Submission to authority – addendum


Apparently there was a kerfuffle about my post on submission and authority.  I tried to get a read from the marriage boards to find out the major points of contention, but the thread had been deleted.  However, several of the comments and emails I received were negative and from them I was able to generalize a couple of common points of contention.  In an effort to clarify, I’m going to address them now.

First, I’m saddened that people assumed the worse in our marriage testimony.  That they chose to focus on bits and pieces that they didn‘t agree with instead of choosing to see the bigger picture:  A marriage that has moved from death to life.

But that’s ok, this is our testimony of marriage, about how we crawled around in the dark and dirt fighting with each other, hurting each other, for almost 18 years.  And then, came out victoriously.  Learning how submission was the icing on the cake of freedom, and how our marriage became salt and light, rather than a beacon of death.  There is no way I’m going to bury this light under a bush!

Ok, here’s a recap of clearly defined disclaimers from my original post that were dispersed throughout my article, that I‘m sorry were ignored:

1)         I’m not saying I condone domestic discipline but neither am I saying that I condemn it. What I am saying, is that I don’t want to be so narrow as to disregard a couple or their marriage that has obvious proven longevity because some small part might ‘appear’ to be distasteful.

2)        OK now, onto what the email calls, What works for Robyn?”

3)        Second, my husband did not force me to become obedient to him. It was a breaking I experienced between me and God. My husband was (and is) the instrument that God used to make me obedient to Him.

4)        Please remember that I am not writing as a prescription, I am sharing what worked for me – for us.

5)         Finally, a word of caution: to want to have authority over your wife’s power is a good and godly thing; but to want to make your life easier or to just get your way because you are stronger and bigger, or thinking you are better or more privileged in any way just because you are the man, is not the way of the Lord – it is the tradition of men.

6)        If she doesn’t like it, tell her to take it to the church (Pastor/Elder/Leadership). If you’re validated by your convictions and conscience, you have nothing to fear. (1 Corinthians 6:1-5)

7)         Don’t stop until she backs up – even if she backs into a wall (or your motorcycle).  With me, it is not until I feel an object against [my] back and sense I’m being ‘fenced in’ that the negative emotion subsides.

8)        You are not trying to diminish her power – you both need that power to be an efficient force against Satan – but rather, trying to get back together on the same side so that Satan cannot come between you. As the husband this is your responsibility, clearly defined by the delegation of God’s authority.

Points of contention seemed to rally around the issues I have stated in italicized quotes.  Please find the appropriate referenced disclaimer listed underneath each one.

“If a husband is intimidating his wife to obey it’s bullying and it’s abuse”

#3, #5, #6

When God exercises His authority over us He is not bullying or abusive.  When we exercise parental authority over our kids we are not bullying or abusive.  When we exercise pet owner authority over our pets we are not bullying or abusive.  When the government exercises it’s authority by placing speed limit signs they are not bullying and abusive.

It seems that the only authority that is not acceptable is the masculine authority of a husband, this should be a red flag.

“She’s teaching husbands to abuse their wives.”

#2, #4, #5, #6

This presupposes that masculine authority is in fact abuse and therefore threatening, I don’t believe it is abuse and therefore I’m not threatened by it.  This also presupposes that male masculinity needs to be sacrificed because females are afraid of it, or don’t agree or don’t like it.  It presupposes we should disregard masculine authority because we don’t understand it, therefore it cannot fit in our frame work, so it must be abuse.  It presupposes that any authority from a husband is going to be wrong, therefore it will be abusive.  It presupposes a wrong heart in a husband.

“Physically forcing submission is a matter of the heart and shouldn’t be bullied”

#2, #3, #7, #8

This is not about forcing obedience, it’s about the wife who uses the power of out-of-control negative emotions brought on by bitterness, anger and selfishness.  It IS about abuse, but not by masculine authority; rather by the misuse and wielding of feminine power.  This is about husbands standing up to their wives, which is their responsibility before God, to bring her powerful emotions back down to earth.  This is not about a husband using his physical stature to force his wife to:  Read her Bible, attend the church he wants to instead of the one she wants to, watch the movie he wants to.  This is about him using his masculine authority in confrontation if she won’t let it go and nags and nags about not getting her own way, and is ignorant and rude in the process and wants to keep fighting about it.  It’s about keeping the communication open and on-going in a civil, adult, and loving way.  It’s about scaling the mountains of conflict in a marriage and overcoming them together.

Women who are so inured in the feminist mindset, like I was, fear and challenge anything that their husband does that’s even remotely masculine; because anything slightly masculine is wrong.  I used to see it as suspect and something that needed to be guarded against.

It got to the point in our marriage where even basic communication was breaking down and nothing was ever getting resolved.

It’s not an earthly mindset but a spiritual one

It’s one thing to learn something new, something that you didn’t know before.  But to have your opinion changed from black to white is a completely different thing.  It’s like having your mind freed from a thought prison.  Just like when I became born again.  I woke up Monday morning, like any other day- no intentions of thinking about God or Jesus or anything spiritual – There is no God, the Bible is just a book, great for moral teaching – and that’s it.  Wednesday my world changed: I accepted the truth of being a sinner – God was real and He was converting me.  By Friday my sanctification started – WOW God You REALLY ARE real!

In Christian circles there is a line of thinking that goes:  I could be right about God, salvation and eternity.  But if I’m wrong and God is not real, then there will be no change in me.  My sinner’s prayer will have bounced off the walls, gone into a void and amounted to zip.  But if God is real, then I’ve gained everything!

This line of thinking is the same for any of God’s truths – How do you know it’s really His.  You ask and you believe.  If it’s His truth, He’ll show you by changing your heart.  But nothing ventured nothing gained.

Before I became a Christian I believed that abortion was a completely viable option.  After all, I am the mistress of my own universe, it is my body, nobody owns me, I AM woman … etc, etc, etc.  I believed in owning myself so much that I had two abortions.  But now I know different – now I believe different.  I KNOW that life begins at conception – because I know the One who begins each life.  God freed me from another prison that my mind had been locked in.  I experienced truth.

I trusted God to show me that His existence was real and I trusted Him to show me the truth about abortion being murder.  Why would I doubt this new truth about submission?

The proof is in the pudding

There is only one way to get to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ, but there are numerous ways to operate marriages.  The end result is similar to something I read in a parenting book once:  don’t let people judge you about your parenting style, the final result is the end of that child’s life – and there’s a lot of time and distance between now and that end.  The proof is in the pudding.

I think the same goes for marriage, it’s up to each individual couple.  Some believe that egalitarian is the way to go – a shared authority that is identical between the wife and husband.  Others believe that complementarianism is what is best – a clear definition of authority and submission based on gender roles.  Either of these forms could work for marriage.

If husband and wife agree on everything and never have any differences that lead to conflict.  If all their likes and dislikes and differences, are equal.  If they are both savers when it comes to budgeting – egalitarian will work.  Or, if they both believe living off of credit is an acceptable way to live – egalitarian will work.  If they both desire sex once a day or if they both desire it once every two weeks – egalitarian will work.

But, anything less than total natural agreement between the wife and husband will call for someone to yield their choice.  Insert your last argument, disagreement, conflict, fight here: ________

Whether it was over Kraft Dinner or pizza for supper, what movie to go see, what colour to paint the bedroom, what to name the first born, or what new car to buy, what curriculum to buy, how much to spend, on and on it goes.  No two women are alike, and males and females are even further apart on the scale.

This calls for us to keep mental tallies, which humans naturally do, and it leads to keeping score.  It is opponents keep score, not team members.  Just because we do it quietly, hidden away in our hearts, doesn’t mean it’s not divisive.  We’ve had pizza last Friday night, why again?

As I said above, this can work as long as you never sin against each other or hurt each other and always agree on everything.  Always say the right thing and do the right thing where your spouse is concerned.  And as long as no one has any baggage from childhood or a previous marriage and as long as you are both at exactly the same level of maturity in life, equal conflict resolution skills, and growing with Christ at the same speed.  And as long as you both define ‘equal authority’ the same way.

With complementariansim a marriage could also work!  As long as the husband is perfect in his authority (as Jesus was) and is perfectly leading his wife in love (the way Christ does with the church).  And she perfectly submits to his perfect leadership.

A wife submits because of predefined gender roles, not because she wants to.  A husband is ‘never wrong’, he believes that he is perfect, along with his leadership, because he’s been given Christ’s authority.  In this paradigm a wife is actually holding back her power from the marriage and not allowing God to use it to train her husband‘s authority.  But, in this example, the power of a wife is not seen or recognized or needed, because the husband is already perfectly like Christ.  Circular reasoning, I know, but in our marriage when we lived out this model, in practical terms, that is what happened.  I bounced back and forth between shutting down and the Crazy Cycle (thank you Emerson for giving it a name) … with no end in sight.  I don’t have to submit to you because you are not leading me lovingly.  Submission and authority are seen as separate entities, in and of themselves.  The submission begins and ends with female and authority begins and ends with male.

Egalitarian and complementarianism are both fantastic ideas in theory.  But in the practicality of life – not so much.  They call for focus on the me/you paradigm and you can‘t grow if you are always focused on tally counting for equality or shut down from fear or bitterness.  In egalitarian there is, apparently, no conflict or pressure because everything is squarely equal.  This is a problem because we don’t grow without the embracing of trials and tribulations.  And with complementarianism, it’s all laid out for each gender.  We found in both of these paradigms, for our marriage, there is no elasticity for sin, errors and consequently – no spiritual growth and no unity.  Because we are not the same as each other and we don’t fit a mold.

Change is necessary for growth, just look at what God has probably changed in your own life in just the last year!  God is not static, life is not static, we are not static and neither is marriage.  And that’s what brought us to the view of synergy in marriage – NOT wife/NOT husband – but the marriage is what is important.  We had been doing the same thing year after year.  First nine years in the egalitarian mindset; that failed miserably and resulted in my two attempts at leaving our marriage.  We tried to pull it back together for about another nine years and shifted into the complementarian model. That just about killed me, literally – I almost committed suicide.

Neither of us were growing or changing in a good or positive direction.  We were both just becoming more self-focused.  Stronger, faster and better at looking out for #1, ignoring the frail and fractured unit of marriage that we were creating.

In the information age it has been determined that corporations that embrace strategic change are the ones that rise to the top and survive. The marriage arena is riddled with failed unions as evidenced by our busy divorce courts.  You owe it to yourself, your spouse, your children or the pets, to adapt and change.  Change isn’t popular, and you’ll know it’s change because it will feel awkward at first.  Divorce used to feel awkward too, but now it’s the norm.

Strategic change and the hunt for something better is what synergy is all about.  Blending.  Unity.  We say strategic because we had a purpose in mind: to stop fighting against each other.  It was a step of faith and we didn’t know if it would get worse than it already was, but we had to try something because our marriage was falling apart.

So, I chose to move in all of my feminine power and he chose to move in all of his masculine authority and we gave it up to God.

The proof is in the pudding.  If I had left Darrell any of those times in the past, we would be missing out on this most excellent adventure of growth that we are now experiencing together.  We are both very different now and our marriage is very different.

I’m not saying perfect.  Our marriage is certainly not perfect, we both have much more to learn; but at least we are going to make it.  The proof is in OUR pudding, the better really DOES come after the worse.  We know this is truth because we are now living in it.

If you are happy in your paradigm in marriage then that’s awesome, keep up the good work.  You don’t think about leaving your husband and you are able to resolve your conflicts, you are having more and more good times together instead of more and more bad times, and you are both growing steadily in the Spirit, then you’ve found the model that works for the both of you!

But let’s agree to accept, that if people find a way to make their marriage work and it is working for both of them, they are indeed happy and they are not a statistic, and are growing towards each other and God, it’s not a wrong way if it allows them to keep their promise to God and their promise to each other.

And just possibly, what they did could work for another couple on the brink of divorce.



  1. You are too kind 🙂

    And you are right, it is good to stir the waters. It was neat, in the process I ended up stirring some old habits that I thought I had dealt with. Sometimes we need to revisit and restudy.

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