S is for Submission

*This really ended up being much longer than I anticipated. Sorry about that! Bless you if you're patient enough to hear me through to the end!

Have you ever seen Mona Lisa Smile? It's one of my favorite movies. Julia Roberts plays Katherine Ann Watson, a free-spirited forward thinker, accepts a job at Wellesley in the 50s, expecting to impact the lives of the women at the prestigious all-girl college. What she finds, though, is a fancy finishing school behind the university doors. Of the many girls she meets, two stand out: one is a snooty member of high society, waiting on her life as a housewife and mother; the other is a wildly brilliant woman who is madly in love with her boyfriend. Katherine encourages Joan, the bright student, to apply to law school but in the end Joan decides that she would prefer her life as a wife. It's what she chose.

Katherine's problem is what I think is the problem for many women today: she didn't see that some people want their station to be primarily in the home. Not because they've been brainwashed, or abused, or forced into some kind of backwards submission; and certainly not because they are ignorant. Because they want it. She overlooked the very thing she wanted for her girls, which was the option to choose. Some women will choose law school (or medical school, or seminary, or whatever their hearts might desire) and the subsequent career, and I think that deserves an enormous amount of respect. Some will chose the home station, and I think in our culture that demands respect as well. It is counter cultural. Though it seems like at home wives are gaining some respect again, it is not without scrutiny.

Why don't women want to stay at home? Well, just like the stars in the sky, each one is unique in her reasoning. But one thing I have heard said to my face is, "I can't imagine a life of submission."


Now this is a bit of an aside... but maybe that's our problem! Not just women, but the human race. Our knowledge of good and evil, our pride, has made us blind to our own depravity. Not by the world's standards of course. By God's standards. And his standards are so high! The Old Testament is full of laws that were parameters to keep God's people from sin and in fellowship with him. But, if you've read the Old Testament you would see: it couldn't be done! Not well, anyway. The penalty for sin is death. It has always been death. That's why there were regular sacrifices to symbolically remove sin from the person, the family, and even the entire camp. That's why Christ became the perfect sacrifice. And the least we could do in response is what he's asked of us.. not out of a slave mentality, but out of gratitude for what he has done to set us free from the penalty of sin.

Our marriages are to be modeled after the relationship of Christ and the church. Christ was sacrificed, selflessly offering atonement for a fallen world, for the benefit of those who would accept his gift. In response to this undeserved and overwhelming gift of life, the church responds with obedience and spreading the good news so that all may hear and choose life.

And then the hard passage:
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." Eph. 5:22-24
As wives, then, we consider our husbands the head of the house just as Christ is the head of the church. Could it have been set up another way? Probably. But it wasn't. So I can't complain about God doing what he's done! We are to submit to the head of the church. Christ did not lead by force or violence. He lead in truth. Likewise, a husband should also lead in truth. Paul (the writer of Ephesians) has three verses for the woman.. but for the man, he has a veritable paragraph: 
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, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:25-33, emphasis my own)
Only in a committed, two sided relationship can this model thrive. Sergeant J gives of himself selflessly every day. Is he human? Yes. Do we fight? Of course. But I know he is as committed to this model as I am. That's biblical manhood and womanhood. It's not subversive, it's beautiful. The Sarge has a high stress job and I want him to come home to a happy home; this is one way in which I submit. For us, there is no happy home when I work full time. (At least not now... my anxiety at this stage of our lives is, well, impressive.) So I stay at home. But many women who work (and many who make more money than their husbands) still believe this model for marriage. It works. It doesn't always look the same, so we shouldn't try to bind all women to one model -- not the subservient model and not the feminist model.

Katherine's ideas weren't bad. She wanted to rescue the girls at Wellesley from the hard mold for women in the 50s. The problem is, not all of us need to be rescued.

Well, from our husbands, at least.

Favorite R posts:

R is for Rupophobia at Living Learning and Loving. I think a list of phobias is a fantastic idea but I'm afraid of what T might be. 
R is for Recycling Resilient Reads at Practically at Home. Great idea!
R is for Redeemed at Living in the Light. Because YES!
R is for Rivalry by Mary at Life in a Small Town... probably my favorite aspect of small town living!
R is for Radical vs. Rebellious by Melody at Refractions and Reflections.

love, me


  1. Biblical submission gets a bad rap and many women stop stone cold when just hearing that word. I hope other read on. <><

  2. I read a blog once where the woman stated that any woman who stayed home was just a nice version of a whore. A whore that happened to clean,cook and do laundry. I was stunned by her words. Yet, she didn't want stay at home mothers to claim that someone else was raising her children,nope, then she argued the 'quality versus quantity' argument and she could tell you all kinds of stories about awful stay at home mothers. It was a horrible blog post. I sat there stunned. I couldn't even write a response. I think it is a shame that women feel they have to constantly defend their choice for their lives. Didn't we work hard to create a choice for us? I think we want respect and love. And especially in our relationships. We need to stop judging women and their choice of vocation.
    Lucy from Lucy's Reality

  3. I am a bit of a feminist, but I agree that the biblical model of marriage works - inasmuch as each spouse submits to the other. I think as humans the world would be a much better place if we ALL lived in submission to the others' needs and doing our part to add a little bit of "good" to the world. While I am all for equal rights for men and women, I see nothing at all wrong with a woman choosing to stay home and care for her family, just as I see nothing wrong with a man staying home to care for his family and the wife working if that is what works best for THAT particular family.

    Thank you for the link to my post - I had no idea!! :)

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog today! Wow! I can't help but see you are a Perfectly Posh girl! Believe it or not, Andrew McBride (one of the founders of P. Posh) is marred to my niece Emily! True story, small world! Enjoy the rest of this year's A-Z!

    1. Roberta, I met Emily last year at Unconventional. How fun. What a small world we live in!

  5. Emily was my daughter's most favorite cousin in the whole wide world!

  6. That word "submit" I think is the real problem for women, because of the negative connotations it has accumulated through the years. Like humility being seen as acting like a doormat when actually it's something beautiful and divine. I like how you explained it and tied it to the movie-- one I've never seen btw but now I'm intrigued!