Article  Marriage and Family  Christian Living

Sara Horn on being a ‘Biblically Submissive Wife’

I first met Sara Horn a decade ago when I was a communications intern at LifeWay and she was writer. She had just returned from her second trip to the Middle East, serving as a war correspondent for Baptist Press. I knew I could gain much from her professional experiences and wisdom.

As a military wife, author and speaker, she has accomplished much since then. Ten years later, Sara is still sharing her knowledge, but in a very different sphere of life: marriage. Never afraid of controversial topics, Sara decided to begin a one-year experiment, seeking to live as a biblically submissive wife and chronicling her journey in her book, My So-Called Life as a Biblically Submissive Wife.

Why did you decide to write this book? Why did you write it as a personal narrative?

For the majority of my 16-year-marriage to my husband, I avoided the whole idea of biblical submission. I considered myself an independent woman and viewed the idea of biblical submission as outdated and in direct conflict with my dreams and desires for what I perceived as success. But I love God’s word and respect it as the authority for my life. I need to include even the things that, in my own selfish perception, I don’t like or I want to avoid.

I chose to write this as a personal narrative, instead of some kind of self-help type of format, because I don’t think every woman can wake up tomorrow and declare she’s going to be a submissive wife. I think each of us has to work through our own experiences, backgrounds, convictions and learned beliefs as God walks us through all of that.

How do you think the culture around us views the concept of “submission”?

Oh, our culture hates it! Biblical submission is viewed as putting a woman under a man’s thumb–that she’s a doormat or a robot with no ability to think or speak for herself. Or worse, it sets her up for a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse by a man.

And the latter is a very real concern, because the sad truth is that many men have exploited these scriptures as permission to dominate or be demeaning toward their wives. Even sadder, there are women who have allowed those situations to continue, convinced they’re just doing what the Bible says they have to do. But men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Nowhere in Scripture does it say husbands are supposed to force their wives to be submissive to them.

You describe in the book how culture sends confusing messages to women. How do you think that has affected our marriages?

As women, we have been told we can be anything we want to be, raise kids, have a successful career—with or without a man by our side. In media around us, women are lifted up as heroes, and men are often put down or characterized as less responsible, not that bright or not that needed.

Men seem increasingly hesitant to be who God made them to be as men, less they get accused of being chauvinistic or thoughtless toward women. Then, as women, we get upset when they don’t seem to care or engage in anything. I believe our husbands have learned from culture to pick the path of least resistance, and so they give their wives a wide open space in which to operate. But, as a result, I believe a lot of women are finding more unhappiness than contentment.

How do you think the world has taught us theology?

The world has convinced many of us in the church that this idea of biblical submission is wrong because it doesn’t feel right. We’ve bought into the political correct viewpoint: “If I don’t agree with it, then I shouldn’t have to follow it.” Or, we can rationalize another truth for ourselves—that marriage can and should be 50/50 or a partnership.

Instead of following God’s plan for marriage, we follow the world’s—the plan that says do what makes YOU happy, and if your spouse isn’t making you happy, then you’re better off without that spouse. When we follow that plan, we miss the valuable lessons God wants to teach us through our marriages: lessons about love, grace, forgiveness and selflessness, which reinforce what Christ did for all of us.

How does honoring your husband honor God?

Do you know why I think as women we struggle with this idea of submission? Because we struggle with the idea of obeying God. We want to obey him and follow his lead, but our natural tendency is to do what we want to do. We’re not very good about saying no to ourselves. God created man and woman to bring important, distinctive and beautiful traits to the marriage relationship. The roles of the husband and wife are equally important, but also different in important ways.

Most of us agree it’s always a good idea to have a leader when it comes to a company, ministry or an athletic team, but we resist it in the form of a marriage. I honor my husband because God’s word asks me to do so. It’s a voluntary decision to put God first and to reflect his love by showing love and respect toward my husband. The more I understand what God has called me to do as a wife, the more I realize the enormous impact I have, for better or worse, on my husband. So when I intentionally honor my husband, I honor God, because I’m reflecting him in my actions and words.

What does a submissive wife look like to the watching world?

A biblically submissive wife isn’t a doormat, and she doesn’t look like someone who’s been walked on. She’s also not mute. She sees the value in her husband and the value in herself. She reflects a quiet confidence (but I don’t mean she’s quiet or mousy), and she passes on that confidence to her husband when she encourages him. She doesn’t talk negatively about him; she doesn’t call him names or put him down, but she makes it known that she’s his biggest cheerleader. She uses the wisdom God gives her to help counsel her husband when it comes to decisions for their family, and she also uses that same wisdom to know when to give her husband room to lead. She might be the president of a company or a homeschooling stay-at-home mom, but she is confident in her relationship with God and fiercely committed in her relationship with her husband.

What changes did you see in your husband over the course of your experiment?

The biggest change I saw in my husband was his willingness to lead and take more responsibility for our family. Instead of saying “whatever you want,” he started making more decisions, partly because I stopped running over him in those decisions. I was more willing to step back and give him the time to make those decisions.

The biggest blessing in the entire experience was realizing we were more often on the same page with him leading than when he wasn’t. We realized that before this experiment one of us (usually me) would lean toward a decision and the other person (usually my husband) would just go along with it. But with him leading and me asking questions during the decision-making process, we are more often on the same page.

Also, I have never felt more deeply loved by my husband than I do now. He understands and realizes the weight of responsibility God has given him as the leader of our marriage and our home.

Sara never claims to have all the answers, but in My So-Called Life As A Submissive Wife she paints an honest picture of two people who are seeking to bring their marriage under the authority of Scripture, trust in God’s plan for their life, and love each other to the end of their days. Every wife and every marriage could learn something from her commitment and authenticity.

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