Why I submit

As an only child, my parents instilled in me the belief that I could do and be anything I wanted. An education at an all-girls Catholic high school reinforced this.

Rather than bemoan my gender, I was taught to embrace it; To not fear intelligence; And to believe, wholeheartedly that anything a man could do, I could do... Better.

Unlike so many women I know, this message was even reinforced in my church. In junior high, a female pastor was assigned to our congregation as it's associate pastor. From that time on, I grew up watching women preach, teach, and lead in hundreds of different ways.

It wasn't until later, in college, when I fell in with more conservative, evangelical crowds that I learned there were some parts of Scripture that made people question the truths that were so dear to me.

In college, I learned there were churches where gifted people were kept from the pulpit and positions of leadership simply because of their gender.

In college, I learned there were marriages where, because of Scripture, husbands were unquestionably in charge, the “head” of a wife who was expected to do nothing but submit and obey.

This knowledge made me cringe whenever people quoted the Apostle Paul. 

And after I got engaged at the end of my junior year of college, this knowledge made me hate the Apostle Paul, whose perplexing words in Ephesians caused so many people angst, myself included.

Knowing Scripture contained such language, as a young woman, I feared that married life would stifle me, that it would result in a life of submission wherein I'd have to lay aside my own hopes and dreams in order to support those of my husband.

Eleven years into marriage, what I know is this: Marriage involves a great deal of submission, but I am not the only one in my marriage who submits. My husband does, too.

Far from stifling me, a marriage rooted on the premise of mutual submission has given birth to countless hopes and dreams, all of which my husband has supported.

Eleven years into marriage, I'm beginning to think that maybe Paul's not such a bad guy after all.

In truth, this realization began shortly after I got engaged. In the months leading up to our marriage, my husband and I were fortunate to receive amazing pre-marital counseling from the pastor of our church.

During one of our sessions together, we explored the troubling submission passage in Ephesians.

In the midst of our discussion, the pastor pulled out a Bible. While I don't remember the translation, what I do remember is this: Unlike so many Bibles I'd seen, in this one, the section in Ephesians commonly referred to as household codes started not with verse 22, the often quoted, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord” but rather with verse 21, the seldom quoted, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This changed everything for me.

When submission is mutual, far from being stifling, it's life-giving; Affirming of both who my husband and I are, both together and apart.

When submission is mutual, it's a stunning example of Christ's love for us – all-encompassing, unconditional, respectful, and dignity-giving.

Several months ago, I attended Shauna Niequist's launch party for her fabulous book, Bread and Wine . That night, Shauna quoted from a book she was reading and said how “The most important thing for a woman who wants to have a career is a spouse that gets it.”

As Shauna said this, I stood there in tears, knowing that indeed, my husband gets it. He gets me and he gets what I do.

My husband is my biggest fan and without a doubt, my number one cheerleader.

When few people understood my decision to go from electrical engineering to youth ministry, he did.

Several years later, when I announced, “I think I want to go back to school for a master's in youth ministry,” he responded by saying, “What do we have to do to make that work?”

Beyond that, on a daily basis, he supports what I do.

He gladly makes his own meals on the nights when I have church commitments that keep me away from the dinner table.

He willingly sleeps on the floor, apart from me, on mission trips – even when those trips fall on our anniversary.

He serves alongside me so that ministry can be something we share together.

And on the nights when I come home, exhausted and emotionally beaten up, he's the one who speaks belief back into me, reminding me that I'm doing what God has called and wired me to do. He tells me I'm good at it and he keeps telling me, again and again, until I finally start to believe it for myself.

Each of these things is a tangible demonstration of my husband's love for me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there's nothing my husband wouldn't do for me.

Which brings me back to Paul's troublesome words in Ephesians.

A few verses after the pesky, “Wives, submit to your husbands” verse, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

To love as Christ loved the church means being willing to die for your wife, not just physically, but by laying down your own wants and desires for her.

That, my friends, is what submission is.

I'm blessed to have a husband who does this, day in and day out.

And I, for one, will gladly submit to someone who loves me like that.

Today, I'm linking up with Rachel Held Evans for her #onetoanother week, exploring the theme of submission in the New Testament.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. When not doing ministry, she and her husband Doug can be found hiking, backpacking, and traveling.

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