Submission is not a four letter word- Marriage, Unwrapped

Young couple  in bed, toned black and white effect, vignette.

I distinctly remember sitting down with the pastor to pick out verses we wanted read at our wedding and telling her in no uncertain terms that I would NOT “be using that Ephesians verse” in our wedding. I was a strong, independent woman and that submission thing was not for me. Well thankfully, I have learned a bit about what God intended when he asked wives to submit and I now see submission in new ways.

As an example, do you watch any of the dance shows on TV? I am partial to So You Think You Can Dance (best show of the summer!). To make a beautiful dance, one person has to lead and the other person has to follow. It doesn’t mean one person is superior or better than the other. It just means they have different roles and that together, make something amazing.

Ok, so possibly a cheesy analogy, but I love that to fulfill God’s plan for my role in marriage I don’t have to become a different person than I am. I can still be a strong woman with an opinion and a personality, but one who supports and respects my husband they way God asks me to.

To me, my role as a “submissive” wife is one of supporting and respecting my husband. I think most wives would agree that we want a husband who is a leader in the household. But are we letting our husbands lead? Are we allowing them to do things differently than we are? Are we letting them try and fail without criticism? Do we appreciate our husbands for who they are right now or are we constantly wishing for them to be someone they aren’t (or couldn’t possibly be)?

I want to be the biggest cheerleader in my husband’s life. At the end of a rough day at work I want him to look forward to coming home to a place where he is esteemed and appreciated. I want him to know that I am proud of him and that I believe in him and his dreams. But I am also his secret weapon, his most trusted advisor and his closest confidant. To me THAT is the the wife God is calling me to be.

And guess what ladies? The Bible doesn’t say that we need to start respecting and supporting our husbands only when he starts being someone we deem worthy of respect and esteem. We are called to respect and support our husbands exactly for who he is right now at this very moment. If we are waiting for our husbands to lead perfectly before we submit we are missing out on God’s blessing for us as a wife. We submit out of obedience to Christ not based on our husband’s performance. That is a high calling ladies. Are you up for it?

You can find all the Marriage, Unwrapped posts here.


  1. *Standing ovation*

    I was like you when I first got married – submission was not something I was even going to think about doing. But God showed me how submission isn’t being a doormat, but a helpmate. And that when I am in true submission to my husband, it is beautiful and wonderful and our marriage flourishes.

  2. AMEN! Well said! My hubby and I just heard this very thing recently at a Love & Respect conference! We’ve been married almost 20 years, and have always had a pretty good marriage -but there is always something to learn about each other! ( or to help others with!) Plus we’re doing Marriage on the Rock, which teaches that husbands and wives are euqals, but -as you said- just have different roles to fill, in the manner that God designed us each & with and commands us to do…such as that infamous Ephesians 5 passage! ;-)
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  3. Christie says:

    Thanks–I needed to hear that!

  4. You are 100%, totally, completely right. Perfect.
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  5. Thank you for this quick reminder. I get so caught up in the daily whirlwind while he is art work, and when he gets home, he doesn’t need to get a sudden blast of the yucks of my day. It is hard for me, even after 21 yrs of marriage, to let him take the lead when he gets home. I’m so used to having to do it all. I get impatient when he doesn’t act or react right away… Oh, I have such a long way to go.
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  6. Before I took a marriage class through my church. The word SUBMISSION made me cringe and I wanted to run the other direction, like a lot of women probably still do today; thankfully, I sat through 6 weeks and learned what it actually means.

    Unfortunately, many in the body of Christ have perverted this scripture (Eph. 5:25) and use it to make their spouse a door mat, one with no individuality or voice of her own. That’s because they forgot the 2nd part that says, husbands LOVE your wife as Christ LOVES the church, hence if you think about it, Christ doesn’t treat the church like a doormat.

    We’ve been married for almost 20 years, the respect , partnership that we share is what truly has blessed our marriage. We can’t have 2 heads ruling this household. It would be ugly.


    • I completely agree about the perversion of this verse which is so upsetting. I watched a family member be verbally and emotionally abused into “submission”.

      I think although women are often the ones getting hung up on the verse, men have the much tougher calling. To love like Christ is a VERY big task.

      • I see so many relationships that are in abusive situations also and yes, it’s a very big task to love like Christ. To love like Christ means to love unconditionally, not whether we submit or not. We’ll never be perfect in our roles. v. 5:21…. to submit to “one another” out of reverence for Christ.

  7. This verse is taken out of context so much by society. Our husbands are supposed to love us even as Christ loved the church. When a man loves his wife as much as Christ loved us, submission by the wife will follow. You can’t have one without the other.

    • I completely agree that men are called to love like Christ. That kind of “leadership” looks a lot different than what the world calls leadership. I do think however that our call to submit is NOT based on the way our husbands love us. I think both people in the marriage are called to their roles irrespective of how their spouse does at their role. Which I find a relief because my husband continues to love me sacrificially even when I suck at submission.

  8. Woah, Jill! Hittin’ the big theological “s” word today! Good for you for tackling this topic. I love the analogy that Paul uses about marriage being a person – the wife is the body and the husband is the head (and as they say in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants to”). It’s a powerful place to fill the role of the whole body while supporting the head. But it’s “a great mystery” as Paul says.

    I’m not sure I totally get what you mean by “lead” though. I am all about submission (the commandment for the man in return is “respect”) and I love cheering on my husband. I love being his listening ear and his best friend. But I’m not sure about the “leading” part…this trips me up when that word comes up. Leading where? Just a genuine question, honestly…
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    • I think he is to be the spiritual leader of the household. But I think he does that by Christ-like leadership, not worldly leadership. So sacrificing to provide, protect, spiritually nourish, and build up his family. Does that make sense? Leading the family in God’s ways and will is how I look at it.

  9. Spot on! I have found it incredibly hard to be submissive because I’m extremely hard headed and strong willed. One thing in particular is submitting in the way of having more children. He’s not ready yet and so being submissive has been hard. As you said, I need to be his biggest cheerleader and nagging will only make things worse. Thank you for this timely reminder.
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  10. Darn you and your convicting posts!
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  11. Sherri says:

    ” I think most wives would agree that we want a husband who is a leader in the household. ”

    Um. Really? The hubs and I ate pretty sure that Jesus is the one in charge around here. Or at least that is our goal. :)

    The funny thing about Ephesuans 5 is that in the Greek the verb translated “submit”– hypotasso– is actually distributed to both spouses. A pretty strong case can be made for a vision of marriage as a partnership in mutual submission– each considering others as better than himself, as Philippians puts it. I’m typing this on my phone so can’t flesh everything out, but check http://www.cbeinternational.org/ for lots more on this.

    Thanks for talking about this stuff! A lot of people are afraid to touch it, and I appreciate your honesty.

    • Well I didn’t unpack biblical leadership because these posts are really directed at wives, but my definition of leadership in the marriage is one of the husband leading as Christ led the church which is demonstrated by love and sacrifice. So Christ is of course at the head of that.

      I completely believe that marriage is a partnership and Christ like leadership DOES consider sacrifice for others over themselves. But I think when two people are trying to do the same role there are problems. God clearly created men and women different and complimentary. I think his purpose in this is to have marriage reflect the relationship between Christ and the church.

  12. Great post! I’m a former feminist so I didn’t always embrace this concept, but now that I do I see how much sense it makes. My marriage is so much better for it! Thanks for a great post!

  13. Jill – I think a lot of women have already hit the nail on the head. We cringe because submission has been turned into a word that insinuates domination. Ultimately, if we take time to take in the meaning of the language, submission in honesty leads to being under one mission – the mission Christ has for us as one new body united in Him. I think we often gloss right over Eph 5:21 which instructs us to be subject to one another, and then continues to explain how. I appreciate your distinction, even though it can be a challenge, that our submissiveness is out of love of Christ, and not as a behavioral reward for our husbands.

    I also love your description of a husband’s leadership in the household – that is spot on! I think my husband has the harder task by far to lay down his life for me even when I’m headstrong, lazy and bossy.

  14. This was a great post. If you look at the idea of leadership in a company for example, he has to have a great team around him with excellent input and wisdom. But you don’t usually have ten presidents. The analogy breaks down, I know, but in principle you can see what I am getting at. It doesn’t make the team around him any less valuable. He would be sunk without them. In the end, there is freedom in fulfilling the roles as they were designed. Thanks for having the courage to take this one on.

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