Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reclaiming submission

Caution...this post may not be appropriate for little eyes.


Hijacked by 50 Shades of Grey

Over the past few days, the female Christian social network has been abuzz over the controversial summer read, "50 Shades of Grey," and hundreds of Christian women have joined True Woman in its "I'm not reading 50 Shades of Grey" movement. Dannah Gresh has done a great job laying out reasons why women shouldn't read a book with a plot line glorifying BDSM (that's bondage, dominance, sadism, masochism), so there's no need for me to create my own reasons for not reading the book.  However, as I've been reading the reviews in publications like Newsweek and NYT, I have found myself wrestling with one word that keeps popping up like a bad weed.  A beautiful word that has been hijacked, tampered with, and changed into something so ugly that it makes us queasy just to look at it.  What word, you ask?


"Ugly" submission vs. "Beautiful" Submission

In almost every review or article I've read, some form of this word has surfaced.  And it's never pretty.   It's almost always in reference to the sexually submissive woman who allows herself to be beaten, bruised, and abused.  

This is what I call "ugly" submission.  And let me make this very clear from the is not healthy or good.  No woman should allow a man to inflict pain on her for his own pleasure.  This is antithetical to the love and submission that the bible speaks of. When the Bible speaks of submission, it is a word of beauty, grace and freedom.  

To submit literally means to "put yourself under the authority of another."  The question is...whose authority are you putting yourself under?  

The Bible says that we are called to submit ourselves to God. (James 4:7).  Not a domineering, abusive God.  A loving, compassionate God, all-wise and all-powerful.  Often when we hear the word "submit" we hear a word that devalues.  As if being under someone's authority automatically makes you "less."  But that's not the kind of submission God calls us to.  We are instead called to submit ourselves to God so that "he might exalt" us.  

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. -James 4:7-10

Submission is for our good and his glory.

Under his tutelage

Not many of my readers know this, but up until a few years ago, I dreamed of becoming an opera singer.  For years, I practiced and trained with three different vocal coaches, in hopes of one day singing at the Met.  

The relationship between a musician and her teacher is one like none other.  In every other area of my life, my submission was somewhat forced.  I had to submit to my parents...they fed me.  I had to submit to teachers...they graded me.  But with my voice teachers, I was making a conscious choice to submit to their authority.  I was trusting them to teach me and guide me to my dream.  I surrendered to their authority because I knew that it would be for my good.  They knew what was best for me.  They knew when I needed to be pushed and when I needed to rest.  They knew what lessons I needed to learn.  They knew what vocal exercises would help me sing better.  They saw the big picture and broke that down into bite-sized, manageable little pieces.

They were masters of their craft, but their desire was never to put me down so that they might be puffed up.  They wanted me to be successful.  They selflessly loved me, cared for me, groomed me so that I might be "exalted," but I first had to submit to them. I had to make myself low (sometimes practicing the same vocal exercise hundreds and hundreds of times!) before they could make me high.

I realize that it's not a perfect analogy. No human authority can ever be as perfect as God because we are a fallen people (in fact, one of my voice teachers is now in prison because of his abuse of authority with one of his students). But my hope is that it helps you see what beautiful submission really looks like. It's kind. It's caring. It's loving. It's sacrificial. 

A perfect example of submission  

What I love about God is that he never call us to do anything he hasn't already done. In Jesus, we have a perfect example of submission to God... 

Even though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 5:6-11

Jesus, the God of the universe, humbled himself to the point of death on a cross in submission to God the Father.  And now, he is highly exalted.

A perfect example of submission.  

The question of submission

Early on, I asked the question, "Whose authority are you putting yourself under?"

So...who is your authority?

Are you allowing yourself to be beaten and bruised for someone else's gratification? Or maybe you're living for yourself ? Either way, the results aren't promising. Romans 8:13 says "if you live according to the flesh you will die."

If you are under another authority, I urge you to submit yourselves to God. He alone can rescue you from death because he endured death on your behalf in the greatest act of submission and sacrifice in history.

And not only does he rescue you from death, but he promises eternal life and glory in Christ, who "will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."  (1 Peter 5:10)

Submission doesn't have to be ugly, friends.  Being under the authority of a generous, merciful God is the most freeing, beautiful, safe place I have ever been.  

Today, I'm linking up with...


  1. Hi Chelsea,

    Thanks so much for coming by my blog, I'm so glad you did because I came by and read your post - it is EXCELLENT!!! I haven't read a post about submission this good in ages. I haven't heard about this book, but it certainly sounds awful and not in the least truthful.

    So glad I found your blog!

  2. I agree -- excellent post. 50 Shades is nothing more than the tale of an abuse victim crouching under the banner of "submission." Thank you for sounding a balanced perspective on an already sensitive topic.

    (And here I thought submission couldn't GET any more controversial. Ha!)

  3. I think it is such a shame that once again the word "submission" is being defined (and misunderstood) through books such as this. We already have such a hard time understanding the word in the Biblical sense as a society - of Christians and nonChristians - and books such as this do not help at all. I am so glad you are writing about this!! Thank you for visiting my 50 Shades post, too! :-)