I once dated a self-proclaimed feminist. But one day she surprised me when she said she also thinks submission to a husband is absolutely essential. I just looked at her, confused, probably with a really dumb look on my face.
It turned out she wasn’t being duplicitous. In fact, as I got to know her, I began to see her as one of the wisest and well-thought-out people I know.
Basically, she got me thinking that the common error lies in letting marriage become a power play to get what we each want. She thought that when it is done right, God uses this particular dynamic in marriage to show us something about the nature of the love between Him and His people. And He wants it done that way in marriage because it is something we wouldn’t otherwise see to demonstrate God’s nature. Therefore submission to a husband was made to show something beautiful and had very little to do with injustice to women. In fact the way he set it up it seems a little bit less fair for the men!
The two roles in the relationship between God and his people (his bride) are equally important, but not the same. The first has power, willing to die to protect the other. And the other has beauty (whether that be in body, brains, whatever), willing to dangerously and vulnerably share it with the first. Without the power, the beauty could not be protected. Without the beauty the power has nothing worth protecting. Both are a unique and beautiful way of loving that wouldn’t be demonstrated if both roles were the same.
We each have been given a role, but it’s not because of anything we have earned, so one cannot think he/she is better than the other. Our job should be to do our best in the struggles and pleasures built into the role we’ve been given, for both roles have difficulties as well as benefits.
These roles may not need to be played out often in a marriage where decisions are easy, or where the beauty isn’t often threatened, but when it is put in the spotlight, I think we should let it shine. Like for the women, submit when he says, “Get back in the house; it’s not safe out here,” because he knows he is stronger and he’s willing to sacrifice to protect you. And men, let her stay awake to nurse your battle wounds, because she loves you. And also notice that the Bible doesn’t tell women to submit to all men. Just submit to your husband, because, I think, he is the one who has earned your trust. Also, I think we could probably say that dying for someone is the harder role, so it’s kind of funny that it has become a feminist stance to oppose this dynamic.
Now, I’ve never been married and I’d probably suck at it because I’m not good at setting myself aside to serve someone else, but I’m guessing in marriage there are a lot of blurred lines. I’m a pretty tender-hearted man, and I’ve dated some amazingly strong women. And I’m guessing in those cases we borrow parts of each role from each other to make it work. Maybe your wife makes the decisions in the area of money because she’s stronger in that. Or maybe your husband makes decisions in the area of child raising, because he has a better instinct in that. The part that matters is that we do our role at our own expense to better love the other. But the idea is that ‘power over’ and ‘submission under’ are not bad because they are meant to show different kinds of trust and sacrifice for the other.
And it seems even the physical interaction between man and women is a cool symbol of God’s interaction with us. In the most intimate moments of loving, God puts something inside of us that births new life in us.
But like all of God’s fascinatingly unique systems in creation, the system is easily turned bad by selfish mankind. Instead of living into it, we flawed men have abused our power and brave women have resisted submitting so they could stand up against that injustice. And I’m guessing that’s why feminism has generally had a beef with Biblical marriage; we’ve abused the power and given God a bad name.
I don’t think God uses his power to abuse us for his own gain, like we sometimes do. He uses his power to show his love for us, and He was killed for it so that we will be able to trust new areas of our hearts to him. He has made a beauty and a love worth fighting for, and it is us.