Have you ever really studied your husband?

I mean really studied him? Do you know what makes him tick? Do you know what makes him discouraged, and what makes him feel like he can take on the world? Do you know what his biggest fear is, and what his biggest success is? Do you know his dreams, his goals, his worries?

My theme this month for Wednesdays has been looking at what submission in marriage really means. Up until now I’ve looked at what it DOESN’T mean–submission doesn’t mean blind obedience; submission doesn’t mean in the case of ties he wins; it doesn’t mean that we follow our husbands over God. And those who believe these things don’t understand what Jesus says about marriage.

Today I want to wrap up the series with a challenge that I first issued a few years ago, but it summarized everything I’ve been leading up to, so I want to run it again. Can we become students of our husbands? I don’t mean students in terms of him teaching us something (though that’s likely a part of it); I mean students more in the way that Thomas Edison was a student of science. He ate science, breathed science, lived science, and was always trying to figure it out.

I believe that kind of focused study of our husbands is what God is calling us to.

Let me explain. In Ephesians 5:21-22, we read this:

(21) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (22) Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

As I talked about last week, often people begin the passage reading from verse 22, but actually, verse 22 doesn’t make sense in the Greek without verse 21, because the verb “submit” is only in verse 21; it’s not in verse 22. In Greek, verse 22 literally says, “Wives, to your husbands…” That’s a Greek device where it implies the previous verb also applies to this sentence, which means that Paul meant verse 22 as a continuous thought with verse 21, not as two separate thoughts, as modern Bibles often portray it.

So what does this mean for us?

What Submission Really Means: A Better Interpretation of Ephesians 5

First, everyone is to submit to one another.

We are all to “put ourselves under” others, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:4). We’re to put other people’s needs ahead of our own. We’re to bless others. We’re to love others. We’re to serve others.

Servanthood is to be the hallmark of our lives, just as it was the hallmark of Jesus’ life–“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” (Mark 10:45). So women submit to men, men submit to women, employees submit to employers, employers submit to employees, neighbours submit to neighbours, because we are all to serve one another and bless one another and look out for their best.

Submission is simply about laying down one’s life and serving others–even if there’s nothing simple about that.

That is how we are to treat one another. Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThat’s why submission in these verses isn’t about decision-making, because then verse 21 would make no sense. Submission is simply about laying down one’s life and serving others–even if there’s nothing simple about that. And that makes submission so much bigger than decision making, because it isn’t something we do on the rare occasion that we actually disagree about something. It’s something we do each and every day, all the time. It’s an attitude of living to bless another. As I shared in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, this is actually a much taller order. This is an attitude and a life of service, and it’s beautiful.

Are you GOOD or are you NICE?

Because the difference matters!

God calls us to be GOOD, yet too often we’re busy being nice. And sometimes, in marriage, that can actually cause problems to be even more entrenched.

What if there’s a better way?

(Incidentally, I don’t know why people get so upset when I mention that not just wives are asked to submit. Why is that so threatening? Paul asked everyone to submit out of reverence for Christ–out of reverence for what a servant He was, and we are to walk in His steps.)

But wives are also asked to be more specific–to submit to our own husbands

Here’s the thing, though: while we may bless everyone and serve everyone in the abstract, we’re asked specifically to do it for our husbands. So we may be kind to strangers, we may buy coffee for a co-worker, we may listen to a friend as she unburdens to us, but these things are largely done in the moment. God asks us, though, to be intentional about serving our husbands.

You can’t serve everyone in the same way. After all, we have limited energy and limited time. And God isn’t asking us to do everything for everybody. Our attitude towards everyone should be to serve and bless them, yes. But with our husbands–it goes beyond that. With them, we are to be intentional.

To me, that means making a plan. I can get easily get wrapped up in my work or in what I want to accomplish this week. But as I’m looking at my goals for the week, one of the first things I’m trying to train myself to ask is, “how can I be a help to Keith this week?” What does he have on this week that could be a stressor for him, and how can I help to alleviate that? What are his goals for this week–with health, with his spiritual life, with his work life–and how can I be a part of helping him meet those goals?

Even writing this I’m feeling convicted that I don’t know the answers to some of that (I don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish in his work life this week!). And I really should. Because of all people on the face of this earth, the one that I am called first and foremost to serve–before my kids, before any boss, before my parents–is my husband.

Submitting to our husbands: do we study them so that we know how to serve them? Submitting is about intentionally serving!

Friendship is not a substitute for serving

I am all for pursuing a friendship with our husbands so that we feel close to them, but sometimes I think that we women aim for friendship, thinking that this is the pinnacle of success in marriage. When we feel close, like we are laughing and doing things together, then everything else is okay. And certainly friendship should be one of our big aims. We are to keep spending time together and preventing that drift. But friendship helps us to feel better about the relationship. It isn’t an other-focused thing. 

It’s absolutely essential, and very good, but it isn’t everything. God also asks us to invest in our husbands’ lives, and to serve them. We could be having fun with our husbands and laughing with our husbands and spending a ton of time with our husbands without actually serving them intentionally.

(Shoot. Now I feel convicted again. I guess that means this must be a good post when it’s going to change how I act towards my husband, too!)

A few years ago I wrote a post about why my husband I grew apart for the previous three years (and I shared this story a lot in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage). It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with our marriage; it was just that we were both busy, and frequently working in different cities, and we weren’t sharing anything together anymore.

Women submit to men, men submit to women, employees submit to employers, employers submit to employees, neighbours submit to neighbours, because we are all to serve one another.

(Click here to tweet this quote)

As I think about that time, though, God’s been starting to reveal another layer to it. During those years we still had fun together when we were together (though that wasn’t often enough). But the big thing was that we were leading separate lives.My emotional energy was being poured into my daughters and my work, and his into his work, and I wasn’t serving him. I wasn’t intentionally thinking about what he needed from me. We were still friends, but I wasn’t being proactive.

When we’re proactive, we pay attention to what’s happening in his life. More importantly, perhaps, we ask God to show us what He is doing in our husband’s life so that we can participate. We get excited about the things that excite him. We think about ways to bless him. We plan how to help him reach his goals.

Persevere in loving your spouse by remembering that your husband will continuously be changing by God's grace.

If we aren’t intentional about how we can bless our husbands, then I think we’re missing out on God’s command to submit to our husbands.

This is the big thing in marriage that God asks us to do: to be intentional about serving our husbands. We’re to be our husband’s biggest cheerleaders, and the “suitable helper”, or “necessary ally”, to come alongside him and help him. We can’t do that if we only get around to thinking about him once the kids are asleep and the dishes are done. We can only do that when he is the primary person we think about and pay attention to. And that means getting our eyes off of ourselves and our own hurts (without enabling abuse, of course), and thinking about him. In doing so, we change the dynamic of the marriage and make it far more likely that we’ll feel close.

So let me ask you today: how have you been more intentional about serving your husband? What practical tips can you give us? Let’s help each other in the comments to live this out!

More in our Submission Series:

And check out 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage–which has all of this and more in it about submission! If you’ve enjoyed this series, and want to go deeper beyond pat answers and into what living for Christ and serving radically for Christ looks like, then 9 Thoughts can help. Check it out here!

Thank You to Our Sponsor, Ultimate Intimacy App

I just want to say a big thank you to our sponsor, Ultimate Intimacy App, whose founders are such a big supporter of this blog. I absolutely LOVE having a sponsor that I can get behind 110%–because they created the app that I’ve always wanted to create! It’s such a great boost to your sex life. It has this awesome game that will make sex more fun. It has an encyclopedia of sexual positions so that you can have it choose a few for you to try, or you can search for some using different criteria. And it has lots of great resources to help YOU make sex awesome. Part of serving your husband, I believe, is dedicating yourself to becoming enthusiastic about sex. And I really think this game makes that easier. The Ultimate Intimacy app has such a strong component of growing your emotional intimacy, too, with conversation starters, romantic prompts, and more. The free version is fun, but with the paid version (which is still under $10), the game really opens up, and you get access to so much more. Read my whole review of it here, or check it out on iTunes or Google Play!

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