My eldest stepdaughter, Caroline, is going to make me a ‘step’ granny later this year, and I was reading up on issues relating to biblical parenting for her, when I happened to watch a programme about “surrendered” wives. While not specifically made by or for Christians it did feature at least two Christian couples who practice this art. I had very mixed feelings while watching it. One couple in particular made me a bit uneasy, but I don’t know whether it was because of how their relationship came across, or whether I felt the husband was abusing the principle for his own means. The wife literally not just submitted to his role as head of the household, but deferred to him on absolutely everything in her life, from the clothes she should wear, to what she ate, and how she managed her day. He provided her a list of chores he expected her to do through the day, and would literally check them off with her on his return from work. She maintained she was happy because she knew that she was not only making him happy, but enabling him to be the best attorney he could be, because his home life was under control. Control I felt was somewhat the operative term in their relationship. I just thought that while he appeared to love her, he didn’t allow his wife the remotest sense of independence, whether by her choice or his I’m unsure. And she was already promoting this lifestyle to their 3-year-old daughter – continually telling the daughter that they would do something because it would please Daddy – something many mothers might say to their kids, but the context here was just a bit more brain washing to me than allowing the child to have its own opinion later on.
Whilst as Christians we obviously desire our kids to come to salvation early, and live solid lives before the Lord through their younger years, I think it can be counterproductive to push too much at them too soon. They may accept it when too young to know any different, but eventually most kids rebel against a too strict upbringing as many parents Christian or otherwise could testify. The other Christian couple were slightly more balanced, but again, there seemed to be this thread of male domination through it – the wife did nothing of her own volition even when it was something that ordinarily would and should (IMO) have been her choice alone e.g. the clothes she would wear the next day. Understandably the non Christian men were nearly worse again – one of them in his 70s had married a Thai bride in her 30s. The Thai culture meant that she was already a subservient type, which he found wonderful – this woman was really a slave for him. I didn’t see much intimacy between them in any shape or form – just her cooking continually for him and his 5 boozy buddies of varying age, who sat around like total slobs, while she not only cooked a 4-course meal regularly but then also had the clearing up to do, and perform all these other duties to save him the hard work in bothering (putting out the rubbish, sorting out laundry etc).
But the final couple sort of proved the mandate behind the concept for me – they’d had a lot of marital problems because the wife was very much the dominant partner, continually putting her husband down, sniping at him constantly, complaining about almost every decision he thought of making (he never actually managed to make any as she took control every time). She went through the training program to become a surrendered wife, which involved her learning to relinquish control, and not to speak back to her husband as well as allowing him to determine her choices as well (back to the clothes selections again!). But interestingly, while she was the least happy about considering the whole experience, she managed very well for the most part to change her controlling behaviour, and the couple started to recover their marriage wonderfully by the end of the programme.
Here’s what scripture actually states on the topic:
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
I think like so many other suggestions given by scripture on how to live your life, having a biblical marriage has to be much more appropriate than not – at least absolutely for Christians. If, as a woman, you can’t submit to your husband whom you know and love, then how can you fully and appropriately submit to God who you also know and love (hopefully!). And I think the programme brought out the fact that these principles are applicable and healthy across the board, to maintain a solid and loving relationship. However, it is very much down to the couple as to whether it will work properly or not. If the husband starts abusing his role (as I felt that one guy did), then it tends to fall apart, as eventually I think most women will find it demeaning rather than empowering. There’s a fine line to be drawn sometimes in such issues like this. Sadly I know the younger generation today wouldn’t hear tell of this type of marriage – most want to maintain their independence regardless of their partner, and to equally be in control. However, that’s what cripples most marriages, because ultimately it was never meant to be a totally equal partnership in that sense. True biblical marriage should cement the relationship, not crack it.
Be extremely interested to hear back from any of you who practice biblical marriage and/or parenting about how you work at it, and any difficulties you’ve had in doing so.