Continuing in Ephesians I come to a passage that, to be honest, I've been looking forward to like a sick man looks forward to medicine. It might not taste good but he knows it is going to help him become healthier. Submission to others. Not my favorite topic as I have wrestled with pride and even a surprising internal backlash against a sense of inferiority for most of my life. These two facts have often left me described as strong willed, stubborn, a loner, and even "not-a-team-player". Of course I've rationalized it all away to the fact that I'm much more efficient when I work on my own, I tend to be more creative without interuption, etc. How does the old saying go "no man is an island"...?
What this really boils down to for me is submission. Pride and humility are at the heart of it and further discussion will be forthcoming on these, but submission is key. I've never had a problem submitting to others as long as I understood their place in the hierarchy of things, for example, a supervisor, a pastor. I'll even submit to fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord to avoid stepping on toes. For example, if someone is running the skits during VBS and I think they are out of touch with the kids but those placed in charge of skits are really passionate about them and not listening to suggestions, my philosophy has always been "OK, we'll do it your way, even if it doesn't work". (Not sure if that qualifies as submission.) But if given enough "heads-up" I'd rather avoid this scenario altogether and work alone rather than submit, and this has left me quite alone for many years. Disconnected, uninvolved, discontented. I think back to so many instances when I was nearly consumed with bitterness over the ways in which I had been genuinely and significantly hurt by careless or thoughtless actions of others within the Church and there was no good opportunity to reconcile on my behalf because I was already holding these people at arms distance.
But even this doesn't really get to the heart of the matter for me. I've always been quick to forgive others - somehow that is a character trait that I've been blessed with. You can genuinely wound me, but if you sincerely try to make it right and we reconcile, I'll work with you and we'll be brothers in the Lord regardless. However, something changes when I walk through my own front door. The rules change and expectations are different. The truth is I've spent far too many years walking through those door posts and slumping my shoulders from the struggles of the outside and completely letting all guard down, expecting to exert no further effort towards anyone or anything once safe under my own roof and through the past year, God has been showing me that I've had it completely backwards. I don't go "off to war" out in the world and return the exhausted provider for my family. The battle is not "out there", it starts right within me and ends within me, daily.
From my first awakening, I have a conscious choice to make - who will I live this day for? Myself, or others? I can go to work and do a great job meeting all demands and expectations of those above me and still have lived the entirety of the day for only myself. Then I can return home tired, spent, and still living for myself, de-energized to an expectant family and have nothing to give them and wound them with indifference, impatience, and critical speech. In doing so I not only wound my children and rob them of the possitive growth and affection they crave, but I strike at the heart of my very own home, my bride - and here is where I've been needing this medicine.
Ephesians 5:22-24 reads:
For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
Now why would a woman, specifically my wife, desire to "submit" to the man I just described above? The word submit, in the greek is the word "hypotasso" and had two uses. It was a greek military term that meant to "arrange troop divisions under the command of a leader". In a voluntary sense, it means to "have an attitude of giving in cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden". Again, why would anyone desire to submit to one with the attitudes and actions displayed above? I wouldn't. This is where, as husband of the home, it becomes critical to follow through to the next verses because we get so hung up on the introductory sentence, we miss the meat of the whole statement here.
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.
Now I have read this times without count but there are truths here that really need to capture the hearts of men, mine included. Do we fully comprehend how Christ loved and is still loving the Church? Most of us think we do. Part of the answer is found in these verses. He gave up his life for the church to make her holy and clean, by the cleansing of the Word. This love does not always run with natural inclination or depend on how you are "feeling" at the moment. It is modeled for us in the example of how Christ loved the church, gave himself for it. When the Word says he gave himself for the Church, the greek for "gave" literally means "to deliver into the hands of another, to give into one's power or use, to give one's self up". Men, when is the last time you gave yourself over to your bride's use or power to be used as she saw fit.....WITHOUT complaint/grumbling/poor attitude? These negate the whole thing. I can't tell you the number of times my own bride has reminded me that doing something for her really doesn't mean a whole lot if my heart is in the wrong place.
I'm not referring to taking the trash out or feeding the pets or any of the hundreds of other menial chores that dictate our lives - though every one of these are important baby-steps. I'm talking about truly dying to yourself to live for your wife and family, to serve them, protect them, be the stability that God designed you as the husband to be. Scared? Intimidated by these demands? God wouldn't have put it in his Word if He wouldn't ordain and empower you to do it. I look at my beautiful sleeping children every morning and wonder how I can possibly be the father they deserve but I am continually reminded that God knew them before he formed them, before he formed me, and he knew the father he wished them to be raised under and will empower me to train them up properly when I partner with their mother and seek His face.
Further, just as Jesus cleanses all of us by His word, eradicating disease, sin, and every filthy, deadly and dirty thing from us that would keep us from being spotless, unblemished and pure before him - we are called to wash our homes, our families, our wives in that same Word. The greek here is literally to bathe, in the sense of cleansing the blood out of wounds. I am to cleanse my bride, to bathe her and our home in the Word. The greek for "word" here is the the word "rhema" which is "that which has been uttered by the living voice, the spoken word".
It is evident that God's Word needs to be on my lips in my home, regularly and continually and over my wife and children in prayer. Further, just as Christ's action of cleansing his Church with the Word permits him to present a body without blemish, to himself, so my action of doing likewise will build up and purify my bride and my family. Verse 27 in the KJV uses the word "glorious" in describing the Church Christ presents and verse 28 husbands are commanded to do likewise. The word for glorious in the greek is "edoxos" and it means to hold in high esteem, to make honorable, notable, and of high repute.
It is my responsibility as husband to my bride to build her up in this manner. My wife should be held in high esteem by others directly as a result of my actions, my cleansing with the Word through prayer and in the manner in which I speak of her when away from the home. Praise of her should continually be on my lips. The "old ball and chain" joking that occurs should never cross my lips nor should I long dwell in its presence. Freeing her of insecurity by continually praising her in public is one of the most valuable gifts a man can give his wife. The really crazy thing is that in taking such protective care of my bride, I ultimately take care of myself because too often we forget - we very truly are one joined flesh. So too, in taking care of each other, we ultimate take care of the Body of Christ and ourselves!