Ephesians: Day 11

Christ and His Church

by

Today's Text: Ephesians 5:22-6:9, Genesis 2:4-25, Matthew 19:13-15, Colossians 3:23-24

This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.

- Ephesians 5:32 -

She was five and I was seven. The sun had just set, but there was light enough for our tasks. We had rhubarb leaves to gather, Rose of Sharon flowers to collect, and lightning bugs to catch. She ran back and forth with a run as cute as it was enthusiastic. I sat enthroned on an industrial wood spool and shouted orders: “Not those flowers, those are Queen Anne’s Lace!” We were storing up treasures and there was a lot of work for us to do. Well, work for her to do. Someone had to manage the operation, and if seven years had taught me nothing else, they had taught me that I loved to be the boss.

My little sister has always been game to help me achieve my goals. Whether I’m filling baskets with pink flowers or purchasing a new sofa, she’s got my back. But it’s taken me a long time to learn how to fully appreciate our relationship and not turn it into a power play.

We all have a little megalomania in us, whether we are the big sister or not. We all have an impulse to control. Henry Cloud points out that “all people were designed by God to be control freaks. But because we shy away from controlling what we are supposed to control (ourselves), we resort to controlling what we are not supposed to control (others).”

Ouch.

When Paul addressed the Ephesians, he wasn’t just delivering a few tips for getting along with friends and coworkers; he was revealing how the gospel transforms all of our relationships. The gospel takes the power struggle out of the equation.

Our sinful hearts are naturally inclined to rebel against authority. It’s (profoundly) hard for wives to submit to husbands, children want to rebel against parents, and who hasn’t had a hard time respecting a boss? (Ok, I know this passage also talks about slaves and masters, but I just can’t even right now with the complex issue of Old Testament slavery.) We squirm and wiggle to get out from under authority.

On the other side, our sinful hearts are inclined to control those under us. Husbands control and hurt wives, and wives undermine and control husbands. Parents try to control and micromanage their children, and employers steamroll workers all the time. We don’t want to submit, and we don’t want to lead with mercy.

Here’s the good news: the gospel actually does change our relationships. It changes the nature of both our intimate and professional bonds. Yes, our sinful hearts want to control others and rebel against authority, but God only calls us to control ourselves (Galatians 5:23).

How can we control ourselves and understand this mystery of love, submission, and authority? Two ideas from scripture: Do a good job with a good heart.

Paul encourages us to do a good job by enjoining us, “Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart” (Ephesians 6:6).

And Paul invites us to have a good heart: “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord” (Colossians 3:23-24).

But our hearts are precisely the problem! How can I do a good job with a good heart when my  heart so bent on controlling others? The gospel never sets works before the transformed heart. It begins with Christ’s transforming work in my heart. Christ is the one who does all this.

Why does Paul go to all this trouble? To help us sort out little peccadillos with coworkers? To keep kids from getting out of hand in the grocery store? To help me not be grouchy to my husband?

Yeah, actually. Yes. All our relationships are about Christ. They mirror different facets of our connection to Him, so these interactions with other folks are like a training ground. We are learning to love Christ better through our relationships on earth. This mystery is profound (Ephesians 5:32).

Help your little sister when she’s gathering rhubarb, and listen to your mom if she calls you inside. God gave these people to you. When that old impulse to control strikes, use it to control yourself by submitting your heart to Christ.

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  • Steph Li

    I have always struggled with Ephesians 5-6. When it comes to submitting to husband’s and pleasing them, I get angry at Paul for being so old-fashioned (can you really blame him?). My boyfriend tells me it’s fair because he has to take on the leadership role, the “God” part of the relationship while I take on the seemingly lesser role. It’s just hard for him to understand that demeaning feeling that women face so often.
    But this devotional helps me see this passage in a new light. While the specific verses about husband’s and wives still turns my stomach the wrong way, this teaches me to take a step back to live in humility and obedience for Christ, not for men.

  • This has opened my eyes, thank you Lord!

  • Jennifer

    I find this at the time I struggle the most with it! So glad I have been “behind” because God knows when I needed these words spoke into my life!

  • Tara Sanders

    This passage has made me consider my relationships with others as part of my relationship with God. I honestly never thought about it that way. I definitely gained some new perspective. :)

  • This passage has really spoke to me this morning. I have always tried to be “in control” of everything . Instead, God calls us to work on our own hearts and control ourselves. I pray that I may learn to use and focus my energy on myself! Much needed this morning. I am so thankful for a community of women working together to sharpen ourselves.

  • I have been asking God the reasons why I am not in a relationship. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t ready. But if I am not ready then what do I need to work on? And BAM! This verse… I saw it and I quickly skimmed past it yet I was quickly called back to it because that’s where the problem lies. Submitting seems just way too hard and I don’t know how it could be possible. Yet I kept reading and it said that he will love me like his own body because we would be one flesh. This seems super hard! But I know God is working in me and I’m so thankful that He showed me what’s up.

  • This was a word in season for me!

  • Kimberly Martinson

    Such a good word! Thank you.

  • Sarabeth

    This devotion comes at a time when I don’t want it but need it. (Even a day later than it was posted.). My head cries and stamps my feet saying it’s not fair and it is hurtful and mean. But Christ. I have to remember that Christ is my Rock and my defender. So when he asks me to submit, though I do not want to because of hurt feelings and pride, I must. And I HAVE to trust Him that I will not be forgotten.

    • SheReadsTruth

      Sarabeth, thanks for sharing your heart today! We are so grateful to hear what God is teaching you! We love having you in our community!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Lizzieb85

    For some reason this example came to mind as I read this morning:

    My lovely husband gets our 9 month old twin boys dressed & ready for bed every night. One twin has started to get really wriggly during changing times. He is small & strong & persistent to flip to his belly & look at his brother. My husband is used to a complacent infant, easy to dress on his back. My husband keeps trying to flip the baby over to dress him the way my husband feels most comfortable. It is an exhausting ordeal. As I change the twins in the morning (& throughout the day as poop explosions dictate) I have learned to dress my son backwards, forwards, & upside down. It’s actually much easier than trying to force my son into any one position.

    Now, as a parent, it is still my job to get the baby dressed. The task must be accomplished. But must I exert my control over the task to be done MY way? No. As long as the baby is dressed, we’re good to go! I must remember this as they get older with regards to teaching times & discipline. It is not a power struggle (but I’m sure it will sure feel like it!). I pray I will do a good job as a parent with a good heart. I loved this perspective of the passage today.

  • These words, "The gospel takes the power struggle out of the equation." will be carried with me today, well more liked tumbling about as I meditate on this truth. I think there's a little too much PS going on in my heart :(

  • Nora Gomez

    Wow.

  • Thank you all for the wisdom, insights, and encouragement shared here today!! I am stretched as well as encouraged in my faith and walk with Christ!! So thankful for this community of believers!!

  • “Ouch” is right. I know I try to control everything, even the things I can’t. All along it’s me I need to control.

  • melindawatters

    So I just have to write and share today. Normally I sit with my I-pad or phone snuggled on my couch or basking in the sunshine on the deck, but I have been feeling convicted over the last several months that God wants me to write. Not sure of the context of that, but it is hard to really write in depth comments on my I-pad with out a proper key board so for this morning I have moved to my lap top in order to really write.

    I am just loving this study of Ephesians. It is so timely for me in many, many ways. I have a deep long struggle. It is a struggle with anger and angry outbursts. When my anger wells up inside of me it is so, so, so difficult to find that self-control. I have done much study and prayer over this. I have spent many a morning and night in tearful regret over things I said in anger. What I have come to is that word self-control and the truth is that it truly comes down to me making that choice, even in that moment when I feel out of control. The other truth that I am seeing is that my anger is often about areas I want to control and don't. I really can't control how quickly my children clean up their huge mess. I can't control their memory to make sure they remember to do their daily tasks. I can't control my husband's hearing and understanding of what I say. Wouldn't it be something if in addition to the little security tablet on my kitchen counter that tells me what door is open in the house, etc. I also had a control panel for my husband and children! Yikes I think that's what I want but on further thought that would be SCARY!!!! It IS a GOOD thing I don't have this kind of control.

    This quote from Henry Cloud smacked me over the head this morning. “all people were designed by God to be control freaks. But because we shy away from controlling what we are supposed to control (ourselves), we resort to controlling what we are not supposed to control (others).” Yes, this is me. Oh God my Father, give me your power to exercise control over myself and submission to my husband. May I model respect and servant hood to my children.

    • churchmouse

      So wise of you to pray for His power, and not just try more of your own will power. It is only Christ’s strength in me that makes any self control possible.

    • Victoria

      @melindawatters I feel like you wrote exactly what I was thinking. I’m struggling with the very same things that you mention in your comment. This was an awesome post, and it’s inspiring me to dig deeper into Ephesians. Thank you for responding to today’s post.

    • Lucy

      Melinda! I enjoy you so much — we will definitely be the beneficiaries of your switching to your laptop for really letting your thoughts come through. (For what it's worth, I just did the exact same thing — after straining away on my tablet, and even looking to buy a keyboard to use with it, I thought, duh – I have a perfectly good laptop gathering dust from lack of use. And like you, God has been convicting me about a return to writing as well. I am beyond thrilled to know that we'll be on similar journeys in that regard.)

      I had to laugh out loud at your talking about not being able to control your husband's hearing and understanding of what you say. You should HEAR some of the conversations that take place under this roof — easy fodder for a sitcom. But it can be soooo frustrating, can't it?? Glad to know I'm not alone in that struggle, as well.

      Burn up that laptop keyboard, dear sister — I can't WAIT to read what comes of it!

    • Sylvia Reeve

      My very thoughts as well. I too was smacked up one side and down the other by Henry Cloud’s quote. I so needed to hear this. I didn’t get around to reading this study yesterday so this morning I’m doing both.So very glad I didn’t skip over this one

    • Andrea

      Melinda,

      I’m convicted too! Lord, even asked me “why I stopped writing Him love letters?”

    • Angela

      Melinda,
      You speak from my daily experiences. I too am an angry outburst control freak. I’m so encouraged to hear that you are seeking the Lord’s wisdom in overcoming this sin pattern.

      Since I struggle with exactly what you are working through, I wanted to offer a book recomendation. If you haven’t already, you need to go read Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst. And if you have read it, you need to go read it again.

      I just started my second journey through this godly book about raw emotions, and I am so excited to see what God is going to refine in me as I go through it again, this time with a wonderful group of Mom’s I meet with weekly. I promise you will find truth, conviction and hope in the pages of this book!

      Praying your journey is refreshed in Him and full of imperfect progress!

      Angela

  • Truly profound! Incredibly convicting and humbling. I am in awe of how the Lord spoke through you to me. Thank you! Keep it up!

    • SheReadsTruth

      Thanks for joining us today, Tatum! We love having you in our community!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Sarah Layson

    This is such am incredible revalation to me. When I met my husband we were both in a valley so to speak. With some bad news lately I have been drawn back towards Jesus and reestablishing a close relationship with Him. I have been trying to get my husband there too and today was a much needed slap in the face. I just need to control myself and live in grace so that he can want it through exposure. Thank you for today!

    • Lucy

      Beautiful, Sarah! I'm so glad you shared that with us — 'live in grace so that he can want it through exposure', so lovely. Isn't our Father amazing?

  • I needed to hear and remember that our relationships here are connections to Christ. Training ground, mirror our relationship with him. I love that reminder!

    • shereadstruth

      Yes, yes, yes. So thankful for a reminder of this truth, Dee! Praying for you!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • lovethosekids

    Oh, I remember those little girls well. I sat on a chair by the dining room window watching their play and praying for them to grow into women who love and worship God. So grateful for God's merciful and sustaining hand in their lives. Mom

  • Need. this truth
    Want. this change of giving up control Love. this devotion

  • What amazing LOVE the Father has for us, and we aren't even there yet. Until he says the words it is finished in our lives.
    My answer will be fill me Lord Jesus , I want to be like you in every response, in every situation. BOY, will that take Christ in me…the hope of all to come.
    Thanking God for each people who allows this work to start in them as well. God is so good, through it all. The good , bad and the UGLY.
    Come quickly LORD JESUS, and may I be transformed.

  • I have struggled my whole life with a controlling mother and her criticizing ways. Now, she is in her 80's and has advanced Parkinson's and I was her primary care taker until a few months ago. Talk about struggle – a struggle to rebel against her and the struggle to love her the way she is and feel compassion towards her. I am her only child and because of the way she is, she has pushed away the rest of the extended family. Yet, she is my mother and I love her.

    I have to ask God repeatedly to help me to be obedient to his word and at the same time to be bold not to fall into the old patterns. my heart aches to see her not having control even over her own body. I had been her primary care taker while raising two children and trying to salvage my marriage. My marriage didn't make it but thank God, my children are Ok. Learning to let go and be obedient to his Word and plan for my life has been very difficult for me and many times I have cried out to God, "why me?"

    When I was at the end of my rope, God provided me with a wonderful lady to take care of my mother while I work. This lady has a heart of gold and looks at it as serving God. She has won my mother over where no one else has been ble to. God knew exactly who to give me, she it would happen and how much I needed her example. We serve a mighty God!

    • TGBTG

      God is so good to us. Prayers for you and your family.

    • melindawatters

      Praising God with you in how He is working in your journey.

    • Lucy

      Zeydi, I feel your heart so much when you talk about wanting to be bold not to fall into the old patterns while still being obedient to His word. Have you read the 'Boundaries' books? They were such a tremendous help to me, to help identify that line between not allowing harm to come to me and still reaching out with an open heart.

  • Jennifer

    It's especially hard to respect and submit to a husband who is not a believer and persecutes your attempts to live out your faith. It's not always an issue of control. It's the ever-present question of who to obey, God or man.

    • Judy

      I’m right there with you. So hard

    • Christy

      Consider that the Lord called you to marry this man, and therefore what that means in the context of your faith and God’s plans not just for you but also your husband, plans we can’t begin to comprehend from our vantage point…?

    • churchmouse

      Ephesians is written by Paul to believers, the faithful in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 5 gives some instructions for Christian households. More relevant verses for those married to unbelievers is 1 Cor. 7: 12-14. 1 Peter 3: 1,2 and Philip. 2: 14. I hope these help you and encourage you to gently live out your faith in front of your husband. Our families are our first mission field. Praying for you and your husband, that you pray steadfastly and speak the truth in love, and that your husband would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord.

    • Lucy

      You are so right, Jennifer. When I became a Christian, my husband did not. Not at first, anyway. And it did make it so much harder to have a soft heart toward him and think of him the way I needed to. Our marriage was a decades-long shambles when I converted, and now we are both strong believers and our marriage is wonderful. Something I once thought I would never be able to say. But nothing is impossible for our God. Stay strong. I'm praying for you, sister.

  • Carol E.

    Thank you. I needed to read this today.

  • Shirley Burkenpas

    Constantly I need Truth in my face, I coward down to circumstances too much…only to explode like a pressure cooker!…Thank you Father for Your Precious Word that keep's me in check with you…I need to 'polish my armor more & wear it!' To God be all The Glory.

  • HelenWalksinAwe

    I was nervous about today's study at first– I've encountered this passage and yesterday's about the sun going down on your anger SO many times in the past few years of working on my marriage. It felt like no one was really "getting" it or looking at it in the context of Paul's entire letter. Today's devo makes it all make so much more sense and looking at it in terms of relinquishing control is so much more freeing, especially when, despite your greatest efforts to change things for the better, they aren't getting better.

    The way the idea of control dovetails powerfully with the idea of the work coming from the heart. In the NASB, the phrase used in 6:6 is "Not by the way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."

    This was (sometimes still is) very much my husband and I and the public face of our marriage– paying eyeservice and being men-pleasers in public to save our pride in the faces of people who disapproved of our marriage from the beginning or to seek approval from people who counseled us to get married despite our serious doubts about whether that was wise. Instead of being open about our intense fears and struggles, we tried to live up to some image of a perfectly happy and functional little couple, then little family, then big family. We also wanted to feel like, at least sometimes, things were okay. Even if the home life was distant and dysfunctional, we became experts at that outward happy face. And it was easy to do that in public for a few hours. So many car rides spent in anger only to sweep it under and put on a happy face once the car doors slammed shut and we rang the doorbell, casserole and gift bags in hand. We focused on controlling our image more than controlling ourselves and our relationship. It's caused some incredibly deep scars. Who am I kidding, we're still raw and bleeding.

    Because we were not "naked and unashamed" (Gen 2:25), not with each other or with our loved ones. All of this dishonesty eroded us as a couple, exhausted us as individuals, and totally blindsided our family and friends when we finally came to them with our struggles and asked for help. In fact, a surprising amount of people have turned their backs, wanting to go on thinking we are fine and not wanting to hear anything of the struggle because, well, it's probably hard for them to reconcile and get their heads around after so many years of control the way we did.

    The common thread in all of this is to be giving of our honest, naked selves, from the heart, for the service of God, foremost, then the service of each other. The bodily images throughout these passages reinforce the primal, nature of living this way: working heartily, naked, eyeservice, from the heart, etc. We have to submit, and doing that means doing it with the very real, stripped down core of ourselves. This is so hard because other people are going to see our struggles and our wobbly, less picturesque bits. And then, once we are naked and unashamed, raw, working from the heart in the possible fear and rejection that level of vulnerability entails, we can cover ourselves in Christ's armor… but that's getting a little head of ourselves in the reading, isn't it?

    • Amy J

      naked and unashamed… I realize how far from that I am when I picture myself truly naked. Even in the safety of my own home.

      A friend at church also comes to mind. She's always had something special; something I can't quite explain. I think that "something special" is her ability to work heartily, from the heart, naked and unashamed.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • melindawatters

      Helen, Thank you for sharing this. I can relate on many levels to what you have written here.

    • Lucy

      Dear Helen – I am sorry for your (and your husband's) raw and bleeding. Been there. It's horrible on so many levels. Like I was just saying a little further up, my husband and I now have a wonderful marriage. After a quarter-century of awfulness ranging from just chronic discontent to times when critical mass almost involved police, lawyers, etc, we are now here as living proof of the healing, restorative hand of God on those who persist in fighting the good fight. I wish you didn't have this trial in your life, but I know that He will work something beautiful out of it.

    • Jessica

      Thank you for your honesty. When things are rough in my marriage I can definitely revert to the “everything is fine” face and now it is a skill I unfortunately cannot seem to separate myself from – which breeds resentment. It’s ugly. Marriage is hard but holy. Christ is our reward for our struggles and our trials, sister!

  • Caroline @ In due time

    Amen! The mystery is profound!!!!

    http://Www.In-due-time.com

  • janellecole

    After catching up this morning because of a busy week I think this is one of my favorite messages – as I re-read these scriptures they really hit me different today. It is not about me (a recurring theme these days in my life) – it is about how I see others through the lens of the gospel. How I approach these relationships for HIS glory and not my own. Thank you for a great message today and a chance to look at many familiar verses in a new light!
    God has a perfect framework for all our relationships, but sin muddles it all up. Keeping our eyes on the Creator's initial plan can help us daily!!

  • The wooden trellis on our patio was looking pretty sad a few weeks ago. A few of the boards had popped out, and a coat of varnish was sorely needed. Our painter/builder/plumber/handyman Gonzalo came over and took about a week to fix that trellis among other small things around the house. After each project, he took the time to show me the improvements, ask for opinions, and check if I was satisfied with the final product.

    Gonzalo reminds me of Louie Giglio´s oft-referenced "Jo Jo" (anyone?). He´s a fictional small appliance repair man who loves what he does, even if others deem it small work. He´s the one you call when your dispose-all breaks. He´ll come, check it out and fix what you asked him to. Then he´ll check the rest just to be sure it all works well, and realizes there´s another underlying problem that you probably wouldn´t have noticed right away, but would crop up later. He needs another part back at the shop to fix that which will take some extra time, but it´s worth it to him to make sure this works well for you. Why does he do all this? He´s working as if for the Lord.

    How can I do that today? With God´s mercy… I´ll make some fish tacos and take the time to slice the onions super-thin… not because I have amazing knife skills, but because I know my husband loves the salsa that way. I´ll go the long way around the park to the playground my toddler enjoys more. I´ll do a bit more research on that kid´s reading disability so that I can make our tutoring session that much more productive. Why? Because if I were to these things for the Lord, I´d do them this way.

    • Nicole Fegan

      Thank you for writing this! This really helps me to see how I can do things for the Lord and not for men/myself.

    • Amy J

      I appreciate your understanding. :)

    • Lucy

      Missy, my eyes are teary at the mental image of you lovingly slicing thin onions for your husband and taking the long way around the park. What a beautiful spirit you have, and how mightily God uses you here among your sisters. Thank you.

  • churchmouse

    Wives, as to the Lord. Husbands, as to Christ. Love, as Christ loved. Children, bring up as of the Lord. Bondservants, as you would Christ. Service, as to the Lord. Hmmm… Seems to me…. It’s really all about relationship with the Lord. Yep. That’s it. First and foremost. All will fall into place when He is in first place.

    • Amy J

      As I truly commit my life to Christ, I see that all does fall into place. Even so, the thought of obedience scares me (my mom survived spousal abuse), but I will ask Him for guidance in this, and see where I land.

    • TGBTG

      So well said. All based on love and respect. All based on submission, honor, respect to our Heavenly Father. The pieces come together as He wills and beautifully when He is primary. Thank you.

  • I too have so much trouble with submission and serving with a true heart.

    • Lucy

      It is troublesome, isn't it, Krista? I am sorry for your struggle. Putting a card with your name on it on my war room wall, so I can lift you up to our Father often. He's going to do something amazing in your life, dear sister.

  • I loved today’s readings and reflection, also so perfectly timed in life. I loved the reminder of working for God rather than the world, something not easy to do in our culture that is filled with promotions, pride, greed, and entitlement. For me, I have been struggling with this lately as I have been unhappy at my workplace, feeling unvalued and frustrated. And while I know I need to seek Gods approval rather than the worlds, I don’t know what a good solution to my frustration would be. I suppose that’s where time and prayer will tell.

    Hope you all have a beautiful day!

    • Lucy

      Joining you in prayer, Cait, that you find God's way around your unhappy workplace situation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • I was so meant to read this today, especially the verses in Colossians. I am very type-A and struggle with needing control in every area of my life. When I don't have control, I feel as if chaos will ensue. I am in graduate school and as a TA, I get so frustrated with students who don't listen or who can't do tasks I deem simple. I realized this morning that I haven't been doing my job enthusiastically. I've been trying so hard to control what happens that I forget I am in a position to extend grace and to show others the love of Christ through my actions (remaining calm and polite despite my frustrations). I can only control my actions and reactions to things, not everyone around me. So, today, I'm praying I would be more intentional about enthusiasm for my work and that I would do everything for the Lord. Not for myself or for those around me, but for Him.

    I want to ask that you all say a prayer for me this morning. I have a big exam today to become registered and licensed in my area of study. I'm praying for knowledge and discernment during the exam and for peace afterward, regardless of what happens. I know the Lord will use me through this.

    Hope you all have a lovely day!

    • Michelle

      Praying Emily!May God give you all the wisdom you need!

    • churchmouse

      Praying that all that you have studied comes to your mind and that you are confident and calm throughout the exam!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      Prayers lifted Emily!

    • BFinch

      Praying for you today Emily. And your post is very relatable. I am a working mom and one kids in preschool, one in 1st grade…sometimes I feel like there is so much to do I am just in a tunnel running as fast as I can to reach the other end. And I’ll do whatever it takes..but then at the end of the day I reflect and I have to repent that I wasn’t a better example of God’s grace and love to my children. Which should really be my most important…not just running the tunnel.

      • Amy J

        I can totally relate. Sometimes I just run the tunnel. Praying that we both be more intentional about enthusiasm.

      • Christy

        I hear you!! I’ve had dishes in my sink the last four days (thankfully not the same dishes, but I can’t seem to get on top of them this week!). As I am tempted to despair about getting it all done, I’m reminded that God cares more that I love my family well than have a clean sink. This reminder is freeing for me – I hope it might be for you too…? Hang in there, you’re a better momma than you let yourself see.

    • Nicole Elizabeth

      Prayed for you!

    • Amy J

      Praying for you, Emily.

    • Lorelei

      Praying for you, Emily. We work for a kind Boss!

    • Hope

      Hey, I’m a scholar and will be praying particularly for you today. I know the struggle or submission but I have found that my greatest lessons have come from my students. Sending you lots of love and confidence in God today.

    • Lucy

      Praying with you, Emily.

  • Kelly_Smith

    I so often want to will myself to be more submissive toward my husband, more patient toward my children, more generous with my employer. I think I have reached the end of my goodness. I am doing it as well as I can–in my flesh. To achieve this type of God-honoring lifestyle of living with others "as unto the Lord," I must seek deeper intimacy with my Lord.

    A new thought came to me as I read verses 25-28. Christ loved the church deeply, "so that he might present the church to HIMSELF in splendor." Connecting that to the tail end of verse 28, "He who loves his wife loves himself." And, if you will permit one more quote: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism). We were created and loved for the glory of God. When He loves us, He does so for His own benefit. So it is with our Christ-like love for others. When we love lavishly as we have been loved, it enriches our lives as we see those around us flourish in that love.

    Consider tending a flower garden. It is hard word to till the ground, to sew the seeds, to water and weed. Why do we do it? Is it so the flowers may benefit from our presence? So they might feel the warmth of the sun's rays? We work so hard to grow flowers so that we might enjoy their beauty, their fragrance, and the soft touch of their petals. This is the hard work of loving others, of submitting, of going the extra mile to serve. It is not so that others may enjoy what we have done, but so they might become all that God has created them to be. In turn, our relationships will be enriched by the beauty that is revealed, the fragrance of Christ, and the soft touch of their changed heart.

    • Judy

      Amen!

    • Lyle

      I love the concept of getting outside of the here and now and living with a longer view–that of an end goal of glorifying God through relationships. The picture of a garden reminds me that cultivating relationships isn’t always instant gratification but requires patience. Thanks, Kelly!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      Amen!

    • Amy J

      Your image of tending a garden helps me better understand how to love lavishly. It reminds me, too, that I don't always want to do the hard work. You've given me something to think about.

    • Kim

      You have spoken to this plant nerd's heart!! Thank you for this awesome perspective.

    • melindawatters

      Thank you for this Kelly. Your explanation of the why behind the hard work spoke to me today.

    • Lucy

      Kelly, dear Kelly, sister of my heart – your flower analogy is brilliant! I can feel the answers to questions I didn't even know I had swirling around, and I can tell that God is going to use your words mightily in my life. When it all settles out, I know that I am going to be the better for your having shared this idea with us. Right now it's so big I can't express it. But thank you, thank you. Big hug.

  • Wow, I really needed this today. What a challenge to my big sister heart! I really liked that last sentence, that we need to remind ourselves to be controlling ourselves not others.

  • Rebecca, Rebecca! You present some of my favorite scriptures AND reference Henry Cloud, all while telling a lovely, lyrical teaching story?? Seriously, if you were here, I would share my stash of chocolate with you. The GOOD stuff, with the cherries and the hazelnuts. Because these are the verses that changed everything for me, and I adore anyone who presents them well.

    I am only in my fourth year of being a Christian, despite being older than many of you, so suffice to say that I had many years to ruin a whole lot of life before I knew Him, and everyone around me could see the results of it. So when I fell madly in love with my Lord, my Savior, and in that love wanted dearly to mirror Him, people around me thought it was "cute" to see the beginning little changes of my transformation.

    "Isn't that sweet?", they said, when they noticed that I no longer used foul language. "That's so nice.", they said, when I was no longer the one at the table with the filthiest dirty joke. "Umm-hmmm, she's found religion.", they would whisper to each other when I bowed my head to bless my food before eating. They all agreed that I was a better person, maybe even a good person — but so were others in our group. The ones who believed in karma, they were good people. The New Age pagans, the white witches who believed that everything you sent out into the world came back on you times three, they were good people. So the people around me saw change, but they didn't see me separate from the world. They referred to me as "one of those born-again types" while they waved their hand dismissively at the very notion.

    Until these verses in Ephesians came alive to me, and I realized that I couldn't really mirror the love of God to anyone without surrendering to these verses. So the first time people saw me, in the midst of a heated disagreement with my husband, stop and repent to him for speaking disrespectfully to him — they didn't say anything. Not a peep. Until they saw that surrender happen again, and then happen with a neighbor, then with a family member, then again with my husband. And then do you know what they said?

    They said, "Ohhhhh, you're a CHRISTIAN." Long drawn out on the "s" sound — Chrisssssstian. Then they saw me as set-apart, separate from. Because there are really quite a few levels to obedience — some that cost us very little and some that cost us everything — and the world recognizes the difference.

    If I imagine myself walking down an office corridor and I pass my boss, who tells me he needs fifteen minutes of my lunchtime, I don't hesitate — just say okay and keep moving. (That's the level giving up foul language was for me.) Later we pass in the hallway again, and he hands me a folder, tells me to run the numbers by end of day — I glance at it, glance at my watch, and say that I should be able to do that. (That's the level being obedient in public, like blessing my food, was for me.) Later when he passes off a box of folders and tells me he'll need the results by the 10th, I arrange to work some late nights and early mornings, maybe a weekend, but it's still doable. (That's the level it was for me to restructure life to accommodate a daily quiet time in the Word, time for prayer, time for praise and thanksgiving.) Then one day he passes off box after box after box, until I can no longer remain standing under the weight of it, and I sink to my knees — that's the level of obedience that Christlike submission requires. I can't just rearrange my pride, shuffle my selfishness to another day, reschedule my worldliness. I can only fall to my knees before Him and let His grace, His mercy, His strength, His love fill me. And even then I will still stagger under the weight sometimes. As will you.

    But the world sees us, and people in our life will notice, and sometimes they will quietly take us aside and say, "You're a Christian. I want what you have. I need that peace, that joy. Tell me about this Jesus you love – the One that changed your life."

    Those are some really good days. And well worth the cost.

    • Kelly_Smith

      Lucy! Oh, Lucy! What you have shared is the heart of this passage. You are right in saying the ability to do good (most of the time) is available within almost every man or woman. But, submission is of Christ. The posture of bowing on our knees–thank you for that word picture.

    • Candacejo

      Beautiful. ♥

    • Vanessa

      "and the world recognizes it" – oh yes! The world IS watching! And what opportunities we have each day to let the love of Christ shine through us! I loved your response, Lucy, how inspiring!

      • Lucy

        Vanessa – yes, isn't it wonderful how many chances we're given to spread the Good News? Thank you for your comment!

    • Lyle

      Yes! I love that you use the word obedience, Lucy, but point out that only through Jesus can we live out these verses. So encouraging!

    • Brandi

      Lucy – thank you so much for sharing this! I struggle mightily with being submissive to my husband. I want to do it but can't wrap my mind around what it really looks like. You gave me a great example in a way I can understand! Thank you my sister!

      • Nicoline

        The book ‘Love and Respect’ helped me to understand how to respect my husband. Best book I ever read and our relationship flourished because of it. We so often have negative thoughts when we hear respect your husband but it is so much more then “bowing to his every command”. Well worth the read for husband and wife. Love your wife coincides with respect your husband, there can’t be one with the other and when we don’t feel love we withdraw our respect, and when he doesn’t feel respected he withdraws his love.

        • Lucy

          Yes, Nicoline (gorgeous name!) – that is so true. I also wore through several copies of the 'Boundaries' books as I was finding my way with this, as well.

      • Lucy

        Hi, Brandi – your response touched me so much! Thank you for commenting. It can be such a frustrating struggle, can't it? My first months of attempting this were NOT pretty, let me tell you! I must have repeated to myself a gazillion times — "I'm not doing this for this man sitting across the table from me who I reallyREALLYreally want to snap at right now, I'm doing this in service to Jesus." A little petty, and lacking some of the "spirit of Christ", right? LOL! But eventually I was able to do it with a right heart, and I believe that God saw my less-than-loving early attempts as good enough. He doesn't expect us to get it right away, He only expects us to do what we're able, as we're able. He is SO good to us, isn't He? I'll be praying for you, sister.

    • HelenWalksinAwe

      Lucy, your story is challenging, humbling and beautiful and I am SO very grateful for you sharing it this morning. I've had far more than four years as a Christian, but man sometimes the struggle to give up a good cuss gets the better of me. And I really like how you point out that the difference between having the "Christian" stamp and being a "Long drawn out on the "s" sound — Chrisssssstian." That visible-in-your-actions vs. visible in your name brand Christianity. That's where it starts to get real. That's where I still have room to grow. Glad we're growing together!

      • Judy

        That visible-in-your-actions vs. visible in your name brand Christianity. That’s where it starts to get real.
        LOVE THAT!!! Amen!

      • Lucy

        I LOVE being able to grow with you, dear Helen! Thanks for your comments. You are in my prayers.

    • Amy jo

      Lucy…… WOW! Thanks for sharing!! I’m very commited to a blessed by SRT every single day and I enjoy every comment as they are always rich and helpful offering different points and perspectives I would’ve missed but I just never post anything. This original post and your reply was so tailored for me today I could not keep quiet. God is so good and hears our prayers!! Before I started reading anything I prayed about surrendering my desire to control over and over – man He just laid it right out there for me. Thank you for sharing, so helpful and encouraging. Now let me go and do likewise!!!! Surrendering to Christ in EVERYTHING.

      Amy Jo

      • Lucy

        Amy jo – we are so blessed that you came here to share your thoughts today! I hope you will do so much more often. Don't you LOVE when God lays things out in front of us so clearly sometimes? Those are always amazing experiences, and I am so very glad you had one today. Praise God!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      Love this word picture…..thank you!

    • Shannon H

      And yet even though n the kids to of this massive heart transplant that he is performing on us, he promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light…that he will give us rest for our weary souls when the fight to practice self control rather than other control is exhausting. Oh He is so good to us! Lord, help s to serve with a willing and joyful heart!

      • Shannon H

        Grr…auto correct fail!! It is supposed to say “in the midst of this massive heart transplant “

    • Donna

      All I can say is WOW. What a beautiful picture of the word in action. Very inspiring. You have painted such a vivid imagery of what our attitude and behavior should look like. Thank you.

    • Nancy

      Oh my, Lucy. You really hit the nail on the head with your writing. Working for the Lord in whatever circumstance is my ultimate goal and I need the strength that only He can supply to do this. Thank you so much for sharing – I can truly relate.

      • Lucy

        Thank you, Nancy, Donna, Heather. It is so comforting to know that so many of us are working on the same things, isn't it?

    • mamajonk

      Oh my goodness Lucy! Beautiful words this morning! So blessed by you. Thank you for sharing.

    • Christy

      That is beautiful, thank you!!

    • K

      So so good! Thank you for sharing!

      • Lucy

        Lyle, Shannon, K – thank you. You are so right about obedience, Lyle! And Shannon, how amazing is His light burden? Thank you for bringing that up.

    • shereadstruth

      Lucy, FRIEND! Thank you for sharing your heart today. Grateful for your thoughts and God's hand in your story. Love to you!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

      • Lucy

        mamajonk, Christy, and Kaitlin – thanks so much. You have all made the idea of sharing thoughts here much less scary!

    • melindawatters

      Lucy, I just want to echo the thanks for this writing. Your story of walking down the office corridor just really spoke to me. As other's said you hit the nail on the head. This just made it all more clear what this all means and how it looks in daily life. Thank you!

    • Lucy

      Oh my GOSH, look at all my sisters who responded to my first post here!!!! I am so stunned! I only came back this afternoon to see if some of the ladies in other time zones had come on with their responses to Rebecca's amazing teaching — I am teary-eyed at the idea that God allowed me to be of use to such incredible women. Wow. What an amazing gift. Praise God! And thank God for my new sisters.

    • tina

      I've come to the table , late…but WOW…and AMEN, Lucy…..Tell it girrrrl…you've had a few of us dit up and pay attention today….Amen…
      Blessings…and welcome to the table…xx

      • Lucy

        Wow, what excellent timing, Tina dear! I was just up lighting candles to see why my power went off — so glad I checked in here to see if you’d made the long swim in — I always brighten up when I see that you’re here. Thank you for the welcome to the table. It’s a pretty spectacular table. I feel like I’ve grown years in my walk with Christ just being here a short while. Big hug, sis.

    • Sarabeth

      This is beautiful. Thank you!

  • …thank you.

    “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

  • wow. struck to the heart this morning, you have no idea. thank you so very much for this. so timely & so like God. "submission" is yes, very, very hard often in marriage (especially for me!), but even more than this, this morning, I'm so deeply convicted about my heart first towards Jesus being reflected by how I treat my husband sometimes. also, how controlling I can be. thankful for His grace & mercies that are "new" this morning, but even more so that He's not done with me (any of us!) yet. i pray I (& we) will continually keep this in mind in how we treat our husbands + relationships, "Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord” (Colossians 3:23-24). NOT for our spouse or others … for JESUS, first & foremost. thank you for your Word Lord!

  • Man, this is so good. I think about my own struggle to enter into relationships as entering into relationship with Christ. And I pray for my own example to my kids. I see their real struggle and fight for control and wonder how can I teach them that it isn’t about their power but Christ’s power in them to have self control and to love first.

  • Ephesians 5:22-6:9. These verses have always been tough for me. The word “submit” primarily. I grew up in the 60’s, graduated high school in 1973, and married in 1975. I grew up in a church steeped, at least to my mind, in the law more than the gospel. When it came time to marry I had these verses removed from the ceremony. Our marriage was to be mutually respectful, a partnership, not one person over the other. 40 years later we have done really well under that model.
    I recognize that the verses after the wife submitting direct the husband to love and care for his wife as God does for His church. But somehow those never seem to get as much attention as the ones concerning the wife.
    It is a slippery slope if we start taking the bible and evaluating it on the basis of ancient society norms vs current society norms. Where do you draw the line? You don’t, because you don’t start. But I think you do look at God’s word and study it for what it is saying to us today and considering the summary found in verses 32 & 33 — 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.— you have the intent of the previous verses but with verbiage that is all inclusive over all time and in every society, verse 33, mutual love and respect.

    • JessicaLoves___

      God’s word doesn’t change just because society does. And being submissive to your husband doesn’t mean your marriage isn’t mutually respectful. Just as we are all to seek God’s will in our lives, we are called to seek our husband’s will as well. Even though I have a strong personality and opinions and am a very driven person, I’m learning that the more I respect and submit to my husband’s leadership, the more my husband leads us in the way that I also want our lives to go – in accordance with Christ’s direction. As I’ve been giving up control over our marriage, I’ve been rewarded with something so much more beautiful and rewarding: a greater servant leader as a husband. Because a respected husband acts more like Christ as this model is honored, my husband serves me more and more joyfully now than ever. I now GET why we are called to submit.

    • janellecole

      I think we have to be really careful when the emphasis is in how WE interpret scripture and how it applies to OUR lives – when the focus is on me then we diminish the truth of the Bible and diminish the value of the message. I agree with Jessica – it does not change despite our culture or society. God's word is 100% truth all the time in ever way. We bring our own issues (how we were raised, how we might have been or seen abuse, how other people's issues influenced us) into our marriages and relationships and we need to be careful that God's word ALONE is the plumb line by which we evaluate – not anything else.
      As a mother to boys (who will one day marry a girl) and a girl – it is so hard to raise them to believe and live out the Biblical truths of a Godly marriage and try to balance the messages the world is shouting at us. But again – God's word is TRUTH and only by that measurement do we evaluate.

      • Lucy

        Janelle, I thank God that there are wonderful mothers like you out there raising up Godly men and women. God bless you!

      • Andrea

        Janellecole,

        I agree! Holy Spirit inspired God’s Word to mean exactly the way the Holy Bible is today and does not change because of cultures, time periods, new ideas, etc. God and His Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It was written utilizing 40 different authors'; personalities, lifestyles, etc. Therefore, it is only one (1) interpretation of Scriptures and many applications-not vice versa.

    • churchmouse

      Oh dear friends, do not forget vs 21. Lean into it before reading the verses that follow. Vs. 21 is the headline. The verses that follow break it down. We are called to mutually submit out of our reverance for Christ. Capitalize that verse. Then the following verses just flesh it out.

      • TGBTG

        Thank you. This is exactly what we do in our marriage.

      • ClaireB

        Amen! I am with you, TGBTG. To add to it We were raised just as women were moving out of being 2nd class citizens. The Civil Rights movement elevated women as well as our black sisters. It is hard for us to hear some of those words. In my case my husband has never tried or wanted to be the leader in many ways. We were both raised in Christian homes and were both Christians so many issues just weren’t issues. We worked TOGETHER and 40 years later it still works. We pray, we talk and we move together.

        • Lucy

          Amen and amen!

        • TGBTG

          Thank you Clair. You totally understood me.

        • Andrea

          ClaireB,

          If your husband do not want to be the priest or leader of his home he is sinning and can hinder blessings for the family. 1 Timothy 3 speaks of ministry but applies to men in general. We as believers must get our priorities in line! Throughout the Bible we see what happens when men don’t lead…ex’s: Adam, Abraham, Ahab, Eli, Samson, Solomon, David (dysfunctional family…etc) Ananias (Sapphira).

          • TGBTG

            Andrea, my dear sister in Christ, be careful of your zeal. You can only know bits and pieces from these posts. There is much history to each person that you are not privy too, BUT God is. He alone is our judge.Matt 7:2-Matt 7:1 NIV For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

    • Christy

      I’m also a strongly opinionated woman, outspoken and in our family am also the primary breadwinner. I proudly call myself a feminist (in this time when so many women think it’s a bad word)! So I tell you this to put in context how I look at those verses. First, it’s about the church submitting to our Lord. And how I model that in my marriage is that while I could have every earthly justification to control our family and do it all “my way”, just like I could try to live life on my terms without Jesus, that way really leaves me empty, drifting, full of poison ultimately. But if I have a submissive posture in my heart – both to my husband and my God – in all areas of life, I am so fulfilled, more than any earthly principle could ever attempt to do for me. We are created with our unique temperaments and characteristics, and we would do ourselves well to remember that it’s just too hard to try to swim upstream.

    • TGBTG

      Dear sisters, some of you have misunderstood what I shared. If you will reread my submission you will see that I am in the Word. Love and respect include submission–to each other. Not just the woman to the man. Me to my husband and my husband to me, just as we both submit to God. We lovingly and respectfully listen, consider, discuss, pray and submit in all,we do. I study the Word and apply it to my life to live as a daughter of God, in a way He would be proud of. I pray for forgiveness when I fail (daily) and I pray in thanksgiving for all the blessings He has given me. My husband and I live verse 21 as pointed out by Churchmouse and verse 33, that I pointed out. We both see ourselves as children of our Heavenly Father. Not one superior and one inferior, but both equally submissive to God, equally submissive to each other in praise and respect for the bond of marriage God has blessed.

      • churchmouse

        Amen!

      • Andrea

        TGBTG,

        Praise the Lord you live out verses 31 & 33 but you can’t skip verse 32. Yield is of yourself whereas surrender is everything! We don’t get to pick which parts of the Bible we want to obey. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “ALL SCRIPTURE!’ (Cf 1 Peter 2:21, 2 Peter 3:15-16, 1 Corinthians 2:13, Acts 17:11, John 14:26)

        • TGBTG

          Andrea, thank you for your concern. I do not “skip” or “pick” what I want or do not want of the Bible. That would be ridiculous. I actually state that same directive in my original post. The Bible is word God directed for us. Either I believe and follow or I don’t. And, there is submission in my marriage but as a partnership not as a superior to an inferior.

    • Lucy

      TGBTG – thank you for holding up your 40 year marriage as a beacon for us to strive for. There ARE people out there who are getting it right — thank you for reminding us and giving us that hope.

    • Edenhoed

      I loved and hated reading this thread. This passage has always been one of my deepest struggles with New Testament scripture. I 100% agree with mutual submission and love. However I’m continually hurt and frustrated that wives submitting to their husbands get all the attention from these verses. Why was it not written that husbands should submit to their wives? In any discussion about leadership or privilege, this verse is always referenced as a justification and I can’t help but think it has been used for centuries as a way for men to exercise control over women in the church. In world full of millenniums of men oppressing women, how is there not more to the story than this verse? What about scripture that says everyone is equal under the Lord, there is no male or female, slave nor free, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus that conquers sin. What about when God curses man and woman and woman’s curse is that her “desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). Isn’t the point of the gospel to further God’s kingdom and work towards throwing away the curse of sin? Wouldn’t it follow that in furthering the kingdom husbands and wives should work together to throw off women’s curse of men dominating them? As it is a result of sin? Men abusing their control over women is definitely a sin, resulting probably from the sense of entitlement that they are divinely bestowed this control (whether or not that is true after the cross) yet somehow that doesn’t get brought up when speaking about this passage.

      Whenever this passage is a topic of discussion, I’m always hoping for an in depth discussion, but it always seems to glaze over this issue and somehow relay the message of “wives submit, it says so right here so just do it and don’t ask questions.” This is coming from a place of not wanting to miss anything and wanting to do God’s will, further His kingdom, and live a godly marriage. I would love to hear your thoughts, wisdom or advice so that I can hopefully gain even a little more peace and understanding around this passage. -xoxo

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