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To Submit or Not To Submit

October 13, 2020

I am a word nerd, a lover of all things grammar and punctuation and usage and writing. I love reading and thinking about how something could have been written more clearly and concisely. I love finding errors in books and magazines and websites and even highway signs, and I really love correcting them.
Every once in a while when I am reading the scriptures, some little thing pops off the page at me, and it’s almost always grammatical in nature. Yes, God speaks to me through my love of grammar. He’s a good, good Father. Here’s a recent example.
In Ephesians 5:22, God says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Submission tends to be a touchy subject with most women, but I realized that in that verse, it’s the WIFE who is doing the submitting. God doesn’t make her submit and neither does her husband. God is speaking directly to the wife there, not to anyone else. The issue of submission is between the wife and God. SHE is the one who decides whether or not to do it.
So I did a little more digging. I looked up every form of the word submit every time it is used in the Bible, and here is what I found:

Submit – used 12 times
Submitted – used 3 times
Submitting – used 1 time

Every time the word submit (or one of its forms) is used, it is followed immediately by a reflexive pronoun. That’s a word ending in –self or –selves. We use a reflexive pronoun when the subject and the direct object are the same person. That just means the subject is doing the action to itself—in this case, submitting.

In the Bible, people submit themselves to other people, to rulers, to God, to kings, and to one another.

But what does this grammatical gobbledygook mean in practical terms? It means that YOU get to decide to do the submitting. The only one that can make you submit is YOU. God doesn’t make you submit. Your husband can’t make you submit. Your boss can’t make you submit. Even the government can’t make you submit. Only YOU can submit yourself.
It’s your choice—always. Every single time. It is not a “position” you are put in. It’s not a “place” in the chain of command or a rung on the ladder. You are 100% in charge of this aspect of your life. It is completely up to you whether you submit yourself to God or to another human. You have all the control—every bit. The choice is all yours whether you will submit or not.

(you knew there was a but coming, right?)
As with every other decision in life, you don’t get to choose the consequences of your choice. You probably have a good idea of how the end result will go, but you don’t know exactly. Choose the right thing, the God-honoring, obedient thing, and reap the good rewards. Choose the wrong thing, the disobedient, prideful, selfish thing, and reap the negative rewards. The law of sowing and reaping holds true for every choice we make, every time.
But here’s a fun fact about sowing and reaping: when you sow, you reap more than you sow, and you reap later than you sow.
If I plant one bean seed, it will grow a plant and give me 10 or 20 beans about 55 days after I plant it. My reward will be a multiple of what I sowed and it will come in the future. The anticipation of the good things coming is the best part! What a joy it is to eagerly await the reward for a job well done!
But the same holds true on the negative side. If I sow one Bermuda grass plug in my garden, I will end up with a worthless plot of land where every good thing gets choked out by the invasive grass, and it will keep getting worse. Once Bermuda is in the garden, it is almost impossible to get out. Imagine the grief when you realize your whole garden is ruined for years to come because you carelessly planted the wrong thing. It will take years of backbreaking work to rid the garden of all those nasty runners. There is nothing worse than regret.

Choose wisely. Don’t base your decision on how you feel or whether you think it is right or fair or equitable or whether or not your husband deserves your submission. God did not use our finite thinking when he designed his plan. His commands are for our good always. It is up to us to trust him and his character enough to believe that doing life his way is always the right way. When we live in obedience to God, he is glorified and that is always good for us.

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