Suzanne and David Burden: “We have not less submission in our marriage, then, but more of it.”

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.

suzanne gradFrankly, 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.

404418_730801561347_1523016363_nWe 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.


11 Responses to Suzanne and David Burden: “We have not less submission in our marriage, then, but more of it.”

  1. Bronwyn Lea October 22, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    I am thinking and rethinking this issue through at the moment, Suzanne. Thanks for your insight about “we have not less submission in our marriage, but more…”

    • Suzanne Burden October 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      Thanks for that honest reply, Bronwyn. May you be blessed as you sift and sort through the particulars.

  2. Jessi October 22, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your story! I love how you put it, that your marriage doesn’t have less submission, it has more…and that it truly is a privilege and a reflection of Christ for both spouses to be able to lovingly and willingly serve one another!

    • Suzanne Burden October 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      Hey Jessi: Thanks much! Reminds me of what Richard Foster talks about, that submission is not a dirty word.

  3. Jenny Rae Armstrong October 22, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    I love this post, Suzanne. I think that what many people don’t realize is that having a mutual marriage doesn’t mean that the wife stops submitting–it means that the husband submits too, which is how most healthy marriages work in practice. It also means that both partners are free to lead. Instead of defaulting to the husband charging ahead with his vision and goals, with the wife playing a supporting role, we look at both partners gifts and passions, consider what God may be leading us toward, and support one another. Again, how many marriages work in practice, but that may be less common.

    It’s Philippians 2:3 in action: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Yay for marriages that model this!

  4. Suzanne Burden October 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Jenny, I was just thinking that what the gospel makes possible in our relationships is truly astounding and beautiful. Thanks for providing the forum to discuss and model that here. You continually encourage and inspire me.

  5. Jada October 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    Suzanne, this was wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Tim October 23, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    It’s more, not less – so true, Suzanne, well said! I see a lot more Christ-likeness in these marriages than I ever see in hierarchical relationships.


  7. here March 26, 2014 at 2:55 am #

    You will likely be expressing your opinion but within an objective and reasonable way. Most ghost writers (and greatest-selling authors) have scads of journals they wouldn’t even show their good friends.

  8. Shaina Fisher March 27, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    Wow! This did something for my heart. I’m nearing my seminary education (the unexpected sorrow of a woman at seminary–thank you for mentioning it) and walking into a marriage so very much like the one you describe, with deep joy. Thank you!


  1. Comple-galitarian? - Suzanne Burden - November 20, 2013

    […] come in many different stripes, but I have found that most of them don’t approve of my mutually-submissive marriage or the fact that I have served as a pastor and now work part-time as a chaplain. Still, I believe […]

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