By Elizabeth Prata
Picture the scene. It’s a festive coffee shop at your favorite spot. You’re there sitting and sipping and savoring being alone for a few minutes before heading home. You have your hand curled around a warm cup of coffee and you’re enjoying the hum and din of the throng, the twinkling lights, and the strong beverage warming its way down to the bottom of your toes.
As you settle and your body relaxes and your mind clears, you begin to pick up snippets of conversation around you. The guys over there mention the Super Bowl. The teen at the table by the window is on her phone. And next to you there’s a table of four women, laughing and talking rapidly, as women do. They have scarves artfully arranged on their necks, slim fingers play with their mugs, dancing along the rim, and a couple of them twiddle their shiny new wedding rings. They laugh full body, open mouth, showing all their teeth. They are relaxed with each other, friends for a long time, even if some of them are newly married. They’re young.
They’re talking about boyfriends and husbands. As you smile to yourself and glance away, you hear one of the young women with a new looking ring on her finger say this:
“I always do what pleases him.”
The other women still, and look at her mouths agape. You don’t know what preceded this half sentence, but clearly the other three women are startled. One of them furrows her brow, and suddenly the entire room seems to quiet, the table in the middle of the coffee shop becomes and island, though the rest of the customers don’t seem to notice. You do, though.
“Laura!” exclaims one of the women loudly. “You can’t mean that!” The lady by her side chimes in, “You’ve never been a doormat!”
Blushing and looking down, ‘Laura’ says, “Well…I do nothing on my own authority, but only what I’ve heard from him. He is the authority in our home.”
The conversation now twists on a dime, pivoting on her words, and suddenly there is a gang of three against a lone woman of one. They argue and fuss and exclaim, insisting that marriage is 50-50, that she is her own woman, that women’s liberation has come a long way, baby, and all that. The relaxed atmosphere at that table is gone, and an adversarial one has swept in. The tide is against the woman they called Laura.
You decide it’s time to go, sadly and creakily arising from the table. You leave the din behind as the door swings shut behind you, shaking your head, pondering the lives of the young, which to you was so long ago.
What the imaginary woman in the hypothetical scene was talking about was submission. It’s a dirty word these days, and by these days I mean since about 1966 when the second wave of women’s liberation, or the feminist movement, came to the fore. The S-word. Today it’s a synonym for doormat, mouse, enslavement, even.
But submission is simply a yielding to a higher authority. Men and women do it every day in other spheres. We yield to the Boss, the Lieutenant, the President of the Company. We yield to the Officer, to the Judge, to the Guard. We yield to the velvet rope, to the law, to the policy. We para-professionals yield to the teacher, the teacher to the assistant principal, the assistant principal to the principal, the principal to the superintendent, and the superintendent to the school board. Hierarchy exists, and women submit to their place within it every day.
It’s the notion of female submission in the home that galls. It galls the unsaved to the degree that they are willing to march, yell, overthrow in aggressive and passive-aggressive ways. It even galls the new Christian, perhaps raised in a storm tossed bowl of feminism, waves upon waves nearly choking and drowning them but the struggle to stay afloat in it remains after conversion, hopefully for only a short while.
It is IN us to rebel. Genesis 3:1-7 shows it and Genesis 3:15 declares it:
To the woman he said, I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.
John MacArthur explains it this way
Just as the woman and her seed will engage in a war with the serpent, i.e. Satan and his seed, (v 15), because of sin and the curse, the man and the woman will face struggles in their own relationship. Sin has turned the harmonious system of God-ordained roles into distasteful struggles of self-will. Lifelong companions, husbands and wives, will need God’s help in getting along as a result. ~MacArthur Study Bible, Gen 3:15
Our marriages are patterned after the relationship Jesus had with His Father. Jesus emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men, as Philippians 2:7 says.
We submit every day to everyone else, except when it comes to the husband. Then, we rebel against the thought of submitting to him. Yet the Bible says,
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24).
That’s the pattern. Oh, and the woman in the hypothetical coffee shop that said the provoking words…’for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him’? That was from John 8:29b, and it’s what Jesus said that HE does.
And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.
It seems OK when we read that same phrase in the Bible, that Jesus only does what pleases the Father. If we put those words into a woman’s mouth, though, it seems incendiary. But that’s only because we might have lost the awe that Jesus chose to remain submissive to His Father.
He as God-the-Son in the Trinity emptied Himself and was submissive to His Father in all things. God in the form of Jesus is submissive! Jesus was not a doormat. Of course Jesus while in His incarnation on earth had his own thoughts, ideas, opinions. For example, in the Garden He shared those in prayer with God, ‘please take this cup from me’ but followed that plea with ‘thy will be done’. So in all things He submitted his own will by placing the Father’s first.
If it is good enough for our King/Savior/God-the-Son, it is good enough for us in our relationship with our husbands. We have thoughts, ideas, opinions, and our husbands are our partner, and in safety we shae them. But ultimately he is our authority in the home and out goal should be to do all things that are pleasing to him. In the end, this pleases Him.