Christian Living

14 Years of Mutual Submission in Marriage

On June 21st, 1997 Kristen walked down the aisle escorted by her dad then her uncle Fred led us in an exchange of vows.

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.

What do we think about people who take the perspective that the man is the head and everyone else submits to his authority?
We think they are wrong. And we have 14 years of proof that our way works just fine.
Blog Highlight

Happy 7th Birthday,!

Photo by persocomholic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

On May 25th, 2004 I wrote a post called, “Why am I starting this?

Perhaps many people start a blog because they are trying to prove to the world just how smart they are? Perhaps others do it so they can feel like someone is listening to them? Perhaps others do it as a way to share what’s going on in their lives.

But why am I doing this? Mostly as a way to share with myself, just what is going on. I’m not going to use this as a platform for anything else but… Well, whatever I feel like posting. Quotes. Golf scores. Youth Group talks. Carry-over rants. Interesting articles. Stories about the kids. Whatever I want!

Seven years later not much has changed. I’m still going and I’m still writing whatever I want.

Some stats:

  • 3,549 posts in 2,555 days = 1.38 posts per day.
  • 6,260 comments on 3,549 post = 1.76 comments per post.
  • 3,549 posts averaging 500 words = 1,774,500 words I’ve published here.
  • Started on Blogger, moved to Typepad, finally now on WordPress.

Thank you, faithful reader

In the early days I was shocked if a handful of people read my posts. Then, a few years later, I remember the joy of noticing that I had hit 100 daily visitors. Then, living in Romeo, Michigan I remember bumping into people at church or even people at the supermarket would stop and tell me something they liked about my blog. Today? A good day sees a lot more than that. And I’m still just amazed that you show up.

Thank you.

Thanks for reading my thoughts– good, bad, and ugly– of a youth ministry guy just trying to figure stuff out.

youth ministry

One year later

A year ago today the sale of Youth Specialties from Zondervan to YouthWorks became official. On December 16th, 2009 I was on burning bush patrol. My prayer for wisdom was simple: “God, make it clear what I’m supposed to do.”

As I went to the office that day– I was almost giddy to see the day come. Not because I knew something no one else did and not because I was particularly excited about the deal actually closing and what that could mean. It was mostly that the staff was exhausted from waiting. I was firmly in that camp. I needed the deal to be done so I could move on with my life.

A coyote wandered our office parking lot as we waited for the HR people to arrive from Zondervan. It was an ironic and ominous sign. In my state of nervousness and exhaustion the scavengers arrival was infinitely amusing.

Walking into that day I had four completely different action plans. The circumstances had forced me to build scenarios in which only one had me staying on at the new Youth Specialties. (I’m a husband and dad… of course I had plan B, C, and D.)

For a person who had always carefully planned out his career path– this day was one of those big and obvious turning points.

I don’t want to go back to that day! Both in memory and metephorically.

Yes, it feels like a year ago.

This week, the San Diego staff of Youth Specialties has been in Minneapolis for a staff retreat called, “Fuse.” (Since it’s about 8 degrees outside I think it should be called “Freeze.”) In some ways it feels like I’m still trying to get to know the YouthWorks staff. My hope this week has been to get past just trying to know everyone’s names and get to the point where I could appreciate what role each person fills.

A year ago I knew a little about what YouthWorks was about and a few things about what they do. A year later I think I’m finally starting to use the word “we” instead of “they.”

This Fall at our National Youth Workers Convention I got asked the same question over and over again. “So, how is the whole YouthWorks things going?” Here’s the four things I tried to communicate.

  1. YS is still YS. While our YouthWorks co-workers have worked hard to understand us– they’ve not sought to change our culture. In fact, if you sense ways in which we’ve changed… please let me know. We are working hard to stay true to our unique place in the church.
  2. Tic Long is where he belongs. There’s no other way to say it. I don’t think my first point would be valid without his leadership. The last 12 months have been a blast– largely because YS has been able to stay YS.
  3. YS is moving forward. We are going to continue to morph and change just like we always have. I’m really excited about YS Palooza— which we are really hoping is our next big thing. And if it isn’t we’ll just have to come up with something else.
  4. The YouthWorks staff are great people to work with. All through the acquisition phase last year we only got to hear about YouthWorks because we weren’t allowed to talk to them. (Weird corporate legal move, there.) My friends who met with them kept saying the same thing over and over again, “They are good people.” A year later… that’s a great way to describe them. Our staff has been well taken care of. We have generous benefits, we get tons of support, on and on. Most importantly, YouthWorks is a ministry and not a business. YS has always been a ministry that did business. It’s fun to be back at that.

It’s no surprise that I’m emotional today. It’s a great anniversary.

We’ve come a long way. And it’s great to point to December 16th, 2009 and say “I don’t ever want to go back to that place ever again.”