Why You Can't Submit

Originally published Wednesday, 12 September 2012.

Submission (Definition)

The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

An act of surrendering to a hold by one's opponent.

No, thank you. 

In the Church, submission has a bad reputation. Mostly because of the Church, but that is not to generalize every church. Christian women think of submission as a gender specific religious role in society. We often hear, that because we are women, we are naturally under authority of men.

That is not okay with me. It never has been. 

As a newly wed, I struggled and struggled with what submission looked like in my marriage. I am a highly stubborn, independent and Type A girl. I am, by my own admission, a fake feminist. Let's just get that out there. Submission is not in my nature. 

Let me tell you a story: 

6 months into our marriage, we realized the honeymoon was over and we were in the midst of a heated "disagreement" (read: fight. Let's just call it what it is.) We had gone around and around emphasizing our own points and agendas, when Tyson stopped me mid-argument and said, "Can you please stop yelling?" 

Are you kidding me? We're fighting! Of course I cannot stop yelling. That's what people do when they fight...right? 

"There is no need to yell. I'm right here and I'm listening."

But if I don't yell then you won't know how serious I am. You'll think I'm okay with X, Y and Z. 

"I don't think we can continue this conversation if you can't lower your voice."

Lower my voice? I'll show you lower-my-voice. And out I walked.

I slept on the couch that night. Something we vowed never to do. 

Now, I am not proud of this moment. But it was the moment I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know how to be a good wife. I was awful to the man that loved me the most. 

If you notice, I never said "No, I will not stop yelling." But even though those specific words weren't there, I said them with every eye roll, voice raise and body language. I don't know why I couldn't just lower my voice! What was so wrong with me that I couldn't act like an adult in my own marriage. 

As time has gone on, I realize now my subconscious (and not so subconscious) view of Biblical Submission was warped, thwarted and far from biblical. And it's been that way since I was single.

I have seen many women demonstrate godly submission in the most beautiful of ways. One of whom, is my mother. I long after their poise and grace. I wish so much I could be to my husband as they are to theirs. But as I desperately pleaded with God and with the women to teach me, show me, anything to help figure it out, I had a light-bulb moment.

All the women I looked up to were older. They had done this marriage thing a little longer than I and they were getting good at it.

Or in the words of my momma, "Honey, none of us are born good wives."

You see, as a newlywed, we can't submit anymore than a newborn can walk. We can't submit because we don't know how to. It takes time, learning, some unlearning, and practice. A lot of practice.

When a woman stands at the alter, drinking in the atmosphere, how beautiful she feels in her white gown and in the eyes of her husband, there is no way she can foresee how bad of a wife she is (and how bad of a husband her man is). No one tells you that when they sign you wedding cards.

Could you imagine? "Congrats on your big day! Everything you ever fantasized about marriage is about to hit the fan. Good luck!" 

And though that is a bit dramatic, I don't think anyone really warns you because it's something you have to learn, on your own, within your own marriage. 

Marriage is beautifully good and beautifully tough, sometimes at the same time. Learning submission is part of that package. 

I wish I could tell you what submission looks like in your marriage, but I think that is something you will need to discover on your own. There are clear principles God has laid out for us to live into as wives, but the practicality of those will morph uniquely within marriages. 

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. (EPH 5:22-24) 

Your submission, to your own husband, is meant to bring unity and love into your marriage. If you read this passage in context (which you should always do), you'll see that Paul is elaborating on his earlier point of love and peace among Christians. Not division, fear or control. 

You're not a bad wife, but you might not be a good one either. And that's okay. We're all in this together.


SINGLES: Your perspective of submission will be projected in your future marriage. Write out what you think submission looks like (as a wife or for your wife) and sit down with an older married couple and ask them to give you feedback on that view. 

MARRIEDS: If you've been married for any amount of time, you know submission is easier to idealize than to actualize. The greatest tool in marriage is talking. Ask your husband (or wife, if you're a husband reading this) what his/her view of biblical submission is. Talk through the various opinions (there are many) and do some studying of the Bible to see what God's plan was for submission in marriage. It works, promise. 


-What misconceptions of submission have you been wrestling out? 
-How do you see submission playing out in your marriage? Are there things about submission you are uncomfortable with?
-For fun: Do you have a humiliating story like mine to share? (Oh please do.)

Julianna and Tyson have been living a soap opera turned real-life fairytale for the last 5 years. Their biggest lesson learned in marriage is that the other person come first. So that means Jules buys ketchup despite her hatred of it and Tyson deals with all the bath products in the shower despite his confusion. That's gold people.