Today’s Equally Yoked post is from my sweet friend Suzanne Burden.
“So I told him I am in a mutually-submissive marriage,” I said, commenting on a response to a fellow-student in my seminary class. My husband pulled the car up to the yellow lines as he prepared to drop me off at the door of our Fresh Market grocery. “Is that what we have?” he replied.
Looking back at him, I realized we hadn’t ever defined our marriage per se. Five years ago, our vows had been fairly traditional; we both knew I was a strong woman, but traditional was what we knew. So we set out with fairly traditional ideals, until we discovered that my husband is a much better cook than I am. Then we felt God call me to seminary and to a temporary pastorate.
Frankly, it was the questions of others that made us think more deeply about our relationship. “What does your husband think about you doing all of this?” I heard over and over. And the funny thing that people didn’t understand is that my husband not only didn’t mind me being the one to pursue seminary and ministry leadership, he celebrated it. He told everyone he knew when I preached a sermon and invited them to show up. He made sure relatives got a CD if they could not attend. He felt the brunt of my sorrow over the comments and male-dominated curriculum I sometimes experienced in seminary, and he assured me there was a place for me at the table. That there must be. He even bragged to others about my grade point average—at which time I told him he had gone a little too far!
So when he said “Is that what we have?” I smiled. I reminded him of how he described our marriage to an acquaintance just a few weeks before, and I told him I thought what he said was brilliant. He, of course, wanted me to tell him what had been so brilliant about it. “Well,” I said. “You explained that we have a give-and-take that allows us to simply offer up what we’re good at for the sake of the marriage. Neither one of us needs to do it all; but together, we find a way to get it all done.”
David’s attitude—combined with us studying theology together and me poring over Scripture in preparation to write a book—had caused an evolution in our marriage. It was less a decision at a moment in time and more a way of being that to us reflects the spirit of Christ and releases each of us to be and become all that the Spirit intends.
We have not less submission in our marriage, then, but more of it. As Richard Foster defines submission it is the freeing realization that you don’t always have to get your own way. I have the privilege of serving David, and he has the privilege of serving me. In this, we reflect the love of Christ to one another, over and over again. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but on most days, it brings genuine delight and easy companionship. And I, for one, wish that when I graduated from seminary this spring, David’s name would also have been listed on the diploma. He has become my champion in ways neither of us would ever have dreamed—and I truly hope he can say the same about me.
Suzanne Burden enjoys weaving personal narrative and questioning with the grand story of God’s Kingdom purposes as revealed in His Word. She is coauthoring the book Reclaiming Eve: What the Bible Says about Every Woman’s Identity to be published in March 2014 through Beacon Hill Press. Find her on twitter at suzanneburden.