Here we are, 14 years later, still standing next together on life’s amazing journey. This past 12 months have been especially dear to us as we experienced two of life’s great (and unexpected) joys together. First, in July 2010 we ministered side-by-side in Haiti for a week. Second, we walked together through the anticipation, birth, and first 4 months of having Jackson.
In 14 years Kristen and I have largely not experienced the bumps and bruises so many of our friends have. We’ve had it pretty easy by comparison. We are thankful as we recognize that without an over-abundance of God’s grace it wouldn’t be possible.
We are far from perfect people. And my flaws must grate on Kristen much more than hers grate on me.
The secret to success for us
Mutual love for, respect for, and submission to one another.
That’s right my fellow conservative friends. I said it. Our marriage is built on an equal footing of love, respect, and submission to one another, as to the Lord.
Many times in the last 14 years I have submitted to my wife out of respect and love for her. (And, by proxy, Jesus.) In 14 years of marriage I can’t think of a time when I stood in front of her and said, “I don’t care what you think, we are doing it this way. You must submit to me because I’m your husband.”
And I hope our relationship never breaks down, at its core, to the point where I’d think it was OK to do that.
In the lead-up to our engagement Kristen and I challenged one another to memorize chapters of the New Testament. I know its cheesy, but for us it was fun, competitive, and become meaningful. (Plus, an easy way to be together alone and keep our hands off of one another!)
One of the chapters we memorized was Ephesians 5.
It kind of started as a joke. After all, we were Bible College students surrounded by people who loved to use this section of Paul’s letter to Ephesian Christians as a weapon. And it was totally stereotypical that a madly in love couple would memorize a passage of Scripture about marriage. At least it wasn’t Song of Solomon, right?
Like many ancient things misunderstood throughout time, as we got to know this passage of Scripture we realized that while at the surface level it felt antiquated and entrenched with man-power-dogma, as we embedded the words on our heart we came to realize the passage is much the opposite. It really has become the basis of our marriage.
Read Ephesians 5 for yourself. Actually, take 10 minutes and read it 3 different times in 3 different translations.
You don’t need a commentary to understand what Paul was saying.
As you get familiar with Paul’s language and read it in context you will see that this isn’t a repressive thing at all. As Kristen and I memorized this passage we fell in love with it.
Most importantly, we learned that it had nothing at all to do with blind submission for a woman to a man. Why? Because that’s not how Jesus expects us to submit to Him. Like a loving groom, He asks us to offer our hand to Him willfully. And willfully, lovingly, he gave Himself to His bride wholly and completely, even unto death. It’s a beautiful mystery.
The kicker for the whole passage, and why we crack up that people get hung up on it, is that in verse 32 Paul says, I’m not even really talking about marriage here people– this whole passage is an illustration for the church’s relationship to Jesus! And in verse 33 he adds, “Oh yeah, but a man should love his wife and a woman should respect her husband.”
Back to the practicality of mutual submission
In our every day life does Kristen submit to my authority over her as her husband? Only to the extent that I submit to hers. The point of that passage wasn’t blind submission for a wife to her husband. It was mutual, willful, and willing submission to Christ for all of God’s people. We get along because we chose to get along as brother and sister in Christ.
Blind submission is not an act of love as it is an act of obedience. I expect my kids to submit to my authority and to do what we ask them to do because we are their parents and we actually do know what is best for them. But I also know that to lean into the Shema I must win their hearts… which requires more than a relationship built on obedience, right?
To expect that of Kristen would be disrespectful to her, our relationship, and her relationship with the Lord.
Instead, we walk together in mutual, eyes-wide-open submission, love, and respect to one another as we submit arms-wide-open to Jesus.
We’ve agreed with our very lives to put our relationship as #2 with Jesus at our only #1. As we submit to His will for our lives, we act in concert with one another out of love & respect for one another. And, not to sound trite, we’ve found our relationship with one another pretty simple because we’ve kept one another in the proper place all of these years.