(I originally wrote this blog post a year ago. I’m working on a new essay with new perspectives on submission and control issues in marriage, which I’ll share tomorrow. But Friday’s post won’t make sense without this one as the foundation!)
A Husband’s Perspective
Before writing today’s post, I did something I’ve not done before: I asked for Daniel’s perspective on the topic. (Yes, I recognize the irony!)
Here’s what he said: “Submission isn’t the domination of a stronger will over a weaker will. It’s not about being a doormat; that’s giving up, copping out. It’s about yielding, which implies strength. Trees yield fruit. There’s a sense of productivity, not destruction but participation in a bigger goal.”
We discussed dance as a metaphor, with husband and wife balancing each other in unity. But we soon moved on to a metaphor that better reflects our own marriage: water skiing.
Submission is Like Water Skiing
“A skier can’t pull the boat; the boat pulls the skier. If the skier yields to the pull of the boat, it’s a lot more fun,” Daniel said.
This reminded me (Cheri) of learning to water ski a quarter of a century ago. It took 2.5 hours for me to learn how to yield to the pull of the boat, but once I “got it,” I was in for a thrill!
Back to Daniel: “The husband is like the boat, providing power and protection. If his wife responds, she’ll be in for the ride of her life!” (The metaphor sorta shifted, as we’ve been reading Sheila Wray Gregoire’s 29 Days to Great Sex blog posts all month!)
Thinking more about water skiing, I realized that a number of parallels between water skiing and submission really do work:
- If a skier does nothing but hold on to the rope, she’s not actually skiing; she’s being dragged.
- If a skier insists on driving the boat, she won’t be skiing; she can only ski if she’s out in the water.
- If a skier stands rigid and stiff from fear, she’s in for a short run and a painful fall.
- The driver can’t be a jerk. It’s his job to avoid obstacles, look for smooth water, and give the skier the ride of her life. (Added by Daniel)
- It’s only when the driver is trustworthy, and the skier is perceptive and flexible in yielding to the pull of the boat, that she’ll experience the ultimate skiing experience.
My Own Fear of Submission
For too many years, I would not yield in our marriage. I fought submission as if it was a death sentence. Oh, I paid lip service to the Biblicality of the concept, but my behaviors demonstrated my true beliefs.
I mistakenly believed that I had to choose between submission vs. freedom. Submission vs. happiness. Submission vs. individuality.
Today, I looked up antonyms for “submit” and was shocked to find a list of verbs that describe my own damaging behaviors in our marriage: conceal, demand, deny, discourage, dishearten, fight, frustrate, hesitate, hide, ignore, keep, limit, obstruct, pass over, refuse, reject, resist, run, stop, take back, withdraw.
23+ years of marriage have taught me that the opposite of submission isn’t freedom, happiness, or individuality.
Instead, I’ve found that each day, I face the choice between
- submission vs. demanding that my husband meet my needs, my way, on my timeline.
- submission vs. frustrating my husband with my stubborn insistence that I know best about everything and in all situations.
- submission vs. hiding my frailty from my husband so he can’t use it against me (never mind that he never has and never would.)
- submission vs. limiting the depth of intimacy and tenderness in our union.
- submission vs. rejecting the man I promised to love, honor, and cherish.
- submission vs. running away emotionally and/or running my own little side show.
The Gifts of Submission
One synonym for submit especially struck me: commit, in the sense of to deliver and to entrust.
When I submit to Daniel, I am re-committing to him, delivering myself to him as a gift, entrusting myself to his care.
In a blog post last year, Sheila Wray Gregoire says that our husbands watch to see “if we actually will respond to them and accept them…whether we would choose them again.”
So submission–at least for me–is saying “I do” all over again.
Being empowered and protected by my husband to be free, happy, and myself.
And yielding to the ride of a lifetime!
- What metaphor have you found helpful to better understand — and live out! — Biblical submission in your life?
- How has resistance to submission impacted your life and relationships?
- Anything else on your heart!