I have a confession: I really struggle with being a submissive wife. I have a feeling most wives share my plight in one form or another, so I wanted to let you in on some of my journey, because I know there is power in bringing our struggles into the light and realizing we aren’t alone.
My submission issues wouldn’t be visible to most people. On the surface I seem like a pretty compliant, eager-to-please wife. But have you heard the sermon illustration about the child who is told to sit down in her chair? She reluctantly sits down, but then mutters sullenly, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” Yep, that’s me. The toddler trapped inside the 40-year-old body.
When we come to an impasse in a disagreement, I may defer to my husband, but deep down I still feel like I’m right and he is wrong. When he fails to meet my expectations, I complain about him in my mind (or worse yet to others), or whisper disrespectful comments under my breath. I think the word for grown-ups exhibiting this toddler-like behavior is “passive-aggressive.” God just calls it sin.
The word for grown-ups exhibiting this toddler-like behavior is “passive-aggressive.” God just calls it sin.
I couldn’t possibly exhaustively define Biblical submission in this post. But I can offer you some simple truths that God has placed on my heart as I have prayerfully sought His guidance to become a better wife, support, and helpmate to my husband. I hope some of it will resonate with you.
The answer to my prayers about my role as a wife came in the form of the acronym Y.E.S. It stands for Yield, Elevate, and Supplicate.
While this was God’s specific answer to my prayer asking for insight into my own marriage, I think it could apply to others as well. This is actually the first in a three-part series titled “Y.E.S. Honey,” so today I’m just going to talk about the first word: Yield.
Yield: to surrender, submit, or give way.
There’s that word again: submit.
The first part of becoming the wife God calls me to be is to yield, or submit to my husband. But what on earth does that really look like?
A Picture of a Submissive Wife
When I think of the word “yield,” I picture a two-way stop. To yield to the car facing me means I don’t just give an obligatory pause and then bulldoze forward. Yielding means the other car has the right to make the first move.
Yielding doesn’t mean giving up your rights, it means acknowledging that he has rights, too.
So I need to wait, giving the car lots of room and plenty of time to move forward. I need to assume the car is going to move, and even if the driver is distracted or changing radio stations or checking his phone, I wait until I see the driver look up. I may have to honk the horn as a wake-up call if all else fails, but I need to know that the driver is aware that he has the right of way. The driver may wave me on, letting me go first, in which case I don’t have any problems moving forward, but that’s his call.
Can you relate this analogy to your own marriage?
I recently wrote a book about family discipleship. In my case, yielding means that after writing the book and getting excited about implementing a plan of family discipleship in our home, I don’t immediately start calling the shots and setting up family meetings where I read the Bible to my husband and kids. Maybe I present the general idea to my husband, letting him know that I would love to start thinking and praying about ways to be more intentional about family discipleship (honking the horn a little), and then pray and wait. Maybe I even just start out by praying without taking any action at all; an important element of submission needs to be seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as well as assessing practically what works and what doesn’t in your marriage.
What Being a Submissive Wife Doesn’t Mean
Yielding means leaving room for him to take the lead. Yielding doesn’t mean I sit around twiddling my thumbs, refraining from any kind of discipleship with my kids; our kids have been entrusted into my care as well, and my job is important! I can still read them Bible stories, help them memorize verses, or lead them in prayer.
Women are not less; submission doesn’t mean resigning yourself to being less valuable than your husband. It’s simply recognizing and operating within the unique, God-given role you were designed to play in your family. Satan would love for us to believe that submission is an insulting concept, or that yielding to our husbands is going to squash our freedom or deprive us of something good. Sound familiar? Eve fell for those lies in the Garden of Eden, and things didn’t work out so well for her! The truth that I’m coming to realize is that we will uncover so many more unexpected gifts when we walk the (often harder) road of obedience to God than we ever would if we just did things the way we’d like to.
The Biblical model of submission was ultimately designed to be a beautiful picture of the union of Christ and the church:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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.
– Ephesians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Hurdles & Blessings
My prayer for us today is that the Lord would gently guide us into a deeper understanding of what it means to yield to our husbands in each of our unique situations.
What is your biggest hurdle in the area of submission? Do you have an encouraging story to share about a time when you yielded to your husband and were ultimately blessed? We would love to hear in the comments!
I have put together “The Truth about Submission” – A PDF with 7 days of praying through scripture to help you uncover what the Bible says about submission, and to encourage you in your marriage.
Important: Domestic violence is never okay. If your husband is hurting you in any way (including emotional abuse) please, please seek help. Here are some resources that may point you in the right direction.