The conundrum burrows deeper into my spirit as I read Ephesians 5:22-24, and these words from Claire Smith:
The husband is to promote his wife's godliness and sanctification, sparing no effort in advancing the work of Christ in her life. He is to help her prepare for the future marriage of Christ and the church. (God's Good Design, p.119)The command to submit rings in my ears. Not because I don't want to submit to my husband, although there have been times when this has been the case. Not because it's unfair or antiquated, as the women's liberation movement decries. No, I keep mulling this command over and over in light of Genesis 2:18, and my role as my husband's helper.
Aimee gives me something to consider:
As a helper, we always need to remember that we represent our other half in all that we do and say. Likewise, our husbands always need to consider our interests in all that they say and do. This is a double-edged sword because our husbands should always want what is best for us. Sometimes we make it hard for them to be able to discern between what is truly good for us, and what gives us that momentary "happiness" that carries serious consequences in the end. We need to keep this in mind in our own temptations. (Housewife Theologian, p. 24)Question begets question, and I jot them down to explore, to seal them in my memory.
Do I help my husband promote my godliness and sanctification? Not too long ago, we had a discussion about an uncomfortable situation. I admitted that I should feel and act differently, quickly appending my confession with a qualifying "but..." He stopped me: "There is no but. Leave it at that." His words stung. I played the wounded wife for a bit, yet I knew he was right. I also knew he had my sanctification in mind. I'm learning that if I am to help my husband fulfill his responsibilities according to Ephesians 5:25-28, I must have an approachable and teachable spirit, a proper attitude that makes him feel safe in exercising his God-given authority in our home and in our marriage. I won't pretend it's easy, but I also can't pretend the command doesn't exist.
Do I help my husband make choices that are for my good, or do I demand temporary happiness? This summer, he participated in a weekly morning Bible study that required him to get up earlier (therefore, going to bed earlier). Our already-short evening together was made even shorter, but in truth, I receive far more benefits from my husband's participation in Bible study than from an evening spent watching TV together. Likewise, it's not always convenient to schedule his haircuts, but having a husband who protects our marriage is much more important than my momentary happiness.
Do I help my husband live with me in an understanding way, honoring me as the weaker vessel? 1 Peter 3:7 requires this of him. My moods and attitudes should facilitate his compassion for me. My demeanor should be gentle and quiet (1 Peter 3:4), and create in him a desire to nourish and cherish me (Ephesians 5:29). In short, I should be helping him to love me as Christ loves the Church.
I have not attained this. Nowhere close! As Smith writes, "This side of glory, godly submission will never come easily." (p. 145) That doesn't absolve me of the responsibilities to be obedient to God's command.
And so I keep plodding along, painstakingly slow but knowing the rewards of an intentional life will be bountiful indeed!