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Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. - Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)
I’m not a fan of driving in general. I think it brings out the worst in people. But I remember the first Ted Talk I ever watched was all about driving and making a proposal for a new type of traffic sign. The speaker referenced a study of intersections and the inefficiencies that many of them cause in road travel. As a culture, we’re striving to be better stewards of the fossil fuels our cars need to move and much of our focus has been about making the cars more efficient. This study showed that much of the inefficiency isn’t just about the cars, but more so how they interact with one another on the road. It’s the intersections that create inefficiencies in driving. When cars come together, they all stop at the stop sign, then mash on the gas to get going again.
This talk was proposing an idea of new sign encouraging drivers to “Take Turns” at roundabouts instead of forcing a stop to every car coming through. One study of 24 intersections converted to a roundabout showed a decrease of crashes by 40%. Injury crashes dropped 76% and fatal crashes dropped 90%. There was a $51,000 a year savings in fuel costs by eliminating a two-way stop at one of those intersections. That’s a heck of a reason to merge instead of stop!
But, alas, our driving culture is not one where we merge well. We force everyone to stop because not everyone will submit to the roundabout or allow someone else to go first. We drive defensively and it’s costing us on the road.
Submission in marriage is similar. We think submission is a bad word. We think giving someone else the authority results in us coming in last. That’s just not the case. There’s efficiencies and savings in a marriage when both participants allow the other to go first. There’s a healthier marriage when there’s mutual submission.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. - Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)
Angie and I have been married for fifteen years and I have to say I think we go together pretty well. Here are a few examples.
Overall, Angie and I make a great team. She’s good at some things and bad at others. I’m no different. But we understand and celebrate our roles in marriage. Some of those roles are defined by society. I get that and I’m not saying that we should conform to society’s gender definitions. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some of those roles were defined by God. He designed male and female differently. And He also defined you with a specific personality. So it’s good to take an inventory of that and assess how that will play out in your marriage.
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:2-3 (ESV)
My football career was pretty short-lived. It ran the length of one single practice in the sixth grade before I had made my decision that I was never going to be a football player. And it wasn’t the heat or the pads or the hitting that bothered me. It was the coach. He seemed enraged to me and I couldn’t understand why. When he wanted us to run, he seemed mad. When he wanted us to run faster, he was even angrier. And even when we did something well, he somehow brought a tone of rage into his encouragement. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad form of coaching. But it didn’t work for me. I remember getting in the car after that one practice and telling my mom, “That guy is mad. I don’t want to be around someone who is that mad all the time.”
So I quit. I never went back to football. I remember turning my pads into the coach and, not to my surprise, he was angry that I was quitting. I have a vivid memory of thinking, “I’m not sure that you’d be any less frustrated if I were staying on the team.” (But, of course, I was too scared to actually say that to him.)
While that is, sometimes, a valid form of coaching boy’s middle school football, that’s no way to conduct yourself in a marriage. Paul challenges us in the above scripture to be gentle. Gentleness is a lost art in many of our relationships. But we cannot have a healthy dialogue about roles and responsibilities in a marriage if we’re doing it with a heavy hand a screeching voice. If we’re not appropriately gentle, many of us end up turning in our helmet and pads and calling it quits.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word… - Ephesians 5:25-26 (NIV)
My wife is always lecturing me about not drinking enough water. I’ll get back from a run or come in from mowing the yard and she’ll say, “Have you had any water today?” My usual answer is something like, “No, but I’ve had six cups of coffee today and coffee is made with water.”
She doesn’t find that amusing. Apparently, you can’t hydrate with coffee.
But I sure wish you could. I love coffee. I could drink 20 cups a day if I had to. It takes something like water and makes it better. It slowly runs through those coffee grounds and picks up that rich flavor and that energy-boosting element of caffeine. Whew. I love that. That’s better than plain ol’ water. Water moves through coffee and the water becomes so much better.
Today’s verse points to the same idea in marriage. The “cleansing” that takes place by God’s Word can bring so much healthy flavor to your relationship with your spouse. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. A couple years back my family had a difficult season that threw me off my spiritual game. My rhythms changed. My disciplines were forgotten. And slowly, over time my marriage had a void of Scripture. Even though the specific issues that created the difficulties were over, I was still suffering from a flavorless marriage.
None of that is true of my marriage today. Our love and zeal for one another has never been greater than it is now. I’d give up coffee for a lifetime before I gave up a day with Angie. And do you know the biggest change? I initiated daily reading of Scripture between Angie and me. We spend time every morning inhaling the breath of God through the pages of our Bibles.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. - Philippians 2:3 (NLT)
From baking cakes to frying chicken, my wife knows how to heavily tempt me away from any avoidance of caloric intake. Early in our marriage, that joy became a burden. Her passion for cooking started to feel like an obligation as she told herself, “If I’m a good wife, I need to have a home-cooked meal on the table every night.” I’d come home and the meal was incredible. But she had worn herself out making it happen.
Two big changes came early in our marriage. The first: Communication. I remember I finally had the guts to ask, “Why do you feel like it’s necessary to cook? Do you know I’ve eaten cereal for dinner five nights a week since I moved out of my parents’ house?” The instant I made it clear, she could breathe a little deeper. The second change? I tried to cook. I went beyond pouring milk in a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats and started making simple stuff like tacos and spaghetti. She was able to feel less pressure and I was able to help more. Nowadays it’s one of our favorite things to do together.
All the spiritual stuff we talked about this week is conditional on one word: Mutual. Submission is painful when it’s not mutual submission. Love, care, laughter, beliefs, and stuff that comes along with having a family can get messy when those things aren’t mutual. So some of you have probably felt lonely this week as you said to yourself, “Yeah, but my husband/wife would never…” You may be right. So I challenge you to do two things.
Communicate. At the very least, let them know how you feel. It takes courage, yes. But things tend to not grow in the dark. Second, Try. You cannot always control what your spouse or kids will do. But you can certainly work at setting an example and be the person you’re hoping they become.Share Tweet