What does biblical submission look like in decision making—especially if you and your husband disagree? Of course, a wife must never follow her husband into sin; but what about when it isn’t that simple? And let’s face it, there are a lot of times when it isn’t that simple!
The most helpful answer I’ve found on this question comes from Heath Lambert in an excellent article on the CBMW website. Using a real couple as a case study, he offers five helpful guidelines from Scripture.
Particularly helpful is Lambert’s second guideline, where he provides a model for biblical, loving authority and submission in every day decisions. Lambert encourages couples to “distinguish between ‘during the day’ and ‘at the end of the day’”:
My wife and I are committed to a complementarian vision for our home. I want to lovingly lead our home, and Lauren wants to submit to my authority. We believe that my loving leadership involves listening to the thoughts, ideas, and suggestions of my wife. I trust my wife. She is one of the brightest and most insightful people I have ever met in my life. One of the reasons I married her is because of the profound gift of wisdom she has received from the Lord. But sometimes we disagree. Because this is true, we need to talk about those things that we see differently. “During the day” is the phrase we use to refer to the decision making process.“During the day"we talk and listen to one another. We ask questions, express concerns,and push-back on what the other one is thinking.“During the day” is the time when a husband listens to his wife (Jas 1:19), seeks to lovingly serve her (1 Cor 13:5), and live understandably with her (1 Pet 3:7).
“The end of the day” is the phrase we use to refer to the actual decision as it is made. At “the end of the day” I am the one responsible before God to make a decision that suits the best interests of our family. I know that, and Lauren knows that. At “the end of the day” there have been times when Lauren and I have disagreed regardless of what happened “during the day.” At that point, with great sobriety, I exercise authority, and Lauren engages in the act of submission saying, “Honey, the Lord has made you responsible for our home. I think you have listened to me, and understood me. I would make a different choice, but I am happy to support your decision on this matter.”
If things don’t go well ‘during the day’ or ‘at the end of the day’, Lambert encourages a couple to pursue help from their pastor. For more on what this looks like, you can read the entire article here.
Recently, at a book club with some of Janelle’s friends, a young woman asked me: “What does submission look like in every day life?”
That’s a great question, because submission is an every day thing. It’s not an occasional quality, only useful when there’s a big decision to be made. And it isn’t passive either, something we mindlessly acquiesce to, if we must. Biblical submission is active, intelligent, and consistent.
John Piper describes a wife’s submission as “the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” That’s a full-time job!
First, we are to honor and affirm our husband’s leadership (even if it leaves something to be desired). This requires heart work—cultivating humility and trust in God which sees our own shortcomings before our husband’s, and sees past our husband’s shortcomings to God’s faithfulness.
But we must not only honor his leadership, we must help carry it through. This means that in every day life we must contribute our suggestions, offer wisdom and insight, pray and encourage, as well as correct. When we serve our husband in humility, we strengthen his leadership.
And we must do this according to our gifts. God has graced us as women generally, and as our husband’s wife particularly, to help support our husband’s leadership. We must determine how we can best use our gifts in service of our marriage to the glory of God instead of for our own selfish agenda.
So, biblical submission in every day life is a tall order. But it is also exciting and fulfilling. Consider, how can you honor, affirm, and help carry through your husband’s leadership today?
Friday was a milestone in our adoption process: we are officially DTE, which stands for “Dossier to Ethiopia.” After almost seven months of “paper chasing”—driving from McLean to Alexandria to Richmond, wearing a path from the front door to the mail box waiting for that final piece of paper from US immigration, getting fingerprinted, poked, and photographed—all six pounds of paperwork has been sent to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Now we wait for a phone call.
We wait for word that our adoption agency has matched us with the little boy and girl who will become a part of our family. So, if you notice me checking my phone a little more often these days, please don’t think me rude. I’m just waiting to hear that I’m going to be a mom again. I’m just waiting for my children.
How long might we wait? We don’t know. Families who have gone before us have waited anywhere from five to eight months before they are matched with their children—what is known in adoption lingo as a “referral.” And following recent changes in the Ethiopian adoption process, we are praying God gives officials there wisdom as to how to best serve these precious children and prospective adoptive families.
And so, we wait and we pray, as Tori does, “Thank you God bring brother sister ‘opia. Amen.”
Thank you for praying too. I’ll let you know when the phone rings.
4:15 p.m. A certain someone needs to clean his room.
(writings and resources on biblical womanhood around the internet)
Mohler on Motherhood - Last week Al Mohler weighed in on the “Tiger Mother” debate with his usual biblical insight and discernment.
Mahaney on Modesty - Just in time for Spring shopping, Family Life Today re-aired Dad’s three part series on modesty.
Music on Sale - If you hurry, you can download Risen for only $5 on the Sovereign Grace website.