When my husband and I were first married, we had a major problem… we had one car (his truck), and I couldn’t drive it. It was a manual – a stickshift – something both my parents knew how to drive, but I hadn’t a clue. My car that I drove while living with my parents and in college had been an automatic, they saw no value in my going out of my way to learn how to drive a stick. So that first year, my husband took it upon himself to try to teach me how to drive his truck, there was much laughter, some choice words, lots of screaming as the truck seemed to take on a life of it’s own, bucking like a bronco, lunging forward or peeling out only to come to a bracing stop! It was so wild.
We would practice my driving in the parking lot of a nearby mall where my husband worked security late at night after it had closed. His security guys would sit and watch the show, laughing at the tragedy. It took months for me to really understand how to drive his truck, but it was months of flirting, teasing, and moments of near-death experiences (ok… kidding… well, almost) that bonded us through the whole experience. It was horrible, and yet so fun! His teaching me how to drive his truck really cemented that we were in this together… for the long haul!
After only a couple of weeks of marriage, I started working down the street from the mall at a bookstore. There was a man there about my husband’s age that was newly married as well, and had just celebrated his first year anniversary. They also had a standard car, but his wife refused to let him teach her drive it. I was surprised and asked him if he wanted me to talk her into it, the whole experience had been difficult, and I still didn’t have it down yet, but I was confident my husband would be able to teach me eventually. We really had no other choice. It was either I learn how to drive his truck, or I wouldn’t be able to get groceries on my own, run errands, or take over driving in case of an emergency.
I was confident that he would also be able to teach his wife how to drive their car, and tried to encourage him to get it done like we were doing, but he explained that she wanted nothing to do with it, and that it was no use. When I met her a few months later, I was dismayed at the way she treated her husband in front of all of us at work. Emasculated, disrespected, or disregarded are words that don’t even begin to cover what I saw her do to him in less than 5 minutes of watching them interact. She was flat-out insulting towards him, there was no pretense of sweetness or kindness, even in public in front of his colleagues. She humiliated him. For just celebrating their one year anniversary, I couldn’t imagine what the future held for this couple.
This is a dramatic example, I don’t think most wives treat their husbands with such obvious contempt, but I do think that, in the privacy of our homes, women are much more apt to “refuse” to honor our husbands, to submit to them and what they desire for us and our marriage. Is submission really that big of a deal? Do wives that are Christian really have to submit to their husbands’ leadership? Yes, and yes.
Submission is that big of a deal. Even in the little things. With every time that we don’t submit or take into account what our husbands want, we insult him. Yes, insult. We send him the message that we don’t think he should be our leader, that we don’t think he is mature enough, that we don’t believe in him, he isn’t intelligent enough, trustworthy enough. Even if we say we believe he is all of these things, when we don’t honor him or try to correct him, we send the subliminal message that we know better – that we should be the leader over him, that he isn’t capable, we undermine his God-given ability to lead. As long as our husbands aren’t using drugs or alcohol, have untreated mental disorders, or are abusive, submission is crucial to maintaining the fabric of a beautifully woven tapestry that is marriage. He is the leader God’s given you, and you are the helper God’s given to him, both roles cannot be done without the other, they are equally as valuable, but equally distinctive from one another.
There cannot be two followers, two helpers, there has to naturally be one leader. And likewise, there cannot be two leaders, that has to naturally be at least one follower, or there will be constant contention and strife as they argue or fight about who has the right to lead and to where. Just like how we serve God, He alone is our Master, we cannot follow two Masters because they would have different goals, different ideologies or paths. We would end up following one a little more than the other, so that following them equally would be impossible. God’s design for one leader, the husband, in marriage is for the purpose of a marriage working smoothly, beautifully, the way He intended it should.
So what does submission really look like?
Submission is letting your husband know that you love him, that you trust his guidance, that you believe in his capability in leading you both in the right direction. Submission is allowing him to have the final word, even if you disagree, think it could be a bad decision, or dislike his idea. This does not mean that a wife must stand idly by and let him make, in her opinion, a bad decision without interjecting any of her thoughts; it simply means that she gives the ultimate answer, the final word to him. Wives are important in helping their husbands in decision-making, their opinions are usually of great value to the men they’re married to, but wives have the responsibility to be led, and to do so in a way that honors her husband, because she honors God. Making it hard for him to lead her is dishonoring not only him, but God who has set him before her.
Wives really are called to submit to their husbands, it is God’s plan and design for marriage. When we aren’t trusting our husbands enough to lead us, to submit to their decisions or plans, we are ultimately not trusting God and His leadership. If we want to obey God, we will make every effort to treat our husbands with respect, and shift our attitudes to that which God wants us to be.
If your husband desires that you learn how to drive standard because that is your only option for driving, and he cannot afford to buy you another car at that moment, honoring him is obeying him, and making every effort to learn how to drive that car. If your husband desires that you help him get ready for work, make him his lunch so that getting out the door is easier, submission looks like the wife willingly packing his lunch, filling up his water bottle, and ensuring she gets everything ready before he needs to head out the door. Honoring him cheerfully, giving lovingly. Letting him know that he is worth it to her, that she looks up to him, even when she would rather not. If she really wants to let him know how much she loves him, she’ll do a little extra – pack in a couple of his favorite sweets for a surprise, add in a handwritten love note for him to find at work. Submitting to her husband is doing all of this, even when she’d rather focus on the kids eating their lunches, or take a nap, or “let him make his own sandwich.” Submission is having an attitude of love shown in action, through making him his lunch, not because he isn’t capable of doing it himself, but because you think highly enough of him to make his life easier.
Honoring him means showing him through tangible, everyday actions of sacrifice, the same that he does when he gives up being single, taking on a wife that he will work to support for the rest of his life. He sacrifices everyday, every year, when uses almost the totality of his paycheck to support his wife and children, gives up his old hobbies and pleasures so that he can work extra hours for that vacation, or be a great dad in the evenings or on the weekends attending soccer games and family functions that are meaningful to his children and his wife. Marriage is fulfilling, but only when it’s done the way God designed it.
To finish the story of our truck driving escapades, I ended up falling in love with driving stick… the feel of the road, the feel of the car – it was so much better than driving automatic, and I couldn’t imagine going back. Because I was willing to learn even though it took a few months, we were able to wait on buying another car for the next 3 years of our marriage when we absolutely had to because we had our first son and needed space for a carseat. I ended up choosing a stick, and we found that for cars, it was actually a couple thousand cheaper.
Trusting him to teach me to drive was a good decision, and one that still brings us joy when we look back on those wild, exhilarating rides in that abandoned parking lot late at night. My husband often would tell me he thought it was sexy that I could drive his truck… and you know… it kind of is! 🙂