“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives… Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Col 3:18-20)
The Biblical duty of the wife is to submit to her own husband. The Biblical duty of the husband is to love his wife ‘as Christ loves the church’. The biblical duty of the children is to obey their parents ‘in all things’. The difference between submission and obedience is spiritual. The wife’s submission is a godly choice to stay under the spiritual authority and leadership of her husband. This submission is not because she is less intelligent or less worthy of respect. It is because God is a God of order, peace and beauty. For the glory of God and for the good of the family, God commanded that the wife should submit to her husband and that the husband should love her sacrificially. Submission is not easy and it is not natural. Submission is not pretending to respect your husband. It is a deep holy behavior springing up from a spiritual, wise and pure heart. The road to Biblical submission is paved with many tears. Submission is fitting in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is beautiful and pleasing to God. The wife visibly submits to her own husband as a form of worshiping the invisible Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the difference between submission and obedience? For the wife, submission means the freedom to act in between the general boundaries, guidelines and principles given by her husband. A child’s obedience to his parents does not have this freedom. He must obey his parents’ commands without adding or removing from them.
We are happily married for 44 years. We have made many mistakes and we have learned from them. The Bible is our ‘marriage manual’. As a wife, it is my duty to know the general principles of life by which my husband ‘operates’. These principles are not legalistic, cold or rigid. As my husband matures spiritually, these ideas change. It is my duty to study him and analyze his way of life. I prayerfully listen when he talks. I want to know ‘from where he comes from and where he is going’. I want to know why he says this or that. If I hear something I consider ‘wrong’, I pray for wisdom, to understand ‘his point of view’. What I may see as wrong may be something he considers as good. The truth is that family and social background influence our choices. For example, if my husband tells me how he expects me to behave in a particular situation, if I agree with him, then it is easy. But if I see things differently, it is hard for me to submit to what I see is wrong. As a young wife I used to correct him immediately saying: ‘Sorry, I do not agree with you. What about my way?’ Then we argue to and fro for some time, provoking and becoming angry with one another. It will take a long time to forgive and forget the hurt cause by such arguments. But as time went by, I learned to be more patient with him and with myself. I learned to humble myself and to see things from his perspective too. I now know that I do not have to be right all the time. These days, if he says something I disagree with, I keep calm and quiet. I meditate on his proposal trying to find the good in it. Then I go and pray. I ask God to show me why does my husband sees this matter so differently than me. God helps me to submit and to love him even when it is hard. Marriage is work. Lazy people should not marry. Prayer is more important than food or sex. The reason why I take all this trouble to understand my husband is not because I want to submit and please him only for today. I want to understand him as a person, for things to be easier between us in the future. For me, each pain must go to God in prayer and become a seed of love and wisdom, for a deeper knowing of my husband. Submission is my harvest of wisdom and love. To God be the glory!
Let me be more practical to explain submission … For example: my husband tells me that for this week we have twenty thousand naira to spend on food. He does not tell me the type of food to cook. He gives me the freedom to use that money the way I think it is best. He gives me the liberty to buy what I want knowing the food we both like to eat. I do not have to write my menu on the wall every day. I do not have to tell him that the pepper is now 50 Naira and not 20. I use my discretion to spend the money as I think is best for the two of us. What is important is that we eat good food every day and we are happy with each other. If there is any ‘change’ left for me, I can spend it on what I like. I do not have to tell him that I used 50 naira to buy powder for myself. I am not his daughter. I am not his cook or house servant. I am his wife!!!! For me, submission is this freedom to be myself within my husband’s principles of a happy home. But the child’s obedience is not so. If I give my daughter 20 naira to buy biscuits she is to tell me how much she has spent and she should give me back all the change. That is how we trained our children. Once they became adults it was easy for them to function as husbands, wives and parents.
As most of you know, we come from very different backgrounds. We see things differently. We have different strategies of solving problems. That is ok. We are not twins. We do not have to foolishly imitate one another. Each one of us must be who God called us to be. But as a wife I need to know both my husband’s weaknesses and his strengths; his pains and his joys. I need to understand what type of wife he wants me to be. I need to pay the price and change to become his ‘dream wife’. I need to yield to his idea of ‘a perfect marriage’. This is not easy… I may not become all that he dreams of in this life time, but I can try… He should see that I am trying… For it is my responsibility to contribute to our mutual happiness. It is my honor to help him fulfill his destiny as a man of God, as a husband and father. As a wife, I need to know his mind and my boundaries of submission. I need to accept them and submit to them. Then I am free. Sorry, we both are free and happy… Glory to God!