God's ways are radically different than our ways, and His thoughts are different than our thoughts. The way we often think of submission is not at all how God intended it.
Submission . . . it can sound antiquated and archaic, conjuring up images of angry men and docile women who are doormats and easy prey. That’s the picture of submission you come away with if you listen to the vocal opponents of biblical womanhood, that is.
But that’s not what God had in mind when He put the first man and woman in the Garden. He set in motion a glorious picture of order and symbiotic relationship. Man and woman, with each giving fully of themselves and fulfilling the tasks that they were designed for and best suited to accomplish. And that’s still His desire today—that we desist in the battle of the sexes and approximate, as best we are able, the beauty of the Garden.
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31a).
There’s just one little thing that gets in the way, isn’t there? It’s the same thing that got in the way in the Garden: sin. A willful decision to question God’s goodness, His purposes, and to exalt self-will over His will.
I brought a lot of that to my own first encounter with submission. I came to marriage strongly committed to egalitarian roles for women. Deeply impacted by the Black Power Movement and the strong women in my family, I was a prime target for the feminist agenda. I studied Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas and was poised to enter a field that few Black women occupied at that time. At least, that’s what I thought—but God had very different plans.
His plan was for me to marry a young man named George who would later be called to preach and pastor. But at that time I was still an afro-centric revolutionary with very distinct ideas about gender roles and what this sister was or was not going to take.
For the most part, George and I had much in common. We loved to talk, go to the movies, and play Bid Whist. However, his ideas about roles within marriage were diametrically opposed to mine. The idea of being a doting, submissive wife was archaic and distasteful to me. I had not seen that example growing up and had no desire to break the generational mold cast for me by the women in my life.
Nevertheless, prior to getting married, we decided that we would build our marriage and family based on the principles of the Bible. So, of course, I went to God’s Word to find support for my position. Surely, God didn’t expect me to belittle my intelligence by submitting to a man! As I was confronted with the concepts of headship, submission, and biblical roles for marriage, I came to an awakening; a realization of how radically different God’s ways and thoughts are than ours. They are so far beyond our capacity to understand, that unless He reveals them to us, they cannot be known. My heart overflowed in appreciation for God’s desire to make His will known to His children.
Along with this awakening came a sense of brokenness; the hardness that was part and parcel of my radical stance had to be reckoned with. It became clear to me that on the issue of submission my heart had to change. And it did, but not overnight. After agonizing in prayer for weeks and months with this new truth, I finally came to embrace His wisdom and to trust His plans for my life.