When the countdown to our wedding had begun and even in the beginning days, months, and years of our married life...I kind of shuttered every time the word "submission" would pop up. I always nodded right along and agreed that, yes complementation marriage is the way to go! But I thought that actually submitting to Austin would only need to happen in a life or death type of scenario...so I could live free and easy until or unless such a scenario occurred. I thought we could walk through life and just kind of avoid the unpleasantness of submission as long as possible. Let me tell you how that works out....it doesn't. The first year —well realistically probably the first two years of our marriage were a constant power struggle over things as tiny as snack food and punctuality. We were totally that couple who would get in a fight 30 minutes before a double date and very half-heartedly try to hide it. We’d rather die (or at least kill a fun night out) than forsake our separate agendas. Seriously, how did we keep any friends during that season?!
The longer we are married, the more Austin and I realize that our marriage was pretty darn rough in the beginning. We only had a vague idea of what we were getting ourselves into and an even vaguer idea of how that would be lived out.
At the time, we thought we were rolling right along, having the time of our lives and so in love...and as far as we knew it, I guess we were. We expected to feel total hatred and doom based on what other [stupid] people told us about inevitability of the first year. So by that very low bar...we had exceeded expectations! But when two people are constantly trying to prove and assert themselves, it’s just plain exhausting.
It would be more accurately said that we were complementarian in title only and in reality we were both more like Katy-atarian and Austin-atarian.
My love for myself far far outweighed the love I had for Austin. And the trust…oh the trust. My trust in Austin and ultimately in the Lord was a slight, tiny, little trickle. I was too busy hoarding up all the trust in myself to spare any for anyone else.
It wasn’t as if I resented that Austin was the leader of our family… I think I resented that he wanted to be the leader. All.The.Time. Somehow I had this idea that my “future husband” would make endless sacrifices for me and that he would lead us, but only because he was appointed as the leader and not because he wanted to lead. Almost as if it were more ideal that his headship was out of an obligation to the Lord and not out of desire. I feared that if he WANTED to lead then maybe he would just disregard my thoughts and opinions. When it came down to it, I was completely driven by fear and pride. Fear that maybe I couldn’t totally trust Austin enough to follow him and pride that my way was only one worth trusting.
If we had continued on this trajectory for much longer I think we would have become miserable. I’m thankful that wasn’t God’s plan. And when I say I’m thankful that wasn’t God’s plan for us…you should know that this is probably one of the top then things I’m thankful for in my life. I’m seriously so grateful that God literally moved us onto a different course than the one we set ourselves on. I never in a million years would have been able to guess how our story would unfold. Slowly over time, a few things happened that worked together to soften our hearts toward the Lord and ultimately each other.
1. I was fired from my job while I was 4-5 months pregnant...so I was feeling broken on bad days and humbled on good days.
2. We obeyed God's calling on us to move to Iowa for Austin to take the position as worship pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport.
3. We became new parents in the midst of moving from our apartment to Austin's parents’ house and then to live with very new (and generous) friends in Iowa until we found our own home two months later.
4. The week before we moved to Iowa, Lyric (3 weeks old) had a life-saving emergency surgery.
5. We moved to a new place where we literally did not know a soul and the closest friends we knew were two hours away.
What it came down to for both of us was that through all these changes we had to choose what to hold onto. We could no longer reach up and grab our pride with one hand and hold onto one another with the other hand and just kind of hang there. It was impossible to survive that way. We had to choose the best possible option if we were going to thrive in our new life. Thankfully, each of us leapt out with both hands and clung to Jesus for dear life. It wasn't like we had this huge talk about how our marriage would change. We didn't sit down and make a plan. Like I said, we just clung to Jesus and we learned and grew beyond anything we ever could have imagined.
It didn't happen over night, but it was that simple.
All that life-change in such a small window of time carried with it a season of incredible pressing on our hearts. It was overwhelming and exhilarating and exhausting, but we were forever marked with the imprint of Jesus when that pressing let up. And trusting Jesus like that changes you. It changes everything about you. It changed our marriage. It changed my heart and my perspective. It strengthened my hope and my endurance.
Before I was married I would have flippantly told you I trusted God, but I can share with you now from the deep down place in my soul…that I trust him. I trust him so much y’all. That trust made submission to my husband such a simple act of worship for my Jesus.
I originally set out for this post to be an encouragement to those just starting down the nuptial path. So my encouragement is this:
Cling to Jesus. Seek him with all your heart, give him the BEST of your time, and commit yourself to learning His word. He won’t let you down. Don’t be afraid! Don’t live in dread of the submission bomb dropping in your marriage. Submit yourself first to Christ. He won’t lead you astray. He will show you how to trust Him. He will show you how to have faith. He will freely give you His loving kindness. He will forgive you again and again and again. And then…he will make the way for you give that radical love to your spouse.
Pray that your spouse is pursuing the radical love of Christ first and foremost.
God changed the picture of our marriage from that of two people playing tug of war against each other, to something much more harmonious. When I ponder the image of our relationship, I now imagine two people walking together, hand in hand. They are so close and share the same rhythm with each step and each sway of their arms. Only when you look very closely can you see that he is leading her. He isn't pulling her and she isn't walking behind him. They walk together, they walk in respect and love and adoration. They cooperate and listen to each other. He may lean a little one way or fasten the pace when he senses they need to change course. But they do it together and they do it out of worship for the Creator. Make no mistake, he leads and she joins him. But it doesn’t have to be the picture of him dragging her kicking and screaming like some primitive, chauvinistic, dictatorship. When submission and leadership are carried out in humility and actively submitted to God, marriage is life giving.