on being a wife

I started writing this post awhile ago but never got around to finishing my thoughts.  In the interest of delving into all that I’m learning at this conference, I thought it might be a good place to start.

There was a time when talking about headship/submission would cause me to cringe.  Let’s be honest, sometimes it still causes me to cringe.  I’ve taken great pride in my strength and have scoffed at men who feel threatened by it.

But then I met my Savior in a new way.  And I started to see the beauty of submission within the Trinity; the way Christ humbled himself unto death (Philippians 2); the description of the Holy Spirit as a “Helper” (John 15), a similar description given to Eve when God made her for Adam (Genesis 2); the way marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5).

And I met my husband, and learned that in the presence of this strong, godly man, I could REST.  I could take a deep breath and stop having to be quite so strong, in the way I had always defined strength.

But sometimes, I still feel a little beat up and defeated by the word (submission).  My heart is hard and stubborn and I like to be the boss of me.  And everyone else.

So it was sweet when, one day, as I brought these feelings before the Lord, my Bible reading for the day led me to this usually frustrating passage.  You have to start with what I had read the day before, because if it’s not rooted in the Gospel, there is no point to talking about submission:

…For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
 (1 Peter 2:21-25)

And this is what followed:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:1-7)

I’m aware that many may cringe at these words.  My goal is not to spark a debate.  For me, they brought a fresh, much-needed comfort.  I was reminded of a sermon I listened to awhile back, where John Piper marveled at the strength of a woman whose hope is in the Lord.  How it’s that hope in the Lord which fosters a gentle and quiet spirit (which in GOD’S sight is very precious!), and out of that hope – out of that gentle and quiet spirit – that is where submission to my husband is rooted.  It’s not a call to submit because I am less than my husband (“since they are heirs with you of the grace of life”) – it is not a call to submit because my husband is worthy of my submission (in this case, the husband wasn’t even trying to follow Jesus) – it’s not even a call to submit!  It’s a call to hope in the Lord, and to allow the fruit of that hope to foster in me a femininity that God intended and which He deems very precious.

So here’s where I pick up on this conference with a few more random reflections.

Tim and Kathy Keller led the first pre-conference session, “Marriage in Gospel Focus,” where they shared points from their book, The Meaning of Marriage.  I loved what Kathy shared; her point was this:

In marriage, each person gets to play the Jesus role.

Husbands are called to display the servant leadership of Christ (Ephesians 5),  while wives are called to display the submission of Christ, who, though he was equal with God, took the form of a servant, humbling himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2).  The result?  Much glory to God, and a window for the world into the beautiful perplexity of the Gospel as it is fleshed out in marriage.

There is something dignified and comforting in this calling.  There is strength in this calling.  But notice that I did not say it is easy.

We are both called to play the Jesus role, but we can’t do it alone.  Tim Keller pointed to the power of Christ that kept him on the cross as the power that makes the covenantal, self-sacrificing love in marriage possible.

“He stayed on the cross.  He didn’t die because we were lovely, he died to make us lovely.”  

It is that power alive in us that makes headship and submission not only possible but an amazing picture of the good news of Jesus Christ.

It’s so sweet when God affirms what he is teaching me by coming at me from multiple directions.  And that was just the first pre-conference session!  More to come.

And man, I miss my husband. 🙂