PLEASE YOURSELF, YOU USUALLY DO!
The Bible was open before me and notes were everywhere as I waited on God to give me this anointed message on submission. You can imagine my shock when several hours into this study God spoke to me and said, "Val, you cannot teach this message." A little unnerved I asked, "Why not?" His answer to my heart was, "Because you don’t understand submission!" Now I don’t mind admitting that I was shocked.
"Lord, do you realize that I’m Val Stares from Above Rubies? I’ve always encouraged submission." "Yes," was the reply, "but you still don’t know how to submit." By now I was on the defensive. "But. Lord, you know that every time I want something, or desire to go somewhere, I always ask my husband first."
"And what is his reply?"
"He says for me to please myself. Oh yes, he always adds, ‘You usually do.’ I don’t know why he says that because he’s already given me permission to do what I think best.”
"If you are serious about learning submission, Val, I want you to go to your husband and tell him that from now on he needs to answer you, "Yes" or "No." If he says that you can please yourself, then you will take that as his disapproval and will stay home or go without. There is to be no pouting, no banging doors, no attitude of annoyance or hurt when this happens."
I desired to obey the Lord, so I bowled out to the shed where my husband could always be found and shared with him the plan that God had laid out before me.
"I can’t wait!" he roared, laughing. "You’ll never be able to do it." I felt annoyed at him for thinking I was so weak, but it didn’t matter, as I didn’t want to go anywhere or have anything at that time. So far, the strategy was easy.
About three weeks later, a visiting speaker came to town. Everyone was excited. "Are you coming, Val?" I was asked. "Sure I will," I answered. "I wouldn’t miss this for anything." Finally it was time to ask my husband if I could go. Out to the shed I went, told him what was happening and asked if I could go. As usual, I left everything until the last minute! Can you guess his reply? "Please yourself, you usually do."
Suddenly I remembered my pact with God. I was speechless as the enormity of the situation impacted my brain. I can’t go! Worse still, I can’t say anything. I raced into the bedroom and pleaded with God, "He’s forgotten he has to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Can’t I just remind him?" "No" came the answer to my heart.
Perhaps pleading would help. "Lord, this is a special overseas visitor to our church. He may never come this way again. His message could change my life. I’m told I shouldn’t miss his teaching."
"I’m teaching you," was the awesome reply. By now you would think I would be still, but no, I had to have one more shot. "Lord, couldn’t I just have a shower and get ready so that it will help to jog my husband’s memory?" "No!"
It was too much for me. I couldn’t do anything. My emotions were getting the better of me. If I was going to obey God, I would have to divert them. I began cleaning the house to help relieve the tension. Around the time I should have left for the meeting, my husband walked in to find me cleaning. "I thought you were going out to a meeting," he said. You would have been proud of me. As sweetly as I could manage, and it wasn’t easy, I answered. "No, Darling. Remember I told you that from now on I’m not going to please myself. God said you have to say “Yes" or "No,” otherwise I must stay home.
What do you think happened? He relented and said I could go? No. My husband is a gentleman and very slow to anger. This time he was livid! "If you want to be so stupid, you can stay home!" he shouted as he stormed out. It was then that the full revelation of what God was teaching me became clear.
I had overridden my husband’s decision so many times that he was now robbed of any desire to lead. He must have felt so cheated. Now, by God’s hand, he was responsible for me staying home, but what hurt me most was the realization that it was me, the Christian wife, who had robbed him!
I wasn’t bossy when we married. I just grew that way. My husband is a cautious man and rather slow at making decisions. My impatience at waiting for an answer caused me to make more and more decisions myself and he would go along with me for the sake of peace. When you’ve got children hanging out for answers, it’s easy to get caught up in this syndrome.
I stayed home for several weeks after that, while we both learned our respective roles. I thought I’d have to stay home forever! Gradually, my husband began to say "Yes" or "No" without the added adage of pleasing myself. As I continued to study the scriptures on the subject of submission, I realized that this was something I had to do of my own volition.
Ephesians 5:22 says, "Wives, submit yourself unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."Are you like me and sometimes wish he hadn’t written that last phrase?
Colossians 3:18 says, "Wives, submit yourself unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."
The Greek word for “submission: is hupotasso which means “to place yourself under.” In each of the above Scriptures, God tells us “to place ourselves under our husband’s authority.” God is not telling husbands to make us obey or make us come under their authority. We do it because we love God and our husbands, and because He has asked us to. It is our choice.
In my mind I saw my broom raised to a horizontal position above my head. The handle was labeled, "My husband’s Authority." I could see that if he were in his rightful position, I would be able to walk beneath it in an upright position. This upright position was one of honor, security, love–and a surprise I didn’t expect or notice until much later--power!
As I pondered my imaginary broom handle, I realized that I couldn’t stand upright beneath my husband’s authority. No, I would have to bend to get beneath it, mainly because he had been slowly robbed of his rightful authority, and secondly, because he now had no compulsion to take it up. My futile efforts only seemed to make matters worse. Just as my husband couldn’t make me submit, I wasn’t able to make him lead. Both were individual heart decisions. God gently showed me that I would have to learn to bend my attitudes until I could get under his authority. I had to become flexible. Just because the things I wanted to do were good things, didn’t necessarily mean they were what my husband wanted to do. He could have other plans.
But then I realized that even bending wouldn’t be enough to get under his authority. It would take more than a little bending. Perhaps, if I kneeled! Oh what a humbling position, but if that was what it would take, I would go that far. I realized that I was measuring myself against Bill instead of the Word of God. I was the one who was reading the Word each day, praying, and going to all the church meetings and he wasn’t. But God wanted me to measure myself by the attitude of Jesus.
We read about Jesus’ example in 1 Peter 2:18-23, "For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps...Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously....Likewise, (with the same spirit of Jesus) ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (the manner of life) of the wives."
I had become so religious that I had failed to see that I would be pleasing the Lord more by obeying and submitting to my husband than attending every church meeting and program.
However, it still wasn’t low enough! There was only one position left! My husband’s authority was so low that I had to lie down to get under it. Yes, I had to lay down my life! To get my marriage back into its rightful order, I took this position. I placed myself there. No one made me. It took sacrifice and I had to lay down all my own rights. But I desired to be where God wanted me to be. It was the only position from where I could help my husband to take up his leadership role again. With God’s help and guidance I took one step at a time. The hardest part lasted only for a season. The rewards are for a lifetime and eternity.
What happened to that feared and dreaded “door mat,” the so-called intimidated mousy wife who gets no say? It was a lie. It had no substance or power. I can now stand up straight, and walk upright, secure and loved under his protection. On this side of submission, I have more say because my opinion is of greater value than before.
One word of warning-- submission is a daily practice, not a one-time act. I have to daily check my attitude and the humility of my heart.
Beaudesert, Queensland, Australia
Val is the Director of Above Rubies in Australia