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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Struggling to Submit

I was 20 years old and studying abroad in Oxford, England. My classmates and I were enjoying a rare sunny spring day floating on a river boat. As we drifted down the river, tranquil scenes passed by us--wildflowers poking through a rolling carpet of green grass and families of ducks quacking under shady trees. I hardly noticed any of it. I was furious. My dear friend Jesse and I were discussing the distinction between men and women from Scripture. He was fully convinced that Scripture directed wives to actually submit to their husbands! I thought he was some 1950’s antiquated breed of sexist boy, or that he was simply enjoying the enraged reaction he was getting from me. I was about ready to toss my glass of white wine at him. Sure, I could read with my own eyes what Scripture said, but surely that is not what it meant! There had to be some explanatory cultural context to those texts that was no longer relevant today.

While it is true that Jesse was probably enjoying antagonizing me a little too much, he was absolutely right that Scripture’s teaching is clear that men and women, husbands and wives have different roles and callings in life. Over the next several years, the Holy Spirit patiently opened my eyes to this truth as I studied this issue from Scripture. By the time I started dating my now-husband, Kristian, I was convicted from Scripture that my calling as a wife was to help my husband and to submit to him. Here are some Scriptures that led me to this conclusion:
1 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is GoItalicd-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

Genesis 2:18-25 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Proverbs 18: 22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 19: 13 A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.

Proverbs 19:14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

Proverbs 25: 24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 27:15-16 A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; 16 to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand.

Proverbs 31:10-31
10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,and he will have no lack of gain.12 She does him good, and not harm,all the days of her life.13 She seeks wool and flax,and works with willing hands.14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.Her lamp does not go out at night.19 She puts her hands to the distaff,and her hands hold the spindle.20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,for all her household are clothed in scarlet.22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.24 She makes linen garments and sells them;she delivers sashes to the merchant.25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,and she laughs at the time to come.26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,and let her works praise her in the gates.

Song of Solomon 5:18-19 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
1 Cor 7:4-5 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Ephesians 5: 22-24 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.
Colossians 3: 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

1 Peter 3:1-6 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening

Titus 2:3-5 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Unfortunately, my understanding of what this all meant in light of the gospel was still sorely underdeveloped. I saw this calling as a woman and a wife as somehow getting the “short end of the stick,” and it led to bitterness and resentment in me for no other reason than that I have a rotten heart that is not naturally inclined toward humility and service. In recent years, God has been working on my heart with regard to what it means to be a godly woman and wife.

Here are some things I have learned from Scripture on this issue:

1) Men and women are both made in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:26-27: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

2) Christ is my best example of having a humble, loving, and servant heart, and unlike me, He is perfect and God! Philippians 2:1-11 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

3) Sincerely loving my husband means sacrificing for him. John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

4) It is not enough for me to go through the motions of submitting to my husband, God wants me to do this out of love. 1 Cor 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

5) I can actually revile the Word of God in this area of my life. Titus 2:3-5 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

6) The relationship of marriage is meant to reflect the gospel itself and the relationship between Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

One book that has been extremely valuable to me in this journey is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Roles, Relationship, and Relevance” by Dr. Bruce Ware. I loved the way that Dr. Ware laid out from Scripture the varying roles within the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and how each member of the Godhead is equally God but different in roles. Here is an excerpt from page 21 of his book:

An authority-submission structure marks the very nature of the eternal Being of the one who is three. In this authority-submission structure, the three Persons understand the rightful place each has. The Father possesses the place of supreme authority, and the Son is the eternal Son of the eternal Father. As such, the Son submits to the Father just as the eternal Father, as eternal Father of the eternal Son, exercises authority over the Son. And the Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son. This hierarchical structure of authority exists in the eternal Godhead even though it is also eternally true that each Person is fully equal to each other in their commonly possessed essence. The implications are both manifold and wondrous as we ponder this authority-submission structure which not only is accepted but is honored, cherished, and upheld within the Godhead. (P. 21)

Dr. Ware related this Trinitarian model to husband and wife who are equals with varying roles. In fact, the word (ezer) used to describe a wife’s role as a “helper” to her husband in Genesis 2 is the same word that is used elsewhere to describe our God who helps us! An example is in this passage:

Psalm 121: 1-2: I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Okay, well that is enough for now. My next post will get into some of the specific struggles I am facing today in honoring God in this area of life.


Jesse said...

Awesome post, Beans! Now when are you going to acknowledge I was right on all our many other points of disagreement? =)

Btw, the shout-outs picture is hilarious. Also, I don't know if I am enjoying the historic day as much as keeping a good attitude and trusting in God's sovereignty! Piper helps. Hope you are well! Blessings, sister!

Heather said...

Can't wait to hear more on this post and continue to learn what submission means alongside you. I think for many of us, it is a struggle to understand.

Melissa Meyer said...

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, Bina. Your blog is consistently an encouragement to me :) And this specifically is something I'm definitely wading through right now...I'm wondering if it gets any easier or perhaps just presents itself differently as time goes on?

Anonymous said...

Love the Jesse reference! Can't wait for your next post . . .