|Two weeks of married bliss :-)|
A couple of months before our wedding, my friend K and I were talking about how M and I were intentional about crafting a ceremony full of unity, joy, and praise. I shared with her one of our readings: Ephesians 5, you know, that passage on submission.
She had a stunned, disgusted look on her face. "You are having this?" As feminists, activists, and advocates, it didn't make sense to her why M and I would want a passage that included wives submitting to their husbands. We then read The Message translation of the verses (with a caveat that it is more paraphrase than translation). "Oh, okay, that's better," she responded.
I am not going to argue about the historical (and current) abuses related to these challenging verses, nor am I going to talk about the biblical debates surrounding Paul's instructions to husbands and wives. But I am going to point out two things.
(1) Paul emphasises at the end that what he is talking about is a mystery because it is about Christ and the Church. The intimate, committed, God-centered relationship between husband and wife emulates -- but in no way is -- this mystery. If we could completely understand God's love for us in earthly terms, it wouldn't be a mystery!
(2) My home church while I lived in Washington, DC was National Community Church, an innovative and inspiring community of believers. The lead pastor, Mark Batterson, wrote on his blog recently something that touched on what submission is like between Christ and the Church:
I had a meeting this week with a 2-star General who attends NCC. He introduced me to an interesting army principle that certainly has application in the church. He talked about how they “argue to decision” but once the decision is made, they salute. I love that. So simple. So powerful.
Unity doesn’t mean we won’t argue on any issue. In fact, sometimes it means airing our differences of opinion. But the key is the salute. The salute is submission to the will of the authority. And without submission, there is no unity. Unity is subjugating our will when certain situations call for it. We need to argue to decision, but then we need to salute!
How fitting and beautiful are the basic instructions to spouses. As one site put it, the instructions for the husband basically are to "love your wife sacrificially so she blooms as God planned," whereas the instructions for the wife basically are to "accept (or respect) the spiritual leadership of your husband." M is in no way primarily, let alone solely, responsible for my sanctification. It is my responsibility to seek after the Lord day after day -- devotions, prayer, accountability partners, etc. But M is responsible for helping me "bloom as God planned." That is why he is my helpmate. That is why we got married!
We can do more together than we can separately. I can't become the person God wants me to be without M, and M can't become a man after God's own heart without me. And that's the way God intended it to be in marriage.