Sometimes filling in the details makes all the difference.
Years ago, when I was college student taking a course entitled “Christian Marriage,” I gave that (in)famous Ephesians 5:21-28 passage some serious thought:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 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. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Although I consulted with various trusted sources including happily married couples, priests, and theologians, something about the scriptural admonition for women to “submit” to their husbands didn’t sit well with me.
I didn’t consider myself a feminist–at least not in the modern sense of the word–but I was still a product of my culture and American culture is saturated with the idea that equality between the sexes requires sameness. Little boys and girls should play with the same toys, bigger boys and girls should play the same sports, and grown up men and women should play the same roles in the family.
Imagine injecting Ephesians 5 into this kind of environment and you can see how hopelessly outdated and out of touch the Bible suddenly seems. How dare that old book assert that a man’s place is at the head of his family–indeed! With the Sesame Street chorus of feminism (“There’s nothing we women can’t do!”) still echoing in the back of my brain, I wasn’t ready to accept the idea. No way.
As it turns out, however, in my obsessive focus on the “wives submit to your husbands” part of the passage, I was missing the most important statement in the whole thing–the part that obliges men to love their wives. That’s the key here.
When Dan and I were planning to get married, I re-read Ephesians and discovered, to my surprise, that I no longer had a problem with it. Scripture was no longer demanding that I submit to some unknown husband; it was telling me that I should submit to Dan. My Dan. The man who loved me with all his heart and wanted only what was best for me at all times. Submit to Dan? Entrust myself to his care? Okay. That was easy.
And, all these years later, it usually still is. When a husband loves his wife, he solicits her opinion and respects her feelings when making important decisions for the family. I suppose some so-called liberated women might look down on my acceptance of a submissive role. Too bad for them. I don’t want to be the head of my family. I’m too busy enjoying my family from the place where God put me: at its heart.