the word of which we do not speak

Women of the world:

You can stop taking offense at the word submit.


Somewhere along the way, we started bristling at that word. It’s the dreaded S word, the word of which we do not speak, the word that implies that we have to turn into wallflowers, giving up any hope of expressing a thought that’s actually our own, so we should RUN AWAY SCREAMING ANYTIME ANYONE IMPLIES THAT WE MIGHT ACTUALLY BE DIFFERENT THAN A MAN.

This just in:

Let’s take a peek at our first mother, at Eve, at the one who, at least for a time, submitted as the perfect wife.

Adam gave to Eve: his rib, his affection, his completeness. He gave protection, a home, love, contentment. He shared his actual, tangible paradise with her, and together they walked with the God who created it. Adam provided her with food, with companionship, with no need to feel or be ashamed, even with a name, “Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23).

Eve received, and she rejoiced. Her femaleness reacted in kind to Adam’s maleness. She responded by collecting all that he had to offer, and all that he offered was exactly what she needed. He fulfilled her desires, met all her demands, left her wanting nothing. He truly did complete her. Her response was pure and chaste love, utter unselfishness, resplendent joy.

Adam gave.

And Eve received.

That’s submitting.

It’s the same thing Christ does to His Bride, the Church: He gives His body, His blood, His Word, His forgiveness, His love, His _____,  and we receive.

It’s what pastors do for congregations: They give us Christ’s gifts, and we receive them.

There’s a pattern here.

An order to things.

Structure in the middle of chaos.

And so you women,  you wives, like Eve, receive, and you rejoice in what you have been given. You submit (Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. I promise.) in an anxious desire to embrace what your husbands have sacrificed to give you.

This is normal. Good, even, despite what the world will tell you.

But this submission “[is] not compelled through a demand or by force.” Instead, it is a reaction, a response, to your husband’s maleness, an “insight into God’s order of things.” (For more on this, read Bo Giertz’s “Twenty-Three Theses on the Holy Scriptures, The Women, and the Office of the Holy Ministry in the May 1970 The Springfielder.)

To submit to her husband means that a wife turns the other cheek.

That means that you as a wife respond in faith, trusting that what your husband has given to you is good and true, that he means what he says when he says it, and that his gifts are those which are best and right for you.

“As the husband cannot attain to the ideal of Christ’s love without self-denial, so the wife cannot conform to the ideal of the Church’s love to Christ without surrender of self to Christ’s precious will.” (G. H. Smukal, Love and Obedience)

So you submit. (See? It’s getting easier already, isn’t it?)

And you don’t submit as one who no longer has a voice or an opinion, but as one who is open to receiving all of the best of what your husband has to give. You “learn[s] quietly with all submissiveness” (1 Tim. 2:11). That is to say, your response is one of humble gratefulness, modesty, self-control.

Your husband will fail in his vocation as giver. He will screw up. And you will fail in your vocation as receiver. And you’ll flub things up just as badly.

But that doesn’t mean that you start doing his job as giver. And he doesn’t start taking on your role of receiver.

Nope. That’s when you ask for forgiveness, from God and from another.

Submitting means that you turn the other cheek.

You move forward.

You submit again to all that he has to give you, all the work he does on your behalf, all the decisions he makes and the ways in which he leads you through this life, protecting you and loving you.

Again and again and again. Always. Every day.

And eventually you begin to understand that to submit means that God created men and women for a specific order and that order is meant for the benefit and well-being of both of you.

And  you start to rejoice in the fact that men, following Christ’s lead, are there to give only the best to women, and the women, in turn, are there to receive them with grateful and humble joy.

And suddenly, submitting isn’t such a dirty word after all.




5 thoughts on “the word of which we do not speak

  1. My pastor says that in the Greek, the word is better rendered “subjection.” To subject your self to something is to willingly yield yourself to another. He says it can be compared to a SubJECT in school. You subject yourself to math to learn it. We subject to our souses willingly, as given by God. We are to show each other love and God reveals the best way for that to happen. Both are to love. Both are to submit or subject themselves to the other. God then describes HOW-the details of what that means and it does not play out the same way. Men give, women receive and appreciate what man gives. I thikn that in our culture it is one of the most difficult things a Christian woman is given, by her vocation, to do. Counter culture indeed.

  2. I took up martial arts several years ago as a way to learn self defense . My hair bristles at the word “submit” because in all disciples of martial arts, submission is gained by force and it is how you win. I agree with the idea of godly “submission” in marriage, but I desperately need a different word for this concept because the association I (and most of the world) have with this word is very negative.

  3. Adriane,
    Thank you for bringing this up. I agree that “submit” is a word that comes with a lot of baggage and there is a need to explain that submission is an act and a word we as women needn’t fear. People claim the Bible degrades women, when in fact, nothing is farther from the truth. I agree with everything you said about forgiveness and trusting God’s created order being for our benefit, but I might describe the creation account perhaps a little differently than you did in this paragraph:

    “Eve received, and she rejoiced. Her femaleness reacted in kind to Adam’s maleness. She responded by collecting all that he had to offer, and all that he offered was exactly what she needed. He fulfilled her desires, met all her demands, left her wanting nothing. He truly did complete her. Her response was pure and chaste love, utter unselfishness, resplendent joy.”

    The creation of a woman, God’s gift to Adam, was the climax of God’s glorious handiwork. Each day the world became more intricate and beautiful and she was the one who made it complete. It was not good for the man to be alone, so God gave him a gift. Her. He was the one who first received her and his maleness reacted in kind to her feminine beauty and companionship. He is the one whose response was pure, elated joy when he declares, “This is at last, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Everything he needed was made complete through her. She was the one who completed him.

    A wise man knows how valuable a woman really is. He knows that every ounce of her being is worth every drop of his blood.

    And suddenly, the Bible’s view of women isn’t such a dirty thing after all.

    1. Now in true woman fashion I am over-analyzing all of this and want to come back to say that I hope I did not come off sounding rude by disagreeing with you on that one aspect and I did not mean at all to detract from your main point. I brought it up because for many women, the reason submit is such a dirty word is because they have either been abused or taught lies.

      We have all sinned greatly in this area. Men have failed to appreciate and love women as the mysterious and valuable creatures they are, and women have not treated men as the intelligent, capable and strong creatures that God created them to be. And as men and women, we have shirked and rebelled against God’s good order. We all could use a little more education spoken in love, a gentle nudge, a kick in the pants, confession and absolution, or whatever it is we need to point us back in the right direction.

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