Submission. It's a word many of us dread, if not downright despise. But it's scattered throughout the pages of God's word, and therefore, not meant for us to ignore.
This morning, as I sat at the patio table on our back deck where gnarled oak trees arched gracefully above me, after finishing up a plate of eggs, toast and a steaming mug of coffee, I opened my Bible to 1 Peter 3.
"Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."
Okay God, I prayed, what do you want to teach me today about submission? I pondered what it would be like to be married to a man who did not know Jesus. How hard it must be, to have such a passion for following Jesus, but not be able to share that with her own husband. Not being able to pray together, to worship together, to read and study God's word together. But instead of encouraging divorce, God calls women to "win them over without words" and by the example of "purity and reverence" in their lives. What a tough battle that would be!
But then I thought about my own marriage and realized how rarely do I try to "win him over without words." My husband is a follower of Christ, which I am oh so grateful for, but that doesn't mean he is perfect (nor am I, for that matter!).
There are times when I REALLY want something, whether it is something insignificant, like an iPod touch or more meaningful, like inviting a couple over for dinner who is struggling in their marriage. Whatever it is, my tendency is to keep repeating my desire for that "thing" until he caves in and lets me get my way.
With the iPod touch example, I kept nagging him about it, talking about how great it was, explaining the reasons I needed it, joking about how I couldn't live without it...when little did I know, he had planned on getting one for me for my "push prize" (after delivering our son, Marshall). When he gave it to me early (thanks to my incessant nagging!), I realized that I had put a damper on the actual enjoyment and excitement of receiving the gift, since it felt more like a concession on his part, rather than an actual desire to give because he wanted to give. The same goes for inviting our couple friends for dinner. I kept nagging him about it, in the midst of a couple of weeks when he was legimitately swamped at work and a bit stressed by his lack of down time. When he finally did concede, it wasn't as enjoyable for either of us, since it felt forced, preventing either of us from being fully present with the couple.
So what does a gentle and quiet spirit look like? In my case, and I think many of us can relate, it means silencing our mouths. Stop the nagging. And that's hard to do, especially when we really want something or we want them to do something that we've asked them to do a thousand times. What if, instead of nagging and begging and dropping little hints throughout the day, we just shut our mouths and prayed? It's a powerless feeling, to give it to the Lord and realize we're not in control of the outcome. But isn't that where God wants us to be? Powerless, allowing Him to work?
And you might say, well, isn't that a manipulative way to use prayer, just asking God to give you what you want? But it's funny how little credit we give God. He knows our hearts. He knows our desires. He knows that prayer changes US, often more than it changes the other person.
So my challenge to all of us wives for today is to close our mouths and pray. Stop nagging, stop hinting, stop asking and pray. Even for the little things, like iPod touches. Perhaps God won't give us what we want. Perhaps it will come much later. Perhaps He will answer in a way that is so much better than the outcome we expected that we are humbled by His answer. But whatever the outcome, we are called to "win them over without words" and love them with a "gentle and quiet spirit."