Submission might be the worst word in the English language, followed closely by obedience. No matter how many times I read Ephesians 5:21–33, I still bristle at the apostle Paul's admonition for wives to submit to their husbands. Theologically, I've tried for years to understand what this means. Paul admits that submission is a profound mystery and that it refers to Christ and the church. For the most part, I've simply followed Paul's logic up to this point. I've chalked submission up to being too heady a concept to understand.
But Paul doesn't let us off the hook. Mystery or not, he says, ". . . each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (verse 33). Thanks, Paul. You're the best.
I can swallow the spiritual implications of submission to Christ. He's perfect, after all, and seems like a pretty safe bet as far as submission goes. Jesus wouldn't misuse his power. So submitting to Jesus doesn't feel scary; it just feels difficult, like when my pride gets in the way and I don't want to listen to God's whispers to me.
But my husband? He's human. I'm not always sure his motives are pure. How can I submit to him when he's fallible? And why would I let him be the head when I have my own?
And yet, Paul insists on banging the drum: "Wives, submit to your husbands in everything" (verse 24).