I’ve been a bit out of sorts since yesterday evening. I’m not sure what exactly set me off-center, but when I get this way my poor husband can be the brunt of unrealistic expectations and some grumbling. This morning we bantered our way through a few issues. For one thing I was frustrated that I ultimately had to step in when the boys were acting poorly. Sometimes I feel like it boils down to me being strong and taking charge. I don’t really want that role, but I do step into it without invitation when I feel a situation careening into emotional escalation. At one point my husband was frustrated and told me to stop talking to him about our disagreement. I flat out said, “no.” He told me again, “Stop talking about this.” I said in a regrettably stubborn tone , “no.” My darling oldest son said, “Someone is going to have to submit here or this will just get worse.”
You know how you raise your children to be wise and know God’s will and His ways? This was one of those times when the training sunk in and my eldest was right. The word — submit — hung in the air. It silenced me. It brought me back to my senses.
In years past the very word submit brought about the feeling of fingernails on a chalkboard to my strong-willed nature. Of course I would submit to God, of course. But, what about this less-than-perfect (though very lovable) husband of mine? God wanted me to submit, I know, but I was sure He would understand my need to skirt the issue when my husband fell short of the Bible’s mandates to love his wife as Christ loves the church. I mean, when I know better, why should I submit?
It wasn’t long after I returned to Jesus in 1997 that God brought me in touch with Bunny Wilson who wrote Liberated Through Submission. Bunny spoke at a women’s conference on “Hope, Help, Holy and Free.” Through this talk God brought transformation into my life where formerly there were lies around the subject of submission. The concept of submission is so misunderstood — and I was no exception in the way I reacted to this crucial idea in God’s plan for relationship.
One of my favorite movies of all time is The Princess Bride. In this comedy-adventure a stable boy, Westley, always addresses the princess Buttercup with the answer “As you wish.” As he says these words, he has a impish gleam in his eye that tells you he is delighting in her very presence and in doing whatever she would wish.
As I studied submission and made feeble attempts to practice it, I realized something deeper. When God is asking me to submit, He isn’t asking me to submit to my imperfect husband. He is asking me to submit to HIM. I don’t have to pretend that Christ is standing behind my husband as I submit. He is present. His Word tells us wives to “submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Submission always boils down to trust. When I trust that as I let go, God is there, behind the scenes, in the midst, acting on behalf of His beloved, I can submit. God is inviting me into freedom, not captivity. The lie is that I must hang onto my will in order to get what will make me happy and safe. The reality is that when I let go, I leave room for God to move.
So, after a rocky morning I decided to stop resisting my husband, stop trying to change him, stop focusing on his deficits and start living out what I am called to be: a good and godly wife. There was a log in my own eye. I stopped bickering and started serving. And, sometime in the middle of it all, I said in my heart, “As you wish.” I said it to my husband and simultaneously I said it to God.
The more I submitted and served, the more I saw what my husband wasn’t. I had been focusing on my twisted view: “He isn’t strong where I need him to be;” “He isn’t what I want him to be today.” As I served him and practiced “as you wish” submission, I found that I could see what he wasn’t in a different way: He isn’t mean-spirited; He isn’t bossy; He isn’t demanding; He isn’t an uninvolved father. Nothing turns a heart around like gratitude. Submission came first and gratitude followed close behind.
In the Princess Bride there comes a pivotal moment when the Princess becomes aware of Westley’s heart behind his words: The narrator reveals, “And, that day she was amazed to discover that when he was saying, “As you wish,” what he meant was, “I love you” … Submission always means, I love you. The fruit of submission is always inner-freedom.