I looked into his handsome brown eyes and repeated two little words that would change my life forever. “I do.” From that moment on, I officially became Mrs. Zachary Clark. Not only did I walk away with a new name that day, but I also walked away with a new title and role. I was now a wife.
As someone who grew up in the church, I was familiar with Biblical phrases like “the husband’s role” or “the wife’s role,” so these weren’t new concepts to me. My parents modeled a healthy and beautiful marriage my entire life, so I never had a problem with these biblical “titles.”
However, once I got married myself, something weird happened.
Being a self-proclaimed “strong woman” and “Type A” leader, I suddenly found myself recoiling at verses that didn’t phase me before. Ephesians 5:22 for example (which calls wives to submit to their husband) sounded more like an identity threat than a blessing and gift.
In my heart, I knew that God was a good Father, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the “beauty” of submission. It seemed far more oppressive than liberating. Besides, why should my husband get the leadership role and not me? I’m the type A in the marriage. Shouldn’t I be in charge?
Deep in my heart, I knew God’s plans and ways were good, I just didn’t understand them.
Instead of writing God’s Word off as irrelevant and outdated, I needed to study more. I needed to learn God’s intentions and purposes behind the seemingly dreadful “s” word.
As I studied God’s Word more deeply, I began to see the bigger picture. From Genesis to Proverbs, from Ephesians to 1 Peter — I saw that God wasn’t calling me to be a brainless wife by embracing His design. He wasn’t calling me to leave behind my personality or strengths in order to fulfill my role either. In fact, the opposite was true.
I saw that God’s Word placed an equal value on men and women, and regularly highlighted the lives of strong, beautiful, and humble women (Esther, Mary, Ruth, etc). Throughout the Bible, I saw that God clearly loved and valued women. I saw that God is for women, not against them.
This was huge.
As I looked into Genesis 1 and 2, I saw that God loved the first woman so much that He placed her under the tender, loving, strong, and protective care of her husband (Genesis 2:18-23). In the perfect garden of Eden (prior to sin), unpolluted by sin, Adam loved and led his wife perfectly and Eve responded to his leadership with delight and joy.
This was marriage as God intended — beautiful, functional, selfless, and overflowing with joy. This was God’s good plan for masculinity and femininity.
As I studied the perfect marriage of Adam and Eve in the garden, I realized that in order to understand and appreciate God’s design for “marriage roles,” I needed to first back up and learn why God created marriage in the first place. Marriage roles will always seem strange and unfair when they’re out of context.
As I journeyed further in my Bible study on this topic, I came across Ephesians 5 which shed some light on why God created marriage in the first place.
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
In a nutshell, here’s what Ephesians 5 taught me about marriage:
God created marriage to be between one man and one woman as an earthly representation of Christ’s relationship with His Bride (the Church). The husband’s role in the marriage is to reflect Christ, and the wife’s role is to reflect the Church.
Just like Christ lovingly led, served, and sacrificed for his Church, so husbands are called to do the same for their wives. And just like the Church is called to trust, receive, and follow Christ, so wives are called to do the same towards their husbands.
God created marriage to be the stage in which His magnificent story of love, sacrifice, and redemption is played out for all to see.
Marriage roles aren’t actually about us, but about us displaying the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like actors on a stage who tell a story, our roles within marriage tell a story too.
In our new book, Love Defined (available for pre-order here), I say it this way, “Understanding marriage through a gospel lens is essential for us as Christian women. When a man and a woman live out their unique gender roles within the marriage covenant, they put the glory of the gospel on display as God intended.”
With that divine reality as the backdrop, I was able to read the rest of Ephesians with an open heart…
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
There it was. The “s” word.
It still didn’t sound inviting to me…but I genuinely wanted to learn what it meant and why God designed it. As I studied further, I learned some liberating truths. I learned that I could keep my personality intact (and my brains) while still embracing God’s design for marriage. I discovered that having the correct understanding of what biblical submission is (as God intended) was key.
If you’re in a place right now like I was where you don’t like the word submission, it’s probably because you don’t have all the pieces in place. The reason I didn’t like the concept was that I didn’t fully understand it. But the more I understand God’s heart and design for wives, the more I see how much He loves women and created marriage roles for our own protection and good.
God loves you and is for you.
Stick with me! We’re going to dive into what biblical submission actually looks like in Part 2 of this post.
There’s still a lot to unpack. In Part 2, we’ll break down exactly what submission is, as well as debunk a few popular lies surrounding biblical submission (i.e. there is no room for abuse in God’s design for biblical submission). Come back on Monday for Part 2.
For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below!
- Thinking back on your life and personal experiences, what has had the most influence in shaping your current view of submission?
- In what ways does your personal view on submission need to be realigned with God’s truth?