Several years ago, I stumbled upon a book in the book store that taught me more about submitting to my husband than anything I had ever read. It was called The Surrendered Wife, by Laura Doyle. It was actually a bit disappointing that it was a secular book. I wish I could've found this kind of common sense from a believer. But she did have a lot of wisdom. I learned a lot of things from her. (for the record, there were things I completely disagreed with also, like her stance that men "need" porn).
A few of the things I learned are these:
1. To learn to think of my husband as basically a good man. -- It is SO easy to gripe about our husbands, isn't it? To build up in anger over little things like not putting clothes in the clothes hamper or rinsing dishes, forgetting that I too do a lot that he could gripe about as well. It is almost the ultimate feminine bonding experience to sit around complaining about what our husbands do that is so completely insensitive. But my husband loves me. My husband wants the best for me. My husband wants to make me happy. These things are true. On top of that -- my husband doesn't abuse me. My husband doesn't do drugs and isn't an alcoholic. He's not cheating on me. Where he usually "falls short" is usually regarding things he doesn't understand. He's a good man, and he deserves my loyalty, my patience, and a good reputation amongst my friends, because he comes into contact with them as well and shouldn't have to wonder about what I have said.
2. Since he is a good man and an intelligent man, he doesn't need me to tell him how to do everything and how to think about everything. After he made the wonderfully intelligent decision to marry me, he didn't suddenly become an idiot, and even though I didn't realize that was what I was doing when I was offering an opinion on everything under the sun, I was treating him like he was an idiot.
3. A correllary to that -- My husband deserves to have a relationship with his children without me getting in the middle. I always thought I was doing a favor when I suggested things they should do, or when my husband was mad at my son -- interpreting what my son really meant by what he said or what he really needed. My husband is a smart man who loves his son. He might not always express himself the way I would've wanted him to (not that it was bad, and not that I am perfect either), he can figure it out, and since he's not abusive -- he will not do lasting harm to our child. I wasn't giving him the freedom to be totally himself with Chris, or to let Chris relate directly with him and learn that he could indeed handle it.
4. A lot of marriage problems are caused by the woman trying to control the situation.
5. Men need to be respected and showed that they are respected. Women need to be treasured. (Almost sounds like Ephesians 5, doesn't it?). We've been told so many times that we want to be equals in a relationship, but really, we don't. A relationship isn't 50-50, its 100-100. At times, when one is weaker than the other, one compensates for the other. But in reality, we want to be treated like equals in the workplace -- at home, we want to be treasured. Loved. Shown that we are special and prized beyond rubies or diamonds. We really don't want to have a relationship where we are tallying up and keeping a record of who gave the most to the relationship this week, or who is doing the most chores.
6. My husband needs me to communicate with him about what I need. Women often expect the men to be mind readers, and we shrug it off as common sense. It's not. My husband needs to know what I like and what is important to me. And just as much, he needs to know what I can't do. And it is okay to say "I can't do that" and then let him figure out what to do.
When I started doing these things (or not doing the harmful stuff), I didn't tell my husband that I wasn't doing them. I didn't tell him what I was doing. The book told me not to. But I also remember the wisdom from a couple of pastors that went like this: "The Bible doesn't say "submit to your husband IF he loves you like Christ loved the Church. (and vice versa). It's your business to submit, because you are trusting that God gave you your husband...not because he's earned it or he's good enough."
And this brings me to something that I've been thinking about for a long time. What does it mean to submit to my husband as to the Lord? The question in the end is "what does it mean to submit to the Lord?"
Different things go through my head -- "Come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. " "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will rescue you." "Suffer not the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of God." And from the Catechism "...as a dear child talks to his dear father." "...thank and praise, serve and obey Him." "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things." "but call upon it [his name] in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks." "Give us this day our daily bread"
In the end, what does God want from me? He wants me to be thankful, and He wants me...no, He commands me, to come to Him when I need something. To ask Him. To bring my EVERY concern and desire of my heart to Him as a child does to his father -- without worrying about whether it is appropriate, and then trust Him that He who sent His very own Son to die for me will give me EVERY good thing (even when it isn't in the way I think God should do it).
So, I keep coming back to the idea that submitting to my husband as to the Lord is the same thing. I'm to be thankful for the gift that God has given me in him and trust that God will bless me through him....because he has promised to. I am also to let him know what is in my heart. What I think, what I want, what I need....and even what I don't think I can handle and don't want. And then, I'm to trust that he is going to love me and lead me, taking my desires and my welfare into account (even when he isn't doing it in the way I think he should do it).
I keep coming back to the fact that it isn't really about blind obedience or losing myself. It's about going to my husband and trusting that he will love me, that he will forgive me, that he will treasure me, and that he will lead our family knowing what I need - because I told him.
Will he be perfect? No. He hasn't been and he won't be. But after sixteen years, I can certainly see how many of those things God has used for good, even when they hurt like crazy. I'm married to a sinner. I'm a sinner. So we do the best we can, we forgive each other, and we keep loving, confiding, and trusting. God is the one who is really providing for me through my husband. And my loving Father has certainly done a better job of taking care of me through my husband than I ever could've done myself.