A Marriage of Compliments & Challenges

This morning, I woke up unusually early, in part because my body was hurting and in part because I heard Aaron’s alarm. I rarely want to engage, converse, or even move much before 8:00, but my husband bursts into his day with enthusiasm, energy, and a talkative spirit he doesn’t always possess in the evening. He blessed me this morning by praying over me and offering to bring me hot tea. I used to feel guilty that I didn’t get up with him each morning and make him breakfast and kiss him before he walked out the door, but then I didn’t want him to feel bad about going to bed at 9:00 either, even though I’d stay up a few hours after that.

In marriage, our goal involves “becoming one”, but we are still meshing two unique individuals. I don’t expect him to take up painting and he doesn’t ask me to shoot skeet with him, even though there are times when we’ve done both as a gift to the other. Aaron is an introvert; I am an ambivert. Our passions are different. Our spiritual gifts are too. So how do we reconcile “not losing myself and my needs” and still serve one another in submissive roles?

Submission: First off, I should probably preface by letting you know that I adopt the stance that marriage has a head and a body; just as Christ leads His bride, so do we as wives follow the leading of our husbands.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Eph. 5:22-32, ESV).

Believe me when I say, this task is far from easy. Having a more intense and—I’ll admit—domineering personality than my husband’s, I often desire to take the reins and charge the horses at a faster pace. But that’s not my role. I could choose to grow resentful or even attempt to reinterpret what wife “submission” looks like, but if I do, I am not only usurping my husband’s calling, but also depriving myself of the beauty of sacrificial designation. Although it feels unnatural, I am choosing to step into the role as God designed it.

Me, Not Us: Our culture values autonomy, self-expression, and rebellion. But if you travel to Asia or even parts of South America and Africa, individualism is shunned in favor of a more communal and familial mindset. When we say, “I’m doing it for me and my happiness,” we end up losing that which is most rewarding. Timothy Keller puts it this way: “In the past every culture assumed that you found truth outside the self, either in God or tradition or some transcendent values, or in the good of your family and community. That meant we had some objective, external norms by which disputes between persons could be adjudicated. Now our culture says we find truth inside ourselves; we are told to “live our truth” and never sacrifice our happiness and inner desires for someone else. To do so is unhealthy at best—oppression at worst. Marriage, however, requires this kind of mutual sacrifice every single day. So it’s not surprising that both marriage and also child-bearing is in decline in our culture.”
“The noble calling to rule and subdue the earth in God’s name was perverted, as male and female tried to rule and subdue each other.”
― Carolyn Custis James

When He Doesn’t Obey, Do I Have To? Some might argue by saying “But my spouse doesn’t care to lead or my spouse isn’t following the Lord,” in which I’d borrow John Piper’s words: “The husband who plops himself in front of the TV and orders his wife around like a slave has abandoned Christ for Archie Bunker. Christ bound Himself with a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. If a man wants to be a Christian husband he must copy Jesus, not Jabba the Hut. I refer to an inclination to yield and a disposition to follow, because no subjection to another human is absolute. The husband does not replace Christ as the woman’s supreme authority. Therefore, she may never follow her husband into sin.

But even when a Christian wife may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband, she can still have a spirit of submission. She can show by her attitude and action that she does not like resisting his will and that she longs for him to forsake his sin and lead in righteousness, so that her disposition to honor him as her head can again produce harmony” (Desiring God).

With the recent upheaval over John MacArthur’s callous comments regarding Beth Moore, I appreciate the men who agree with the theology but not the approach or lack of love MacArthur exhibited. In similar fashion, I think more women need to be standing up under the mantle of their husband’s headship and declaring submission a good and healthy thing. Hard? Yes. But so worth the choosing. We don’t give up our gifts, talents, or ministry passions, but use them in the God-ordained roles he called us to, better demonstrating the Church as image-bearers in biblical manhood and womanhood.
Celebrate the Dance!

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