Went to the country fair with my daughter last night, we had a blast! Walking everywhere, talking, laughing, snapping pictures and eatting hotdogs, cotton candy and caramel apples. However, as we perused the rides area, I was launched back in time…to a darker time when I attended the fair…ten years ago. (It amazes me how smells, sights, or sounds can propel us back in time.)
I was married to my second husband. He was a large man: 6’4”, 240 pounds. What an idiot I was. Yet again, I was guilty of thinking I was in love; shamefully I was proud to have him on my arm more than anything. I was so thankful to have someone so strong and handsome there to protect me. I see now he merely befitted the dream I yearned to live. Crashing back down to reality, I would soon find that he was a very controlling and jealous man. In my mind’s eye, I thought jealousy equated to love and…jealousy almost made me feel…special…in a way. But jealousy is a very hard emotion to live with. (Oh, and jealousy will be a topic soon. I need further insight from my superiors first but it ought to be good so be on the lookout.) That momentous day at the fair, I wasn’t allowed to look at anyone or anything. Seemed any time I lifted my head I was being accused of wanting another man or checking out a girl…yes, a girl. Therefore, to sooth the savage beast, I spent the entire time starring at my feet. I remembered feeling so helpless, so afraid, but feeling that I was being a ‘good girl’…doing what I was supposed to do to keep him happy. In my mind there was such a fierce struggle. I submitted to him because I thought that’s what a good woman was supposed to do. But, why was he treating me this way? Wasn’t I being good? Wasn’t I being a ‘good wife’? In reflection, I see I was submitting as a wife should, but in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. Enter the topic: submission.
Per the dictionary, ‘submit’ means to “yield to the control of another.” We don’t see this much in today’s culture. Everyone is expected to be strong, be independent, stand on your own two feet, however, the bible stresses that we should submit to the Lord (Job 22:21, James 4:7-10). Looking back I see I had it all wrong. Submitting is not bad, but I need to submit to God first. I say first because the bible also tells us we are to submit to one another and to our husbands/wives (Ephesians 5:21-28). Now, here comes the critical element of submission: submission does not mean becoming one’s slave nor does it include or excuse any form of abuse. Submit means respect, trust, honor. We submit to God because we know His will is never to harm us or hurt us (Jeremiah 29:11). We need to submit to God because we cannot solve our own problems. We can’t always rely on our own two feet, we need God. We humble ourselves before Him, heeding the advice in His Word. (Job 8:6-7) The bible is a clear manual for how we each can live a good, productive and full life. When we submit to God we allow His will to take precedence, not our own. We take a back seat in honor of Him. We respect His authority even when we don’t want to do something. We trust in Him. We succumb to His purpose for us, even if we don’t know or understand what that purpose is – that’s trust. That’s submitting to God.
Several of my past relationships would read this and say, “Do what!? You weren’t submissive at all!” Well, first of all, consider the source – they only saw what they wanted to see. Seems everyone loves to point fingers and find someone or something to blame but…I’ve got broad shoulders so blame me all you want. You can stay in the valley, because I know God knows the truth. I’m not perfect and never have I claimed to be. But…I’m starting to understand now. At some point every pot boils over if it is left to its own accord…and I am no exception. You can push me down, but just like the blood that flows through my ancestry, I will get back up one day. I dealt with my dad for many years and being a hard worker was not the only trait I inherited from him. Sometimes we have to stand up for ourselves. We must claim where that line in the sand gets drawn. Wrong is wrong. I’m starting to see that I’ve actually helped others push me down, or keep me down in my own pit of ignorance, fear and misery. Thanks to God I am learning to use the confidence and determination inside of me in my relationships ,too. (I tease my son that he needs to use his ‘powers’ for good – guess I should’ve been telling myself that, too!) The hardest thing in the world to accomplish is letting someone step all over you for so long, then trying to demand anything…let alone respect. I know I am to submit to God and to my husband, but there is a right way and a wrong way. I’m seeing that now. I’m not perfect, but hind sight sure is.
So, why was I submissive to my ex-husband…for that matter, why was I submissive to any man in my past? Well, I grew up seeing my mother submit to my father, which is what a wife is suppose to do (Ephesians 5:21-28, Colossians 3:18-19) but I was doing it in the wrong order and for the wrong reasons. Looking back, I can see that I was adamantly searching for someone to love me, to protect me, to validate me. I was yielding to my desires and unyielding to God’s will. There was such a frightening emptiness inside me I so longed to fill. Sadly, I was looking everywhere but up. He kept tugging at me but I was the one who kept pulling away…sometimes running away, only to put myself in yet another position of hurt and pain. It wasn’t any man’s fault, it was my own fault. My actions and reactions produced the consequences. However…after upteen years, I’m finally getting the lesson. God wants us to learn from our trials. ‘From’ as in away – He doesn’t want to see us repeat them. And I don’t have to repeat this mistake any more. And maybe that’s why I feel so much stronger now. Not because I’m standing on my own two feet, but because I know God’s behind me, ready to catch me if I fall. I’m not afraid to stand alone because I know God is here with me. I finally found that one person who loves me, protects me, has nothing but unconditional acceptance in His heart for me. And if I follow His plan for me, the next man I allow in my life will be special. It will be different because of what I am learning now. He has filled that emptiness inside of me and He is filling me with the ability to love myself so that I can truly love another. I needed someone to guide me, to help me through the valleys of this life and His Word is my guide. His Word lights my path and it lives in my heart and gives me balance when I stand on narrow ground. (Psalm 119:105) God is my rock. (Deuteronomy 32:4) I have found my foundation! I have found where I am to build my table! (Oh my gosh, you’ve got to read my rendition of The Components of a Relationship – I just had a wonderful epiphany! Praise God!)
When we do anything out of order or for the wrong reasons, there will be fallout. We should expect the consequences. Until we get the lesson He will keep administering the test. Remember: He will test us but never tempt us. If we love someone else before loving ourselves, if we trust others before trusting God, if we misalign our priorities…there will be a lesson to be learned. God wants us to grow from the experience. He wants us to walk away with the lesson. There is a delicate order, a delicate balance to life. We can’t help anyone if we don’t first help ourselves. We can’t understand others if we don’t first attempt to understand ourselves. And we aren’t alone. We have God, we have our church. Some things we can learn together, but some things must be learned before we can truly commit to a healthy relationship with someone else.
I know through this walk I am building my knowledge, building my wisdom…the next time I love, it will be right. I will deserve him as much as he deserves me. Because I put Jesus first, because He is the first love of my life, because I follow Him instead of expecting Him to follow me…everything else will fall into place. He will still be there to pick me up, dust me off and set me back on course. I just have to follow Him, keep my focus on Him. Only I can dim His light in my life. Lesson by lesson my house is forming, understanding is establishing it, and through God’s grace He is giving me knowledge to fill the rooms. (Proverbs 24:3-4) Be still my heart.
Thank you God, thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for teaching me and leading me and for filling me with Your love, mercy and grace. Let Your light shine upon me, let Your light shine in me, let Your light shine through me so that others may behold the beauty in Your works. If I am filled with just a mere spark of Your Holy fire, I am content. In Your precious Holy name, I pray. Amen.
“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” ~ Job 22:21
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands’ as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” ~ Ephesians 5:21-28
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” ~ Colossians 3:18-19
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:1-2
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:7-10
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4
“If you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.” Job 8:6-7
“Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:3-7