Dispelling Our Fear of Submission

Before I was married, I thought fulfilling biblical roles in marriage would look like a paint-by-number picture. My husband and I would both know exactly what to do, and our marriage would take off in the right direction on its own.

Now I see roles in marriage more like an inspired work of art: It takes time, thought, practice, some messy spills, and mental roadblocks. But with each brushstroke applied to the canvas, a picture of colorful beauty begins to take shape. Unlike the hard and clear-cut lines of a paint-by-number picture, the colors on this canvas bleed together in a way where distinction isn’t always obvious, but a glorious harmony emerges.

Before marriage, I also viewed the submissive wife as a shadow which loomed over me as Scrooge’s ghost of Christmas future. In my misconceptions, Ephesians 5 sounded like the rattling of Jacob Marley’s chains. Yet, three things helped me to dispel the fear of submission.

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Is Marriage a Cage?

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Marriage? Nope. Not for me. I was the fish swimming against the current when all my girlfriends were swimming in a desperate frenzy for the destination. I was like the Apostle Paul, happy being single and wishing all the fish would realize singleness is a gift. I appreciated Paul’s enthusiasm for the single life, but I overlooked his encouragement for the gift of marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:7.) My upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision.

I believe my fear stemmed from a few sources. The church I grew up in held strong views of biblical manhood and womanhood, especially the woman’s role of submission in marriage. I believed in these truths only as concepts, but as real life personal application it felt daunting.

I also think the subtle cultural grasp of feminism was grabbing at my heart and mind. I was in college at the time and many of my professors were influencing the classroom with their worldview. Though I was scared of applying biblical womanhood in my life, and my college professors had a strong feminist mindset, the fault did not lie with all of them, but with me.

Courtney Reissig, author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design, states fear as the root of feminism by saying,

“But what feminism tried to do was empower women to rise above their circumstances in their own strength, in many ways owing to these very fears of vulnerability…Feminism answered the fears that women faced by putting women in control of their own destiny, by making women the final authority in their lives. And it’s easy to do isn’t it? We feel like if we have some semblance of control than we can’t be hurt, we can’t be disappointed, or we can’t be given over to our fears.”

My heart was fearful, because I desired control of my life. A godly relationship and marriage was a threat to my happiness from my perceived control over my life and identity. Control was the root desire I craved, which resulted in fear. I wanted control over my heart too. I was overly guarded. I barricaded my heart from vulnerability, because I knew a relationship had the potential to hurt me. To me showing emotion was a sign of weakness, and I took pride in the lack of it.

Freedom and a Cage

I felt like singleness was freedom and marriage was a cage. I thought my future husband would squelch my gifts, and I would be resigned to a frilly apron in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies. Yet, today I am married. How did that happen? Only by the faithfulness of God slowly chiseling away at the rock of my stubborn heart.

He was my good Shepherd who disciplined me with his staff to protect me and kept me within his boundary lines. He guided me through the shadow of the valley of uncertainty. He did not leave my side. I could trust him. He was giving me a gift to bless me, and I was pushing it away. I thought marriage would trap me in a cage, but I was already caged in by my sinful fear. I finally realized Christ was the remedy for my fearful heart.

Throughout my dating relationship with my husband God continued to guide and discipline me. He had my best in mind and wanted me to see it as his best. He showed me that marriage is not a cage, it is a blessing; a gift he gives to make us more like him. The only cage is a heart trapped in bondage to sin.

Marriage is also a picture of Christ and his Church; a picture of submission and service. Christ led through service to a cross of sacrifice, and we as his Church respond in humility and appreciation for his service and sacrifice. God was calling me to live out this beautiful picture all through his sufficient grace.

My identity as a wife is cloaked in the ultimate identity I have in Christ. My gifts are not squelched, but they are being poured out in service for others in my home. My gifts are being used not only in my home life, but in my local church, and even through some of my writing. Other seasons will come for using more gifts as well. I don’t have to ‘break free’ from a family to experience the freedom I have in Christ. He’s broken the cage of my sin and set me free to live for him.

Unfulfilled Longings in the Check Out Line

Part 3 of the Christian Thinking series. 


Have you looked at the women’s magazines at the store check out lane recently?

  • 99 Ways to Look Better, Feel Better, Enjoy Life More!
  • Snack off Weight
  • Look Gorgeous When It’s 100 Degrees
  • 25 Secrets to Looking Young
  • Indulge Yourself: Instant Long Hair; Goof-proof Self-tanning
  • The Little Health Habit That Keeps You Thin, Improves Your Skin, and Ups Your Energy!
  • The Easy Life: Fun Jobs, Cool Dresses, Wild Fantasies, and Smart Solutions

All of these article titles promise to satisfy our desires to be thin, beautiful, young, and have everything we want quickly and easily. Yet, if we don’t get the results we want, when we want them, we launch into feelings of resentment, depression or anxiety. Then when we feel this way we look for other
ways to fulfill our longings: a new hairstyle, wardrobe, job, a man, children, vacations, and food. It’s a frenzied cycle of bondage.

We live in a culture of convenience. The only worthy pursuits are ones which come with little effort. Once life gets hard and we don’t feel fulfilled we pitch a fit. We live in a time where results are demanded instantly; a fast-food mentality permeates all areas of our lives.

This is false teaching alive in the message of our culture, and it is not a biblical message. Women embrace this message, because of insecurity, unhappiness, and a desire to feel fulfilled. Here are 3 ways we can put on our Christian Thinking caps and impart truth into our lives in this area:

1. Unfulfilled longings are not always sinful.

Longings and desires, in and of themselves, are not sinful, and fulfilling these desires are not always sinful either.  When our quest for fulfillment becomes a demanding right that must be fulfilled instantly or we insist on fulfilling our longings in illegitimate ways then we have entered the territory of sin. The problem enters when our desire for other things or people take the place of our desire for God.

2. Our unfulfilled longings cannot be filled by people and things.

C.S. Lewis says this perfectly:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We will always have unfulfilled longings this side of heaven. The problem is we are too easily satisfied with lesser things offered on this earth, and these lesser things will always fail and disappoint us.

God gave us these desires as a way to point us to heaven and to himself as the ultimate satisfying source of life. He wants us to feel restless on this earth; we are sojourners and aliens here. We should not try to make our home in the wilderness, while the promised land is waiting for us.

3. Unfulfilled longings are a normal part of life. Contentment is key.

We will always live with unfulfilled longings. Once we get what we want, we’ll just want something else. The grass always looks greener on the other side, until we get there and see all the weeds we have to fight, and then we desire a new patch of grass. Our consumer minded society is constantly feeding its ferocious appetite for more. This is not a Christian mindset. We are called to think like Paul and learn contentment in every season of life.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

As Christian women, we need to ask God for strength to be content with whatever lot we find ourselves in. We need to ask for joy in whatever God has set before us. We need to trust God with our unfulfilled longings, and see Christ as our source of ultimate fulfillment to life.

Part 4 >>

Can We Really Have It All?

Feminism tells us ‘we can have it all.’ Is this possible? Even if it is possible, should we have it all?

Feminism after World War Two told women to leave the home and have a career. Now it’s more of a relaxed approach where domestic arts are not frowned upon, and feminists believe in the importance of marriage and motherhood. It’s even trendy now to be domestic. Today it’s cute and desirable to be a woman who bakes bread, knits, and throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties for her kids.

Now we see the post World War Two career woman married to the domestically cute wife and mother. We have to be both. Do it all and be it all. The social pressure is high to become a one woman juggling act and add one more ball.

We have to race to the top of the corporate ladder as fast as the men, be as successful outside the home as inside the home, still come home and cook healthy meals for our families, help with homework, do house chores, bake cookies, and still find time to be beautiful and skinny. Women keep pressuring women to do it all and be it all. In the feminist quest to be like (or even better) than men we’ve beat up our own sex.

The Juggling Act

Pick up the phone, women, reality is calling and she’s saying you can’t have it all. Well, you can, but something in your life will suffer. Your career might suffer, your marriage might fall apart, your children will not have your full attention, or your health might take a dive. When juggling so much it’s inevitable that something will be subpar. It’s time to stop believing the cultural lie forced on us in our fast-paced society. It’s time to lay down our pride and know we can’t do it all.

Anne-Marie Slaughter says it perfectly in her article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,”

“All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange. I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

In his book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg Mckeown says:

“The idea that we can have it all and do it all is not new. This myth has been peddled for so long, I believe virtually everyone alive is infected with it. It is sold in advertising. It is championed in corporations…What is new is how especially damaging this myth is today, in a time when choice and expectations have increased exponentially. It results in stressed people trying to cram yet more activities into their already over scheduled lives.”

He goes on to say:

“It’s not just the number of choices that has increased exponentially, it is also the strength and number of outside influences on our decisions that has increased….The larger issue is how our connectedness has increased the strength of social pressure. Today, technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.”

The Weariness of it All

It’s time to stop the comparisons, judgements, and pressures among women and slow down. For Christians there is only one opinion that matters: God’s opinion. God views us through his Son, and thereby we are perfect in his sight.

God is also omnipresent (he is everywhere at once.) Just like Adam and Eve, we can still eat the forbidden fruit today and try to be like God. Yet, God knows we are not like him; he knows we are weak and limited. As such, he created sleep for us and commands us to rest.

Our God is the one who said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30.) There is only one who can do it all. Jesus Christ. He is the one who took our heavy burden of sin away, and exchanged it for his light burden and easy yoke. The good news is that Jesus has already done it all. It’s finished, and now we truly have it all.

Getting to the Root of True Beauty

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Facebook has now become a news stand. Every new and noteworthy article or video you should read (or not read) has probably made its way into your news feed. Some are newsworthy and some are just cute or inspiring. Here is a cute and inspiring one that has been circulating around: http://www.quickmeme.com/p/3vug8k

It is important to not be deceived by this cute little letter. There are statements in here that we as Christians can agree with, but there is nothing distinctly Christian in it; any religious or non-religious person can agree with this letter.

I wouldn’t uphold this letter to my future daughter, because though it does put down a negative cultural attitude, it also promotes a secular philosophy. The world solves the true beauty crisis by looking inward. They put their hope and promise in the truth of themselves. It’s about me. My strength, my heart, my center, my dreams. Look within yourself and believe in yourself.

The Philosophy Behind the Culture

This way of thinking is rampant in our culture. It’s a humanistic philosophy that should be rejected as much as the cultural beauty pressures women face. Humanism is basically a man-centered way of  thinking. Man is basically God and basically good, and we can find value in our human nature. This father isn’t solving the root issue, he’s just feeding the flame of self to his daughter. He doesn’t know the truth of the Gospel and the true beauty in Christ of dying to self. Self. That is the root issue. Self-obsession. Self-love. Self-hatred.

In every culture and generation there has always been varying ideas of what is and isn’t beautiful. The pressure women feel to be outwardly beautiful isn’t a new concept. (We just have it more in our face now with such an image driven culture.) The pressure has been on our external self, but the way to find freedom is not to look to our internal self. We need to get completely outside of ourselves to be free. Anything inside of us is just as ugly and flawed as anything we perceive about ourselves externally.  C.S. Lewis says this,

“Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Our Biggest Enemy and our Role-Model

Our biggest enemy as women is not the makeup and fashion industry, but it is ourselves. We love ourselves too much, we think about ourselves too much, and when we do this we enslave ourselves. The letter I would write to my future
daughter would solve the true beauty crisis by encouraging her to look to Christ. He is the picture of true beauty.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  -Philippians 2:5-11

Christ made himself ugly by entering our world. He sacrificed his heavenly radiance and clothed himself in sinful flesh. The one person who actually deserved to think well of himself and who was completely worthy, forgot himself completely. He lived this way and died this way. He became ugly to make us beautiful in Him. Once we believe this, with faith, then our worthiness and our beauty is found in Him.  We are perfectly flawless before God by the blood of Christ.

This is what I want my future daughter to believe in — not herself. The woman who dies to self daily increases in beauty daily. She is a lovely scented perfume to God and to those around her. Christ makes us beautiful inside, and that is our hope.

“C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride. If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.

Excerpt from Tim Keller’s book, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy

Mother Adrift

Have you ever been swimming in the ocean, and once you looked ashore realized you were drifting?  I grew up in Florida, so I’ve experienced this many times on many trips to the beach. It’s easy to get lost in the waves and the current. The sandy shore is the only constant at that point; it’s a guide.

I don’t need to be at a Florida beach to have this experience though. I simply need to be a mom. For a mom the current that sets us adrift is the endless daily routine of our lives. It’s hard enough to find time for a shower, let alone reading our Bible. We can get lost in housework, to do lists, meal planning, even fellowship, and serving in Church. All great things! All things deemed excellent in the Bible for sure. But even good things can set us adrift.

My To Do List Before Christ

I recently realized how badly adrift I am. There are so many things throughout my day competing for my attention, and for many months now I’ve consistently chosen those other good things over my relationship with Christ. Yes, in my efforts to be a Proverbs 31 woman I lost the true meaning of the Proverbs 31 woman: a woman in love with her Savior. I was neglecting the foundation of being a virtuous woman in the home. How can I love my husband and my son well if I am not loving Christ?

I’ve been telling Christ that my to do list is more important than him, making sure the house is in order and clean is more important than him, healthy eating and cooking every dog-gone thing from scratch is more important than him.  Maybe you are choosing different things than me, but we always are choosing something over Christ.

The American Dream

It’s easy to choose other things over time with the Lord when I don’t see my need for him. Here’s my secret: I’m very independent and self-sufficient. Two things praised and sought after in our society. Isn’t that what the American Dream is all about? Just work really hard and you can get (and be) whatever you want. The American Dream is not the same as Christ’s dream for us. He wants us to know we are actually weak and not as strong as we think. That we can’t do it all. We can’t be it all. But He can be it all and do it all for us. The American Dream falls flat on its face at the cross, because that is where Christ proves he did it all and not us.

Our need for Christ doesn’t end at the cross though. We need Him everyday. He is sustaining us everyday anyway, why not acknowledge it by giving him the time of day?  I’ve finally seen the shore, and I know I need Him more than I need to get things done.

Where Dreams Go To Live

When I grow up I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a ballerina. I want to be a firefighter. You would hear many of these aspirations from a classroom of second graders in response to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s the cliche question to ask innocent little children before reality crashes down on them. Maybe it’s the question we still ask ourselves once we have grown up. Then reality gives us a cold reminder. We aren’t really where we imagined we would be or doing what we always wanted to do. Our dreams are fading or have already died.

How Dreams Work

I don’t think many women grew up having dreams of doing 3 loads of laundry every day, scrubbing toilets every week, doing dishes 5 times a day, planning and cooking 3 meals a day, all while little ones cling to their legs whining. If you did have dreams of being a homemaker and mom I’m sure they were more of the fluffy variety. The perfect scenario every time with never a moment of impatience, loneliness, discontentment or frustration. As little girls playing house we never understood the realistic side of those pretend moments.

But don’t most dreams work like that? Aren’t they usually fantasies? Maybe occasionally they find themselves making an appearance in the world of reality, but most times they are unrealistic expectations. We don’t know that though until we try to execute the fantasy, and realize it’s not measuring up to what was in our minds. When dreams are in the form of unrealistic expectations then they breed discontentment with the realistic outcome.

This is when dreams die. Not only are we in an occupation that society turns up its nose at, but we don’t get a bonus or trophy for what we do. We are only recognized by society one day a year in May, and the rest of the year we aren’t as important or liberated as career women.

Dreams Before Motherhood

Maybe before you became a wife and mom you had dreams of traveling the world, starting your own business, being an artist, or being that driven career woman in the workforce. It’s possible to eventually fulfill your dreams while being a wife and mother (and it’s definitely acceptable.) The issue is when reality and dreams collide. Can you realistically do it all now? Can it wait? Can it be expressed in a different way you hadn’t thought about? But the most important thing to realize is dreams can easily become idols; they can rob us of what is most valuable.

You see as wives and mothers we have the unique privilege to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Sometimes we can fulfill our dreams and sometimes we have to lay them down (maybe just for a season or maybe permanently.) We know it was hard for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to choose the Father’s will and sacrifice himself on the cross. He made the right choice because he was perfect, but his humanity was clearly displayed as he wrestled with what was before him. He ends with, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

He calls us to do the same. Sacrifice is a glorious and beautiful thing to Jesus, but not to our society. Sacrifice is tough, because it is death to ourselves and to our desires and personal fulfillment, but it always results in life and joy.

Joy and Life in Shattered Dreams

There was joy and life at the end of the road for Jesus. Joy found in fulfillment in others (us sinners he died for), life after being raised on the third day, and he was even exalted to the Father’s right hand.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2.

We should look to Jesus as the perfect example and enabler of laying down our lives for our families. This is the greatest and most fulfilling dream that Christ calls us to. He also calls us to dream about the place he is preparing for us in heaven. Perhaps the Bible doesn’t tell us everything about heaven, because we are supposed to dream about it here on Earth.

So many of our dreams are restricted when bound to this world and don’t compare to the glory of heaven; beholding the face of God, and being in His presence forever. Our dreams for ourselves on Earth are so finite, they are like stepping in a puddle when the whole rain cloud is waiting to burst open. We can’t dream any bigger than what awaits us in heaven. This is what Christ laid down his life for; he sacrificed himself for this. This is the ultimate joy before us. This is where our dreams go to live.

Living in Her Shadow: Domesticity and Proverbs 31

She looms over us like a menacing shadow. A shadow casting much taller than us, so we are constantly trying to measure up. Who is this lady of mystery? It’s the Proverbs 31 woman.

If you’ve grown up in the church, like me, you’ve probably heard a lot about her. There are countless books written about her, sermons preached on her, and numerous interpretations of her. We throw the term around loosely: “I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman,” “She is so Proverbs 31.”

She is the epitome of womanhood, so we must do exactly what she did, right? Not exactly. A lot of times we confuse the Proverbs 31 woman with June Cleaver from the 1950’s TV show Leave it to Beaver. We think domesticity and the virtuous woman go hand in hand, and they can at times, but don’t always have to. What I mean is this: no where in the Bible are we commanded as women to be cooking recipes from scratch, making sure our houses are spotless, cleaning up after our husbands, or cleaning dirty dishes and laundry.

These are good things to do for our families, but are not things that necessarily make us good wives and mothers. If doing these household chores comes from a heart of service and love for our husbands and children, then great! But if we are excelling in these domestic endeavors, while simultaneously yelling at our children, manipulating and controlling our husbands, complaining, and angry then we are not being virtuous women. We are just good cooks and maids.

More than Maid Service 

The Proverbs 31 woman is much more than a maid and a cook. Rachel Jankovic says, “The state of your heart is the state of your home.” Proverbs 31 is not an unreachable example of a domestic goddess, but a heart lesson in being a virtuous woman in the home. She is nothing like June Cleaver.

These are the June Cleaver’s of today: fake, always smiling and perfect looking even when everything is crumbling around her, a social construct and not a Biblical example, she avoids conflict by pretending everything is ok, does everything without effort and with ease, feigns love towards her husband at the dinner table, but then slanders him to the women in the salon.

This is the Proverbs 31 woman: real, hard-working, most likely dirty and sweaty from back breaking labor, does not manipulate, control, or deceive her husband, she does not talk bad about him to others. This is how she does him good and not harm. This is the very reason her husband can trust her. “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (vs. 11-12.)

She is an entrepreneur (vs.18, 24), she is intelligent and wise with money (vs. 16), she is strong (vs.17), she is generous and compassionate (vs. 20), she plans (vs. 21), she is not lazy (vs. 27, 13-15), she is frugal (vs. 22), she speaks with wisdom and kindness (vs. 26), she is not anxious and fearful (vs. 25.)

The Virtuous Woman

As you can see, being a virtuous woman is deeper than being domestic. The domestic endeavors of the Proverbs 31 woman flowed from a heart of virtue. Her story isn’t about being a better housewife, checking off lists, living naturally, or getting a lot accomplished. Her story is about being more Christ-like.

Of course we can’t attain to Proverbs 31 status if we think of her as June Cleaver and reduce womanhood to domesticity. But we can attain to the real Proverbs 31 status, because Christ has redeemed us and given us the grace to live for him. We can be more like Him, because He died for us and empowers us by His Holy Spirit. We just need to humble ourselves and ask for His grace.

Proverbs 31 is not an overwhelming list of things we should be doing as housewives, but an oversupply of grace as we see what God can do in us. We don’t need to be praised for how well we take care of our homes, how good we cook, how many homemade cookies we can bake, how many crafts we can do with our children, how many books we read to them (though these are good things), we should be praised for our fear of the Lord in how we live in our homes and treat our families.

“…But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (vs.30.)