Mouth Shut; Happy Heart
Written by Audrey Behrendt
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” Ephesians 5:21
When I first told my husband, Mike, that I was going to be participating in the “Write this Way” project and would be writing about submission, he laughed and said, “What do you know about that?” He found it a little too funny, I thought, but I made some self-deprecating comment and joked along with him. Only later, when I thought back about our conversation did his reaction really start to bother me. Why was that his first reaction? What didn’t I know that he did?
I began to think, pray, and read all I could about the discipline of “Submission.” I thirsted for clarity that I seemed to be missing. Quickly I discovered that my preconceived notions, while not uncommon, were not completely accurate. Never had I sincerely invested any time in understanding what Biblical submission is. In my mind, the whole “Wives submit to your husbands” bit was outdated and could not possibly be what Paul really meant, so I dismissed it, without much thought. I was afraid to seriously dig into it because I was afraid I wouldn’t like what I found. Perhaps this explains why Mike had the reaction he did!
“Wives, be subject to your husbands . . .Children, obey your parents . . . Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters . . .” Colossians 3:18-22
However, when I did finally dive in and face the fear of the unknown, I was captivated. Because of my denial, I had been missing the wider context. Submission was not simply a word used by Paul to express to wives how they should behave towards their husbands. On the contrary, as Richard Foster states in his book Celebration of Discipline, Paul’s teachings in Colossians “gave personal moral responsibility to those who had no legal or moral status in their culture. He made decision makers of people who were forbidden to make decisions.” This teaching was revolutionary! I had failed to see it as such, because I had not understood the context of the first century culture. Paul gave subordinates the choice to choose subordination. He urged subordination, but not because these people had no choice, but instead because it was “fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18
Husbands, love your wives . . .Fathers, do not provoke your children . . . Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly. . .” Colossians 3:19-4:1
Perhaps even more compelling was that when Paul called on the dominant characters of the day to “love your wives. . . not provoke your children . . .treat your slaves justly and fairly . . .” he was in effect demanding more of them than of the wives, children or slaves. A slave’s behavior did not have to change in order to be subordinate because he was by definition subordinate; but asking a master to love and submit to his slave, now that is mind blowing. The sting of Paul’s words was felt most severely by the dominant partner. How had I missed all of this?
My fear of “submission” or self-denial was rooted in the misconception that by submitting I would somehow lose my identity, or I would feel weak. I incorrectly believed that being assertive and confident is what I had to be in order to be considered strong. What I was missing is that submission does not make one weak. Submission frees us from the bondage of always having to get our own way. It gives us the ability to let others be right and be sincerely happy about it. True submission is not just keeping your mouth shut. It is keeping your mouth shut and finding joy in doing so. Jesus calls us to a life of submission.
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34.
He not only lived a life of servanthood but also lived out the ultimate act of submission by dying on the cross.
“He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8.
I am certain that having chosen “submission” as my writing topic for this project was no accident. God knows my heart and He knew how lacking my understanding was of true Biblical submission. By no means have I learned all there is to know and I most definitely have not mastered it (just ask Mike), but I will keep trying. I implore each of you to do the same.
Write This Way: As Richard Foster so eloquently implores us, may ‘your first words of the morning be in submission and your last words at night’ so as to surrender your body, mind and spirit into the hands of God.
About the Author:
Audrey Behrendt works as the Administrative Assistant for Commonway Church. She grew up on farm in Southeastern Delaware County. She left Indiana for Texas where she received her BA in Speech Communications from Texas A&M University. After working as an event coordinator for a time post-graduation, she returned to her roots in agriculture and rejoined the family business. She and her husband, Mike, were married in 2006 and now enjoy a full, never boring, ever changing, blessed life with their four children.