"A man is not far from the gates of heaven when he is fully submissive to the Lord's will."
- Charles Spurgeon
I come in peace.
I've received your messages asking me where I've disappeared to and why I left you hanging with this sticky topic of submission. I do apologize!
So, the power company gifted us three full days of no electricity last week; we were embroiled in an ugly bill fiasco. It's sorted now, thank God. You would be surprised how long three days really are, when your phone is off and you can't charge it. Your iPad's dead too as well as all the computers in the house. The kids can't watch cartoons, and you can't play any music to distract everybody. You're lining up to boil shower water on the gas cooker, fighting over the solar lamps at night...and of course, lugging buckets to flush toilets because the water pump needs electricity to give you running water. All in all, it was an exhilarating 72 hours.
Well then. Are we ready? Bibles open? Hearts and minds ready for the seismic event that lies ahead? LOL. Let's do this.
When we'd married six months, we had our first week apart when I flew to Joburg for my classes. For two years, I traveled every eight weeks for a week of lectures, and the rest of the time we studied online through conference classes, paper writing, conducting studies etc. It was really hard leaving Bryan in Cape Town. Other than missing him painfully, I was surprised to find myself genuinely worried about what he would eat, how his laundry would get done, if he would remember to load and unload the dishwasher, would he iron his shirts before going to the office. I was definitely being irrational, because he was completely capable of doing all of those things. I was worried even though I had cooked him a week worth of meals, done all the laundry, left five ironed shirts, filled the fridge with fruit, milk, eggs...he was going to be fine.Plus we had great friends who lived a street from us, and were Kenyans we had known from before. And yet, he too felt like an abandoned puppy. He kept telling me everything would be just fine as he drove me to the airport, but he looked so sad. I of course was weeping as though I was being exiled to Siberia.
I witnessed this phenomenon again when Tando, one of our best friends flew to Cape Town to visit, along with three other guys who were all in uni with Bryan. I made them chapati and chicken curry, and baked a cake for dessert. They kept looking at me as if I was some kind of apparition or an angel. They were acting really weird, sitting very upright at the dining table, using knives and forks; something was off. I mean, I had hang out with them before we got married, and I knew for a fact that these Jozi guys attacked their food. Later that night when the others had left, and Tando remained behind (can't remember clearly but I think he was sleeping at our house), we sat with cups of tea in our living room talking, and he told Bryan, "You are so incredibly blessed to have a wife." I learnt that the image of me barefoot in my kitchen, wearing my apron cooking as I spoke to them across the room was too much to take. It awakened in them an unsuccessfully suppressed desire, to have a woman in their home that they had made their own. A woman who would take care of them. They somehow couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that Bryan had me, every day and every night. Tando once told me that some days it actually hurt for him to hang out with us. Something within these guys pulsed strongly ,making them know anew that they wanted to be loved, and supported, respected and served.
I saw it with my girlfriends too. They watched me get up when Bryan got home, give him a kiss, ask him if he needed anything, get him tea. They watched him take care of stuff for me...deal with the askaris about this and that, change light bulbs (lie seriously), hold me on the couch, and something innate stirred within them. To have a man to care for, and for him to protect them, love them, hold them. It reminded Bryan and I of the loneliness in those years before we met. The kind that makes women cry themselves to sleep. The kind that makes men turn to alcohol. The kind that makes both turn to one night stands, and relationships they know from the get go will be temporary.
That loneliness hits all of us at one time or another...you would be quite the exception if you've never felt it. And that's where I want you to go right now, as you read this article. Start with that frame of mind.
Now let us go back all the way to the beginning. If we don't understand the genesis of it, then this entire series will make no sense. We know the basic story line, but do we know what it meant? Do we know how earth shattering the events that took place in Eden were?
In Genesis 1:1-31, we see the triune God create all that is. All of it. Two key points there: the first being that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit were there before time; outside of time. It's too awesome for our understanding. Even my saying that the Trinity "were there" exposes the limits of my understanding. We're enclosed within borders of finitude. Even our definition of infinity can only be understood around the skeleton of time. I stress this to show the magnificence of the Creator, and how unbelievably foolish we are for rejecting Him and His teaching, His design of the order of things. As foolish as my toddler telling me he won't be eating anymore because he rejects my philosophy of food being necessary for health, for life itself. What does he know? It's plain silly for him to think that, and to think that he's schooling me on the issue; me who feeds him, bathes him, clothes him,rocks him to sleep. It's ridiculous.
The second point to note is that there is only one un-created One. What does that mean? We are the created. We had no choice in the matter, we contributed nothing whatsoever, and our lives on earth shall be snuffed out when He deems fit. Our times are in His hands, and He has numbered our days. You can seek immortality till your face turns blue, but you're still going to die. And you're still going to face Him. And He will look at you and either see you as your sin because you rejected the whole notion of being a sinner in the first place and decided he didn't exist; or He will see you clothed in His son's righteousness, which means you believed in Jesus' Name to be saved from an eternity in hell; He paid the price and you became as He is before the Lord. Blameless.
There will be no paradise with many wives, there will be no reincarnation, there will be no "being dead for good". No amount of love and light and good vibes and Hail Marys and good works can get you past the gates of splendour. It is a faith alone in Jesus Christ as Saviour that is asked of you. There is no other alternative route; God isn't like a destination on a map with many roads all leading to Him anyway. Your unbelief or different belief about how this story ends, doesn't exempt you from the final day of judgement. You confess Jesus as Lord and be saved, or you don't and endure His sentence, which you will have known about your entire life. Remember last week we said the Gospel is an affront, that it is offensive? This is why. You will either harden your heart further and spit in His face, or this news will bring you to your knees, your spirit broken and contrite over your sin...and you will declare it to be genuinely good news when He saves you in that moment.
What does it mean to have Jesus as Lord? In a nutshell, what He says, goes. Your heart desires to please Him, obey Him and know Him. His Bible is the only way to do all of those things. And His Bible teaches submission of wives to their husbands.
It will grate every last nerve you have to apply this in life, especially if your spouse is as far from a godly husband as it gets. But I hope you realize now, that submitting to him is not about him. It's about Jesus. You do it, because He commands it, because you love Him. Not because your husband is worthy, because He isn't (remember, sinner). And you don't do it out of your own strength, it's impossible; take my word for it, I have tried. He strengthens you to bite your lip when you have a particularly stinging retort to your husband's comment about something. He strengthens you to restrain yourself and let your husband have the final word on how finances will be allocated. Even though it bristles every hair on your body, you will not fight when he says no to something you wanted to do or buy or whatever, even after you have painstakingly explained to him why that thing is necessary. He will strengthen you to honour Him. He will do it.
Very early in life together, Bryan and I came off a boat in the Indian Ocean, about two hundred metres from the beach in Diani. We'd gone fish watching, you know, the glass bottomed boats. I stepped into the water and shrieked. It was a sea of black urchins. They were everywhere. I was struck by a fear I've experienced very few times. I refused to move, and started crying. The beach was so far. The boat guys were laughing, but I was actually shaking, petrified. Bryan held my face firmly and made me look at him. "Wambui. Trust me. I will get you to the beach. But you need to trust me. You need to let me lead you."
It's weird to explain what I felt then. You know the way in movies, the world stops when a man sees the love of his life step off a train, and the sound fades off as their eyes meet. For a minute we too feel suspended in that eternity of the moment. When he said to me, 'You need to let me lead you', our world stopped. It was just me and him, in the vast sea...it went quiet, outside and within me. I had never had him look so deep into me. In that moment, we heard whispers from Eden, from eternity, of the glory of God's design of marriage. It is perfect. It is beautiful. It is the only way.
He asked me to look only at his feet, not the urchins around me. Every step on the ocean floor that he took, I placed my foot in his foot print. I didn't look up, or around me. I just watched his feet, taking each step he took, never letting go of his hand. It felt like a minute and also as long as a day, but when took those final steps and I saw the water ebb away from our feet, I knew God had spoken to us in a powerful way. A sea of urchins taught Bryan to lead his wife with love, to go before her, warding off any danger, to protect me, and take away my fear. He was emboldened by the experienced; humbled immeasurably. He taught me, that Bryan's got me. He'll protect me. He'll love me more than I may ever love him. He'll take any arrows, any bullets, he'll be my shield. There is no sacrifice he will not make for his wife. He taught us the mystery of marriage reflecting Christ and His church. He is all these things, always and forever. Bryan and I will let each other down; but He won't. He's the penultimate lover of our souls. The more I submit, the more Bryan leads, the more we know God, the more we love Him, and then the more we love each other. A beautiful, beautiful cycle.
Have I been an unsubmissive wife? Bryan says I have. Ouch.
Before kids, living the glory years in Cape Town, I asked him, "Is there anything about our marriage you wish would change? What would you like me to work on?". Naturally I was very confident about the matter.
He was quiet a long time. Then the bomb dropped, "You're not a submissive wife." BOOM.
My jaw dropped a mile. My eyes popped. My face burned. My heart pounded. And the anger erupted in me, lava flowing through every vessel. I don't know who he was talking about, but it sure wasn't me. No way.
That's not a conversation I'm proud about. I vehemently defended myself, listing all the things I 'selflessly' did for him. Self righteousness is ugly. He was quiet the whole time. When I was out of breath, I stared at him and barked, "Fine. What do you want? What am I not doing? Just say it and I'll obey!".
With a very tired and fed up look, he said, "When you're ready to listen, we can talk." As the reality sank in that night, it felt like needles were piercing my heart one by one. When you discover a part of your life has been going the wrong way, especially for a while, you have nothing to do but mourn, because it is a reflection of your walk with Christ. Pride has torn down many kingdoms; it has torn down many marriages and it can tear your own marriage to pieces that sometimes cannot be put back together.
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.
11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.” (emphasis my own).
If you skimmed or just skipped the Bible excerpts, go back and actually read them. This section of the Bible, explains the entire Bible. It shows us the great fracture of our history, irrevocably separating every single child and descendant Adam and Eve would bear from the life they were created into. They are the only two created beings who ever walked the earth sinless, in complete purity, communing with God in a way none of us has ever known. There hasn't been a woman with greater sorrow and regret in her heart than Eve. She was 'patient zero'. She then pulled her husband into it (Don't worry, I'm not saying she was responsible for his sin and neither is God, in fact he curses Adam shockingly; men, your blog post is coming). She is cursed and endures the banishing from God's presence. She seeks to control Adam at every turn, but he rules over her and it kills her inside- the curse has made her allergic to male leadership, she loathes it. She bears two sons in excruciating pain; pain wasn't even a construct that existed to them until she ate the fruit forbidden by God. She then loses them both; her first born kills her second. And God proceeds to banish the first born to be a homeless wanderer on the earth. She's sitting there watching all of this happen, and wishing she could turn back the hands of time. Wishing she had said no to the serpent. Wishing she had asked God for help. Wishing she had trusted Him. Why had she doubted Him and trust the serpent instead? God had commanded them not to eat it. Why did she? Why did she manipulate her husband into eating it too? So many regrets, like a millstone round her neck.
And this is why, even before creation, God the Father knew He would give His one and only Son to die for our sins to restore us to Himself. Isn't that mind blowing?
It wasn't damage control He did after the fact, "Wow, OK, this is a disaster I hadn't anticipated. I love mankind and want to save them from the judgement of their sin, which is death. The price must be paid, because I am a holy God and cannot tolerate sin. So Jesus, I'm going to need you to become a man, and die for them. All of them. For all their sins."
No. That's not how it went down. The triune God knows the beginning from the end; God has done nothing on the fly. Which shows just how much he loves us. He created Adam and then Eve, knowing full well they were going to betray Him, by rejecting the hierarchy of life, His Lordship and authority, and do what they wanted. He created us knowing His Son would have to die for us. Truths too wonderful for me to grasp.
That brings us to this picture. Look at it, and realize we are Eve's daughters. Her mistakes are ours. And we have no idea the damage we are causing, every time we manipulate our husbands, defy them, control them. This is where it started. Refusing to submit to God, and after that our husbands.
The first time I saw it, I went and sat alone in our bedroom and wept for ages. The sadness of it overwhelmed me. If only she had known she was bringing death upon all her children.
But oh, the gratefulness in her heart to God for this Way he was going to give her and her kids back to Himself. He would use one of her children, Mary, a sinner just like her, to be the vessel that carried the Saviour.
He would right her wrong.
He would forgive, and forget.
He would restore her family.
He would restore humanity.
And the resurrected lives in Christ that her daughters would choose to live when they believed in Him, would glorify marriage once more.
How can you not fall to the ground in worship when you hear this?
All the wives reading this, please email me your stories: firstname.lastname@example.org. What has submission or lack of it done to your marriage? What in your husbands make you feel you could never let him lead? What experiences have scarred you deeply?
Please, let me know. It will help all of us with the next article. I won't share any names. If you can't bear to email me because I'll see your address, inbox me on Facebook: @wambuikariuki. You can also DM me on Instagram: @its_mama_tito.
Let's help one another.
For His glory.
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.