What Does Submission Mean?

As I stated here, more of the posts on this blog will be dedicated to marriage and my own journey as a Christian wife.

One the the biggest things God has been teaching me recently is what submission in marriage actually looks like. Or more specifically, what my submission to my husband in my marriage is supposed to look like. Big Man and I are a complementarian couple who believe and practice a Biblical headship/submission (H/S) marriage model. We believe that is God’s design for marriage and while I realize there are Christian couples out there who believe and practice egalitarian marriage this post is not meant to debate which model is correct.

Big Man and I agreed before we were married on being a complementarian couple (yes, my wedding vows did include the word submission!). While we knew the basics of what that meant, we didn’t really understand what that would actually look like for us until after we were married. And we are still learning a lot! We are each learning how to be more Christlike in our own roles, and we are learning how being parents factors into the H/S model.

In the last few weeks, my thoughts and prayers have been really focused on what submission means for me in my marriage. I guess it is something God wants to teach me right now! And the biggest thing that I have come to realize is that there isn’t one set picture of what a H/S marriage looks like. It will look a little different in every marriage because it is based on the individual couple and their own Christian walk. There isn’t a set of rules that H/S couples are supposed to follow. There are the roles God indicated (husband = leadership, wife = submission) but no specific instructions for every life circumstance. There’s not a lot of Biblical guidance about how H/S will look in practical, day-to-day life.

And that was not a good thing for me. See, I had this idea that our H/S marriage had to look a certain way for God to be pleased. And if I’m really being honest here, I wanted it to look a certain way so that everyone else (especially other Christians) would know that we were a complementarian couple and be impressed. Oh yeah, awesome priorities and motivation, right?

In this quest of mine to make sure our H/S marriage “looked” right to others, I was uncomfortable with some of the ways Big Man lead and I submitted. Part of his leadership style includes making sure I don’t take on too much and burn out (something I struggle with) so he insists on doing some of the homekeeping tasks during his days off work. For example, he will do the grocery shopping for me or take the kids out to the park. Which is awesome and one of the many reasons Big Man is a wonderful husband. But in the back of my mind, I felt guilty and uncomfortable with him doing that. Would people see him and think that he is a “whipped” husband married to a feminist wife trying to “wear the pants”? It looks really stupid written down like that, but I was concerned that our H/S model “looked right”  to other people.

But God is finally getting through to me that “looking right” is not the point. In fact, that very attitude is antithetical to a true Biblical complementarian marriage. I was worried about what other people thought instead of submitting to my own husband’s leadership. See, having a H/S marriage isn’t about following a certain set of rules. It isn’t about the man doing ABC and his wife submitting by doing XYZ. It isn’t that all complementarian couples will follow “traditional” roles all the time. And it certainly isn’t about making sure your H/S model appears “correct” to others.

I don’t answer to friends, family, or other Christians about what my wifely submission looks like. My job is to submit first to Christ, and then to Big Man. It’s not about making sure our H/S model looks “correct” to others. It is really only about two things: 1) that Big Man and I each submit to Christ first and foremost, and 2) that Big Man provides godly leadership and I submit to it. That’s it.

I still struggle sometimes worrying about what other people think. I get focused on how our marriage looks to others instead of focusing on how it looks to God. But I am learning, slow as it may be. And I know that as Big Man and I grow closer to Christ and each other, our marriage will just keep getting better.

One thought on “What Does Submission Mean?

  1. Sounds like your husband is growing into a good servant leader. It really touched me that he understood the pressures of being a mom and would help with the house and kids. Way to go, dude.

    I also empathize with the “how do we look” thing. Actually I think you did a great job working through it and understanding that each couple is going to look a bit different and that we’re responsible to God and each other for how that is walked out.

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