I’ll start positive on this one: what I liked about the book was how seriously it took scripture. I think when we come across passages that are hard to accept or hard to understand, sometimes we try to make sense of it and/or make it palatable by trying to fit it inside and amidst what we already believe about that topic. So maybe I would read that wives should obey their husbands and think, “OBEY? Well, I already know this doesn’t mean “obey”, so maybe it was only for that culture. Or maybe obey means something other than what I thought. Or maybe we only have to obey if our husband is following his scriptural mandates well enough?” Now, I’m not even saying any of those things are true or false, only that I question beginning the process with assuming “obey” must not mean just what it says. What if we started with considering maybe it means just what it says. Not in an unthinking way. Just being open to the possibility as we study scripture and decide if it agrees with other commands from God. From what we understand of God’s character. I like books (and people) who take God’s word seriously. Some of the mandates are cultural. Some were temporary. Many are very hard to understand. But let’s start by believing, and rejoicing, that every word in the Bible is holy and is there for a reason. And that we haven’t got it all figured out yet.
What I didn’t like about the book was what I felt were several false conclusions. She asserts things like that if we are submitting, we will never be put in a position where we have to disobey our husbands in order to obey God, and vice versa. She attempts to support this by saying if this is seeming to happen, it must be because the woman was not submitting at some point. Even if this were true, she doesn’t seem to offer any hope for anyone who has ever made a mistake. As in, what is the woman whose husband is telling her to get an abortion to do? That is a clear case of choosing between obeying the husband and obeying God. So even if the woman were to accept that maybe this happened because of some past non-submissiveness? Then what? She still has to decide about that baby. If I understood correctly, her stance in the book is that if the woman were to repent, God would change the husband’s heart. I do not believe this, or many other of her conclusions, to agree with what the scriptures say. I appreciated reading her thoughts and thinking more deeply about the matter, but I disagreed with much of what she writes.
Aside from the opinions in this book, does a woman have to submit to her husband? Even obey? My interest in this subject has far from faded since reading this, and I have since heard well-thought-out, thought-provoking arguments for many different positions. So where am I? I realized something relatively recently that has shaped my current dominant views. Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. Which reminds me that Romans 12:18 tells me that if it is possible, as far as it depends on me, to live peaceably with everyone. I always knew those were there, of course, and I usually hear Ephesians 5:21 used to “fight back” against a woman having to submit to her husband. But what I realized is this: however I interpret Ephesians 5:22, I am called to submit to and live peaceably with everyone. Including my husband. Even if I heard a watertight case for “egalitarian marriage”, at the end of the day, when my husband is asking me to do something (or had a bad day and is grumpy and is telling me to do something) that I don’t want to do, the overriding principle in the moment will come from Ephesians 5:21, Romans 12:18, and Matthew 20:28. If I want to be Christlike, I must seek to serve instead of seek to be served. This covers the practical “what to do” in the vast majority of cases in my marriage.
But I understand: This is not the whole answer. There is still value in seeking to understand. There have been more moments than I wish there were in my marriage where the right thing to do wasn’t perfectly clear. So I’m grateful for this insight that covers most of our interactions, I continue to try to learn more, and I continue to walk– with fear and trembling.