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Pearls are formed when a piece of sand irritates an oyster. Over time, one layer after another is deposited upon the sand until it is transformed into something precious and beautiful. I just finished a new paper which draws upon many posts from this blog and is a pearl to me.

Genesis 3:16 and Ephesians 5:24:
A Woman’s Desire, A Man’s Rule, and A Wife’s Submission (pdf)

Are you “subject to your husband in EVERYTHING”?
I am!
But I do not SUBMIT to him in EVERYTHING.

Newsflash: You too are “subject to your husband in EVERYTHING”!
Being “subject to” your husband is like being “subject to” gravity. It’s not something you “choose” but a state of being.
!!

The word “submit” implies choice/volition on the part of the “submitter”.
“Subject to” better conveys the grammatical nuance of the Greek PASSIVE voice (of the hupotasso verb used in Ephesians 5:24).

“but even as the assembly is subject to Christ,
so also [are] the wives to their own husbands in everything.” Eph 5:24 (YLT)

For over two decades I twisted myself into a pretzel attempting to practice “SUBMIT to him in EVERYTHING”. Once the newlywed shine wore off (by 5 years) I felt progressively more and more disrespected and by the time we were married 22 years, I was completely miserable in the marriage, I felt trapped like a prisoner in a concentration camp.

Once I realized this passage is not teaching a wifely BEHAVIOR, but describing “the state of being a wife”, what its like in a wife’s skin, THEN I was free to move toward making life in my skin more tolerable by standing up for myself and protecting myself and the children.

Here are two pictures to illustrate the difference. Perhaps this will help.

“SUBMIT in everything” looks like this:


This is WORKS.  It’s like living on a hamster wheel in a cage, always trying to please him never getting anywhere- trapped, imprisoned.  Sometimes he lays the demands on so thick and turns up the speed so fast that you fall down.  This is how I knew that the interpretation “wife, submit in EVERYTHING” cannot possibly be what God meant!  I attempted it and it is physically impossible and emotionally deadening.

Christian wife, I encourage you to get off that hamster wheel! 

Here is what I think God (via Paul) means in Ephesians 5:24 “wives ARE SUBJECT TO their husbands” –>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THIS is “SUBJECT TO”:

Depending upon whether the Flower is nourished and cherished,
it will BLOOM
or it will WILT.

And if I am SUBJECT TO a man who is constantly WILTING me by his behavior and refuses to change his WILTING ways, then in this day and age (unlike the peasants of yesteryear), I have the power to choose not to be SUBJECT TO him anymore.

I am thankful that my husband has chosen to change his WILTING ways. Our marriage continues (since Oct 9, 1982) which means I continue to be “SUBJECT to” him.  He has learned to be more sensitive and instead of defending himself and blaming us, he is now open to receiving correction when his harshness has wilted me or one of our Quiver Full (our eight children plus 2 sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law- so far).

If anyone reading this is still on that hamster wheel
striving and straining to “be submissive”, weary and heavy laden,
my heart goes out to you.
I’ve been there.
I understand.
GOD understands! What you are doing is NOT what He meant!
This blog is a gift to you in hope that reading
about the things which God has shown me as I made this journey will give you
a helping hand off the hamster wheel.

Love, Charis

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This final post is dedicated to my blogging sisters who can be found in the comments  here.

Closing the Blog

To subscribers, visitors, followers, and friends over these past 4 years blogging here,

I love you all and thank you for listening, caring, and sharing.  I’m moving to a new chapter in my life and I am ready to put this focus behind me.   Some of the writings which were key revelations to me as I wrestled with the topic of “A Wife’s Submission” are collected for reference at titus2keeper.wordpress.com as my rendition of an “online book” and I will continue administrating the relatively quiet blog at godswordtowomen.wordpress.com.

But I’m going to stop blogging here and close discussion of old posts, forget what lies behind, and reach forth to what lies ahead.

God grant me
serenity to accept the things I cannot change
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference

Thank you for enCOURAGEing me in this journey!
My situation and understanding has moved from oppression and darkness under the traditions and doctrines of men to freedom in the bright refreshing and wonderful light of the Lord.

I am moving forward to embrace the day.

All the Best,

Charis

Note: This is an old post originally published July 2008 which I am re-publishing  as it fits well with the recent series on Genesis 3:16.

Nothing men experience
in the normal course of their everyday lives
resembles this conspicuous form of subjugation.

- Evan Stark (emphasis added)

If one translates the technical jargon in this description of abuse into biblical language, it sounds very much like a real life description of “your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you”.

As a fundamentalist Christian woman in recovery from a fatal marriage killing MIS-understanding of biblical submission, I identify very much with the lifestyle described here:

The entrapment of women in personal life is also hard to discern because many of the rights it violates are so basic—so much a part of the taken-for-granted fabric of the everyday lives we lead as adults, and so embedded in female behaviors that are constrained by their normative consignment to women—that their abridgement passes largely without notice. Among my clients are women who had to answer the phone by the third ring, record every penny they spent, vacuum “till you can see the lines,” and dress, walk, cook, talk, and make love in specific ways and not in others, always with the “or else” proviso hanging over their heads. What status should we accord to a woman’s right to have toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom or to the right of a woman I will call Laura who had to beep in periodically so her boyfriend would know her whereabouts or who could not go to the gym without being beeped home? Given the prominence of physical bruising, how can we take these little indignities seriously or appreciate that they comprise the heart of a hostage-like syndrome against which the slap, punch, or kick pale in significance? Most people take it for granted that normal, healthy adults determine their own sleep patterns or how they drive or laugh or make love. The first women who used our home as her safe house described her partner a tyrant. We thought she was speaking metaphorically.

Violence is easy to understand. But the deprivations that come packaged in coercive control are no more a part of my personal life than they are of most men’s. This is true both literally, because many of the regulations involved in coercive control target behaviors that are identified with the female role, and figuratively, because it is hard for me to conceive of a situation outside of prison, a mental hospital, or a POW camp where another adult would control or even care to control my everyday routines.

What is taken from the women whose stories I hear almost daily—and what some victims use violence to restore—is the capacity for independent decision making in the areas by which we distinguish adults from children and free citizens from indentured servants. Coercive control entails a malevolent course of conduct that subordinates women to an alien will by violating their physical integrity (domestic violence), denying them respect and autonomy (intimidation), depriving them of social connectedness (isolation), and appropriating or denying them access to the resources required for personhood and citizenship (control). Nothing men experience in the normal course of their everyday lives resembles this conspicuous form of subjugation. (Stark “Coercive Control” 15)

In my marriage, there was no habitual “domestic violence”. And there wasn’t the pattern of honeymoon, and build up, and rage like they speak of with abusers. But there was the constant demeaning, disrepectful, insulting lifestyle of not being trusted, not being considered competent to make adult decisions about matters which affected every area of my life and the lives of our children daily and intimately. I STOPPED making such decisions because it was just not worth it to me to pay the price I paid for doing so. I preferred to run every decision through him than to endure the verbal abuse for NOT doing so. Even then, it broke down. One DV episode was with my 17 yod because he DENIED that the matter was run through him when it had been and she got lippy with him.

Besides not being able to make basic decisions about which phone plan is best for the household, which vacuum cleaner I prefer, whether a child can have permission to go over to a friend’s house…. there was empathic failure- if it wasn’t important to him then we should live without it, to complain was “contentious” “rebellious” “unsubmissive”, and he’s “the head of the household, absolutely NOT, you will NOT call someone to fix it!” – so I was deprived of what I consider basic necessities like adequate heat and hot water (I have 8 children to care for, and at the time of the heat deprivation, my youngest was 18 months and was very sickly- he had to have 6 rounds of antibiotics and had “failure to thrive”) It FELT like I was living in a concentration camp. What finally initiated the necessary destruction of that paradigm and my gradual discovery of my personal liberty and spiritual authority in Christ was when I told God that I felt ever so weary and heavy laden and my faith is NOT working the way the Bible promises. I begged for Him to remove every yoke which is not from Him because HE PROMISED HIS yoke is easy and His burden is light, and mine was not. :(

Its been a VERY difficult transition for my “control freak” husband. The transition brought on a couple of domestic violence incidents. A man who is used to having absolute, unquestioned, authority over everyone in the household has a BIG adjustment to make when his wife finally recovers her voice and her spiritual authority and power in Christ.

In light of Mara’s recent blog on Jezebel and Waneta’s response, I thought my readers would enjoy this, from heavensroar.org:

False teaching: Wives must submit to their husbands.

Murder attempt as a result of this false dogma: I knew a conservative middle-aged lovely couple and was friends with the husband first. Both husband and wife were involved in church leadership and business. Then they housed a traveling US speaker who taught that the wife must totally submit to the husband. This so affected the lovely husband that he became a monster and eventually tried to stab her. She’d moved to her own bedroom, had locks on the door, the kids were begging her to leave, and she eventually did. I was in the UK by this time and knew nothing of this but God gave me the intercessory burden for her. I knew she was in serious danger and prayed and fasted hard! Finally I managed to get through on the phone and found that the night before he’d been trying to batter down her locked door to get at her with a dagger because she wasn’t willing to ‘submit’ to his ‘authority’. He had become fully possessed by this demon of illegal control. The biblical definition of submission is “to willingly come underneath in a safe place” (and it must be mutual). Her husband was hardly safe after succumbing to the dogma of ‘authority over’ his wife. The dogma wrecked the marriage, the kids’ security, the business, and the man himself.

As prophet Jill Austin said, the Jezebel demon that submission devotees love to accuse women of having, always goes for illegal control and is therefore behind the men that promote female and/or laity submission. This case classically proves that Jezebel is at least one of the spirits behind these men.

This is insightful:

What bitterness REALLY is

I went through about three years of struggling with bitterness as I was recovering from childhood abuses (that was the ROOT, as the article well explains).   It was a ball and chain, and poison (Heb 12:15). It keeps one trapped, its not constructive.  It is something that needs HEALING, not condemnation.

Since then, on occasion, I have been accused of bitterness when I wasn’t. I was angry. There’s a difference between anger and bitterness. I made great progress in my own healing and health when I was able to give myself permission to be angry. Unlike bitterness, anger is neutral. Even Jesus was angry. Appropriately handled, anger can be a God given force toward freedom from bondage.

If you will go to these links at BLB: Luke 10:17-20 and Eph 5:24 and scroll down, you will see that the form of hupotasso is exactly the same in Luke 17, 20, and Ephesians 5:24.   ὑποτάσσεται=hupotassetai.

If you scroll down further, you will see the   parsing of the verb under “Tense” and all three cases are identified as the PASSIVE voice.  I also checked the interlinear at: www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm
and interlinearbible.org/ephesians/5.htm  They all identify these instances of “subjection” as passive voice where the subject receives the action without volition/will on the part of the subject.  (Contrast with Romans 13:1,5  “ Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.1 … 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.” – for example-  where the hupotasso is middle imperative.  “Voluntary self-instigated yielding” would be an appropriate understanding here.)

Though on the surface it’s a shocking parallel, I think the submission of the devils to the apostles actually provides a great deal of insight as to the nature of the submission of wife to husband. Contra many egalitarians who frame the wifely subjection of Eph. 5:24 as “voluntary, self-instigated yielding”, think about this.  Do these devils have any will in their submission? Do they choose their submission? Can they decide not to submit? No, they are in subjection without any volition/will on their part. Their subjection is not a “command” that they must “obey”; their subjection their state of being, which they cannot resist even if they wanted to.

Likewise, the submission/subjection of the wife in Ephesians 5 as well as in 1 Peter 3 is stated with verbs using the passive voice. This suggests that a wife’s submission/subjection is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Its not a COMMAND, its her state of being which she cannot resist even if she wanted to.

I suggest that the passive voice of hupotasso is evidence that biblical teaching about wifely subjection is not a command to women. Commands are in the imperative. (eg. verse 25 directed to HUSBANDS is in the imperative love-agapete) . Rather this submission is a state of being and a response. Much like a garden passively receives watering, nourishing, cherishing,. The garden is SUBJECT TO the gardener. If tending, nourishing, cherishing, is neglected, the garden wilts and dies.

I suggest that the statement in Ephesians 5:24 should not make wives sweat at all. Rather, husbands should be sweating. She has no power nor control to resist. When she marries, her husband holds her heart in his hands. Will he be harsh and trample her under his feet? crushing her spirit? or will he be like Christ and minister LIFE?

And a husband has a particular power and influence upon a wife that may not go “vice versa” because she is uniquely “subject to” (being harmed by?) him moreso than he to her.  John Gottman observed this in his marriage laboratory (see “Addendum: The Scientific support for “wives are subject“).  This view also makes sense of the instruction to wives that they need to PHOBEO their husbands (Eph 5:33).

Ephesians 5:22-33 commands wives to obey their husbands and husbands to love their wives. Conservative Christians may try to explain away the offense of this passage, but there’s no escaping its ugly reality. Ephesians calls wives to submit to their husbands just as children must obey their parents and slaves must obey their masters. See the larger context, Ephesians 5:21-6:9.  Greg Carey, Huffington Post

Oh yes, there is!

A wife “is subject” to her husband just like we “are subject” to gravity.  Would we say something so ridiculous as “God is calling me to submit to gravity and obey gravity like a slave obeys a master”.  NO, we would not!  We know that being subject to gravity is not a call to a certain behavior.  It is a condition which we deal with as long as we are on this planet.  So is a wife’s subjection to her husband.

See  Genesis 3:16 and Ephesians 5:24: A Woman’s Desire, A Man’s Rule, and A Wife’s Submission for the biblical case.  This is an addendum with the scientific case.  An early draft of aforementioned research paper included what the world of psychological research already knows about the differences between man and woman.  I took the Gottman references OUT of the paper because my husband thought I should argue exclusively from the Biblical texts and not include any secular evidence supporting my thesis.

Observe the difference in “accepting influence”:

This observation led me to formulate the hypothesis that marriages work to the extent that men accept influence from, share power with women. Next I applied this to a longitudinal study of 130 nonviolent newlywed couples and found that, amazingly, those in which the men who did not accept influence from their wives wound up divorced. The prediction rate was very good, 80% accuracy, and it did not work the other way around: Most wives accepted influence from their husbands, and the acceptance predicted nothing.
(Gottman, John “The Marriage Clinic” page 52 )

Gottman’s research is the centerpiece of a Newsweek report on “The Science of a Good Marriage”:

An unequal balance of power is also deadly to a marriage. Gottman found that a husband who doesn’t share power with his wife has a much higher risk of damaging the relationship. Why are men singled out? Gottman says his data show that most wives, even those in unstable marriages, are likely to accept their husband’s influence. It’s the men who need to shape up, he says. The changes can be simple, like turning off the football game when she needs to talk. Gottman says the gesture proves he values “us” over “me.” (Wingert)

The inclination observed by Gottman of “most wives. . . to accept their husband’s influence” sounds a lot like what Christians would think of as “wifely submission”!

Wives ARE SUBJECT, and have been ever since Genesis 3:16!  This is what Paul states in Ephesians 5:24. He is not “calling wives to submit”.  He is describing the wifely tendency, the wifely vulnerablity, the wifely habit of having accepting and receiving a husband’s influence, of being deeply impacted by a husband even if she would rather not be.  A wife “is subject” to her husband just like we “are subject” to gravity.

May he use his gravitational pull well!

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