To Have, To Hold, and To Submit?

One afternoon, when my husband and I were watching my son’s soccer game, a woman I had never met before was eager to share with me something she had just discovered.

“I tell you what. I never knew happiness until I learned to submit to my husband.” At first, I tried to politely ignore her and act like I was really into the game, even during those times when my son was sitting on the bench drinking water. But she persisted.

“Yep. It’s just the way the Bible says. A woman is meant to submit to her husband.”

At this, I couldn’t resist. “Submit? Submit? Where in the Bible does it say that?” She quoted the book and verse and I forgot it after she told me. Also, I have never felt compelled to look it up since then. It’s been my experience that people who are familiar with obscure Bible verses, and have them at the ready, are the same ones who can extrapolate the oddest meaning out of the simplest phrase.

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I looked around for my husband to see his reaction to all of this. Mercifully, he was prowling the sidelines watching the game and hadn’t heard any of the conversation. “It’s so freeing when you submit to your husband,” she continued.

I snorted, “Yeah, that way when he messes up really bad, or misjudges a situation, you can sit back and say it’s all his fault.” To show her displeasure, the woman gave me a very un-Christian-like glare and moved her chair a few feet away. 

The word submit has never been in the wedding vows and it’s an antiquated notion anymore to even have the word obey remain. Most brides bristle at the word and have it taken it out. I don’t know why the woman was trying to sell me on her idea that women should be submissive to their husbands.

My thought on the subject was, “If you’re happy with it, good for you. But don’t get into my business and tell me I’m wrong.” Generally, the way my marriage works is, which ever one of us wants something the most, that person is usually who wins out. If we disagree on something, we debate it and try to convince the other why we’re right.

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After the game, as we were walking back to the car, I told my husband about the woman’s gall. He said he liked the way our marriage was like a partnership. He didn’t want to be married to someone who was willing to keep her mouth shut and go along with whatever whim came to his mind, precisely for the reason I’d mentioned to the woman. If we both made a decision that went horribly wrong, we both would have a share in the blame.

Life’s too complex and stressful to have just one person in charge all the time. A marriage works better when both have equal say in what happens.

 

11 Comments

  1. I can’t explain the lady’s ugly facial expression after the fact. We don’t need to debate it, as I obviously already have my hands full with a vacation and a “does God exist” debate.

    I am now a believer in mutual submission of wife and husband. If you read the passages of Scripture carefully on the subject, you’ll see that mutual submission is really what’s required.

    True love and submission in a marriage are not as insulting or demeaning as they might initially sound. Most people just haven’t seen them in action and can’t imagine how they would look in the real world.

     
  2. Lisa Pawlowski

    I don’t want to get into a God argument, either. Although I will clear something up so we get it out of the way, I personally am Catholic and, starting in the fall my husband and I are going to teach Sunday School at our church.

    The thing that really made me angry at the woman was that she chose a soccer game to start proselytize me and that she made an assumption that I wasn’t doing this and that I, and therefore my marriage, needed work. Even if I did agree with what she said I would have argued with her just to shut her up. The fact is that I’ve been happily married for many years and it’s safe to say I’ll continue to be.

    If any woman wants to submit to her husband and feels happy doing it, then God love her, that’s great. But keep your opinion to yourself unless I ask you.

    For me and my husband, the whole submissive thing wouldn’t work for very long. I have to give my opinion and if I feel strongly about something, I state it passionately.

    As for the couple that you referenced, I think submission or not, a reason why a lot of marriages fail stems from a lack of respect for each other. If one or both persons don’t respect the other, the marriage is going to be hell. H. Jackson Brown, author of Life’s Little Instruction Booklet, once wrote, “Be careful who you pick to marry because from this one decision will come 90 percent of your happiness or 90 percent of your misery.

     
  3. Kevin Pawlowski

    Derek,
    Let me help out here. I kinda know where Lisa’s coming from, since I’ve been married to her for 17 years. She was annoyed about have the lady’s opinions thrown at her uninvited, and has a live-and-let-live attitude on the actual content of the opinions.

    With that out of the way, you are taking this discussion in an interesting direction and inferring my wife is a hypocrite, so I want to add fuel to the fire.

    I find it telling that people who argue the case that wives should “submit” (the reason for the quotation marks will be apparent later), only quote the 1st part of the passage. The entire passage reads as follows (New International Version):

    “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.”

    Is it possible to treat a woman as an inferior and still with the love, care, and respect you would your own body? By my interpretation, and the interpretation of the Catholic Church, the answer is “no”. In essence, the Bible is stating “submit” in a different way to be understandable to the audience of the age (certainly male centric).

    With that out of the way, let’s get to your statement that the bible is “a load of garbage”. This is consistent with your all-or-nothing approach to the bible, but you are really missing out on some fantastic literature and wisdom. Don’t let a few passages, for example about certain lifestyles (just a guess), chase you away. It is my firm belief that God loves you as much as he loves the Pope or loved Mother Theresa. The Bible is a love letter, and if you choose to throw it aside as “garbage”, it is truly your loss.

    I recommend you take a fresh look under that context. Start with Luke 15:11-15:32, the parable of the prodigal son, move on to the New Testament (“Inspired By… The Bible Experience” audio recordings makes it very accessible), then work back to the Old Testament.

    You’ll find things about your life that God doesn’t like (as I have since I have been know to swear like a sailor and don’t give as much to charity as I should), but I hope you’ll also notice a blue print for true happiness and fulfillment. Don’t read the Bible for my sake, God’s, or anyone else’s but your own.

     
  4. My immediate reaction when I read what the woman said to you was to kick my head back in a, “Oh no she didn’t,” gesture. I’m automatically reminded of that horrible 1950s era article in some sort of Ladies’ Home Journal-esque magazine (see a slightly different version here) that tells the woman to not ask where he’s been or act perturbed when her husband comes home late. After all, his life is more important and more stressful than yours, so however he sees fit to de-stress is no business of yours.

    I admit that given that most women then were housewives that yes the man’s life was much more stressful, but that doesn’t mean it’s more important. I’m not saying that I’m a huge *itch or anything. I’m very loving and giving and understanding, but I would never degrade myself to the level mentioned in the bullet points in that article.

    This whole conversation does bring something else to mind. I realize that this woman was most likely talking about the extreme version of submission, but my friends and I were having a conversation on Saturday night about relationships and what we were looking for in them. During this conversation, we discovered a much less severe and much more pleasing version of submission.

    I’m a single girl in my 20s. I’m very independent. I bought my own condo and my own car with little to no outside help, and the help I did get was from girlfriends and maybe the odd male coworker. I can take care of myself, and I know that women like me are becoming more and more prevalent every day.

    So the guy in this group of friends was talking about how he wants a girl who will let him take care of things. At first I bristled a bit, but then I realized that that’s what I want too. I just haven’t found a reliable, trustworthy guy (among other lacking characteristics) who can be that for me. I know my issues circle around trust (until recently, I’d never known a man I could trust to do what he said he was going to do), but I hope that one day I will allow myself to let my guard down and go to my boyfriend/husband after a really hard day, and say, “Baby, I had a bad day. Will you snuggle me?” And then just let him take away all my fears. Maybe that’s a little bit too idealistic, but I don’t think it’s completely impossible, and I’m totally ok with that kind of submission.

     
  5. Michael Callaway

    I agree with Lisa when she says that a soccer game is not the time or the place. I also agree with her that it is arrogant and rude to automatically assume that she is not living a “godly life”. While I appreciate Derek’s knowledge of scripture, he is quoting it out of context.

    Yes, it does say wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Yes, there are times that the Bible says things that are hard for a western audience to hear two thousand years latter. However, you must look at the entire scripture and consider the time that it was written and look at the entire passage.

    “Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

    “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church, for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”

    Ephesians 6:15 – 31 NIV

    Now, I deliberately did not use the spacing that is in most Bibles, the headlines such as “Wives and Husbands” as is the common headline right above verse 22 are NOT part of the original Bible. The numbering and the spacing are also not part of the Bible too but were added several hundred years after Christ as a method of organization.

    While it may not be politically correct to say a wife should submit to her husband the part that should really offend most men is the part about the husbands loving their wife as Christ loved the church. Jesus laid down his life for the church, loved it unconditionally and paid a high price for that love. Most husbands would gladly give up the submission part if it would exempt them from that as the standard.

     
  6. Lisa Pawlowski

    Derek-you are taking this in a direction I did not want to go. Let’s review. The point of my article in a pop culture blog was about how brides these days are taking out the word obey in their weddings and about being approached and having someone else’s views foisted on you, something we’ve all dealt with, and then I added in something about the way my marriage works personally and my husband’s response. Daniel responded and said he disagreed with me and clarified for readers where the lady was coming from. He did this respectfully, which I appreciate. But after reading his response, I realized that my article came off as sounding anti-Christian and that was not what I wanted or intended. So in my response to Daniel, I mentioned I was a Catholic and the only reason why I mentioned it was to clarify to the reader my background and where I was coming from.

    In your response, you agreed with me and then gleefully pointed out that I’m a Catholic that isn’t following everything the Bible says and then you challenge me to defend myself and my beliefs, implying I’m a hypocrite. Well, people don’t read a pop culture blog to find out Lisa’s religious beliefs and, while I consider myself to be a good writer, I can’t fully encapsulate the entirety of everything I believe into the comment box of a pop culture blog.

    If you have a greivance against Christians or Catholics in particular, I’d invite you to visit Christian and/or Catholic blogs and make demands on people there instead of visiting pop culture blogs.

     
  7. Lisa Pawlowski

    I’m also curious, so far I’ve had all men respond. Where are the sisters?

     
  8. Hey Lisa, I’ve responded, but my comment is awaiting moderation :(

     
  9. Hola to all Feasties! I am typing from an Internet cafe in Turrialba, a town of 20,000 or so in Costa Rica. Glad to see the conversation is still going. I have approved the comments that were awaiting moderation. If you will use the exact same name and email address each time you comment, the system should approve your comments automatically once you have been approved once.

    Sorry that I don’t have time to catch up on all the talk, but I have lots of living to do! Peace out, and keep Aaron comfy while I enjoy his homeland.

     
  10. Michael Callaway

    Again, you want the Bible to have been written with a 20th century mindset about men and women. It was not, I also like how you completely disregard that fact and claim:

    ”If we have a working assumption that God doesn’t make mistakes, and that God either was the direct source or indirect source of the bible I’m sure s/he’d give instructions that are timeless…I’m curious as to why God hasn’t gotten around to writing/inspiring ‘Bible 2: Addendum’”.

    Did I ever say “God wrote the Bible”? If you are going to debate me I would prefer you use my arguments against me, not someone else’s that you have heard. The Bible was inspired by God, do not get me wrong. However, it was not written by God or dictated by God word for word.

    Now I know that statement will make many Christians mad, someday I will write about what “inspired by God” really means and the history of how the Bible was put together.

     
  11. Wow. There’s a lot to digest and possibly respond to here. I’m listening to an Ibiza Club Mix and reading a discussion on spousal submission. Could life be any more rad?

    Seriously, you people make my life more interesting.

    So, where to begin? I will begin by agreeing with Michael that Derek appears to be taking a 21st century interpretation of the passage, which puts all the emphasis on the submission and feels like the command to love like Christ love is a little pat on the rear, like a “Go get ‘em, and try to be good.”

    Lisa, I am really grateful you brought this topic up, even though the discussion hasn’t focused on the same points you stressed. I wholeheartedly agree that this woman was more than a little kooky for bringing up this topic with you out of the blue. What can you do? Kookiness abounds.

    I am in a very unique position, owning/editing CultureFeast. It began as personal blog and evolved into a community blog. Along the way, religious topics became very unpopular, and I felt that to introduce them here would be to chase away the readership. So I did what I felt was best at the time and created other blogs. One for sports, one for religion, one for web marketing.

    Essentially, I took out what I thought would keep this site from finding a successful niche, only to hear everyone’s opinion about it that always varied from mine.

    I love spiritual/moral/religious discussion, as long as we don’t become so dogmatic that we run off any of our readers or writers.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m as opinionated or more so than the rest of you. I can take an issue and hash it out to the “bitter end”. But rather than ALWAYS argue, I like to find a place where concessions and agreements can be made.

    For example, several people think submission to your husband means the wife is inferior. Rather than debate whether men and women are equal, let’s see if we can more accurately understand the meaning of the words without twisting them to meet our biases and needs. Let’s rather look for the most true form and let the truth reshape our thinking, rather than make the truth conform to our present day interests.

    “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

    There is both mystery and promise of transformation here. This verse is one of my absolute favorites, because I spent a good portion of my teen years surrendering my mind to thoughts and things that most definitely did NOT transform me in any helpful way.

    The mind is perhaps the most precious gift of God. Within it lies the power to create, invent, assume, believe, understand, and to know. I’m being more poetic at the moment than literal, for the purpose of stating how one interpretation of the same words can differ so much from another, and both assume they are correct because it feels so.

    I.E. These words and these phrases mean THIS to me because my life’s experience tells me that these words and phrases have THESE values. My interpretation feels completely accurate because I am interpreting naturally from my experience.

    Striving to understand the historical meaning and perspective can do wonders for one’s understanding of the Bible or any other ancient text. Studying the culture and the idioms of language often reveals levels of truth one could not gather from a simple, straightforward reading.

    That’s all I can offer tonight. I must rejoin the working class tomorrow, and it comes all too soon.

     

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