There has been a lot of chatter around the sphere of late on the nature of submission, what it is, what it isn’t, and what to do if your wife doesn’t get with the program. As is often the case, the issues almost always comes back to the question of sex (doesn’t it always?), withholding of the same, and what the sex or lack thereof reveals about the state of one’s marriage as a whole. As I read various threads about women, our nature, and whether we can be of use in securing equal protection for men who have been denied it, a comment from Crimson Viceroy caught my attention:
what I see happening on the “Christian manosphere”..it’s becoming another gamer’s outlet..no real activism and no real call for repentance and reform on behalf of women. They take some women to task but then they subtly lay the burden and blame upon men. So if they don’t agree with you, you are just dismissed as a loser beta.
I have to say that I agree with him. Not in total because I think he underestimates the need for men to be trained in the art of manliness from a young age, but I think he makes a valid point in that the word of God is often given short shrift -there are exceptions– in favor of a man discovering his “alphatude”. A woman committed to Christian marriage should never have to be cajoled into submission or gamed into meeting her husband’s sexual needs. To the extent that we are identical to worldly women in what we require to be good wives, it is an indictment against our profession of faith.
As I contemplated this I wondered why the elephant in the room is mostly ignored. In this case, the two elephants. Elusive Wapiti highlights the first in his post Marry a Zealot.
The second is that a woman’s submissiveness, or lack thereof, often has to do with seeds sown long before she marries. The Christian women I encounter who truly want to obey Scripture in this area but struggle with it the most are those who lacked the positive influence of an engaged and godly father. Here, despite Lady’s recent admonition against Traditionalists getting too personal, is where I get personal. Bear with my object lesson if you will.
Despite fairly traumatic experiences as a child that would leave most women leery of men, I hold men in the high regard and tend toward a positive view of masculinity. I credit my father with that. His protective nature imprinted on me in a way that overrode a lot of the garbage, mainly because he pushed me to do what I would often rather not, teaching me that it’s not always about what you feel. He started at an early age.
My father has an excellent voice and traveled around every weekend when I was very young as part of a gospel quartet. He was actually a marginal believer at that point (if that), but music is close to his heart and church singing was all he’d ever known. When I was 9, he suddenly announced that I’d sing in the children’s choir even though he’d never questioned my lack of interest in singing before. That day however, he overheard me singing whatever was popular on the R&B stations that year (1981). “You have a good voice. If you can waste it sitting around here singing that junk, you can sing at church.” It turned out to be one of the most positive experiences of my childhood.
When I was 14, he switched from being a Churchian to a true believer. I wasn’t prepared for what that would mean. Things got rocky between us and grew worse when one of my brothers came home from school and said some boy at school was checking me out. New rule. I couldn’t wear shorts anymore. Ever. No makeup before I was 16. “No, you can’t give any boys your phone number.” “No, you can’t go to any parties on the weekends.” “No. no. no.” And church on Sunday was no longer a hit or miss event. It was all day, every Sunday, sun up to sun down.
By the time I turned 18 I had enough and decided I was moving into an apartment with a girl I’d met Local U. where I took classes. Dad knew he couldn’t make me stay but he asked me to think about a few things first. “You don’t really know this girl. You don’t know what kind of lifestyle she or the other roommate live. There could be men in and out and parties and things you don’t need to be around.” I thought “Blah, blah, blah, I’m still going.”
But I heard him, and I didn’t go. I stayed right there (and enjoyed a mere modicum of increased freedom) until I was 21 when I left. I never regretted staying. It occurred to me that despite how crazy he made me, Daddy had my best interest at heart. I took most of what he said to heart until I ran headfirst into a voice that had a stronger pull on me.
In essence, I switched from submitting to my father to submitting to my husband. I was sinful, rebellious, crazy and did it all in completely the wrong order, but it was a fairly seamless transition from the one authority to the next. That isn’t to say that I’m a perfectly submissive wife, anymore than I was a perfectly submissive daughter. My husband would in fact, double over laughing at the notion than I am a docile flower who asks how high when he says jump. That would bore him to tears anyway, but he would also say that I submit to his leadership.
With all the talk around the sphere about assortive mating in terms of physical attractiveness, IQ, and socioeconomic status, we often forget that it also applies to the things you don’t see at first glance. Water seeks its own level at just about every level. I was a woman used to being led by a strong man and used to seeing a man lead his woman and family. My husband was raised to expect his woman to follow his leadership. The chances of either of us marrying outside of that dynamic was slim to zero.
It has made things that are hard for a lot of couples less stressful for us, but a wife committed to Christian marriage and Biblical order can overcome our weaknesses and learn to submit to her husband. There’s nothing special about me. Submission comes as naturally to me as being prideful, lustful, and scatterbrained. There are women less submissive than I am but who are far more generous, focused, and prayerful.
I overcome my ugly, sinful tendencies through the power of Christ, prayer, and accountability. It’s not how well we demonstrate our strengths that exemplify our faith, but how we overcome our weaknesses.
In a world where women are taught to lead themselves and men are taught to give them the freedom to do so, is it really any wonder that marriages are in chaos? I think not.
I still can’t help but continue to wonder how we could impact marriage if we would refuse to minimize the impact that godly fathers have on the futures of their children and the families they create. The mess we have now? We have it and it’s here, but there is something we can do to improve the prospects for our children and their children.
It starts with prayer and good training, but fathers are fundamental.