I volunteered to lead our life group at church a couple weeks ago. After I said yes, I was told the passage: Ephesians 5:22-33—the verses defining the husband and wife’s roles in marriage. Gulp!
I spent the next two weeks preparing because honestly the couples in my life group are more versed in the Bible than I, and my marriage is not perfect by any means.
The controversial verses for women stood out in bold in my mind:
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord” (v. 22, ESV).
“…wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (v. 24, ESV, emphasis mine).
When I first married, the command to submit seemed impossible. I quickly learned this submitting and obeying stuff could not be done on my own effort. I needed help. And God provided help through His Spirit and grace.
Freedom breathed in when I understood submitting to your husband in “everything,” meant in the realm of what is right and good and holy according to the scriptures.
Still, these verses rankled me because submitting to my husband was some in-your-face hard stuff.
My husband had a standard to live by as well. He was commanded to love and cherish me with a sacrificial love–as Jesus loved and gave Himself up for the church. Then he was told to do everything he could to “bring the best out of” me (vv. 26-27, MSG).
As Jesus followers, both of us needed to humble ourselves before God and crush the self-interest and ego. Only then could our marriage flourish and thrive because now we were choosing to give rather than get. Did we execute this perfectly? Hardly. Have we improved in the past 27 years? Plenty.
I like to think of this commitment in a marriage as one long marathon dance.
My sister is a trained ballroom dancer so I consulted her. In dancing, the man always leads. He puts one hand behind the woman’s back and guides her through the dance moves and around the room. The woman puts one hand on the man’s shoulder and follows, matching his movements and steps.
If a man doesn’t lead well, he doesn’t get many dance partners. Women want someone who knows the dance steps and leads well. If the woman tries to lead, the man will get frustrated.
If the partners are new to each other or a specific dance, they take it slow; taking smaller steps and staying in a small area. But as the couple progresses, they begin to move confidently in tandem around the whole floor.
To be fluid in a dance, they must practice, spend time together and demonstrate patience. And just when they’ve nailed a dance, there’s another to learn.
So it is in marriage. The woman wants the man to lead adeptly and confidently. The man guides his wife around life’s seasons and obstacles while she stays in stride with his lead. New couples will take it slow at first as they learn about each other. But as the couple matures, the dance of marriage becomes smooth and polished. Others are mesmerized by the beautiful sight.
As in a dance, both partners will stumble and fall at times. But each must be willing to offer grace and forgiveness, lift the other up and step out on the dance floor again.
We shouldn’t bristle at God’s design for marriage, yet realistically we must be prepared for some very hard work. The marriage commitment requires practice, patience and time. And when danced in tandem God’s way, others notice and God is honored.