As a child Growing up in New York City I heard nothing about submission. I was married when I was thirty-two, and it was around that time I first started hearing about the idea of obeying your husband. I thought, “Oh, okay, I’ll obey him.” But I had no idea how unsubmissive I really was. It was not until later that the Lord showed me my attitudes, my controlling spirit and other destructive areas of my life.
Because of my past, it may seem like I would be the wrong one to be sharing on obedience. But the Lord has changed me, and where sin abounds grace much more abounds. Today I can say that I am filled with grace on this subject because I have made many mistakes.
God has been doing a mighty work in the church. However, I honestly believe that we are not getting as far as we could because we, the women, are not in our rightful place. I believe that now is the time to change. We cannot wait. There is so much riding on this; our children are watching, neighbors are watching, and our husbands need our support. In order for us to go forward as a church, we, the women, must learn to take our place. But, how do we take it if we don’t really understand what it is?
First, lets look at the word obedience. For illustration, I would like to apply an example from child training. When we teach in our home, we sometimes use a little prop or something tangible. To teach obedience we have a board. On the board is the verse, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The first word under the scripture is the word instantly. To show them a picture of what this word means we made some instant pudding. The children watched as the mix quickly became pudding, and then I told them, “You must obey instantly. If you don’t obey instantly it is disobedience.” The next word we have under the scripture verse is the word cheerfully. If you obey but do it with grumbling it is disobedience, even if you do it right away. The third word we have there is thoroughly. I tell the children, “You have to finish your work. If you only clean half your room when Mama tells you, then you are disobeying because she told you to do the whole room.”
When I first started to practice obedience, I thought that I was doing pretty well. I would obey, but usually my attitude was not right. Sometimes I would do it a little slower than I should, or I would question it. Do you ever do that, children? Do you ever say, “Oh, Mom, do I have to do the whole room?” I used to do that with my husband. I’d ask, “Do you really want me to do that?” God showed me that what I was doing was disobedience.
But even more than obeying instantly, quickly and cheerfully, the scriptures instruct children to honor their father and their mother. Likewise, the scriptures instruct women to reverence their husbands. This idea of honor and reverence is even more important than simple obedience—it is beyond obedience.
My early life did not prepare me for this kind of cheerful obedience. I used to work at the Kennedy airport back in the ‘80’s. Instead of being in a role of submission, I had many people under me. I had to oversee all the many details that go on “behind the scenes” that most people are unaware of when they are flying. My job was to coordinate everything when a commercial aircraft landed from another country. As soon as a plane landed, I was in charge of organizing the customs paperwork, disposal of uneaten food, and routing the baggage both for those getting off and the new ones getting on. Of course the stairway must be in place for the people to get off the plane. I had to see to it that the lavatories were cleaned out and that new water and new food were brought back into the plane and that cargo was loaded. I even had to be attentive to small details such as being sure that the pilot and co-pilot did not get the same meal because if the food turned out to be bad they would both get sick. And all of this must take place as the people are coming off the plane.
Now, you are probably wondering, “Why is she telling us all of this? None of us are going into the airline business.” But, this was my job. And when a plane was a little late, and we had to get it out fast, guess who they called to do it—me! I was so good at my job. I was getting promotions, and before I knew it, I was supervisor. When there were problems—whether they were in Chicago or Baltimore—they would send me to fix the problems. I was good, but what terrible preparation for marriage! I had a controlling spirit. The controlling spirit was great in the airline industry, but it doesn’t do very well for a wife. So, what I thought were my talents and strong points, ended up being my sin.
A big change took place in my life a few years ago when I went to a conference where the speaker spoke on the book, “The Daughters of Sarah”. The lady spoke of her own failures and problems. She said that while she realized that she wasn’t rebelliously disobedient yet she still had a very controlling spirit. I really related to this. She brought something to my attention that I had never thought of before. She said that it was in all those little daily counter suggestions that we often fall.
Giving an example she said, “Your husband asks, “How about we have dinner at 5:30 tonight, so that we could put the children to bed early and then we could have time together?” The wife replies, “Oh, honey, I thought we were going to have some time together before dinner.” She said that those little challenges and counter suggestions are like the little foxes that destroy the vine. Other examples she gave were, “Oh, honey, there’s a parking spot,” after he started pulling into a different one, or, “Honey, it’s getting late. Don’t you think we should get going?”, when he is involved in a conversation with someone else.
She helped me to see that although I thought I was being helpful, in actuality I was being sinful and rebellious. I had no clue. As this woman was telling her similar story, I thought, “Oh, wow, maybe I should think about getting that book.” The conference was running low on books, so I thought, “I’ll just look at it while I’m here. Maybe somebody else needs it more than I do.” By the end of the talk, I knew that I had to get that book and that no one there needed it more than I did!
I returned home from the conference and had a talk with the Lord. I acknowledged my failures as sin; there were no more excuses. I recognized that it was rebellion and that it was wrong. At the airport I was supposed to control everything, but at home I did not need to control anything—unless my husband specifically asked me to do it. After repenting to the Lord, I went to my husband, in front of my children during devotions, and I confessed that I was wrong and that I had sinned against God and him. I asked my children to forgive me for being a terrible example. I realized how silly it was to expect my children to obey without question when I was constantly questioning my husband even under the disguise of doing it sweetly. I needed to submit my will. It was a hard lesson, and I am still learning it day by day. But thanks be to Him, I am finally experiencing victory in this area to the glory of God!
As the Lord has been changing me I have had failures and victories. Allow me to share a recent victory. Someone has graciously offered to buy us a house. We have been looking at a certain one, and unfortunately, today is the very day at 9:00 p.m. that we have to decide if we want it or not. Even at this moment, I have no idea what my husband is going to do and I am at total peace with that. That is not me! In the past I’d ask, “Well, shouldn’t we discuss it, so I’ll know what we are getting in to?” I have learned that in obeying him totally I am not only obeying my husband but I am obeying God through my husband. I trust that God is so mighty, that even if my husband should make a mistake—God will work it out. I don’t have to be the person to work it out. I have noticed that what usually happens when a wife tries to “work things out”... it is like a weight upon her back. Wives were not made to carry the load like this.
I would also like to offer a word of caution. When I first started this way of life I made the mistake of swinging entirely the other way. I was afraid to say anything. When my husband would ask, “Christine, what do you think about this?” I’d say, “Whatever you say honey.” He would then reply, “Yes, I know. But, what do you think?” I quickly bounced back with, “Oh, whatever you want to do, honey.” He would ask again, “No, Christine, I want to know!” I’d say, “I don’t care, I trust you.”
But, the problem was that he really wanted to know my opinion and so I was causing him to get frustrated. I was comparing myself with other ladies in the church that seemed so submissive to me and honestly didn’t seem to have an opinion about many things that their husbands did. So I decided, “that’s what I have to do.”
However, I found that what might be obedience for one person might be disobedience for another. For example, my husband has given me total permission to help him when he’s driving to check the speed limit. However, some of your husbands might not appreciate it if you would do that. The scripture says, “Wives, be in subjection to your own husband.” I wondered why the word “own” was there. I thought to myself, “What other husband do I have?” But, as I studied it, I realized that I am supposed to help my husband just the way he needs to be helped. We are specifically created to be his helper. We have to learn what his needs are, so that we can meet those specific needs. My husbands needs are going to be different than your husbands needs.
Young ladies, learn now how to walk in these truths. It will save you so much pain. It will save you so much trouble. Children, if you could learn now that when you obey your parents you are actually obeying God, then if you are ever to be married it will be easier for you to obey and honor your husband. Sisters, let’s pray that the Lord will help us to keep these secret truths before our eyes and that we may sincerely and reverently honor our dear husbands, that we may each go deeper, beyond obedience!