This post was written by Abby Norman. I have a million reasons to be jealous of Abby Norman, including that she is brave and outgoing and seriously on a run right now. But it’s that wonderful thing, when you don’t have to be jealous, because you are ON THE SAME TEAM. I love her heart, and I love it when she says in her Southern voice, “That is a lie from the pit!” And I love what she has to say here, about the S-Word.
I am a feminist who is a member of a Southern Baptist church, in the buckle of the Bible belt. I have big feelings about submission. Put me in a pew, the preacher mentions submission and I start checking for the exits. My ears listen to every syllable as the heat rises in my neck and my skin itches. If the wi-fi works I start scrolling through my twitter feed. What box are they going to shove me into today? Please, just make it stop. Why is it that the wives submit part gets preached far more often than the submit to each other part? Those two passages are on the same page, just inches from each other.
Maybe it is because the wives part is easier; it is more controlled and containable. If the husbands say and the wives submit, then the traffic only runs one way, and no one runs into each other. If we are all submitting one to the other who knows when to stop and to go? How do we manage that? Won’t we all be stepping on each other’s toes all the time as we both go and then halt and then go and then brake like a bunch of newly licensed teens at a four-way stop? If everyone is submitting one to another, surely no one will get anywhere. An accident is guaranteed. One way traffic means far fewer accidents.
Maybe it is because are afraid. We are afraid that the submitting to each other will lead to a dance that is too chaotic, one that we will not be able to control. But maybe that is the whole point of submission, one to another, a dance so crazy and beautiful it can only be choreographed by a very big God. A simple and discernible pattern of husbands say and wives submit makes me feel safe. But as Mrs. Beaver tells Lucy in the first book of the Narnia Chronicles, God isn’t safe. He is good, but he isn’t safe.
Safe and culturally normative are not anything like this God that I know, and yet I sometimes like to pretend that submitting to Him is me staying safe and doing nothing to get me noticed.
Why would submitting to a wild and free God look anything but wild and free?
All too often I have hidden behind the excuse of submitting to the authority in my life, when the only thing I am submitting to is the fear in my own heart. I have known since I was twelve that the Lord would use my voice, but this calling is scary. So instead of standing up and speaking, I sit on my hands and wait for the authority, any authority, to notice and ask. I have used the misguided teaching on submitting to my husband, my pastor, my boss, as an excuse to avoid submitting to God. If you wanted me to do it, Lord, you should have gotten an authority figure to ask me. Sorry, I can’t help you, I am trying to be submissive.
Somewhere along the way I got submitting to the gentle call of the shepherd leading out in front of me mixed up with cowering in the wake of a screaming cowboy herding me violently with a cattle prod in hand. I get Yahweh mixed up with Zeus somehow. Submitting to God’s call meant a deep breaking of self, my will, my person. Of course I resisted, who would want to submit to a screaming and angry God? It was going to hurt. But the shepherd doesn’t have a cattle prod; he doesn’t need one. Submitting to the shepherd is an accepting of an invitation to a better self. Sometimes it hurts, but like the cleaning of a wound, not the infliction of one. Submitting to the shepherd means rejecting the fear that is tying up my heart.
When I am staying safe I am submitting to my fear, when I am out on a ledge I am submitting to God. Our God is wild and free, and submitting to Him means a wild and free life.
Abby Norman lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She has two hilarious children and a husband that doubles as her copy editor and biggest fan. If two in diapers and a full-time job teaching English at a local high school don’t keep her busy, you can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional.com and on Twitter at @AccidentalDevo.