Here We Go Again

I should have known what the message would be. I have been studying Colossians as the current sermon series has been camped out in the 3rd chapter. I knew what was left, but I forgot. And I went to the church gathering anyway.

“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”       Colossians 3:18-19

There goes the “S” word again. It isn’t as scary as it once was. I love my husband. But that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Really, the fact that there was so much time spent on defining submission annoyed me. It seems simple: if a husband loves his wife like Christ loves the Church, it is easy for a wife to submit. There would be lots more sex and home cooked meals. It seems so straightforward: husbands need to love wives better. 

Simple, perhaps, but yet there is sin, and struggle, and fear. We both have needs and desires that we fight to meet, sometimes even fighting against each other. But even the desire for the husband to love better first is borne of sin. I don’t want to control him, but I want complete safety and security in my submission. Where does my hope come from? My husband’s behavior? My husband’s love?

I am not an expert on marriage, though I have been married long enough that I should probably be better at it. What I seem to be getting quite familiar with is my deceived heart. The world says we should treat people according to how they treat us. If we aren’t happy, we should find something or someone that will make us happy. My heart wants to follow the world’s logic. It feels safe. It feels secure. But I am not content to follow the world because I desire to submit to the leadership of Jesus in all things, even in this. 

I don’t want to presume that Paul meant something he didn’t, but perhaps he, or at least God, chose the sequence for a reason. If I were writing about the head or the important person to the least (child, slave), which seems like a clean linear way to provide instructions, I would probably start with the husband. Instead, this passage instructs wives first. Why?

Maybe because submission is an action that makes us vulnerable without direct dividends. Maybe because it is a higher calling to encourage new behavior than to discourage bad behaviors. Maybe because this very instruction elevated women in the church. 

There was one other thing that struck me this morning. We always puff up the idea as noble that husbands should love us like Christ loved the church, dying for it. But we, wives, are called to submit to our husbands and we have two pictures for that. It could be as reciprocal and simple as the church submitting to the leadership of Jesus. The one that I began to understand today was that we submit to our husbands as Jesus submitted to the Father. 

Jesus gave up all to fulfill the Father’s will. Jesus demonstrated powerful images of submission: He endured harassment, abandonment, and misunderstanding during His life for His Father’s sake, in the hours before His death, in Gethsemane Jesus submitted to the will of the Father (Your will not mine) and one last time while on the cross (into Your hands).

I have loved my husband since the second week of our dating. But submission is costlier and I have not been able to submit for as long as I have loved him. Jesus continues to work on my heart, to make it brave and strong and remain submitted to Him, even as He teaches me to submit, with joy not grudgingly, to my husband.

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