I’ve been told since long before marriage was even something in my young brain that a husband is the head of the wife. This meant very little to me growing up. I’d get pictures of my dad’s head on my mom’s body and giggle. It was weird and goofy, but something I just accepted.
Until I grew up to be a woman. Because then, the fire started. The fire that said, wait a tic! Why would I let some man be my head? What does that mean even? Is he making my choices for me? Is he thinking for me? What if I think he’s wrong? That doesn’t seem fair.
We’ve been living in an age where women are very much fighting for their rights still – it’s been a long time coming and without getting too politically charged, we still have some areas to work on. It wasn’t that long ago that we couldn’t vote or own property. It wasn’t that long ago that it wasn’t the norm to inherit land and title like a son would. It wasn’t that long ago when women were bartered for, purchased as it were, as wives to the highest bidder with the most promise for a sound fiscal future.
So when you read in context from a socio-economic standpoint what Paul says to the Corinthians, you might pause a bit more than if you read it through a 21st century ethos. Because you don’t stop at “wives submit to your husbands as the Church to Christ.” You read the rest. “Husbands love your wives as you do your own bodies.” Um, huh? “Husbands, give your own lives, flesh and blood, just as Christ did for the good – no the sanctification of your wives; her very salvation is exemplified through your love.”
Wouldn’t it be easy to submit to a man who loves you to death? Wouldn’t be better to walk through life with a willing and caring leader, who only gives good advice, who lovingly teaches and helps you in all things, who wakes you up gently in the mornings and sings you sweetly to sleep in the night? Someone who inspires you, gives you goals and the resources to achieve them. Someone who encourages you when you are weary, lifts you up when you feel worn out and broken. Are these not the expressions of Christ’s love for us, his bride? Is this not the way your husband loves and leads you?
Stop rolling your eyes.
The problem is we often see it in an extreme way. If he’s the head, then we must be the ass. Or if he’s the head, then we just walk around brainless wonders, doing everything he tells us like a remote controlled robot. Or if he’s the head and he’s a jerk, then we are constantly fighting our brain off and doing what we want any way, as if a drunken idiot we thinks one thing and does another, mostly ending up in a ditch face down somewhere.
And so we start off rebelling against having our husband as our head. We don’t want anyone as our head. No, it’s not easy to submit. It isn’t even easy to submit to JESUS – the one who did give His entire life for us and bought us with a high price. We don’t even give Him the reigns of our hearts half the time, so how much harder is it to submit to our fallible husband?
But this study is about us. This study is about wives and as such, we are called to pray for our husbands to be this kind of leader, this righteous head of our hearts. And when we joined with him in matrimony, we placed him in that rightful place to be our head. If you didn’t know that’s what you were signing up for when you married, then consider reading through the book The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, and invite your husband to read it with you. It will change everything about how you view each other’s roles in your lives. It will reset your vision for what marriage is supposed to look like.
Marriage is a surgery. Marriage is taking two bodies and joining them together. It is emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically binding. For all time. This is why two people do not go into it lightly. Woe to you who do. And this is why a wedding ceremony is a grave and serious, even cosmic, event. What a mystery and a delight.
And this is why adultery is so grave a sin. It is a symbolic picture of a very physical, tangible expression of tearing one body apart, flesh from flesh, bone from bone, as if ripping a person apart in two. Imagine sawing a body in half and stitching half of it with another’s. I couldn’t be much more graphic because it will make my stomach turn, but the visual image must be vivid and real to make this point clear. What God has joined together… woe to you who tear asunder.
But the stitches do come undone, don’t they? Every time your husband does something you question. Every time he forgets something that is important to you. Every time he snaps at you in a moment of weariness or self-absorbed ruminating. You feel your body wanting to pull away from the head. He can’t possibly live up to my expectations, and he will always let me down in some way. Just as I will for him. And the pressures mount up (if you let them) and the disappointments pile to make a wall (if you are stop breaking them down and throwing them away).
When we started dating and made a commitment to see where our relationship would go, I realized that everything about my then-boyfriend would become part of my life. There was no separation of “stuff” – if you will, and that all his “stuff” becomes my stuff, and vice versa. In a symbolic way, when people marry, we join our earthly possessions together. We join our houses into one. We get new stuff or we throw away duplicate stuff. We set up house together, hopefully peaceably agreeing on how to do so. And we create a real, tangible picture of our new lives together.
And it goes deeper. His dreams become mine, and his life takes on my life. We had to know while dating that our lives would mesh, that our goals would join, that the things we chased after before might have to be tossed aside. We agreed that we had to clean up our messes and the consequences of sin together, that it wasn’t “your” problem any more; it is now officially “our” problem. The two little words “I do” could not hold any more gravity than they did on our wedding day, the day we were forever made one.
And so my prayer for today is that I always see my flesh and bone as engrafted forever into my husband’s, that no action I ever take, no thought I ever have will work intentionally contrary to his, that if we stand at an impasse, we wait together, prayerfully and humbly, submitting our deepest desires and personal goals, preferences and insecurities to each other. We are one. We have been joined forever, fused together, glued and bound for all time and perhaps eternity (the doctrinal stance on marriage in heaven is still to be determined, though my husband and I tend toward being married in heaven for all eternity… we’ll see when we get there!!!).
My husband drew this. You can sum up my entire blog today with this picture…