Sara Horn devoted a year of her life conducting an experiment wherein she vowed to be genuinely submissive as a wife and a "helper" to her husband. In "My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife," Horn discusses the experience. Here's an excerpt.
Who Wants to Be a Submissive Wife?
I called my husband the other day while he was at work and told him I was thinking about taking a year to study what it means to be a submissive wife and write about it.
“Would you be OK with that?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
Well, that was uncharacteristically direct. (And yes, I can only assume that as you hold this book in your hands, you see the irony.)
“Why would you want to do that?” he asked me. “You and I, we work together as a team. We do things together. You’re not like that. I’m not like that. That’s not us.”
I wasn’t prepared for his reaction. I thought he’d welcome the opportunity to have me at his beck and call. I thought he’d jump at the chance to not just be the “head of household” but have my constant and immediate cooperation at all times (which is not always consistent or always immediate). I was waiting for some crack about bringing his slippers and fetching him a sweet tea—not an immediate dismissal of the entire idea.
Cliff ’s question made sense, though. Why would I want to do something so many in our world today see as a very old-fashioned if not archaic idea for marriage?
I’ve come far in our fourteen years of marriage, but you’d never mistake me for June Cleaver or Martha Washington. Two years ago I spent a year attempting to be like the Proverbs 31 wife. Though nothing went the way I planned, the experience and what I learned from it brought good changes, major changes, both in our family and in me.
God taught me during that year how much more he cares about my attitude and my desire to seek his will in my life than how many things I check off the to-do list each day. For the first time as a wife, I saw myself as the thermostat of my family and realized my actions have great influence—whether I want them to or not. The old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” does apply. Because the opposite does too: If Mama is happy, the family also is a whole lot happier.
So, since “the Proverbs 31 experiment,” as I sometimes call it, I’ve learned some things. I’ve changed some things—OK, a lot of things—in what I do as a wife and mom. I cook more. Whine less. I put my family first, though I still sometimes feel like I struggle managing everything. But I want to learn more. I want to continue growing deeper in my relationship with God. And if as a wife, God wants me to learn submission…well, I need to at least look at it a little more closely. Even if it’s as painful as it sounds.
That’s what I told Cliff.
But he still wasn’t budging.
“OK,” I pressed, “then what’s your idea of a submissive wife? I mean, I’m not planning on dressing up in long jean skirts and wearing my hair down to my ankles and avoiding makeup, if that’s what you’re thinking.” (My apologies to the ladies who do this. You look beautiful. Really.)
Silence came over the line as he thought about it. I waited.
“I guess when I think about the word submissive…uh…you know Star Wars, right?”
“Uh, yes?” I had no idea where this was going.
“Well, you know that old movie poster, with Hans Solo and Princess Leia? The one where she’s like lying on the ground, all curled up around his legs? That’s what I think when I think of the word submission.”
“Seriously?” I asked, trying not to laugh. “I guess that’s one of the reasons why I want to take this on. I think a lot of us have so many different ideas about what submission is—what it looks like. Some people think it’s all about the man being in complete control and the little woman doing his bidding. Some think it’s equal—men and women complement and complete each other and they should work together.”
I paused, trying to think of the words that might go with how I was feeling at the moment.
“I guess I just want to study what the Bible says about it. And pursue that. You know what I mean?”
There was that silence again.
“Let me think about it,” Cliff said.
We hung up, and I had this eerie feeling of waiting for my husband to make a decision on something I wanted to do. Was this submission? Not sure I liked it. This might be even tougher than I thought.
An hour later, my inbox chimed and it was a note from Cliff. He’d sent a link to an article he found online about biblical submission, written by a woman. It was lengthy, but she broke down the usual verses mentioned when it comes to submission, and offered her analysis:
Submission to a husband does not mean a woman is to be a slave in bondage to that man, but rather it is to be a mutual submission in love. The above Scripture (Ephesians 5:21-33) says we are to submit unto each other. Submission means to yield or “to set yourself under.” From this definition we see we are to yield to one another instead of demanding our own way. Love should be the rule in our homes, and we should “prefer one another.”
My phone rang. It was Cliff, wanting to know if I’d seen the article he sent.
“I did. It’s good. What did you think?” I asked.
“I think I’ve never really thought about it much,” he said. “I think I agree with her point about mutual submission.”
“See…I’m not so sure.” I surprised myself a little, and probably Cliff too, because I’ve always seen our marriage as a 50/50 partnership. But as I’ve looked at the Scriptures lately, I’m not as confident. “I mean, it does say in Ephesians to submit to one another, but is that in the marriage context or in the church context? And if it’s in the marriage context, then why does it say that women should submit to their husbands, and husbands are heads of their wives?”
“OK, well, I think it’s interesting,” Cliff said. “And I’m OK if you want to do this.”
“Are you sure? It’s going to affect you too—maybe not in the way you’re expecting.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’m OK with it. But can I make a request?”
“Sure,” I said, happy we were both on the same page and excited, though nervous, to start this new experiment.
“Anytime you want to dress up as Princess Leia, you totally have my permission.”