Journey to Surrender
By: Scott Means
What I Believe About Marriage
My series on what I believe about marriage starts with the simple truth that marriage belongs to God.
I believe marriage was on God’s heart long before time began, that he instituted it in the Garden of Eden, and that he sent his Son, Jesus, as our heavenly Bridegroom, in order to win us for himself an eternal bride.
Almost everything else I believe about marriage springs in one way or another from this basic, foundational truth: God wants to marry you.
Now lest you get offended by such a notion, let me explain that by saying God wants to marry you, I mean he desires to dwell in deepest and purest intimacy with you for all time, starting right now. That’s his eternal purpose behind creating marriage in the first place.
It took me a while for this to become clear to me, but as I started looking into what the Bible says about marriage, the truth emerged rather undeniably. The Bible begins and ends with a marriage, and all throughout the picture of marriage emerges as a clear metaphor for the relationship God desires with you and me.
Think about it. God could have used whatever model he wanted for the procreation of mankind and the population of our planet. Just look around in nature and you’ll see all kinds of different methods he invented. But he specifically chose to create man and woman and join them together in the covenant of marriage. Don’t you suppose there was a reason for that? I am convinced of it.
The marriage covenant between a man and a woman are a model of the new covenant God offers you through his Son. It represents the promise of an unyielding commitment, the offer of sacrificial and unconditional love, and the opportunity for true intimacy. In the end it comes down to this:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.
Now when I say that marriage belongs to God, I’m not talking about the pomp and ceremony, the rings, or the signed piece of paper. Don’t cheapen marriage down to the convenient, disposable and re-definable social construct we’ve made into. I’m talking about the covenant of marriage as God always meant it to be.
That’s what I’m seeking to discover and discuss with this blog – marriage as God intends it to be. After all, he designed it in the first place!
So as a launching point for this series on what I believe about marriage, let me leave you with what I wrote in response to a challenge to describe my blog in exactly ten words.
Marriage was God’s idea. Do it how he designed it.
What Do You Do With the Gap
I believe that marriage was God’s idea and that he designed it to operate in a specific way. In saying that I don’t mean at all to say that every marriage should be the same. Rather, I mean that I believe God designed specific principles to undergird and strengthen the marital covenant relationship between a man and a woman.
For the most part these marriage-strengthening principles are on display for us in the relationship between Jesus and the church. I strongly believe that passionate, intimate and lasting marriages are best built upon the foundation of these truths.
It is these truths that I am attempting to unpack in this series.
But before I continue with laying out the specific principles I believe are most important for enjoying a great marriage, I want to address something I’ll call “the theology of the gap.”
Theology formed in the Gap
What do you do with the gap between something you believe to be true and what you see with your eyes or experience in your own life?
Whether it is the belief that God wants to heal our diseases, that God wants to bless and prosper us, or that God never leaves us or forsakes us, there will be times when that doesn’t “seem” to be true based on our experiences and circumstances.
What do you do with that?
Typically, what we tend to do is form some kind of less than ideal theology to “fill the gap” between what we see and what we think is true. We will tend to dumb God down or make excuses that rob the Gospel of its power and life. There is all kinds of bad theology that gets formed in the gap. Often times this theology is formed out of fear or the desire to explain and control our circumstances in a way that makes us feel less vulnerable.
The same is no less true for biblical marriage principles.
I’m sure we can all point to Christian couples with dreadful or failed marriages. Maybe you are in one (or were in one). Maybe they (or you) even tried to apply some of the biblical principles I espouse here at Journey to Surrender to no avail.
So, some may conclude, biblical marriage principles must not work.
The Challenge of Faith
As long as marriages involve people – real, broken, imperfect people – there is going to be a gap between the ideal biblical marriage, which I say is modeled for us in the bridal relationship between Jesus and the church, and what we are able to experience here on earth.
The question is what do we do with the gap? Isn’t it really a question of faith?
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
Just because you aren’t yet able to “see” perfection in your marriage as you walk toward a biblically–based relationship, it doesn’t mean these principles don’t work.
I call this blog Journey to Surrender on purpose. Marriage is definitely a journey, a process of growing and maturing toward the ideal. This side of heaven we won’t get to experience marriage perfection, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on what we believe.
A Typical Example
I’ve seen more bad gap-theology around the topic of biblical order in marriage than on any other topic. The principles that surround authority, headship and submission stir very strong emotions in most people.
I don’t like painting with broad strokes, but I will say that most of the blogs I read by women who most vehemently speak against a husband’s authority in marriage have been admitted victims of abusive, controlling, manipulative and unfaithful husbands. Because if you believe that God has ordained an order in the home, it gives power to husbands to do lots of really bad things, therefore, some will form a theology that removes authority altogether from husbands in order to protect themselves against future harm.While I understand why that might be, I don’t think it is best to form our marriage belief system around fear or around the abhorrent behavior of a few men.
There is plenty of bad theology I’ve heard that swings the other way too. It’s the kind of gap-theology that comes in response to overly controlling women, portraying submission as subjugation, leaving wives as powerless doormats for their husbands, in order to eliminate any threat to their manhood. Men who fear strong women will tend to form theology that marginalizes rather than leverages the strengths of women.
I’ll get into more on what I believe about the question of authority in marriage in my next post, but I wanted to use this contentious example as a way of cautioning you away from forming theology around your negative experiences.
Instead, I encourage you to form your beliefs about marriage around the Word of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because God designed marriage (remember that understanding forms the core of my own marriage belief system), it makes sense that he would only design it to operate in accordance to his own nature. The more you know about who God is, the more you’ll know about marriage.
What about you? Can you identify places in your own belief system that were formed out of your negative experiences and circumstances rather than on what God says?
The Bridal Paradigm
I think there are some eternal, biblical principles that God has established. These are principles that we should not stray away from or weaken based on what we see or experience, but instead choose to believe that every marriage has the potential to reach the fullness of what God intends.
In both of those first two posts I made reference to the fact that the Bible often refers to Jesus as our Bridegroom and to you and me (the church) as His bride. Though there are other analogies for our spiritual relationship with God (Father/son, Cornerstone/building, etc.), none other is so powerful in its application to marriage.
This leads me to the second of my basic biblical marriage principals: God has revealed to us a template for the ideal marriage in the relationship between Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5, perhaps the Bible’s clearest and most informative passage on God’s marriage design, makes this principle rather clear:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:31-32 (NKJ)
The first part of that passage (verse 31) refers back to God’s original institution of marriage, the one between Adam and Eve. Verse 32 then ties that institution directly the bridal relationship between Christ and the church. This is what I (and others) refer to as the bridal paradigm.
It is this bridal paradigm principle that has, more than any other, affected my understanding of my own marriage. As I began to dig deeper into this notion that I am the much-loved bride of Christ, I started to see all kinds of parallel principles between my spiritual relationship with Jesus and my martial relationship with my wife. Even though I’ve been going pretty hard after this notion for several years now, I still feel I am just on the very front end of understanding what Paul calls “a great mystery.”
As I move forward with this series and begin to discuss further what I believe about marriage, you will see this notion of the bridal paradigm pop up frequently. As I said, it is one of my core beliefs about marriage.
At the outset, however, I should clarify what I see as the limitations to the marriage analogy.
- Jesus came as a man, but he was also fully God. Husbands are not gods or in any way exalted beings over wives. Period.
- Jesus alone came to give us eternal life and no one but he has the power to forgive sins. A husband cannot be the “savior” of his wife, though he may well desire to be her “hero.”
- Jesus is the perfect role model for all people, both men and women, and as such there are plenty of bridal paradigm principles that apply equally to men and women.
- The bridal analogy of Jesus and the church obviously stops short of the sexual and physical relationship between husband and wife, though there are certainly spiritual parallels that do very aptly apply.
How brilliant for God to give us a living template of how he wants marriage to work!!
An Ordered Partnership
Let me state this clearly and without equivocation: I believe that God has ordained a specific order for marriage and families.
There, I said it. You still reading? I hope you’ll stay with me for the next few posts while I dig into this contentious and hotly debated topic, even if (maybe especially if) you disagree with my belief statement above.
Contrary to the way many imagine it, the martial order I speak of has rather little to do with who is the boss, who makes all the decisions, who has the power or a strict hierarchical structure.
Though it is very difficult to describe my view of God’s ordained order for marriage in just a few words that cannot be quickly twisted and misconstrued, if I were forced to do so, I would describe it as an ordered partnership.
An ordered partnership in marriage is one in which husbands and wives have equal value and worth but differing roles. He loves, leads and serves her. She loves, honors and submits to him. Yeah I said submit. However, stay tuned for the Part 6 post to see more on what I think on the dreaded S-word. It’s probably not what you think.
Up front, however, let me be emphatically clear on this point, this is not about who is more and who is less, who is better or worse, smarter or dumber, stronger or weaker. It’s about having a God-ordained order in place in your marriage that reflects His design, as portrayed for us in the bridal paradigm picture of Jesus and the church.
The Authority Question
Now for sure, the “ordered” part does mean that I believe that God places unique authority and responsibility on husbands. However, the implications of the bridal paradigm for the authority question are vast and tend to stand in rather drastic contrast to what many understand about authority.
Husbands Lead With Love
In simplest terms, I believe your role as a husband is to love, lead and serve your wife.
Loving Your Wife
Scripture sets the bar pretty high for us husbands on this one.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:24 (NIV)
I think the biggest reason husbands don’t do better at loving their wives as Christ loves the church is because they don’t really know how Christ loves the church. Specifically, I’m calling you to invest yourself deeply into knowing the love of Christ through whom the tremendous emotions of God toward you are revealed. Men, you do your wife a great disservice if you shy away from your bridal identity, because it is only in the intimate knowledge of the love of your heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus, that you can truly know how to love their wives. This is so hugely important! Get over it and learn to be a bride of Christ.
A few chapters before Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, he explains that the love of Christ is so vast as to be unknowable, yet he goes on to say that getting to know it is the very key to a full life in God (Ephesians 3:17-20). It is also the key to knowing what it means to love your wife with unconditional, passionate, pure, selfless love.
Loving your wife means loving her on her terms, not yours. Go back and read my recent post on how the top marital needs of men and women differ so greatly. Loving your wife how she needs to be loved will require you to become a student of your wife, learning how to delight her beyond her wildest dreams. It also requires a daily, consistent demonstration of that love through things like showing tender care, maintaining emotional intimacy and making sure she feels protected and safe. This is not a quick fix or a sliver bullet. It’s a lifestyle of love.
Check out this amazing description of Christ’s love from earlier in Ephesians 5, just before Paul tells you that this is what you are to emulate.
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
Leading Your Wife
I believe, as I said in my last post, that God grants a certain authority to husbands in the ordered partnership of marriage.
I know that not everyone agrees with me on this. However, I think the reason so many people have a problem with the notion of husbands having authority in marriage is that they have the wrong paradigm. The authority they think of is the tyrannical corporate boss, the corrupt politician, or the heavy-handed drill sergeant. There are so many examples of authority and power being used incorrectly.
How are you to lead as a husband? Lead with love, like Jesus does. I believe that if the “love” part of your role is fully understood and acted upon (see above), the “lead” part of your role becomes a huge blessing to your wife. Without a good grip on the love part, the lead part can easily turn oppressive and self-serving.
Not all husbands will take up their authority, and not all husbands will wield their authority wisely or well. Regardless, I believe that the authority is theirs nonetheless, because I believe it is authority delegated from God the Father in accordance with his design for marriage. It is not a question of earning your authority, it is really a question of what you do with the authority you have already been granted.
I’ve mentioned before that by far the most common search that lands people on my site is “husband refuses to lead” or variants on the same. This search is followed closely by some combination of the words “husband” and “dictator.” Your goal is to never give your own wife a reason to Google either one!
Believe me when I say your wife probably longs for you to walk in your God-given authority. Yes, she wants you to lead her, but lead her with Christ-like love.
Serving Your Wife
Jesus came to serve and save the church through the ultimate sacrifice of giving his own life for her. Most of us husbands will never be called upon to serve our wives in this way, but we are called to serve them in the way we love and lead them on a daily basis.
How did Jesus serve those he loved? He washed their feet. He calmed their storms. He set them free from bondage. He led the way to the Father. He was full of grace and truth, light and life, peace and joy.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Your authority in your marriage does not give you the right to simply make all the decisions or to tell your wife what to do. It comes with the right to lay down your life for her and to serve her. I hate the way some people portray the biblical order and husbandly authority as a thoughtless, disheveled man issuing edicts and orders from his Lazy boy. But you know what? There’s probably a reason, a really bad reason, for that stereotype.
My heart’s desire is to see millions of good, loving, strong husbands walking out their authority like Jesus, in such an exemplary and powerful fashion as to wreck these negative stereotypes forever.
Love, Respect and Submission
Let me remind you that that biblical marriage is a set of truths in tension. By that I mean you can’t just look at either your husband’s or your role in isolation. A fully functioning, genuinely biblical marriage requires both of you to operate in accordance with what the Word of God says. Examining only a husband’s authority in marriage without coupling it to the fact that he is to emulate Christ in the exercise of that authority is dangerous. Considering the topic of a wife’s submission, without coupling it closely to a husband’s Christ-like love is equally dangerous. Keep the truths in tension.
Love, Honor and Submission
I believe, as I said last time, that your husband is to love, lead and serve you. With that understanding in mind, I believe your counterpart to that is to love, honor and submit to him.
I’m going to take these in reverse order, because truthfully, most people are going to skip to the s-word section anyway.
Submitting to Your Husband
I’ll start with one of several Scriptures that point to this role of a wife in a Christian marriage.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
I’ll remind any husbands that might be lurking here that this passage is directed to your wife. Nothing about this passage implies that you are to get her to submit to you! Your only instruction is to love her!
It’s All Greek…
Pardon me while I parse some Greek here. I’ve read dozens of commentaries, blog posts and articles on this passage. Because this is such a critically important marriage passage, the words are important. What I say here is a very brief synopsis of where I come down on the meaning of these words.
Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word often translated into “submission,” hupotasso, as “to arrange ones self under,” and “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” I hope you sense the extent to which this is a choice made out of love, not an obligation performed out of duty.
The term translated as “head,” kephale, in the passage above, does not carry the connotation of boss (there is a different Greek word that Paul would have used if that was what he meant). In this context it means something more like “leading by being out front.” I think of something like the lead goose in a flying formation. This understanding of headship is important for understanding what is meant by submission.
Submission is not enslavement. Submission does not imply not having a voice. Submission is not being a doormat. Submission is not subservience. Submission is not even obedience.
Submission is the attitude of your heart that says, “I respect you as my husband and acknowledge the leadership that God has called you to in our marriage. I want to keep myself arranged behind that leadership, to follow your lead and to partner with you as we move along our marriage journey together. I submit to God first, and he has asked me to submit myself to you. I do so willingly and in much the same manner I do this unto Jesus in my spiritual journey. .”
Honoring Your Husband
Your husband probably desires your respect and to be honored by you more than he wants to have sex with you. Yeah, really. That much!
Given a choice between feeling unloved or feeling disrespected, three fourths of men will choose to feel unloved, according to one survey. My own recent informal poll clearly showed respect as the number one need for the most husbands.
The truth is that your husband needs your love for him expressed as respect and admiration in the same way that you need his love expressed through emotional intimacy and feeling cared for.
Dishonoring your husband is a blow to his heart. It says to him, “I don’t love you.”
This is why the Bible says:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Strong’s defines the Greek word here for respect, phobeo, “to reverence or treat with deference.” Some dictionary definitions I include are: holding in honor or esteem, to pay proper attention, and to show consideration for.
“But you don’t know my husband!” you say. “He can be such a pig-headed idiot sometimes.”
No, I don’t know your husband or the details of his pig-headedness (or whatever you see as his weaknesses), but I still insist that he deserves and needs your respect.
Loving Your Husband
Submission (staying behind him, remaining under his protective covering and supporting him) is the action that flows from an attitude of honor and respect. This is a powerful principle. This is what it means to love your husband.
I agree with Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs, who says that just as your husband is to give you unconditional love, you are to give him unconditional respect. To him it’s the same thing.
Unconditional respect does not imply unconditional agreement or endorsement, but it does imply that in all things and at all times you are to maintain an atmosphere of honor in your marriage. It means not putting him down when you disagree. It means not talking badly about him to your friends or family. It means not browbeating him when asking him to do something. It means not assuming he will do the wrong thing.
But more than what you should not do, I want to encourage toward what you should do to show him love through respect and submission.
- Tell him how proud you are of him (about something specific)
- Tell him he is you’re hero
- Ask him about his day, and tell him how much you appreciate how hard he works
- Strive to support and agree with the decisions he makes
- Flirt with him and tell him how attracted you are to him
- Tell him how blessed you feel to have a husband like him, and tell him why
Even better, ask him specifically what you can do to show him more respect or to be more honoring toward him. Keep your eyes open for the things that matter to him, and do them.
If you want your husband to fulfill his biblical role and lead you with love, do your best to let him know you believe in him, that you respect him, and that you honor him as the loving leader God has called him to be.
Whether he is walking in the full maturity in his role right now or not, your attitude of respect and acts of submission will help to draw out of him the loving leader you want him to be – the loving leader God wants him to be.
Women who embrace the biblical notions of love, respect and submission toward their husbands are not repressed, but actually free and full of power. It’s one of the many ways in which the Kingdom of God is upside down from what the worlds says.
What Submission is not:
The Doormat, The Boss, and The Grouch
True biblical submission has nothing to do with weakness or subjugation, as it is so often wrongly characterized.
In fact, submission actually requires strength.
Unfortunately, there is a pretty strong cultural push back against God’s design for marriage, but I find it is mainly due to a lack of understanding of what submission really is. In an effort to dispel these common mis-characterizations, in today’s post I want to explore specifically what the submission of a wife to her husband is not.
What does it mean for a husband to have the “headship” or leadership role and for a wife to respect and support him with the gift of her submission?
I discussed the wife of the upper right quadrant in my last post. This is the “church-like” wife the Bible describes, alluding to the fact that God designed marriage to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. Today I want to introduce you to the three wives represented by the other quadrants: the Doormat, the Boss and the Grouch.
This is probably the wife I hear described most often when people protest the notion of submission. “I’m not going to be a doormat for anyone!” The good news is your aren’t supposed to be!
This wife makes the mistake of equating submission with weakness. She is often filled with self-doubt and insecurity. She thinks her opinions don’t matter and that her needs are unimportant, even as the resentment over her presumed “less than” status builds. She thinks she has no voice.
The Doormat can be withdrawn from the relationship with her husband, mistaking passivity for humility. She feels uncertain of her identity in Christ, as co-heir with her husband of the full inheritance that is hers by virtue of her faith in Jesus.
This is the wife who feels she must lay submission aside in order to show herself strong and to prove herself capable.
This wife tends to be disrespectful to her husband, her words and tone letting him know of her frequent disapproval. She will put him down to friends and family and broadcast his mistakes in order to “keep him in his place.” She thinks that in order to avoid subjugation she must push for her own way. Her self-interest is front and center of most decisions.
The Boss frequently contends for power, thinking that to do otherwise shows her to be weak.
This wife is neither submissive nor strong, sharing some of the characteristics of both the Boss and the Doormat.
The Grouch comes across as uncaring toward her husband, from her expressions of disrespect to her self-protective withdrawal from him. She is fearful and distrustful of any expression of leadership on his part.
She lacks the emotional strength and the integrity to deal with her husband forthrightly. She may try to bury her emotions, but they will eventually bubble up into an outburst of some kind.
To make the point clear, I’ve described the behaviors of these wives in pretty extreme terms. Chances are none of these describes you exactly, but beware of the characteristics they portray. Be vigilant against the mindset that equates submission with weakness. And be vigilant against the prevailing sentiment against submission in any form.
Pursue strength and submission with equal vigor. Glean from your relationship with Jesus the kinds of attitudes and attributes that should attend biblical submission. If you are watchful, you will see lots of parallels between your spiritual walk and your marriage. They are everywhere.
Men Only – What Headship is not:
The Nice Guy, the Dictator and the Loser
The things I hear. The first is something like “my husband refuses to lead.” The second, following closely behind in number of hits, is “my husband acts like a dictator” or something similar.
These two errors on the part of husbands point directly the dual edge sword of headship that I discussed in my last post. That is that husbands should follow Christ’s example of being both strong and good in their role as head in their marriage.
I proposed last time that the biblical model for your headship as husband is found in being both a good leader and good lover. Growing in your capacity in both the strength and goodness dimensions of your marriage is key to growing in Christlike headship.
My understanding of the biblical model for marriage is that you, as husband, have the role of head, “as Christ is head of the church.” Being head is not a role you must earn or work for, it’s yours by the fact that you chose to marry. I don’t know why, but this is how God has ordained it. You are head even if you don’t accept it or your wife does not acknowledge it. (If “head” has too many unhappy connotations, you can also use the words leadership or authority to describe this role).
Looking at the chart above, there are three ways in which your headship can fall short in the strong/good arena. These are worth watching out for, because we all fall into them from time to time.
The Nice Guy
Feminist indoctrination not withstanding, there are many wives longing for their husbands to stand up and take their leadership role seriously. Like I said, more wives come here looking for how to help make that happen than for any other reason.
I’m not making excuses, but the widespread push back against biblical headship, even within the church, has many men reluctant to lead their marriages. Some are afraid of being labeled misogynists or worse. Some have bought into the lie that there should be no distinction in the roles of men and women in marriage. Some have wives who contend for authority, even wives who claim to want their husbands to step up and lead! These men who are hesitant to stand up and take their leadership role seriously are what I call “Nice Guys.”
Society and the church have churned out Nice Guys by the millions. They are pleasers who tend to avoid conflict. These are the men who leave most or all the decisions to their wives, either because they are totally disengaged or because their wives argue and put them down for every idea and hold past decisions over them indefinitely. Nice Guys often just give up, rather than rocking the boat or risking trying to lead.
Whatever the reason for their refusal to lead, these men don’t realize that their weakness makes them unattractive to their wives over time. And their resulting disengagement leaves their wives feeling unloved and alone. It’s not a formula for a passionate and intimate marriage and certainly not a lasting one.
It’s Nice Guy husbands that pose the biggest threat to biblical marriage today, because their error is much more subtle and socially acceptable than the next group:
Selfish, controlling husbands give biblical headship a bad rap.
In days gone by, maybe 50 years ago, this was the number one problem with husbands in marriage. This kind of brutish, self-serving husband led to feminism and the desire for egalitarian marriage. Dictators are the reason the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction, giving rise to so many Nice Guys.
Unloving husbands who use their authority to control or coerce their wives are bad news. These are the men who are abusive and flaunt scriptures about wives being submissive to their husbands, all the while ignoring the scriptural mandate for them to love and lay down their lives for their wives.
The husband who is both weak and unloving is double trouble.
This kind of husband is self-centered, but lacks the guts to act on it, at least openly. He doesn’t care about what his wife needs or wants from him. He is only concerned for himself. He will manipulate and deceive in order to get his way, but refuses to confront things head on.
The loser refuses to take responsibility for his actions and shifts blame onto his wife. He is controlled by fear, and his buried frustrations may bubble up to the surface as angry outbursts.
The loser doesn’t refuse to lead because he in incapable, he refuses to lead because he doesn’t care.
I hope and pray that Nice Guy, Dictator, and Loser do not describe the way in which you act out your headship role in your marriage. In order to make my case clear I have described these non-Christlike behaviors in husbands in pretty strong terms. There are, of course, many less severe ways to screw up headship. I know because I’ve done them all from time to time.
There is good news for us who mess up in our quest for biblical headship. It’s called grace! God is for you and for your marriage. His desire it to see you and your marriage thrive. Pray for the strength and skill to lead well and for a revelation of who Jesus is. Pray for your understanding of the love of Jesus to grow deeper, so you can love your wife in the same way. These are the prayers Paul prayed for the church in Ephesians 1 and 3, leading up to the chapter on marriage. These are the keys!
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Be diligent. Vigorously pursue the kind of headship Jesus displays to us, his bride. When you screw up and slip into actions or words that are weak or unloving, admit your blunder and ask your wife to forgive you. She will admire you for it.
My point in stating what headship is not is to get you to be watchful over your role as husband and to strive diligently to be both strong and good. Your wife deserves that from you, and God is calling you to it.
What is a Surrendered Marriage
You may have noticed the blog title that I use the term “surrendered marriage” to describe the type of marriage I aspire to have. It’s the type of marriage that I think God had in mind when he envisioned it before he even created us humans. It’s the type of marriage that is represented by the bridal paradigm, which is the notion that we are the bride of Christ and he is our Bridegroom. It’s the type of ideal marriage that we, as weak and faulty people, cannot fully achieve but should continually strive for.
Vertical and Horizontal Surrender
The surrender I speak of happens in two principle dimensions: one vertical and one horizontal.
I’ll first address the vertical. Foremost of all, every Christian couple is called to live in whole-hearted surrender to the lordship of Christ Jesus. That means both husband and wife commit themselves to His loving leadership, acknowledging that Jesus is the center of their individual lives and of their marriage. The foundation of a surrendered marriage is based in this vertical surrender.
Second is the horizontal surrender of husband and wife wholly unto one another.
Surrendering the Way of Self
A surrendered marriage calls us to surrender self. It means living selflessly and self-sacrificing instead of living self-centered and self-satisfying. It means living against our human nature, because our natural path is the path of self. Rather than focusing on the question of “what are my rights?” and “what do I get out of this marriage?” we are instead to focus on “what can I give to benefit and bless my spouse?” and “What can I do to strengthen our marriage?”
Surrender means caring about the things your spouse cares about, even if they aren’t things that would naturally matter to you. Surrender means maintaining a culture of honor in your home, attending to one another’s needs, being willing to sacrifice your own desires in order to delight your wife or husband.
Surrender is Not Compromise
A surrendered marriage sets aside the notion that 50-50 compromise is the ideal and instead goes for 100-100, where each strives to give 100% to the other. Giving 100% of yourself calls you to bring your whole self, the good and the not so good, naked and unashamed, into your marriage. Each brings his or her own entire self so that the two of you can be joined together in spirit, soul and body. This is what it means for two to become one. You live as one flesh for the benefit of each other and of your marriage.
In a surrendered marriage husband and wife do not strive for equality, but strive instead to outdo one another in loving, giving and sacrificing. Scorekeeping and competition give way to a new mindset that acknowledges the one-flesh nature of a marriage. “When my wife wins so do I.” “When my husband wins so do I.”
Surrender of Husband and Wife
A husband’s surrender primarily takes the form of loving and sacrificial leadership. He gives of himself to serve, protect and provide for his wife and family. He invests himself to nurture her wellbeing, to cover her spiritually, and to do all in his power to see her thrive and to reach her full potential. With Christ as his example, he is to love his wife unconditionally.
A wife’s surrender primarily takes the form of submission to her husband’s loving leadership, as the church submits to Christ. She honors him with the gift of her respect and submission, of supporting him and remaining under his protective covering, not because she is incapable or inferior in any way, but because she chooses to live within the ordered partnership that is God’s design for marriage.
Focus on Your Part
The beauty of surrendered marriage, fashioned according to the Bridal Paradigm, lies in what it compels you to give rather than what it permits you to demand. Focus more on what you are giving than what you are getting in your marriage.
Put ten times more effort on fulfilling the things God has called you to in his Word than on what the Bible calls your spouse to do. Worry about your part rather than your spouse’s part. What you will find is that when you fulfill your part, you make a wide pathway that invites your spouse to step more fully into their part. This is the dance of surrender.
So do you have a surrendered marriage? If not, would you like to? Start on your Journey to Surrender today!