Tell a modern day woman to “submit” to her husband and you might as well start walking towards the planks because Davie Jone’s Locker is where her words will send you; it is almost a form of blasphemy – that word. It has also been unforgivenly assigned the meaning of “obey,” hence, its removal from contemporary wedding vows and in marriages. No one, it seems, wants to be told what to do.
I am currently teaching a women’s literature course and one of the texts I’ve elected to have us read is the “Book of Ruth.” Raised in a pentecostal church, I was always taught to believe that women were to “submit” to their husbands because the Bible said so: women were inferior to men. But I’ve come to the conclusion after analyzing this text and other works by women – as well as life experiences – that the word “submission” has been taken out of context.
Submission means understanding and accepting one’s value and place within the context of a relationship to bring forth a desired outcome or goal of said relationship. When Ruth lay at the feet of Boaz, at the urging of Naomi, it was not because she was being taught to be inferior to Boaz. Naomi understood, as did Ruth later on, that in order to protect and bring forth the future, she had to “submit” herself in order for it – the future and its generations – to come to pass. It was wisdom that made Ruth and Naomi “submit,” not inferiority. This is where modern day teachings of this word have fallen short.
Women are not inferior to men or men inferior to women; but rather, in order for a relationship to reach its full zenith and to be productive, the couple must come to understand and acknowledge that each has a value and place within the context of the relationship, and that no one is more valuable than the other. Scripture says that man is the head of the home, but the woman is the neck. Neither can operate fully and functionally without the other.
I call for a closer look at the word “submission.” It has been assigned a negative meaning because it has been taken out of context and made an instrument of the fight for power between the sexes, hence, the severe impact on modern day marriages. When Boaz awoke to find Ruth at his feet, he did not gloat or proceed to enforce domination over her. Rather, he said to her that she was a “virtuous woman,” and restored to Ruth what was rightfully hers: her home. And so begins not only one of the most famous love stories ever, but the opening of the door of the future which would bring forth David.
We must learn to submit to the will of the force which embraces and binds our relationships: to obey the spoken and unspoken rules of engagement in a true and fruitful relationship. Arguing and fighting for control and domination does not bode well a bright future nor does it allow room for wisdom.