If you haven’t read my previous blog posts about my journey in discipline this year, I would recommend starting by reading my introductory blog here, as well as my other update blogs which you can find listed here.
What does that word cause you to think and feel when you read it? It may cause anxiety, fear, anger, or a whole host of other emotions to rise up due to how you’ve seen the concept of submission abused by authority in your life or the lives of those you know. This is what leaves many of us asking, “If God is so good, why would he ask us to live a life of submission”.
Thankfully, the way that most of us define submission, and the actual biblical concept of submission are completely different. In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster states that “most of us have been exposed to such a mutilated form of biblical submission that either we have embraced the deformity or we have rejected the Discipline altogether” (p. 113). I have definitely seen many people who fall in that second category, where you even mention the word submission and their defenses go up. And I think that’s understandable based on the frequent abuse of the word submission, even in the church.
I, however, most likely fall in that first camp – embracing the twisted version of submission. I am grateful to say that I have had good examples and teachers, who did teach me the correct form of submission from what I can remember, but my own version of submission coincides with the lies I believe most. Lies about the love that God has for me, lies about my own value. My own form of submission is more about doing what you’re asked without questioning. Suffice it to say, I was wrong on many counts.
Probably the part that I was most wrong about was the fact that it’s not even about our actions. Yes, the attitude of our heart often leads to actions, and those actions are important. But, as with every other discipline that I’ve studied this year, practicing the discipline of submission first starts with seeking to have a heart of submission.
Jesus is always our example. He was the servant of all, and he lived his life “in submission to all human beings”, meaning that he valued others above himself (Celebration of Discipline, p. 112). Do you think he did all of this service, each and every day of his ministry, all the while having a heart of complaining? Of course not! Do you know who does that? Me. When asked to help or serve, I will often, if not always, say yes, but if it is getting in the way of my plans at all, my heart will not be in submission. Instead I will “serve” in a spirit of martyrdom and self-pity, and I inwardly hope everyone around me sees what I have to go through for them.
It’s amazing to me how every month, God uses these chapters to pull some nasty things in my heart into the light. As I’m writing this blog I can’t stop thinking about something that happened just a few days ago while I was on a trip with my friends. We were having a great time, enjoying nature and each other’s company, but as we were getting back late on Saturday night, one of my friends needed something from the store. I felt like I had to say yes to going and getting it for them (which was completely self-imposed), so I did. But this was not done in love and with a heart of submission, but instead with a heart of wanting to be the hero, and wanting them to see me as a “servant”. To top it all off, when I returned to where we were staying, I made sure that everybody around knew that I wasn’t happy and what I just did was really inconvenient for me. Yuck. I am so unlike Jesus in so many ways.
Unfortunately this is a pattern in my life. Every time something like this happens, I feel sad that I treated my loved ones that way. Angry and ashamed that I did it again. Frustrated that this is still something I do, 10 years into my relationship with Jesus. But it’s his grace to point out our flaws, and gently nudge us back to the foot of the cross. I can’t make myself better, no matter how hard I try. All I can do is come to Jesus, knowing that I’m nothing without him, and let him heal the hurt in my heart that causes me to think and act the way I do. Allow him to bring transformation from the inside out. That to me is the essence of submission, and I believe it’s a concept that I will continually learn more about for the rest of my life.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. As with every other discipline I have learned about this year, I have barely scratched the surface on the discipline of submission, so I’d highly recommend reading Celebration of Discipline yourself, and seeing what stands out to you. And whether you’ve been participating in this challenge yourself or not, I’d love to hear how you’ve practiced the discipline of submission in the comment section below. Have a wonderful August!