Reclaiming the S-Word

According to author and speaker Priscilla Shirer, a biblical understanding of the concept of ‘submission’ can help us achieve better marriages -- and live more faithful lives.

Priscilla Shirer

Are you willing to obey or, more aptly put, submitto your spouse until death do you part? As Priscilla Shirer shares, there are some things a Christian couple needs to know. Shirer, the daughter of well-known preacher Tony Evans, is a gifted teacher and speaker in her own right. As the founder of Going Beyond Ministries, she reaches a diverse audience of women with “the uncompromising truths of God’s Word.”

In her latest book, Life Interrupted: Navigating the Unexpected, Shirer analyzes the story of Jonah for clues about submitting to God’s will, even when it interrupts our carefully laid plans. The book is not a marriage manual, per se, but within its pages readers can find helpful direction for making their marriage flourish and thrive in spite of life’s curveballs. UrbanFaith contributor Wanda Thomas Littles spoke to Shirer about Life Interrupted and what it means for a married couple to practice biblical submission. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

URBAN FAITH: Newlyweds face many challenges, including life interruptions. What is a “life interruption”?

PRISCILLA SHIRER: A life interruption is something that takes place in your life that causes you to have to adjust the plans that you’ve made and is often God’s way of steering you away from what you want to do, to what He has planned for you to do for His Kingdom which is far better than what you planned. So a life interruption is God’s divine intervention.

Bunny Wilson, who wrote a great book called Liberated Through Submission, had a life interruption when as a new Christian she read a passage of scripture that caused her to ask, “God, now why would you ruin a perfectly good book by putting that a wife has to submit to her husband in it?” What would you say to woman who needs to learn the life-interrupting concept of submission?

Submission is a gift given to us by God so that we can relate to His established authority properly. It is the voluntary yielding of one to another. This is not just about marriage; this is about every aspect of your life. Everybody has to be obedient. And when people, male or female, step outside that chain of leadership they have to answer for that and they cause disaster and destruction along the way.

There are many men that are seeing destruction and chaos and lack of peace and passion in their marriages, and in their homes, and it is largely due to the fact that they have not responded in obedience to the Lord, and responded to Him as their head.

If, as a married woman, you choose to be submissive to the man that God has given you, then what you are doing is basically ducking so that God can hit your husband. Your husband has to answer to God in terms of the leading of your family, and you’re trusting that God is going to steer your husband. Even when your husband goes against your preferences, even when the choices he makes aren’t the choices you would make, as you submit to your husband you are in essence submitting as unto the Lord. In doing so you’ll find that the blessings rain down not only on you, but on your husband, and your children as well.

For many people, the term submit carries with it the stigma of subservience.

It is unfortunate that submission has really been given a bad rap. There is nothing that is supposed to be subservient, “doormat-ish” so to speak, or abusive about this word and its meaning. In Ephesians when the Lord began to describe submission in the family dynamic, the majority of the chapter was used to tell husbands how they were supposed to lead, not to tell women how they were to submit. If men do it the right way, if they are the kind of leaders described by God, then it will be the joy of the wife to submit to a husband like that.

What about the husband who has the wrong view of submission and is, in essence, a tyrant?

It is never the woman’s role to submit to a man who is leading her to sin, or if he is in any way being abusive to her whether emotionally or physically. In those cases, she should get away to safety. Submission has long been a ploy to get vulnerable women to stay with a guy who is not treating them appropriately. In its purest meaning, it is a gift given to a woman who does have a man that is seeking to lead in the way the Bible describes.  

What about the man who is content to take a backseat in guiding his wife and family, or who truly has no leadership skills?

I would encourage a wife to ask herself, When we were dating, did he take the backseat? If the answer is no and he showed initiative and drive and leadership when you were dating, then the reality probably is that you have, over time, usurped his authority. And in those cases, I want you to know that what has been done can be undone. Prayerfully give him back the reigns.

For the woman whose mate just doesn’t have leadership skills, I want to suggest two things: Number one, if she is not yet married to this man and she is very clear that he does not yet have leadership capabilities, if that disturbs her in any way now, it is going to be exponentially disturbing once they get married and there are lifetime decisions to make and he’s supposed to be guiding the family. You should question whether this is someone you should be building a life with.

Secondly, if this is a man who you see leadership character in, then the question you have to ask yourself before you get married is, Is this man accountable to someone else? If you know that this man is accountable to other men and allows them to tell him the truth and can help him to get it together, then you’re on the road to a really great marriage. 

What are some reactions women have when you explain the concept of submission?

I think that deep down most women would love to be in a relationship with a great man — they might not call it submission, but when you think about the dynamics of it we love to be in a relationship when a man has taken charge. When you water down submission to the bare parts, most women desire that. But there is a fear that has been instilled in us predominantly by the feminist movement. The feminist movement has given us many things, but one thing it has stolen from us is the right not to feel like we’ve lost our dignity when we choose to submit to the leading of a good guy.

Do you have any other thoughts on submission?

To a young couple, or even to an older couple, I would say, before you say I do, would you please make sure that you are going into this relationship with a servant’s attitude? As a wife, you want to do whatever you can so that when this man meets Jesus face to face, he gets to hear from the Lord, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” He’s going to hear that if you’re the right helper that you should be. And husbands, she is going to hear that if you are washing her with the water of the Word of God and sanctifying her by being the leader to her that God has called you to be. That does not happen by stifling her, causing her to submit in a way that is not healthy. That happens when you encourage her gifts, her skills, talents. … When you help her to hone those talents to see how she can use them for the kingdom of God and in the service of her family, which is our primary and privileged ministry. To submit or not submit becomes the framework from which to build either a good, balanced, strong marriage, or a bad, lopsided, weak marriage.

About the author, Wanda Thomas Littles

Wanda Thomas Littles is an author, speaker, and freelance writer. Her work has appeared in A Time of Singing magazine and Clubhouse Jr. She has just completed her latest books of poetry, Like a Thief in the Night and A New Fire, as well as a novel called Preacha! Wanda and her husband reside in San Antonio, where she's also a radio announcer on KDRY. Find out more at WandaLittles.com.
  1. Excellent article! Once again, Wanda reveals her incredible ability to ask the right questions and get clear, concise answers. The topic of submission from a biblical sense has long been misconstrued and misunderstood, particularly by progressive, strong women of today. However, if we truly obey God’s command of submission in the way that He intended, women who are confident in who they are and whose they are will have no problem with submitting to their husbands without feeling as if they are compromising who they are, and especially who they are in the Lord.

  2. Just finished reading,”Reclaiming the “S” Word”. It was both thrilling, and revealing. It made
    you come face too face, with what wrong in your, marriage.

  3. Simply Beautiful. As a woman who has never been married, I fully agree with Priscilla in that If a man trully takes the stand in leading his household in a Godly fashion, it would be much joy to be submissive to him. I love the way that Wanda has touched every aspect of the subject of submission because although I am not married, it is perfect trainning for what is to come and in my view, submission will never mean a sign of weakness yet it it will open doors for longevity in young marriages again. Something you just dont see anymore.

  4. Great vision! This was a very insightful article.

  5. “Submission” – that is the question! Being in God’s will is what it’s all about. Again, Wanda has plunged deep into our hearts and stirred up a myriad of thoughts about – “Submission”!

  6. Hi Wanda,
    Another great article! Submission can be an incendiary topic of conversation but Priscilla does a remarkable job bringing truth, Biblical balance, relevance, and inspiration to a timeless topic that pleases God and blesses believers when practiced.
    Keep up the good work. Thank you!

    • After a little gum shoe work I found out that of the four or five Meridith’s I know, this post comes from Pastor Paul Sheppard’s Meredith. Thank you so much, I know you’re crazy busy and this means a lot to me. I tuned in to the tail end Pastor Paul’s “Destined for Victory” broadcast today and it brought back so many great teaching moments. I would love to hear his take on my article.

  7. Good Morning, Wanda,
    This article, “Reclaiming the S-Word,”will touch the lives of so many women and men:: the experienced ones, to share their testimony of the accuracy of its meaning and to encourage the inexperienced ones to make the right choices. Submission to a man of God is not a task, it’s a joyful experience. Thank you so much.

  8. Yes, St. Paul says that a woman should be submissive to her husband, but it also says that a husband should love his wife as Christ loves the Church. That he should lay down his life for his wife. So it’s not all a one-way proposition. Husbands must also love, respect, and protect their wives and families.

    If the husband truly dies to himself, as Christ died to save all of us, then he will be respectful and loving of his wife and family and never ask them to do something that causes them distress.

  9. When a man loves his wife as Christ loves the church submission comes naturally. Even though many women think that submission is hard work , there is real burden on the man,also. Reason being, the man usually learns how to be a husband from the example of his father or father figure in his life. And they learned from their fathers and so on. Husbands often have to come out of the cave and break this cycle. This will only happen when the man totally surrenders his life to Lord.

  10. Wanda,

    What a great article! It is very timely. God’s word is always so timely. Below are a few comments I’d like to share.
    God tells our husbands to love us (wives) unconditionally, as Christ loves the church.  Now, we wives are not always “lovable” but God commands them to love us.  Just as Husbands shall love without reservation… so we Wives should give respect without reservation (unconditionally).  It’s a hard pill for both but wives need love (to bloom and blossom) and husbands need respect (to bloom and blossom).  I made a decision to stop believing the lie that my husband has to earn my respect (God wants me to give it to him, unconditionally).  In the flesh that can be tough, but in the spirit “I can do all things through Christ as he strengthens and enables me.”
     
    Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
     
    1 Peter 3:1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,

  11. Ms Littles and Ms Shirer made this interview into a very nice, informative and thought provoking conversation. I do not have any serious disagreement with any of it. I understand and try in all things to be submissive to God, but believe that in relationships [meaning here dealings with others including dates and spouses] submission means to me that after negotiation [meanful, amicable and serious discussion] between parties they are able to come to a mutually agreed upon solution or path based upon each’s willingness to compromise and or concede (give and take) [at least] a little in all things. I did and do have some serious angst with the line that says that “… the feminist movement has taken away…” I do not believe that in anything in which one has a choice that choice is taken away from them but rather I believe that one chooses to give or allow “it” to be taken away for what ever reason or reasons. Again I believe that the interviewer and interviewee together produced an excellent not article but conversation which I throughly enjoy. Enjoy because I have not yet finished thinking on it.

  12. Sis. Wanda,
    I so enjoyed your conversation with Mrs. Shirer on “Reclaiming the S-Word”. God’s purpose of the husband submitting to Him, the wife submitting to her husband as unto the Lord, and children obeying their parents demonstrates the family unit functioning decently and in order.

    Whenever we as believers abide by God’s biblical principles, we reap the fruit of our labor. The husband’s prayers are not hindered when he loves his wife as Christ loves the church and lives with her as the weaker vessel. The wife has the favor of the Lord upon her when she honors, respects, supports, and loves her husband as unto the Lord because of her obedience to the word of God. Children have the promises of things going well with them and long life on the earth when they are obedient to their parents.

    All that the Father has planned for us including submission not excluding submission are good for us, for His word tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”