You can wait patiently for the Fourth of July to arrive to enjoy the brilliant fireworks. Or you can mention the word “submission” to a group of women! Their verbal response is likely to be just as explosive and colorful as any summer skyrockets or sparklers you could ever hope to see. Few words in the English language (or in any other language) evoke such a controversial response as the word “submission.”
Before my conversion to Christianity, I was an atheist with very little knowledge of the Word of God. Then one day, as a new Christian, I encountered a Scripture that said: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
My first thought was, “Why would God mess up a good book with a Scripture like that?”
In my mind’s eye, I suddenly pictured myself walking ten paces behind my husband, obediently dropping grapes into his mouth as he leisurely reclined, muzzling my opinions, and “ministering” to his every desire.
On the other hand, my husband, Frank, thought submission was a great idea! As a matter of fact, he often reminded me that many of our problems would simply dissolve if I would just submit and stop “challenging him.”
In those days, when I thought of submission, only one other experience came close to matching my emotional response. That was the nauseating morning sickness that plagued me when I was pregnant!
Is God Unjust?
This wasn’t the first time in my life that God had seemed unfair and unjust to me. Before I came to know Him, I often looked into the face of my blind, deformed sister Lizzie, mentally retarded and just eleven months older than I. How many times did I say to myself, “Surely no God of love would allow such a tragedy!” That kind of thinking led to my eventual conclusion that there was no God—period.
Over the years, I thought I had convinced myself that God didn’t exist. But, in fact, I was forever interrogating people who believed in Him. My curiosity about their faith was relentless. Now I can see that I never really was an atheist. I was, instead, merely a person who accepted the easiest solution when unable to answer life’s most difficult questions. Instead of submitting to His sovereignty, I had chosen to remove God from the picture!
Not long ago, as I was listening to my husband address a couples’ conference, my mind wandered back to our first meeting. Frank was a friend of my sister Eleanor, and I got to know him while he tried to teach me to play tennis.
In those days Frank Wilson was moving rapidly up in the music industry as a record producer and writer. He was one of Motown’s leading producers. He had written and produced such songs as “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “Love Child,” and “Keep On Truckin’,” which were recorded by stars like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Frank’s tunes had earned more than 20 gold and platinum records as well as several Grammy nominations. At the time we met, Frank had recently been the number-one record producer in much of Europe, number four in the United States, and “producer of the year.”
One of the things that attracted me most to my husband was his humility in light of his success. Very down-to-earth and sensitive, he reminded me of my father, who had set a wonderful example of love for me in my early years. Within four weeks of my first date with Frank, we were married. (That, by the way, is something I wouldn’t do today without premarital counseling!)
When Frank proposed, I told him I would marry him on one condition: that I would always be free to work outside the home. At that time, I was one of the first women sales representatives hired by Xerox. I had acquired the position with no former sales experience—unheard of at that major international corporation.
For months, I had been bound and determined to work for Xerox. Even though I’d been told by several people that I would never be hired, I’d made an appointment with the manager. Fortunately for me, the day I arrived for my interview, his secretary had just walked off the job. He reviewed my résumé. “Thank you,” he said, “but I couldn’t possibly hire you. You have absolutely no experience in sales!”
“Let me make you an offer,” I said. “You’ve just lost your secretary, and that means your productivity is about to decrease. I’m one of the best secretaries you could ever find. Let me work for you for two weeks at minimum wage. At the end of two weeks, if you don’t think I’ll be an asset to your company as a sales representative, I won’t darken your door again.”
In two weeks, I was a sales representative for Xerox. I remained among their top-rated reps throughout my time with them. I can still remember how I enjoyed being a woman in a man’s world. I was aggressive, determined and very outspoken. I had left home at 18 years old, moved 2500 miles away on my own and felt I had everything under control.
Then, the next thing I knew, I was in Las Vegas, beginning an all-new life as Frank Wilson’s bride!
The early days of our marriage were challenging, to say the least. Just a year after our marriage, I accepted Christ into my life and Frank recommitted his life to Him. Adjusting my mind to the mind of Christ was extremely painful, for I found myself yielding to Him some of my most-valued treasures: pride, contention, rebellion and stubbornness.
As a young wife and mother as well as a new Christian, I was intent upon discovering biblical solutions for everyday challenges. I found that intellectually and emotionally I was still having real difficulties with some of God’s ways. This was particularly true in the area of submission. However, against my better judgment, I dove headlong into the “act” of submission anyway. My well-intentioned actions were derived from distorted concepts drawn from television shows, magazines and human observation.
I thought I was making good progress, moving forward at a steady pace. Then something unexpected happened.
The Wedding Gown
One day, while shopping in a mall near our home, I was drawn to a store window where an exquisite wedding gown was displayed. The hustle and bustle of all the people around me seemed to cease. I could almost hear an imaginary organ playing the wedding march! My mind raced forward about 20 years and I imagined my tiny daughter, Launi, gliding down a church aisle dressed in that lovely, white lace gown.
With a smile, I admiringly said to her, so pretty and petite at my side, “Just think, one day you’ll wear a beautiful dress like that.”
“I’m never getting married!” Launi fumed. I was outraged! How could a six-year-old make such a statement? Furthermore, how could my six-year-old make such a statement? My shocked reflection in the bridal shop window would have made Gloria Steinem jump to her feet in a standing ovation, shake her fist and shout the words, “I told you so!”
As I tried to absorb the incident, I thought perhaps Launi was just a little overtired from our long walk through the mall. But a second look at her quietly determined face told me she had given her outburst a considerable amount of thought.
My mind raced backward to my own childhood when I, too, had come to some definite conclusions relating to marriage. Until meeting my husband, I had been a confirmed bachelorette who’d never wanted to get married nor have children. Once I met Frank, however, I discovered attributes and characteristics in him I had not seen in any other man. I’d decided to take the plunge.
Now, fighting to regain my composure, I asked Launi to repeat what she had said. I was hoping she’d mixed up a few words. Fixing her eyes on mine, she firmly repeated, “I’m never getting married!”
Naturally, my next question was, “Why?”
Launi’s response altered the course of my submissive life!
“Because I’m not going to have a man tell me what to do like Daddy tells you what to do. You have to ask him to do everything! You don’t like it, and I won’t either!”
I was reduced to a stammering, stuttering defense. “I don’t ask Daddy everything,” I insisted. “Why, I came to the mall today all by myself, and I didn’t even ask him!”
The disgusted expression on her face was enough to tell me my portrait should hang in the Hall of Hypocrites.
So this was the end result of all my dutiful submission! I should have known it wouldn’t work. This six-year-old had seen right through all my smiles and surrendering. I felt as if I had been hiding in a dark cave for years and had suddenly been jerked out into the startling sunlight.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Another incident later that same day further chipped away at my submissive facade. As Launi walked through the kitchen, I reminded her to go upstairs and clean her room. Her shoulders dropped, her head flew back and out came a long sigh, “Oh, Mom!”
Angrily I reached for her shoulder, spun her around sharply and proclaimed, “Little girl, when I tell you to do something, not only do I want you to do it, but you had better do it with the right attitude!”
How resoundingly the Lord caused those words to echo in my soul! The right attitude? She’d seen me respond in the same way countless times before. Launi was simply acting like her mother!
I began to recall some little hints she had dropped before. Now and then she’d question me after Frank had asked me to do something. She would take my hand and inquire, “Mommy, are you mad?”
I would look at her a bit puzzled and wonder why she was asking me such a peculiar question. I didn’t realize that, although I always put on an outward act of daily submission, she could see the resentment written all over my face.
Inner questions began to surge like a flash flood. I asked myself, “If there is no giving in marriage in heaven, no male and female, why did God appoint the married woman to the unfair role of submission? Why did He give us females insight, intuitive abilities and intelligence if we aren’t to use them?”
As tormenting as those questions were, I had been with the Lord long enough to know that Luke 11:9 was true:
Ask, and it shall be given you;
Seek, and ye shall find;
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
So, ask I did! I began questioning scores of women. And the consistent, negative response to the question, “What do you think about submission?” could have made the Guinness Book of World Records! Some of the women honestly believed the Bible was correct and said, “Yes, one should submit.” But they were submitting like I was—from the head and not the heart.
Another occasion that jarred me into aggressively seeking more answers occurred in my kitchen during a visit with a close friend.
I adjusted the height of the flame under the chicken and began to stir the rice into the boiling water. And I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my friend was leaning against the kitchen counter with her arms folded.
She didn’t appear to be tired from her cross-country journey. How immaculately dressed she was! Her manicured nails and neatly sculptured hairstyle reflected a woman of good standing in the business world. She had taken a break from her demanding schedule to come and relax with our family.
I turned my head toward her and saw her smiling. “What are you smiling about?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Oh, it just seems kind of amusing to see a real-life wife, in a real-life kitchen, stirring a real-life pot. I mean, you look like what I read about in books.” There was a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
“Well,” I answered with equal sarcasm, “it’s a lousy job, but someone has to do it.” Then I couldn’t resist. I had to ask her the 50,000-dollar question. “Okay,” I asked, “what’s your opinion of submission?”
Although a Christian, my friend was newly saved. She dropped her hands to her sides, pushed herself away from the counter and became rigid, as if every nerve in her body had suddenly stood at attention. She stared at me with such defiance that it caused the hair to rise on the back of my neck. I dropped the spoon into the rice and marveled as she firmly retorted, “Submission was a custom of the Old Testament. It was a method to keep women oppressed and does not apply in the twentieth century or any other century to come!”
I was amazed at her angry, condescending response.
Once she left, I began to question God earnestly. Why are there so many unpleasant reactions to submission? Why the anger and rebellion?
I had always been impressed with such dynamic female leaders as Patricia Richardson, Vonette Bright and Beverly LaHaye. They had come to terms with the submission challenge—it was evident in their faces, words and actions. How I longed to know the truth behind this elusive principle. I somehow sensed that the essence of God’s power was inherent in it!
Over a period of another four years, I found God ready, willing and able to answer me. But in stretching to cross the finish line of understanding, I had many “hurdles” to jump. Some heavy questions impeded my progress:
Do I have to submit to everything my husband wants?
Is submission for married women only?
What if I have a higher education, a better job and make more money than the one in authority?
Does submission mean that I’m not supposed to voice my opinions?
When I’m positive that someone in authority has made the wrong decision, do I have any options?
As these and scores of other questions swirled in my mind, I heard a story that focused my thinking once again on the real culprit behind our submission dilemma.
The Cockerpoo and the Pit Bull
While I rode to court with a fellow juror one day, he shared a true story with me. A man named Tom owned a full-grown cockerpoo (cocker spaniel and poodle mixed). Wanting a second dog, he bought a pit bull puppy which, at the time, fit into the palm of his hand.
The cockerpoo, of course, did not like sharing the limelight with the pit bull. It challenged the puppy and beat him up regularly. A pit bull, by the way, resembles a boxer in appearance and build, and is known to be a ferocious fighter, having tremendous strength in its jaws.
Surprisingly, even after the pit bull was fully grown and twice the size of the cockerpoo, the tiny dog with big bark still ran the show.
One day, while the cockerpoo was romping around in the front yard, he became entangled in the garden hose, which happened to be turned on at the time. His thick coat became matted and tangled. When Tom took the cockerpoo in to be groomed, he was informed that it would be necessary to cut off all the dog’s hair.
The next day, Tom returned to pick up his cockerpoo who could hardly wait to return to his domain. When they pulled up in front of the house, the cockerpoo jumped out and pranced proudly through the front door as if to announce, “The king is home!”
The pit bull, asleep in the corner, opened up one eye and then the other. He stood to his feet and stared at the skinny, hairless dog parading around the house. He did not recognize the cockerpoo! Can you guess what happened? Because the pit bull did not recognize him, he attacked and all but killed his former tormentor!
As I considered my concerns about submission, I could see that Satan is a defeated enemy who, like the cockerpoo, still tries to parade around as “the real thing.” No matter how he tries to deceive, however, Jesus’ power is available to us as we confront Satan in his masquerade!
In essence, this book has a twofold purpose: to reveal the tactics Satan uses to degrade and devalue the importance of submission, and to illustrate the power we can use to have victory over him.
There may be a tendency as you read to think, “If my spouse would just do this, I would do that….” I wish I had a dollar for every married woman who has told me, “I would submit to my husband if he would love me as Christ loves the church” or for every married man who has said, “If my wife would just submit, I’d be a better leader.”
My children Tracey, Launi, Fawn and Christy Joy are a never-ending example of that kind of thinking. I can hardly ever remember hearing them respond to my correction with “Mom, you know, you’re right. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” What I usually hear is “You didn’t say that to Fawn” or “What about Launi and Christy?” So often we point a reproachful finger at another person rather than take full responsibility for our own actions.
You’ll soon see that, in the Garden of Eden, God did some questioning as to what had happened there. In response, Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. The serpent slithered away in search of someone else to accuse.
You’ll receive maximum benefit from this book if you think only of yourself and your own accountability as you read it. Don’t forget that when we stand at the judgment to receive our rewards, we will be there all alone. Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man [or woman] according to what he [or she] has done” (Revelation 22:12 NASB).
In the meantime, rejoice! I’m about to share with you some wonderful principles I’ve learned. Through God’s plan for submission, we can be released, not imprisoned. We can be freed, not enslaved. We can be exonerated, not condemned.
For far too long, women and men have been surrounded by myths and fallacies concerning submission, lies that have trapped their lives in frustration and rebellion. It is my deepest desire that you will begin to understand a glorious biblical principle that our loving God has bestowed upon us. It is my fervent prayer that you will become liberated—through submission.