by Mary Somerville
If anyone who has ever lived could have been independent-it would have been Jesus Christ. But the amazing truth is, Jesus said or did nothing on His own even though He was God in the flesh. He said, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10). The third model for the ministry marriage is found in this attitude by the Son of God.
Jesus totally depended on His Father. He didn't seek glory for Himself by independent actions. All He did was to glorify His Father. He said, "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13).
Dependency and seeking the other's glory works toward promoting oneness. Independency works against it. Dependency says, "I don't want to go my own way, do my own thing. I'll go with you. We'll go together." It says, "I need you." It doesn't indicate weakness. Jesus was omnipotent yet dependent on His Father.
Why is it that we want to do our own thing without consulting anyone including God? Piper says it points to the root of our sinful condition. "Independence from God, rebellion against God. At the root of our sinful condition is the commitment to be our own god. I will be the final authority in my life. I will decide what is right and wrong for me; and what is true and false for me. My desires express my sovereignty, my autonomy-and though we don't usually say it, my presumed deity."1
In marriage we give up our independence and our autonomy. We walk together as one. Throughout the life of Christ, we see this fleshed out.
Oh that we as wives would work toward oneness with our husbands just as Christ demonstrated His dependency and submission on His Father! As a wife, I am privileged to reflect Christ's voluntary submission. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph. 5:21).
Submission is a military term meaning "to arrange or rank under, adapting your plans and priorities under the one over you." It means for the wife to arrange her priorities under those of her husband. It means she does not resist her husband's leadership. This is radical Kingdom living!
Jesus' example of submission to His Father dispels any thought that submission indicates an inferior role or position. Jesus was equal to the Father but in submission to Him. Jesus obeyed His Father. In the garden He said, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). What unity this demonstrates!
Submission does not mean lack of equality before God. We are joint heirs of the grace of life with our husbands (1 Pet. 3:7; Gal. 3:28). Although submission does not show a hierarchy of value, it does show a chain of command. Christ submits to His Father, the church submits to Christ, husbands submit to Christ, wives submit to husbands. "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:23-24).
As Spirit-filled wives, we are called to submit to our husbands' leadership in the home just as we submit to our bridegroom, Jesus Christ (Col. 3:18). Christ sacrificially purchased me with His own blood. When I received His gift of salvation and became His bride, I made Him the lord of my life. He is in control. Likewise, when I, as a wife, commit myself to my husband, I am receiving a head (1 Pet. 3:5-6).
When I follow Christ's example and submit to my husband I am giving him a priceless gift. Rather than merely external submission, my submission needs to be that of a willing and loving follower. Submission is not only an action but also an attitude. It is not only allowing him to lead but also encouraging him in that leadership role. It involves asking his opinion, searching for his preferences, seeking to please. Most of the submission that I am called upon to exhibit is in the everyday situations of life. These give practice for the big decisions.
You and I have the privilege of being submissive to our husbands like Christ was to His Father and the church is to Christ. God has placed the ultimate responsibility of the household on our husbands even though most of the raising of the children and household duties are delegated to us. That makes them responsible to be our providers and protectors. God made it our husbands' responsibility to love us as Christ loved the church. That's a big order!
So, is it especially easy for us as wives of men in ministry to be dependent and submissive because our husbands are so spiritual? I don't think so. Whether or not our husbands are perfectly fulfilling their role or not, we must submit and it is never easy. Everything in our culture glorifies the independent woman, and influences us against submitting to our husbands. Are we going to let the world squeeze us into its mold, or are we going to show the world a superior way?
Submission did not come easy for me in that I was a career woman before we were married. As a teacher and dean of women, I was independent and used to leading. It was hard not being in complete control with myself alone to think about. I have had to learn to rank my priorities under Bob's-to make him my focus. But as I have made his success my calling, I have found the greatest joy and blessing.
To be continued
1. John Piper, Pierced by the Word (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2003), 67.
Excerpted from Mary's book, One with a Shepherd: the Tears and Triumphs of a Ministry Marriage, available at www.KressChristianPublications.com or call 1-8MOREBOOKS. A graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Mary has 35 years of experience as a pastor's wife. She has been her husband Bob's chief encourager as he has pastored two Evangelical Free Churches-one in New Jersey and one in California, where they now reside.