For years Todd (my husband) has said…
“Husbands and wives are called to the same thing. For her it ‘looks like’ submission, for him, it ‘looks like’ sacrifice…but I’m telling you, it’s really the same thing.”
And for a very long time, I didn’t get what he meant. I grappled. I felt worried, a bit defensive that this was somehow a ploy to continue promoting the cycle of placing women in subservience and men in power. Because that is how it has been portrayed and played since…well, since the beginning of time. Since that moment back in the Garden of Eden where sin caused a chasm in the beautiful equality that was called “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. Since it broke the absolute Oneness of the man and the woman.
Imagine with me, if you will, splitting a piece of wood, via a good ‘ol karate chop, to the middle. When the wood breaks, what happens? The middle pieces drop downward, and the ends fly upward. Summary: when something breaks, one part goes down, the other part goes up. It’s the natural result.
I propose to you the same result occurred when sin snapped the one-flesh relationship of that first husband and wife.
One went ‘above’ the other. Now, I realize there is a long-held position that touts that Genesis 3:16 is God’s ‘divine order’ for making marriage work.
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
I’m sorry, but as I read it, I see it smack in the middle of God telling each of the players what the resulting curse of bringing sin into the previously-perfect world was. This wasn’t God’s ‘ideal’, this was brokenness. It wasn’t an answer, it was part of the problem. It was brokenness that resulted in what was once ‘even’ now being ‘off-kilter’…one up and one down.
Men found themselves in a position of strength, but also with an ability to rule…to dominate over… women. Women found themselves vulnerable. If redeemed, they could use their positions to come back into balance, but unredeemed…well…it gets really ugly.
Thus, has been the story of sin throughout the ages. Women being ruled and suppressed in one form or another. The curse, in full swing. In the darkest places, this has taken, and still does, the most horrid forms of abuse fathomable. (To think otherwise is to stick our heads in the proverbial sand). In less horrid, but still wrong instances, women are robbed of rights, opportunity and authority.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a man-bashing time, where I’m standing on my feminist soapbox to preach the evils of the male sex. Absolutely not. Both…the man and the woman…fell victim to an evil plot against them, with ongoing and devastating results. This isn’t God’s gracious plan for His beloved creation, it’s the effect of the handiwork of the enemy of our souls, who we are told “comes to steal, kill and destroy”.
In the places where the light of the Gospel has gone, though, women have experienced freedom and healing in ever-increasing ways.
They have been lifted to dignity, they have been given rights, they have been restored to places of authority, as was bestowed to them by their Creator. God did not commission Adam, alone, to take dominion over the earth. He gave the mandate to rule and subdue creation (not each other) to both the man and the woman.
To the degree that anyone tries to reverse that, to move back toward the sin-curse, instead of away from it, is working against the redemption process.
Those are bold words, for some, I know. (While for others, not even bold enough.) Many, (especially in the generally comfy, modern, western-Church mindset) of us don’t see any danger in promoting the idea of a husband having rulership over his wife, because for most of us, that just looks/feels like what we have coined “loving leadership”. However, in instances where these ideas are carried to extremes, (and which I hear about all.the.time.) where situations are taken black-and-white, letter of the law literally, they can be quite damaging and dangerous. It begs that we take a deeper look at what we are saying.
Believe me, I do, truly, value the idea of godly, kingdom leadership. (You can check out my previous posts on leadership to see how much, and what I see that it looks like.) However, I think that leadership, when it is called for, it is such an upside-down version of what the world sets forth that to the innocent onlooker, they would possible even miss who was the ‘leader’ and who was the ‘follower’, because the leader is so busy serving those entrusted to his care.
If we are going to claim that a husband is to ‘lead’ his wife, as Christ ‘leads’ the church, then we better specify what that looks like…
It looks like giving up every right to a position or a throne.
It means taking the posture of a servant, and being willing to do the menial tasks.
It means not exerting his own will, coercing or demanding anything.
It means not looking at her to help him succeed, but rather, doing everything, including suffering and dying, to see her brought forth into the full and glorious purpose for which she was created.
It means totally equipping, releasing and turning authority over, in every way, to His Bride to co-reign with Him in everything.
In fact, it even means telling her she will do even GREATER things than he.
Hmmm…So, she is called to submit, huh? Yes.
Suddenly, when laid out in these terms, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. It almost seems like the same thing he is called to. Serving one another in love.
They correspond, completely, both calling each one to the same action. To prefer the other. To do what is best for the other.
His comes from a position of ‘up’, where because of sin, he was flung. A position that could so very easily be used to dominate and control. But he must choose to go against that, and lend his strength, not to lord over, but to raise her up. He must choose, in many ways, meekness.
photo by Kaitlyn Clemmer
Hers comes from a position of ‘down’, where she fell to to at the ‘snap’. Hers is a place of vulnerability. Hers is a place of having to allow him to draw her up and accept the strength that he offers, and not stubbornly work against him. She, in many ways, must choose courage, confidence and trust.
And when each chooses rightly, and goes against the sin-curse that wants to be at work within them…when they work with the course of redemption…they meet solidly, evenly in the middle. On a very even plane.
Equality. Absolute Oneness.
So, as it turns out, I guess that husband of mine was right. How about that…
Sacrifice is to him, what submission is to her.
Wow…what a wise man I’ve got.