In part one of this series on submission in marriage, I addressed common problems and answers related to a complementarian understanding of Ephesians 5. I talked about why submission doesn’t scare me anymore in light of the gospel.
Yet even after our wedding, I have to admit: submission still scares me.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not afraid of my husband. I trust that he strives to serve and love me selflessly, and I see daily evidence that he does. I honestly love him more and more every day.
But, he’s not perfect. I’m not saying that in the way you feel compelled to say, “Of course, he’s not perfect,” after listing off a dozen attractive qualities. I mean that he is sinful and flawed, both by nature and by choice — just like me.
I see that Christ is working in his heart, but I also see that sin is right there with him (Romans 7). I trust my husband’s intentions, but I don’t always trust him to live them out.
That’s why I’m comforted by the knowledge that God doesn’t want me to comply with my husband’s sin. I submit to God before I submit to a man, so if my husband wants me to stop going to church, I will keep going. If he lies to his friends, I will confront him about it.
What Scares Me Most
But most of the time, the issues aren’t so clear. They’re not really about what’s right or wrong (though I’ll argue as if they are). Most of the time, the issue comes down to what seems wise and what seems foolish.
In these cases, it’s hard for me to trust my husband’s decisions. He is a smart man, but he doesn’t know everything. He’s a selfless man, but he doesn’t always think of me. He’s a godly man, but he’s not God. That scares me.
Why does that scare me? It usually scares me because I think I know something he doesn’t. Sometimes, I really do. I share that with him, and he listens. I’m not a bystander in this marriage. We are partners on a team.
Yet there are times when each of us thinks we know better than the other, but we actually don’t. It’s then I have to ask: Why do I trust myself to make good decisions any more than I trust my husband? I am also sinful. I also make foolish choices.
Ultimately, I realize I can’t trust either of us to always make good decisions. We are a hopeless case without the wisdom of Christ.
The Cost of Submission
At is heart, submission isn’t really about trusting your husband, though trust is important for other reasons in a marriage. Submission is about trusting God.
I need to trust God to lead my husband in discerning wisdom from folly. I need to trust God to lead me in knowing when to disagree and when to follow. I need to pray for both of these things.
Perhaps most importantly, I need to trust God that the stakes aren’t as high as I’d like to think. If “for those who love God all things work together for good,” why do I worry so much (Romans 8:28)? If “I count everything as a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord,” why do I care about so many worthless things (Philippians 3:8)?
So yes, submission still scares me, but I’m praying for the strength to submit anyway. Like preaching the gospel or telling a hard truth, submission comes at a cost. It’s no different than any other element of my sanctification: submission comes at the cost of valuing Christ more than anything else.