you were to poll the Christian wives, you’d find that this little nugget of wisdom being preached to them from a man is kind of an irritant to a lot of us. It isn’t because there isn’t truth in it…It is from the Bible. Instead, though, there is the assumption that the definition of submission is about the same as the definition for a door mat. And some women are not equipped to be door mats. I personally had to sit down and really decide what exactly my beef was with these sorts of sermons.
1 Peter 3:1-7
3 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and [a]respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right [b] without being frightened by any fear.
7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with [c]someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Now, let me be clear. I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and as such, I am not disputing the validity or truth of this scripture. Instead, I’m wondering if people truly understand what it means to submit.
Growing up, I had a front row seat to watch a few women in my family “submit” to their husbands, and it was their attitudes, and the attitudes of their husbands, that first caused me to doubt that the definition of submit was correctly being preached.
The main person that really caused me to question this was an aunt of mine. Actually, she was some sort of step-cousin, but because of her age, I just considered her an aunt. We’ll call her Evelyn. I went to live with this family while I was pregnant with my first daughter, so I had a chance to sit back and actually see what this dynamic looked like.
Evelyn and her husband owned a cattle ranch in Texas. Each morning at 4am, Evelyn would get up and cook breakfast for her husband and her daughter. The husband, Milton (not his real name), would head out to do ranch things…move cattle from different fields, feed them, etc., while Evelyn would head in to town to work at her job as a bank teller. For upwards of 10 hours a day, she would stand on her feet. Milton would return sometime around 10am and sit in his easy chair, always falling asleep for approximately 4 hours. Around 2pm, he’d head back out and do other ranch things, or go into town to get ranch supplies, and return about 5 pm. Evelyn would return sometime after 6pm, and would then cook dinner for her family, and then clean up afterwards. Somewhere around 8pm, she would finally get off her feet, watching television with her family for a little bit, and then go to bed. While I was there, I did take care of a ton of the house-cleaning, but my cooking skills were such that no one enjoyed my meals, so I wasn’t able to put much of a dent in Evelyn’s routine, except when it came to cleaning the kitchen after breakfast and dinner.
Most evenings, Evelyn would mention how badly her back hurt, or how swollen her feet were, and all she got was some uninterested grunt from the easy chair vicinity of the livingroom, and I would instantly be irritated. I know what the Bible says we women should be doing, but I also knew what the men were supposed to be doing, too, and frankly, watching how this was playing out, I was fine not having a husband. Who wants to be a slave?? It seemed to me that if a husband was loving his wife like Jesus loved the church, then cooking a couple of meals a week was the least he could do. I mean, Jesus DIED for the church..right?
After some time passed, I ventured out to ask Evelyn why she didn’t at least ask for some help from Milton, and her answer was simply, “I’m being a submissive wife.” Hmmmm…I thought. So this is what a submissive wife looks like? Yuck. Not only did I wonder if this was really how submission was supposed to look, but I wondered if their somewhat cold-looking marriage was what I had to settle for in order to be a good, Christian, submissive wife. It wasn’t likely I was going to succeed… 🙂
On top of how uncaring her husband seemed to act towards his wife, I was equally put off by the martyr-like attitude that Evelyn seemed to have. It was the loud, though silent, “Poor Suffering Me,” that made me wonder if there was something deceitful about what satan was doing with the definition of submission. When a biblical principle is applied in its correct interpretation, the result is always that we become more like Jesus, and we don’t end up on a side road of self-pity or false righteousness.
So, I decided to get to the bottom of this question. First, I pulled out the dictionary, and looked up the definition of submit:
sub·mit http://img.tfd.com/m/sound.swf (sb-mt)