If you were a very small piglet living in the Hundred Acre Wood, an ideal home for you might be a beech tree.
Beech trees, for reasons unknown to me, are susceptible to a peculiar weakness: It is not uncommon for great huge beech trees, green and apparently thriving, to be completely rotted inside, beneath the bark. I pass several such trees each day when I walk the dogs. These trees are tremendous - enormous trunks, great spreading branches covered with glossy green leaves, towering above surrounding trees. But if you look closely, you'll see that their massive trunks are hollow. Whenever I pass one of these giants, I can't help but think "What a great place for a raccoon or a 'possum to live!" In fact, these trees often are inhabited by various wildlife: squirrels, birds, mice, raccoons, snakes, and even foxes.
Passing one of these hollow giants last week, I thought to myself, "I am just like that tree." On the outside, I look like I've got it all together, like my life is everything it ought to be. On the inside, though, there's just crumbling, black decay. And an infestation of all kinds of vermin - fear, anger, resentment. Blech!
The women at Grace have been working through Carolyn Mahaney's book Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother. This is not a book for the faint of heart. It challenges us women to grow in the virtues commanded in Titus 2, and Yours Truly gets to lead our monthly discussions. Every month, I think "Oh, this topic won't be too hard to cover. How difficult is kindness?" Then, in preparation for our study, my heart is exposed, the dirty truth is revealed, and I am convicted anew of projecting external conformity to the will of God while inwardly harboring a rotten, sinful heart.
We are meeting to discuss the last of the seven virtues on Saturday. Submission. Wives are commanded to be submissive to their own husbands (Titus 2:5). This command comes from God, and our obedience in this area is obedience to God. But, hey, I'm definitely a submissive wife. Everyone knows that about me, right? Right? Whew! At least this last lesson will not be too uncomfortable. Wrong! Yes, I'm submissive on the outside. But inside - that's another story.
I don't think two people could be wired any more differently than Steve and I. Steve is spontaneous, shoot-from-the-hip, fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants. Me...I prefer detailed plans (preferrably written out, in triplicate), calendars, long-term strategy. I'm the sort who gets inordinate pleasure out of checking off boxes on a to-do list. Steve leans toward fun and silly. I tend to be serious and introspective. I'm a front-row girl married to a back-row guy.
These differences, along with my sin nature, make true submission a difficult challenge for me. There have been numerous situations - both major and minor - where Steve's decisions and leadership have not been what I wanted. You think we should move back to the farm - NOW? Well, Okay. What? You decided to get the kids a PlayStation? Fine then, just fine. Sometimes I feel like I'm hanging off the back railing of a runaway train, flapping in the wind and trying to get my feet under me. I've conformed to his decisions and plans, but not without a lot of internal frustration and grumbling. This is not the kind of life this get-it-together girl pictured for herself!
But I've discovered something in preparing for this week's lesson. Nowhere in Scripture - nowhere - is my husband commanded to write lists, or to draw wall maps of family goals, or to make PowerPoint presentations of strategies for life. Sure, those things would be nice, but they are not absolutely necessary and failing to do them is not sin on Steve's part. However, Scripture is very clear on this point: I am to be submissive to Steve's leadership, whether I like his leadership style or not. And my not submitting (or only pretending to submit) IS sin.
Carolyn Mahaney has a knack for cutting right to the heart of my problem in this area. She writes: "Am I prepared to trust God to lead my husband, to lead me?" The question is not, "Do I trust Steve?" The question is, "Do I trust God?"
Susan Hunt, a wise older woman, writes in her book, The True Woman: "The true woman is not afraid to place herself in a position of submission. She does not have to grasp; she does not have to control. Her fear dissolves in the light of God's covenant promise to be her God and to live within her. Submission is simply a demonstration of her confidence in the sovereign power of the Lord God."
WHAM. Do I truly trust God? Sadly, no. Am I grasping? Am I controlling? Am I afraid? Yes, yes, and yes.
What is the cure for this wicked disobedience? God's promises. God's faithfulness. God's sovereign power.
When I am submissive on the outside but not on the inside, it is not because I am overly aware of my husband's weaknesses. It is because I am under aware of my God's perfect strength. It's because I have a very small view of God. Submission to Steve, then, is an expression of my confidence in the trustworthiness of God.
Thankfully, God reminds me over and over again in Scripture of His perfect love and faithfulness. Thankfully, He is committed to transforming me from a sinful and rebellious woman into a wife whose submission is characterized by true, heartfelt peace and joy. Thankfully, God is conforming me to the likeness of His beautiful Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a life of perfect submission on my behalf. Thankfully, God can transform even a hollow beech into an honest and sturdy oak.
3 days ago