“Submission.” It’s one of those words that comes up a lot in evangelical circles when you talk about marriage and being a wife. It can have both a negative and beautiful connotation depending on whom you talk to. There are those who are scared of the word; others who embrace it. I am of the latter type.
John and I have now been married for 14 years. There have been several times over those years where I’ve checked with him on how I’m doing in this area. “Would you say that I am a submissive wife?” I might ask. His answer has always been the same. “Yes! In fact you might be a little too submissive.” Too submissive? Is that even a thing? But yes, it is and I know what he’s talking about.
For me, submission comes naturally. I have always been a rule-follower. It’s not that I didn’t give my parents a certain amount of grief and tears, but it usually did not come from my disobedience or rebellion. I like to follow. It’s easy. In marriage, following means that I can let John take all the responsibility on those hard to make decisions. I just follow along and support him. That’s what I’m supposed to do, right?
But it isn’t what he wants. I know, because he’s told me often enough, that he wants my input. He doesn’t want me to take charge or make the decision, but he does want me to walk alongside him instead of behind him. I’m a great supporter, and he knows that, and I think he has learned to appreciate that about me. But it would be good if I were more than that, perhaps a helper (or helpmeet as the Bible says).
This is something God has been teaching me lately. And as it goes with many lessons, it has been learned through fire and storm, instead of a nice peaceful classroom. The last year and a half we were in Germany were pleasant in so many ways, but it was emotionally draining. We knew very quickly on that there was a good chance things were not going to work out as we had planned. We would either be changing location, or position, or something more. It wasn’t until much later in our searching and processing that the idea of actually “coming back” was broached, but there were many many more discussion stops along the way. It was a LONG HARD process to go from gung-ho in-it-for-the-long-haul missions to “returning-home-and-figurin-things-out.”
And as I am sure you can imagine that journey meant LOTS of discussions. More discussions than my laid back, “can you just make a decision so I can follow” mindset could handle at times. And it meant I had to change. I had to enter into the process because it wasn’t a choice. To sit back on the sidelines was just as painful and hard as entering in and getting my hands dirty. I’m still learning what is helpful input and what is not, but at least I’m talking more now. There are still days that I just listen (which sometimes is probably good) and there were even days where I had to actually ask John to stop talking so that I didn’t have to listen. But that ability to be honest and tell him when I needed a break is an amazing breakthrough in itself. I’m growing. I’m not there yet, but I am learning what it means to be a partner instead of just a follower.
Hopefully someday I’ll be an actual helper, I’m not sure if I’m there yet, you’ll have to ask John. But what this process has made me realize is that things are a whole lot more exciting and enjoyable when I am treating myself as an equal partner in this. The visible outcome is really the same, but my internal attitude is so completely different. It’s as if I’ve stopped saying “I will follow you to the ends of the earth because I’m your wife,” which sounds totally romantic and praiseworthy, but really isn’t that inspiring when you realize how easily you can add a mumbled “and because I have to” on the end of it. Instead I am saying, “I choose to go with you on this journey because I want to.” I made that choice when I chose to marry John, but it means a whole lot more if I continue to make it, consciously each day.