This post will be short and probably not altogether coherent, but these thoughts have been floating around my mind so I'll share them.
The shower is an amazing place. My most lucid thoughts seem to come to me in the shower. I don't know why I was thinking about teachings on wives submitting to husbands (I'm careful to avoid saying "female submission" because there is nothing Biblical about the idea of general and broad submission of one gender to the other), but I was pondering it while showering the other day. It suddenly dawned on me that particular words and their grammar are really important.
I think all Western women within Christianity struggle with Paul's admonition for wives to submit to their husbands. What female hasn't seriously questioned her and her sisters' places within the kingdom because of it? I have long made peace with this issue and actually find much joy in it, but I continue to ponder it every so often.
What particularly struck me about Paul's admonition to wives was the nature of the word "submit." I have been studying vocabulary for the GRE, so perhaps that brought about my thoughtfulness concerning wording. But I digress. "To submit" is not a passive verb, but rather a verb of willful choice and action. The women Paul speaks to are the perpetrators of the command, not the recipients of its action.
As daughters of the 21st century, I think when we hear "submit," we often think "subjugate." But these words have very different meanings. Subjugation is an act of the strong against the weak who have no will or rights. WIthin subjugation, women have no voice and are not addressed. If Paul were really calling for the subjugation of women, he would not have spoken to them, or if he had, it would have been to say wives must be passive as they are acted upon by their husbands. Instead the grammar calls women to act out themselves whatever this thing is called "submission." If Paul's command read "Wives be subjugated by your husbands," he would be restraining us. Rather, he speaks to the use of our individual wills, telling us to do a specific action. As much as women might react against Paul's words towards wives, we should recognize that submission as Paul talks about it is an act of a wife's own will, not the act of her husband's will.
It seems to me there is a lot more that could be added and discussed here, but since I do not have the voice of a wife, I'll close my thoughts with the voice of Alicia Keys.
I don't consider Alicia a particularly deep lyricist, but I do like her a lot one of her songs caught my attention around the same time I was pondering the definition of submission. I think some of what Paul talks about is deeply rooted in our hearts so that it bubbles through even in completely secular contexts. Both Paul's command to wives to submit and his command to husbands to love sacrificially are about using our wills to put the other person first. So let's indulge in a great 90s pop version of this idea. Enjoy!