line fashion.) He reacted with such gratitude, beaming as if I’d purchased him major league baseball tickets. My act of love–one that took me tops three minutes–resonated deeply. And added but one more layer of glue to our relationship.

Before I leave you to contemplate over (or fume about) today’s post, I want to thank my July Reach Out to Live Out contributors. It is encouraging to read about all the wonderful ways Christ is loving the world through His children.

The most popular Reach Out story came from Katie Ganshert, a sweet sister in Christ who has been called to reach out to an orphan. (You can watch her vlog here.) Congrats, Katie! You won July’s gift basket. I’ll be contacting you shortly for your mailing address. Please stop by again, after your adoption, and let us know how things progress.