The Beauty of Submission

Titus 2:3-5:  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Titus is a wonderful book to give us examples as to how we should walk a Christian life. Titus 2 3-5 deals specifically with what a Christian woman looks like – and how older women are to “train” younger women how to model this.

Most of us can sit here and read that verse and find it easy to say, “Of course I love my husband, and I love my children. I’m a kind person who makes her house a home and has self control.” But now we’re getting to the part where a lot of women tend to buck. I think the reason is two-fold: one, society has given this misguided impression that a wife’s submission is the husband’s idea; and two, we think the word ‘submission’ translates to ‘door mat’.

According to the Bible, nothing could be farther from the truth. In Genesis 1:27, we read that God created male AND female in His image. We women are as much in the image of God as men are. In a marriage, wifely submission does not mean male dominance nor does it mean male superiority.

Genesis 2:20-24 says, “I will make him a helper suitable for him…and they will become one flesh.” The term “one” used here is the same term used in Deuteronomy 6:4 describing the Holy Trinity: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” I think that is a powerful message from God that puts husband and wife as one – one flesh, one in the eyes of God as much as the Trinity of God is one. Genesis 2:20 calls woman man’s helpmate, not “helpless” mate.

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God said: Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) The word “head” here is a military term, not a social placement term. A book I once read (and I’d cite it if I could remember the source) worded it as “first among equals.”

I’m going to put my military wife hat on for just a sec: In the military, someone must be head, there must be order and ultimate authority and responsibility.

militaryIn a biblical marriage as defined by God, that ultimate authority and responsibility is the husband, even though the wife is his equal in the eyes of God.

A lot of modern marriages suffer because couples want to shed this “archaic” concept of “head” and “submission”, and the end result is that husbands and wives try to make themselves the same – treat each other the same – rather than revel in their differences as different sexes. For instance, God commanded men to unconditionally love their wives as Christ loved the church (in that Christ died for her).

We all know that and can recite it by rote. Unconditionally love – so that even when a man’s wife is unlovable, he’s still to love her with the same vigor and passion that Christ gave the church while He was being beaten to the point of not even being recognizable as a human, and then killed in a heinous fashion.

But what we don’t also hear is that women are NOT only commanded to love their husbands, we are primarily commanded to unconditionally respect our husbands. Whether our husband “deserves” respect in our eyes or not, we’re to respect him, to show respect, to freely give it. And submit to him.

Within establishing these commandments, God gave women, deep in their hearts and souls, a yearning to be loved and also gave men, deep in their hearts and souls, a yearning to be respected. I believe that it goes further that men actually yearn to be respected as the head of the household, submitted to as the leader by their wives – by their “one”.

Elisabeth Elliot, an accomplished speaker, writer, and missionary, once made this comment about Ephesians 5:22:

Many are the discussions I’ve heard on this one, almost all of them directed to what it “can’t possibly mean,” rather than to the plain word of the Lord. The statement is simple. Not easy for women like me, but simple, that is, I understand it only too well. (As Mark Twain said, “I have far more trouble with the things I do understand in the Bible than things I don’t understand.”)

The biggest problem women have in submitting to their husbands is a consequence of the Fall. Genesis 3:16 explains, “their [wives] desire shall be for [their] husband[s].” The word desire here actually means an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over.

A result of the fall is a desire to rule over our husbands. Isn’t that insane? To submit to our husbands actually goes against our natural sinful nature.

As Carolyn Mahaney says in the book Feminine Appeal, Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother:

So we see that the submissive wife – far from being the weak-willed woman our culture portrays – is actually a model of inner strength. By God’s grace, she has conquered this opposition within her own heart. It is actually weakness on display when a wife is not submissive; she is only caving in to her natural inclination to usurp authority and demand her own way. That doesn’t take any effort at all.

We can use the Apostle Peter’s words as a good outline of submission:

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. (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Verse 1 parrots the same words as in Titus 2: wives, submit to your OWN husbands. This is a very clear distinction. This does not say all women submit to all men. It says, wife, submit to YOUR husband.

No one else’s husband, nor any other man for that matter. We should not seek leadership from men other than our own husbands. Wives are subject only to their own husbands.

Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that our attitude should be “respectful and pure.” The Greek word here for “respect” means, “to be in awe of, to revere, or to treat as someone special.” Is this how we treat our husbands? Do our actions, tone, countenance, body language all express respect? Do our husbands feel like they’re treated as someone special?

To be clear, the Bible doesn’t say, “Wives submit if your husband is worthy of respect.” Again, we are commanded by God to respect our husbands and submit to them. Period.

Unless there is a Biblical moral issue at stake (in which God’s authority will supersede our husband’s) then we are to submit to them whether they’ve “earned” it or are “worthy” of it or not.

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Verse 3 tells us that being submissive to our husbands makes us beautiful. This is not an outward beauty. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says that outwardly we are perishing. Looking in the mirror, I can see the years slipping away, gray hairs, wrinkles, places not as firm as they once were. But that is merely outward appearance.

God looks at our hearts, and when He looks at a wife who submits to her husband, He sees beauty. I believe that our husbands will see us as beautiful, too.

While we are to respect and submit to our husbands, verse 5 makes it clear that we aren’t to make them gods. They are humans — fallible sinners. They are not designed to bear the full weight of our dependence. We are still to put our hope in God, to depend fully and completely on Him.

In verse 6, we see a wonderful, beautiful, example of a flawed human being in Sarah – just like us. A woman we can read about, whose life took twists and turns – some of them when she stepped out away from faith and tried to take matters into her own hands, some tested her faith, others tested her resolve, and in the end she came through full of faith, trusting in God, respecting and submitting to her husband. Hebrews 11:11 commended her faithfulness. And it’s through her example and her struggles that we can bolster our own efforts as we grow in our own marriages.

Ultimately, we need to put our faith and trust in God, trust that He will lead our husbands so that our husbands can lead us. In doing so, we will be pure and beautiful in God’s eyes and in our husbands’ eyes. And, importantly, we will provide an example to younger wives, teaching them how God’s word should apply to their own lives.

In Christ,
Hallee

 

5 Ways to Help Your Marriage Survive

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This summer, my husband Gregg and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage. Our marriage has faced a lot of unique challenges that are a direct result of being a military family living in a country that has been at war for over 15 years.

Gregg deployed with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) less than three months after our wedding day. He’s spent many years of our marriage at army schools or in combat zones.

The times the military didn’t have him, he worked as a contractor and most years worked out of town about 48 weeks a year.

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When our son Scott was born, unexpectedly, via emergency C-section at 30 weeks, Gregg was 350 miles away at a military school. The emergency was so imminent that the doctors were unable to wait for him to arrive at the hospital before performing the surgery.

During a good portion of our youngest son Johnathan’s first year, he was in a military school 600 miles away, then spent his first birthday calling him from Afghanistan. Johnathan was 3 when Gregg came home for good.

Recently, we celebrated his 5-year anniversary of being home, with a local 9-5 job. After about a month of him being home, it occurred to us that – due to the nature of both his military and civilian jobs- it was the longest we’d ever spent in the same timezone.

He’s currently in a unit that “probably won’t” deploy, and his civilian job – while on Fort Knox and working for the Army – is in a non-combat zone that doesn’t require travel and comes with weekends and holidays off.

In order for any marriage to survive under these kinds of stressors, there has had to be some very intentional actions taken by both of us. We had to purposefully build our marriage from a distance.

Doing that taught us such amazing communication skills that by the time Gregg was home for good, we had many coping skills built in to handle situations that would have ripped a weaker marriage apart. Even though we sleep in the same bed and breathe the same time zone’s air these days, we’ve carried a lot of the lessons we learned during our years of separation into our current daily life:

  1. Abiding in each other. I recently had a couple of friends over for coffee. Our conversations went like this:
    “I was telling Sean the other day…”
    “Mark and I discussed it and…”
    “When Gregg and I joked about it…”

    Because this blog post was on my mind, my radar was kind of up about abiding in spouses. Abide means “to remain.” Mark 10:8 tells us that in marriage, “the two will become one flesh.”We are one – a single unit. Even when we’re operating away from each other, our thoughts and minds and heart remained centered on one another. As my friends and I spoke, I watched them actively, though subconsciously, abide in their spouses and loved observing it.

  2. Daily prayers. Gregg and I used to have to email prayers to each other. When he was in Afghanistan, he was 8.5 hours ahead of me. As I went to bed at night, he woke up. His evenings began as I was waking up. During this time, I would wake up to a prayer in my email box. As my day went on, I prayed for my husband, and before going to bed at night, I would type it out and email it to him. It became a beautiful way to wake each morning and a time I treasure. Now we’re able to pray together, holding hands, touching, often arms around each other. We pray before every meal, holding hands as a family — in private or in public. We pray over our children, touching them and touching each other. We keep our marriage constantly rooted in prayer and supplication to God, always putting Him first. As each of us grow closer to God, we in turn grow closer together.marriage-triangle-300x269
  3. Mission minded service. Gregg and I do not live for each other or for our children. We live to obey, love, and serve Jehovah God. As such, everything in our home points in that direction. My audience with my writing is my mission field. My books celebrate faith and triumph with the Holy Spirit. My royalties support missions all over the world. Gregg donates his time and talents to help other Christian authors. I blog about God’s hand in my life and in my work. I encourage other families and marriages through my time spent on this blog.Gregg and I have gone into our marriage with the intent of growing our ministries. Everything we do begins with prayer and an open heart to listen to the direction from the Holy Spirit. Our marriage is a partnership in servitude to God. As parents, we are teaching our children to be mission-minded, to serve our fellow man as we honor our risen Savior, to give to the poor and feed the hungry, to handle our fellow man with grace and love.Knowing we’re on mission together binds us with a strength that even the most trying circumstances hasn’t broken. At times when our human selves are at their worst and we hurt each other as husbands and wives tend to do, our focus on missions and mission-related work has kept us together while we restructure our foundation, in the end making it stronger.wedding-ring-bible
  4. Love and respect.That means respecting my husband even when I don’t think he’s “earned” my respect.  And it means being loved by my husband even when I’m not being overly lovable. Respecting my husband means I elevate him up as the spiritual head of our family, responsible to God for the decisions he makes for our home. Loving me as his wife means that he would step in between me and death.Knowing the true nature of love and respect makes the little persnickety things like socks on the floor or beds not made properly seem to be so trivial that they don’t get in the way of true feelings for each other.It has never mattered whether Gregg and I were in the same zip code or not – the love and respect we have for each other has never been weakened by distance or circumstance.
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  5. Communication. I’m a writer. My husband is a writer. The two of us together, with long stretches of distance between us, have WRITTEN. And written. And communicated via writing. And written some more. Because of this — because so much of our communication was in writing, it taught us the true value of communication. It taught us how to word what we wanted to say without relying on tone or inflection. It taught us to share our feelings, think on what we wanted to say, express our affection in the written word. It also has taught us to let the other spouse have the complete floor without interjecting.I believe that having to communicate so much in writing has taught us to value each others words in a way that could not have been obtained without intent had we spent all of that time apart actually together. As Gregg has been home, we’ve shifted the communication to speaking, but the quality of our communication has not diminished at all.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of ways to obtain a successful marriage. What these tips are, however, are tools to put into your marriage toolbox to help you survive the toughest of storms. Gregg and I believe that Satan does not like strong, Biblically grounded marriages. We believe that he attacks them at every point he can and with everything he can. It’s with these tools in our arsenal that we’re able to withstand attacks.

When the foundation of your marriage is firm — centered on God, bathed in prayer, mission-minded, and Holy Spirit driven — then you have strength to defeat even the worst onslaught.

Hallee Bridgeman

The Pain of Divorce

divorce-child-picture

For Thanksgiving weekend, our daughter, Kaylee, was home from her sophomore year of college. While we all worked to prepare our meal, she told us about a paper she has to write for her communications class. It has to be a personal subject with a unique perspective, and she considered writing about the negative affects of divorce on young children versus older children.

I was interested in her perspective, mainly because we have a fully integrated home. She calls my husband “Daddy”, we are her first point-of-contact for anything, and she rarely talks to her real father anymore.

None of us think in terms of “step” or “not mine” — ever. So, to have her consider writing a paper about the negative affects of divorce gave me a bit of pause. She was four when her father and I divorced, and five when I remarried. She has no actual solid memories of life before my divorce – just flashes and ideas. I asked her what she meant.

She explained that of course there’s a negative side to it. She has family in two states – 600 miles away. She has three brothers by two of her dad’s ex-girlfriends whom she rarely sees, and never together.

She worries about them — about their well being, about their emotional state, about what their futures will be like. Everything in her life is here or there. There is no mingled, integrated family life for her.

And while she has never been treated different because she’s a “step daughter” versus how our other children are treated, going through the teen angst period taught her how bad she COULD be made to feel if my husband Gregg had been any less of an intentional father.

Even though her personal experience was good, so many of her friends didn’t share that same experience and have different stories to tell.

kaylee-fallShe is also incredibly leery of any relationship. She is super picky, and at nineteen has only had two real boyfriends. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just that she is so afraid of a commitment that will crumble.

She worries that what she will put an effort into building will ultimately be chipped away until nothing remains. What she decided to counter that is with the idea that if a man doesn’t turn her on to God with a passion, and if he doesn’t love Jesus more than he loves her, he’s not the man for her. As her parents, we’re fully on board with that plan.

On the other hand, she told us about her friend whose parents told her right before school started this year that they are getting a divorce.

She’s nineteen, works a job, pays her own rent, goes to school full time — yet the news of her parents’ divorce has sent her into a depression spiral where she is self-medicating with drinking.

Kaylee is worried about her but knows that she’s not the one who can take her pain away. Even though she’s on her own, her life — her entire life — has disappeared in a single decision.

Whether that decision is justified or not, it doesn’t change the fact that everything that is normal in her life no longer exists.

Kaylee’s paper will be a comparison of the two. Which is better? To grow up in a divorced environment or to deal with it as an adult? She can’t know the answer. In her observation, they’re both bad in different ways.

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She knows our situation is really good. She knows that her life was better because of my divorce. However, that doesn’t take away her pain in struggling with the ramifications of it.

It’s possible that I should have noticed more as she grew up, realized that there were times she still struggled with a divided family and absent father.

I have no words of wisdom out there for you parents whose children have suffered from divorce other than to say this: don’t assume they’re not hurting. Even when they’re in the fold of the home that loves them unconditionally, don’t assume they’re not hurting.

Like Kaylee knows with her friend, she can’t take away her pain. But she can love her through it and knows a specific way in which she can pray for her. That alone may make all the difference in her friend’s world.

Hallee Bridgeman

Weekly Date Nights and a Giveaway!

gregg-hallee-laughingLong ago, when our 10-year-old was just a baby and his sister wasn’t quite 10, my husband Gregg and I were reading a book on marriage by a Christian counselor.  In this book, it was recommended that a married couple have a date night once a week.

Once a week?

Our son had never been left with a babysitter. He’d had a rough start to life and spent his first four weeks in the hospital. We scoffed at the thought of leaving our children and going out together once a week.

Then we read another book that recommended the same thing.  And another.  Listening to a sermon on marriage, the same thing was recommended.  “Married couples need to commit to each other to spend one-on-one, away from home time no less than once a week.”

We were intrigued and decided to give it a try.  We didn’t manage the once-a-week at first. Gregg worked out of town and came home on the weekends. Family time was as crucial as married time to him because of that. When our third child was just 5 months old, he went to an Army school for several months, then left from there to Afghanistan. Johnathan, the baby, was 3 when he came home, Scott was 5, and Kaylee was 14 — old enough to babysit!

When he came home, we purposefully set out to have a date night once a week. We did big things — concert tickets, dinner theaters. We did small things — planetarium visits and picnics in the park. We did intimate things — getting a hotel room for a just a few hours. The actual plan didn’t matter — we simply wanted to get away once a week away from distractions of home and children and be married and together.

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Gregg’s been home from Afghanistan for five years now. We moved a little over a year ago, and Kaylee is away from us in college, hindering a lot of our date-night freedom. We found another couple with children our kids’ ages and we take turns swapping kids in exchange for dates nights about once a month.

It works perfectly and we know our kids are in good hands. To make up for the lack of childcare in the evenings, we  intentionally have lunch together as often as possible. Lunch breaks with a ticking clock hovering over our heads aren’t as intimate as nights out, but we do relish the time alone together.

Exactly why do weekly date nights work?

  1. One thing that improves a marriage is communication. When you have purposeful, non-distracted communication, your relationship is simply going to improve. Wives — husbands want our attention. They want to feel like they’re in our focus and need affirmation that they’re important to us. Husbands — wives want to be heard, valued, and know our husbands still desire us. When our attention isn’t pulled away from a dozen things going on in the household around us — children, chores, bills — then we can focus on each other, give all of our attention to the other person sitting across from us like we did when we started dating. According to a comprehensive report issued by the National Marriage Project, couples who enjoy regular weekly “couple time” are over three times more likely to be satisfied with the communication in their marriage than those who do not.National Marriage Project Graph 2
  2. Breaking a routine keeps couples from feeling like they’re just existing in a rut. When couples plan something new and exciting on a regular basis, then it energizes the relationship and brings a freshness to it. Gregg and I take turns planning what we’ll do. Often, the plans are a surprise to the other one until we get there. Adding that level of anticipation really brings an excitement to the week as the time for the date approaches.couple-at-dinner
  3. The more attention you bestow upon your spouse, the more intimate you two will become. Increased intimacy leads to a more fulfilling sex life. A man needs to feel wanted and respected, a woman needs to feel romanced and loved. Intentional time set aside for each other with purposeful and enthusiastic planning will increase both the want and the love in a way that drives the sexual excitement and satisfaction. According to the National Marriage Project, couples who enjoy regular weekly “couple time” are almost 3.5 times more satisfied with their sex life than those that do not.National Marriage Project Graph 3
  4. When you make your spouse your priority, it not only increases your feeling of commitment to the relationship, it makes your spouse feel your commitment, and in turns makes him or her feel more secure. When both the husband and the wife are embracing a regular date night together, then that just solidifies the marriage on both sides in amazing ways. According the National Marriage Project, couples who enjoy regular weekly “couple time” are “3.5 times more likely to report being ‘very happy’ in their marriages, compared to those who enjoyed less quality time with their spouse.”National Marriage Project Graph
  5. Stress can build up and destroy a person and a marriage from the inside out. Regular quality time spent together lessens the stress of marriage and in each other. If there are difficulties or problems, talking about them to your mate, your spouse, your “one” in an intimate setting can relieve stress inside of you.

When you start your weekly date nights, establish a few ground rules:

  1. No phones. Go ahead and take the selfie, then set the phone aside. Assign your babysitter a special ring tone that will alert you to that one phone call, then ignore every other text/call that comes in. This is your time. Don’t let the world intrude.
  2. Try to leave the stress at home. If it’s possible, establish the date with positive feelings, love, and a building of sexual tension. If this is absolutely the only time you can talk about it, then don’t plan an activity around it. Make the date in a coffee shop or even a hike – a way to talk without focusing on something else. Pray together before you begin talking about it.
  3. If you didn’t plan the date and it’s not something you would normally choose to do, chill. Enjoy your spouse. Find the joy in your relationship and give it your best go.
  4. Touch. Hold hands. Snuggle and kiss. Love your spouse.
  5. Take turns making plans. Don’t put all of the pressure for planning on one person, because then it will become a chore and it will lose some of its excitement.

little-book-of-great-datesAs someone who has spent years planning date nights/lunches with her husband, sometimes coming up with something fun and exciting and NEW to do is daunting.

To help ease the burden, I’m giving away this book that will give you 52 ideas!  The Little Book of Great Dates: 52 Creative Ideas to Make Your Marriage Fun by Greg and Erin Smalley.

I’ll mail it to anywhere in the world — so don’t hesitate to enter.

The only thing you need to do to be entered to win is to leave a comment on this post. What was your favorite date you’ve ever been on?

Maybe you can inspire some of us when it’s our next turn to plan the date night! The giveaway will end Monday, November 21st at 5PM EST.

In Christ,

Hallee Bridgeman