From the start, I knew my husband and I were made for each other: I was the Type A, strong-willed leader happy to drive, and he was the easy-going, fun-loving partner enjoying the ride. We were both familiar with the often-referenced Bible passages about the roles of husbands and wives — husbands lead, wives submit — but I figured that as long as we followed those guidelines for the “important” decisions, that was good enough. If we both stayed in our agreed-upon seats, we’d get along just fine… right?
However, something changed after we got married. Our personalities stayed the same, but bringing this role reversal into our marriage partnership created problems — many that didn’t surface until years later. Although we still “got along” on the outside, discontent, division, and LOTS of stress remained buried on the inside.
One area in which we struggled to find our places was finances. As I rose through the ranks of my journalism job, carrying much of our financial burden at the time, I was overwhelmed by the added weight of balancing that career with motherhood once we started our family. My husband continued in a job he enjoyed, but I struggled to “make it work” as a full-time working mom. Plus we hoped to homeschool our girls at some point… how was that ever going to happen?
When I was laid off from that job and started an independent business to replace the income, I insisted on continuing to carry that responsibility — and didn’t heed my husband’s advice about important business decisions. I constantly battled with myself over how to make my family a priority and still have a successful business, but I was afraid to let go of the reins. Putting my own will ahead of my husband’s (and the Holy Spirit’s) warnings cost me in the end, financially and emotionally, when my business failed.
We were both in agreement about the work itself, so what wasn’t working? As with most principles in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit wants to reveal more to us than meets the eye. The “husbands lead, wives submit” verse isn’t just about who brings home the bacon and who does the cooking: It’s about reflecting God’s image and His relationship with us through His design for our marriage.
What does that verse really mean?
Thanks to the message of a wise wife and mother who spoke to our homeschool support group recently, I got some clarification about what God’s Word says regarding the purpose of marriage and our individual roles. Let’s take a closer look at Ephesians 5:22-24:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
The first thing we should recognize about this admonition from Paul is that wives are instructed to submit to their own husband — not men (it’s not a gender issue!) — and this submission is described as “unto the Lord.” When we understand that God’s purpose for all marriages is to reflect Jesus Christ to the world, we can see how submitting to our husband is the result of our submission to God. It’s part of our transformation process as followers of Christ. It’s not about who’s getting their way, but about trusting that God wants to lead us through the roles He created for us to fill as husband and wife.
Ask yourself: Is our marriage me-centered or Christ-centered? Am I constantly asking God to change my husband to fit what I need, or am I living sacrificially and obediently to His Word and trusting God to lead my husband as he leads our family? It’s not going to be easy. However, as we continue to seek the Lord to transform us, He will also give us the strength to do what He’s calling us to do.
How can we be “free” if we submit?
As we well know, this idea of marital submission is completely contrary to the world’s “I can do anything men can do better” self-centered worldview — which is why following God’s design shines His light in the darkness. God’s purpose for a wife’s submission is not about who’s more important or who should have which job, because the Bible makes it clear that we are both made in His image and we both have work to do for our family. It’s about who bears the responsibility for leadership and sacrificial love — the husband for his wife and family, and Christ for His church (Eph. 5:25-29). Once we let go and let our husbands lead, we’re free from a burden we weren’t designed to carry.
We’re also free to trust God to lead our husbands when we do submit. First Peter 3:1 says: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the Word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” I used to think that verse was just about wives with unsaved husbands. But when you think about it, we all struggle to obey the Word — even a believing husband. This verse tells us that your submission speaks louder than words and has more of an impact on your husband than anything you could say to correct him.
This also means God doesn’t need us to instruct our husbands — that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Do you really want to know what God’s will is for your family? Ask your husband! God will direct your family through him, because he is designed to lead — no matter what his personality is like. Leadership is a responsibility, not a personality. And you can walk in freedom knowing that God assigned that very critical responsibility to your husband.
Wives, be free!
I learned a lot of these lessons the hard way, overburdened by weight I wasn’t meant to carry for too many years. Meanwhile my husband struggled with keeping the peace between us while trying to lead when he could. However, I can honestly say that once I let go and he stepped up, I felt more liberated than when I was single. It defies logic, but God knew what He was doing when He designed us the way He did.
We also experience complete spiritual freedom when we submit our lives to Jesus Christ and He gives us His rest. That’s why this marriage relationship is such an important reflection of our relationship with Him. In Ephesians 5, Paul continues to say: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” See — it’s a mystery, but it’s all part of God’s plan for humanity. So let’s also walk in His freedom as wives!
Are you struggling to gain “freedom” in your marriage by being in control? How has society’s message about women doing it all (and looking good in the process) affected you? What has God shown you about trusting Him to lead you in your role as a wife? How have you seen God lead your family through your husband?
Renée Gotcher is a wife, writer, entrepreneur & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. A former journalist, Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She is editor of NextGen Homeschool and blogs on personal topics at A New Chapter. Her family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.