When my mom and dad were first married they lived far away from the extended family. They had a loving relationship where they relied on each other because no else was around. Eventually they moved back East and started interacting with the extended family again. My dad after being with his brothers for a day started to behave in the same manner... "Yo babe get me a beer." My grandfather was known to just click his wedding ring against his empty beer can to alert grandma it was time to serve him again.
My mom politely got dad a beer the first time but after a while she just raised an eyebrow at Papa. Some readers are freaking out already OH MY GIRAFFE your family drinks? Others are freaking out because we are SUPPOSED to serve our husbands, How dare she just not serve him.
Mom was unwilling to let their relationship become fractured by imitated bad behavior. They had a "discussion" afterward where they worked out this kink in their relationship. I always witnessed my father loving my mother. Even if he had to make a unilateral decision that was unpopular she was always willing to follow because her leader LOVED her. Every night my Father prayed with and read to her, either the bible or a book by Watchman Nee. (I can see my dad was doing that whole washing her in the word bit that is one of the commands Ephesians 5: that comes after wives submit). I'd be curious to know how many men that are adamant about the wife submitting, are reading the bible to their wives daily?
Ever notice how in Ephesians 5 the man is commanded to love his wife... 3 times... Tho this is not a "command" the wife is told to do... instead "respect your husbands" seems to to be the hot button for the ladies. Each of these things show me Paul understood the deep needs of men and women in relationships.
I witnessed day in and day out a relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and love. Did they always get along? No... who does? Yet I had this wonderful yardstick to measure my marriage by. My parents have been married for over 50 years and they are still going strong.
I have to admit the whole stress on submission here at GFA really helped my husband step up and take the reigns back from me, which was a relief. Early on I had decided I didn't like the fact that no one was holding the reigns and the horses were just carrying us where ever they felt like taking us. I wanted a more directed life. I kept trying to hand the reigns back to the head of the house but he didn't always want them. Yet at one point in our career at Gospel for Asia My knight and I hit a road block. It seemed that every time we would be getting ready to go out he would be giving me talking points. Not what to say but rather what not to say and asking me to change my carefully chosen outfit to one he preferred. He condemned my parenting style. He was so wrapped up in how we looked to others.
It created so much undue stress in our marriage. At one point he started to resort to rules of what I could and could not; do, say, wear. This behavior on his part led me down a road of suffering, (Is this what suffering for the kingdom is supposed to look like?) I was hurt. I knew what a great marriage looked like, we had one, but ours was loosing that flavor of mutual trust and respect with love holding it together. It seemed the more I submitted, the more he expected me to be his floor mat. Well folks I'm not a floor mat, I don't like confrontation, but I will do it. So a few years into the whole "Yes sir, how high? life" I calmly pointed out to him somewhere along the line he had stopped trusting me. When he failed to hear what I was saying I pointed it out a bit more forcefully.
I can still remember the day I stood there yelling my head off, tears streaming down my cheeks saying "When you tell me what to say, it means you do not trust me. Why don't you trust me! You used to trust me!" This from his "meek" "mild" wife... A look of shock and surprise engulfed his face, I could see his spirit had been checked. Gradually over time with our focus on Christs' choices for our life we got back on track. I stopped checking with him for every decision, he stopped telling me what I said right and what I said wrong at social events. In-fact now we act as each others interpreter "What s/he meant to say is this..."
My husband shares so much of his life and inner thoughts and feeling with me now, and it is mutual. Trust flows, respect grows and love abounds. He's a keeper.
Should I have submitted to all his rules and more rules and more rules? Would that have stopped the cycle? Can a woman continually submitting and yet being told to submit more, weighed down by rules have joy? Don't get me wrong; handing over the reigns of authority was so freeing. Yet we lost our way for a while and it hurt our marriage. GFA has been accused of taking Spiritual Authority to an extreme, the whole Hyper headship/ Hyper submission. Do I blame GFA for it's teachings on submission to authority for these issues in our marriage? To some extent I do, I also blame ourselves for being willing to follow blindly... it was a form of idolatry, I thought "these are spiritual giants! Missionaries with a vision from God to reach the lost at any cost!" I'm not sure I can follow that core value anymore. It's cute, catchy and, it rhymes but what is the true meaning? I have seen families fall apart because we are reaching the lost at any cost. What is that cost? Divorce in some cases, the cost of trauma to the children in those marriages. I really had to ask myself "Is this what God desires?"
I'm not a spiritual giant, and in-fact no one on earth is a spiritual giant. We are all humans that sin. I do not desire my husband to be an Adoniram Judson, willing to bury 3 wives. When I read that story out loud to my husband one road trip, part of me was horrified, It appeared these woman were expendable, the man in the story praised to the hilt for his willingness to do anything, even watch his wives and children die one after another. It felt so Machiavellian. It made me question is that what God desires for me, to be cast away, if I get in the way? I know these ladies went willingly I guess I'm just not there in my journey.
I do serve my husband and you know what? He also serves me. He can tell me to turn the volume down on my attitude and I can do the same to him. We are in harmony* not in unison. We are singing this marriage song together in the voices God gave us. I'm not singing exactly like him, or in the exact way he tells me to. Instead we sing in harmony blending our gifts, our strengths and weaknesses to have a solid marriage that will withstand the storms of ministry and time.
*thanks Pastor Ray Viola for this image!