I struggle so, so much with understanding godly submission. I've read so many books on relationships, dating, courtship, and marriage; I've listened to countless sermons and talks on those topics, I've been through the pre-marriage class and premarital counseling. The concepts, the framework, the way God designed it to work: It makes sense. I think I get the overall picture. Fleshing it out in daily life is the hard part.
One of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around is that Jesus asks wives to submit to sinful husbands. I don't have a problem submitting to the decisions and desires of my sinful self. I knew Mike wasn't flawless long before we married, and I didn't expect him to be sin-free after. But in the four months and one day that we've been wed, there have been times when I've been petrified by the possibility that Mike will make a "wrong" choice and I'll have to submit to it. I'm a control freak and a perfectionist. This freaks me out.
A few weeks ago I read the essay, "What if He Leads Wrong?" and found my questions echoed in the author's words:
"Could I love my husband as Titus 2 commanded me? I had no doubt. Could I be a 'helpmeet' as I was created to be? I had every desire to. But could I, really, submit to my husband? I knew that the Lord created man, woman, and marriage. Still, the deep-down, honest answer was: Of course, I could submit ... as long as he is right. Of course, my husband should be the head of the household ... as long as I agree with what he's doing. Of course, he should lead ... as long as I agree with what he's doing. Of course, he should lead ... as long as I have pre-approved the path. But what exactly am I supposed to do, my gut wrenched, when he is wrong? When he wants to make (what I really believe to be) a mistake? When he's leading badly or choosing the wrong path for himself--or worse, for us?"
I realized that my problem isn't with trusting the man I married. Ultimately my fears and recalcitrance stem from a heart that doesn't trust God's endless love, doesn't believe that He works all things together for my good. A heart that wants to trust ONLY its own understanding. A heart that fears.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear....
1 John 4:18a
In my head I believe that God is good, that He plans only good for me, that He loves me. I know that nothing reaches me except that which has first passed through the barrier of God's love for me--a love so great that it led Him a death He didn't deserve. I deserve that death. And I belittle Christ's love and His sacrifice when I balk at submitting to my husband because I'm afraid he may lead wrong.
Tonight I read the account in Matthew 2 of Joseph and Mary's flight to Egypt. An angel speaks to Joseph in a dream, telling him that he needs to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt, because Herod is going to search for Jesus to kill Him. Joseph gets up IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!!! and heads for Egypt with his wife and infant son. In the middle of the night. I'd call that unquestionably nuts.
I put myself in Mary's shoes: My husband wakes me from a sound sleep. He's had a dream. We have to go to Egypt because the king wants to kill our baby boy. We have to leave. Now. No, there's no time to pack. Joseph and Mary were poor, but doubtless they had to leave behind possessions in their midnight escape. I think of my sentimental tendencies: Did Mary have time to grab Jesus' favorite blanket? Did she have to leave behind her favorite cloak, mementos from her family or her wedding? Did she wonder if Joseph was crazy? Did she wonder where they would stay along the way, what they would eat, where they would live when they reached their destination in a foreign country?
If I were Mary, would I have tried to reason with Joseph? Would I have argued? Refused to go? Begged to wait for daylight? At the least I know I would have doubted him. Can you even imagine what sort of mental, emotional, and even spiritual contortions a wife could put her husband through, trying to change his mind, if he woke her in the night to say an angel had told him they had to move to a foreign country immediately?!
If Mary hesitated to submit to Joseph's leadership, Matthew doesn't write of it. If Mary was afraid that Joseph was leading their family wrongly, putting her baby in danger, or flat-out crazy, that didn't stop her from submitting to him.
In her essay, Heather Koerner continues:
"I've learned that I don't have to fear my husband's mistakes because he and I are both in the Lord's hands. And I've seen how my submission spurs my husband to thought, respect and responsibility. There are times it still gets messy, frustrating and yes, fearful. I can relate to Rebecca Jones when she writes, 'As I gradually understand the radical nature of submission, I also understand the depth of my own rebellion.' But the most important thing I've learned about submission was that first thing -- not to be afraid."
Lord Jesus, teach me to love and trust You as a child trusts her loving father. Teach me to submit to Mike, as Mary submitted to Joseph. May Your love drive all fear from my heart.