Honoring Your Husband Through Submission
About the Guest
Marriage is a process of understanding and honoring the differences between a man and a woman. Bible study teacher and international retreat speaker, Judy Rossi, tells how she came to appreciate her husband's strength and what she's come to know and appreciate about submission.
Marriage is a process of understanding and honoring the differences between a man and a woman.
Honoring Your Husband Through Submission
Bob: If you’re married, then, your job is to be a Christian husband or a Christian wife. Did you ever stop to ask the question, “Who’s my employer?” Here’s Judy Rossi.
Judy: My job, as a Christian wife, is to get my role right, before the Lord. I believe that if I am living out my role as God calls me to live out my role, and I release my husband to the Lord, and let him be God’s project—just like I’m God’s project—then, God’s going to do something with that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how your relationship with your spouse and your relationship with God are all mixed up together. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking, this week, about marriage—particularly, looking at the challenges a lot of wives face in a marriage relationship and trying to form that bond. We should say, here at the outset, that we have days where we talk about it from the guy’s side because whenever we do this, we’ll get letters from women saying, “When are you going to talk to the men about their issues?” Well, we try to do that—
Dennis: We do.
Bob: —from time to time.
Dennis: On an earlier broadcast, you asked me to kind of rate our marriage—how much I really thought how we were doing at the beginning.
Bob: Degree of difficulty.
Bob: How hard did you think it was, at the beginning?
Dennis: I said about a two. It went to about a six, after two years; and then, to ten plus, after six kids. So, I want to ask you a question, here, at the start. In terms of your marriage, when you married Mary Ann—how many years ago now?
Bob: It was 32, coming up on 33 years.
Dennis: Okay, how well did you understand the differences between a man and a woman—a wife and a husband?
Bob: There were parts of those differences that I understood and liked a lot, personally; [Laughter] but there were a lot of those differences—
Dennis: Okay, that’s about 1percent. Where are we going from here?
Bob: There were a lot of those differences that didn’t really dawn on me—temperament, personality. You just kind of assume that everybody thinks the way you think and responds to data the way you respond to it. I think that’s kind of what I thought until I learned that, “Oh, you were thinking differently about those things;” and it made the degree of difficulty a little harder, in the marriage relationship.
Dennis: Really, marriage is one long process of beginning to, not only understand the differences, but honor the differences.
We have a guest with us on FamilyLife Today, Judy Rossi, who joins us again, who learned that in her own marriage and who’s been teaching it to literally thousands of women through Bible studies all over the east coast—but now, around the world, through a new Bible study she’s just released. Anyway, welcome back to the broadcast, Judy.
Judy: Thank you. Good to be here.
Dennis: She and her husband John have been married for 37 years. She has been a Bible teacher and still is to, not only military women, but also civilians, as well—has two married daughters and four grandchildren.
Dennis: You’ve been teaching this Bible study, Enhancing Your Marriage, literally to thousands of women. You said one of the big “Ahh-ha’s”, as you’ve taught these women, is teaching them to appreciate and understand the differences.
Dennis: That took Bob and me so many years to learn in our marriages. So, talk to us about this--about your own marriage--about you and John. How well did you understand this when you first got married? Then, what were the lessons you’ve learned there?
Judy: I didn’t understand the differences at all, really, because I thought once John and I got married, he’d be sort of coming over to my side--think like I thought, do things the way that I did. Everything would be hunky dory, but things could not have been further from the truth.
I did not get that we were different. The physical differences, obvious; but the emotional differences, the psychological differences, how we process things, how we would arrive at certain conclusions, how we would express ourselves—you know, I’m all over the map. He talks in bullets. I didn’t get that. He’s more precise about the things that he says. Says what he means— means what he says. I have a tendency to—had the tendency to—sort of mean what I’d say, just in case I stepped on toes—
Bob: Soften things a little bit.
Judy: That’s exactly right.
Bob: Yes, right.
Judy: I might give it 90 seconds to an hour and a half of preface before I would get down to the bottom line; and John was a bottom-line kind of guy.
Dennis: So, you weren’t being as real as he was—
Judy: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: —in your marriage relationship. That had to cost you, in your relationship.
Judy: Oh, definitely, I agree with that. I was of the impression that becoming one meant that he was going to become more like me, and it wasn’t like that. I had to learn that this gift that God gave me was also created in God’s image.
I began to really look at this male--masculine husband--and myself, as this female—feminine wife--and all of those great traits that God created to bring together as a dovetail drawer, just about. You get all that good stuff coming together as a dovetail drawer, and that’s what makes all the strengths and weaknesses work together for the good.
Well, one of the things that I didn’t appreciate about John was that before marriage, I really loved that he was a strong man. He was strong in his convictions, a man of integrity. He was a very focused, determined—which after marriage, began to push back at my strengths. Being the independent, I wanted to loose myself of that. So, the idea of following him—after I became a Christian, I even had to wrap my mind around what it meant to follow him as the leader in our home. That was difficult for me.
Dennis: Just based upon what you are saying here, submission was just real easy for you.
Judy: That “S” word—the other “S” word, definitely, was very difficult for me.
Dennis: Kind of hard to do; huh?
Judy: I would have to annihilate my pride first before I could submit.
Judy: It was no fun. I wanted my way. Think about that. [Laughter] We like to have our way.
Dennis: You know what? I really appreciate your honesty.
Bob: Submission is still no fun; isn’t it?
Judy: No. Yes, it is more fun now. Let’s say I appreciate it greatly because I appreciate how God blesses it. I believe that submission has got to be the most powerful principle in Scripture. We would not be having this session today if Jesus Christ hadn’t submitted to the Father—must be something really powerful about submission when God ordains it—when God calls someone to it.
So, what is it about a woman, who has been ordained to be in this marital relationship—a very powerful, positive influence—I believe that. I know that to be true, based on Scripture. What is it about submission that contributes to that powerful, positive influence?
When I began to really understand that submission was voluntary and that it was an act of trust and faith in God—so, I would have to—on some issues—I had to trust God with my husband in order to submit. Then, I could submit with the right heart; but submitting, for me—if I were to put it in another context, literally, means to me adapting to my husband’s leadership in our home. Adapting took me some time.
Bob: When you say, “It’s voluntary,” you don’t mean it’s optional. You mean you have to decide if you’re going to submit.
Judy: Yes, that’s exactly right.
Bob: Submission involves dying to self.
Bob: That’s why nobody wants to do it; but I can think there’d be a lot of women who would say, “Well, why is it the woman is the one who has to die to self and the man gets to decide how things are going to be, and he doesn’t have to die to self?”
Dennis: Oh, yes, he does.
Bob: Well, but it doesn’t feel like that if you’re the woman, who is always submitting.
Judy: Yes. It might not feel like that; but I didn’t understand that, when I deferred to my husband, I was strengthening “us”—that “us” of John and Judy. It also made him more responsive to me. As I began to respect him—and you cannot separate submission and respect—to me, the most ultimate act of respect is submitting to his leadership in the home.
No matter what it was, I stopped correcting him in front of the girls. It began to build our relationship. He began to trust me more. He began to see me more—in, I think, the light that God wanted him to see me—inthat as a woman who loved the Lord and loved her husband. Then, he began to trust me when he wanted counsel about certain things. It’s just amazing the doors that it opened in our relationship.
Dennis: What you’re saying is submission is life-giving.
Judy: It is absolutely life-giving!
Dennis: First Peter, Chapter 2—the end of the whole chapter—it talks about how Christ suffered on our behalf and left for us an example to follow. It says, “He entrusted Himself to His Father.” Then, in Chapter 3, verse 1, it says, “Likewise, wives be submissive to your own husbands.”
Dennis: Jesus Christ brought life to us, as you said, through submission. You’re saying that a woman who submits to her husband brings enormous life to him.
Bob: I know we can say, “So, a wife should submit because the Bible says she should;” but I’m still thinking of a wife who is saying, “I don’t understand why he doesn’t have to die to self.” You said, “Yes, he does;” but she’s thinking, “I’m the one who has to let him have his way all the time. Why shouldn’t he be the one to have to let me have my way some of the times?”
Judy: I think that’s more of a communication issue rather than a submission issue. I guess it might also depend, too, on her husband’s spots. Some women are dealing with some pretty difficult men, where submission is lording authority over their wives. That’s not the loving servant-leader that is supposed to take on this role of headship in the home. So, I think it depends. If her husband is a Christian, that’s not even a guarantee that he’s going to walk out servant-leadership the right way.
Bob: That’s right.
Judy: I look at all of the many women, myself included, at one time, who wasn’t walking out her role as a respectful wife. We can’t say, “Well, just because you’ve got a big “C” on your chest as a Christian, doesn’t mean you’re going to do this stuff right;” but I am a believer that—my job, as a Christian wife, is to get my role right, before the Lord. I believe that if I am living out my role, as God calls me to live out my role, and I release my husband to the Lord, and let him be God’s project—just like I’m God’s project—then, God’s going to do something with that.
Bob: So, even if he’s not living out his role the way he’s supposed to, that doesn’t mean, then, you don’t have to live out your role.
Judy: I am not absolved of following God’s will in my life as my husband’s wife.
Bob: You’re saying if you’ll do what God calls you to do—you believe that God will use that to have an impact on your husband.
Judy: Absolutely, absolutely. One thing I did learn, as I was studying about submission, is we’re not talking about doormat stuff. Submission takes a lot of strength, and it takes a lot of dignity. For me to submit to my husband in an area that might be difficult for me—because what if I really am right? Do you know how much courage it takes to say, “Okay, Lord, you must have a lesson in this—somewhere. I’m going to submit to You first so that I can submit to my husband in this issue—that we don’t agree on right now—and just let you be God.”
At a time when something happens where it does turn out that, by golly, you were right, you don’t push the I-told-you-so button. You come alongside him and you say, “You know, we’re going to get through this together.”
Dennis: Judy, you’ve taught thousands of women this principle. Share a situation that, perhaps, another woman has shared back with you as to how she’s applied what you’re talking about here—and not, necessarily, that it just all came out perfectly—
Judy: Oh, yes.
Dennis: —but how did it work?
Judy: I have a gal, who I would mentor her in her marriage. We would be walking through the Bible, and we’d walk through the study together. She’d learn the principles of submission because she was one of the ones, I said, “Would you say you’ve been following God in your marriage?” She’d say, “I don’t know what that looks like.”
She wasn’t sure what was going on with her husband. We walked through what the Lord would call her to be for him, and he was very responsive to it. Then, things looked like they were turning around. Then, it was discovered that he was in the throes of an affair, and he just took advantage of her; but in the two years that she had grown closer to God through her seeking Him in her marriage, she had the courage to move on.
Bob: She would—she might look in that situation and say, “Okay, I tried the submission thing and, obviously, that didn’t work.” What’s your response to that?
Judy: “You followed God in this time of your marriage when you didn’t know what else to do, and you did the right thing. He will honor that. He really will.” She has no regrets, and that’s the beauty of following God in your marriage. When you do, by the Book, what God calls you to do in your marriages—no matter how difficult they are—and he turns around and walks away, you have no regrets. You really can look at yourself in the mirror.
Bob: There are women, hearing us talk about this whole thing. They are really angry right now because they say, “You don’t know my situation. You don’t know my man”—
Judy: That’s right.
Bob: —“You don’t know what’s going on. I’ve heard this. It’s been abused. I’ve had submission rammed down my throat. I’m not even sure why I’m still listening—why I haven’t changed the channel.”
Judy: Submission doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead. I believe submission means that we’ve got to take a stand on what we believe--make sure that our husbands understand how we feel—all of this is done respectfully. If we have a concern about a road he’s going down, he needs to know. That’s what a helpmate does. I mean, I’m supposed to be the person who comes alongside my husband—a help in time of trouble, if need be.
My job is to respectfully express my concerns and my thoughts—my suggestions, if necessary. If he makes a decision that is counter to what I believe is the correct decision, I’ve got to believe that God is going to work within that.
Dennis: What I hear you saying, Judy, is—submission isn’t silent. I think, sometimes, we—
Judy: No, it isn’t.
Dennis: —make it silent.
Judy: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: Barbara doesn’t do that with me. I want to know her opinion; even though sometimes I don’t necessarily appreciate her opinion. It may differ from mine, but I need to hear that. What I hear you saying is—submission does speak up. Then, there is a time to trust God and to trust that your husband is God’s project.
Judy: That’s right. If we don’t express our concerns—and this is not something that just leaves our mouths, without going to the Lord first. Prayer is key—so, to go and pray about, first off—if we should say it. Then, if that impression is there, “Lord, you map out the what, and the where, and the when.” He’s faithful to me. He really will answer that prayer. I will be able to speak. If we don’t do that, then, there could be a condition in our marriage that we’re enabling because we haven’t had the courage to speak up. We think submission is just going along for the ride or going along with the flow, and that’s not what submission is.
I believe that submission is the gift we offer our husbands, respectfully, as the leader in our homes—one that I am willing to follow—and I follow respectfully. The return on a woman who begins to practice that kind of respect in her marriage—I think she is going to see things change rather quickly. I know it did—I know I watched John change in his response to me as I became more respectful of who he was and how he did things. They weren’t the way I did things, but I learned to respect that.
Bob: So, the wife who would say, “Well, I read—there’s one verse that says you’re to submit to one another. So, shouldn’t there be times when he has to submit to me?”
Judy: I think he does that in loving me as Christ loves the church. What greater act of submission than to give one’s life up for someone? I believe that’s what God’s called husbands to do for their wives and families. I know my husband would do that in a nano. He’s just taking it just one step further and was willing to give it up for his country.
To me, the ultimate act of submission is giving up your life. That’s what God calls him to do for us. It takes practice for them, just like respect doesn’t come naturally to us. I don’t think that kind of love comes naturally to a man. So, we have to begin to do that dance—with the Holy Spirit as the leader for both of us—to see what that looks like in our marriages.
Dennis: Earlier, we talked about how a woman has to die to self to be able to do this. Bob kidded and said that maybe a husband—
Bob: I just—yes, I just said, “Why doesn’t he have to die to self?”
Dennis: Well, the reality is—what you’re talking about. The kind of love a husband is called to—
Judy: That’s right.
Dennis: —love his wife does demand self-denial, self-sacrifice—if he does it right; alright?
Judy: I will tell you, that over the years, I’ve seen my husband do it more and more. It’s been a real blessing for me because—especially in these last few years—as I’d undergone a couple of surgeries that left me partially paralyzed in my left leg. I needed him everywhere I went, basically. He would go with me to my retreats and conferences and, literally, take such protective care of me that—I know the witness that he was, among those women, was astounding.
I know that God has brought us from, I think, two pretty self-centered, young adults to two devoted people to each other, who hope to leave a legacy to our children and our children’s children that, “This is what marriage is supposed to look like,” because we’re going to end up exactly the way we started—two people, alone together. When you start, you are two people, alone together—when the nest is empty—hopefully, for years thereafter. So, we better be working toward what that’s going to look like because that should be rich. It shouldn’t be as empty as the nest.
Another thing about that—as we work toward those—the depth of our relationship of getting beyond the ups and the downs and all of the things that are anywhere from disappointing to downright ugly—as we let God get us on the other side of those, we’ll have no regrets. One of us is going to bury the other someday. I’m hoping it is years from now, but it should be with no regrets.
Dennis: If you do follow the Scripture, I think the thing I’d want our listeners to know, “There is a payoff.” There really is. Over time, that selfishness, that marked the marriage in the early years, is not quite as pronounced.
Judy: Not at all.
Dennis: Notice, I said not quite as pronounced.
Judy: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: I wish it went away, but we’re still learning and growing; but as you yield to Jesus Christ, He does take two pretty selfish people and He does merge them together as one.
Judy: He does.
Bob: This is not something that comes naturally to wives—just as loving your wife as Christ loved the church doesn’t come naturally to husbands. This is something that we have to be transformed into by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Dennis: I think it’s important, Bob, that women gather with other women and get in the Book—get in the Bible. Certainly, Judy has come up with a great study here—training women in how to think biblically and respond biblically to their husbands, in this area of the marriage relationship.
I think it would be really important for wives, who have never been in a small group Bible study like this, to get this workbook and begin to go through it with three or four other woman. Just get real and honest with one another. That was a real breakthrough in Judy’s marriage when she finally decided, “You know what? I don’t like the way it is. I want to change things.”
Bob: Well, then, you’re going to have to wrestle with some things when you do—
Judy: That’s right.
Bob: —but anyone can take the initiative to call a group of friends—three or four other women—and say, “I would like to go through this study. I’d like you’d to go through it with me because I think it would be good for us to have some mutual accountability and some discussion on some of these issues. There are some things we can wrestle with together.” It doesn’t have to be something formal or a program that you’re setting up. It can just be you, with a handful of other wives, deciding to do this in your own home.
We’ve got information about Judy’s study. It’s called Enhancing Your Marriage. You can find information about it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s our website. Look for the Bible study by Judy Rossi called Enhancing Your Marriage; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. When you get in touch with us, be sure to ask about the study called Enhancing Your Marriage by Judy Rossi.
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We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to talk about romance, intimacy, passion. We’re going to talk about some of the challenges around that in a marriage relationship and hear Judy Rossi’s thoughts about a wife’s responsibility in that area. We may meet her husband tomorrow, as well. So, we hope you’ll tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today—his name is Keith Lynch—and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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