From Scott Means:
I'll admit it. I have pretty poor posture. It's not something I am proud of, and I know it's not good for me. When I spend a lot of time at the computer, which between my job and blogging, is often, I end up with a lot of aches in my neck, shoulders and back. (Don't worry I'll get to how this relates to marriage soon.)
Today, when my neck started to ache, I went online in search of some stretching and posture tips for computer users. Through my search, I discovered that there are actually things you can do to improve your posture. I mean, more than just sitting up straight (I can hear my mother now) or standing without a slouch. You can actually build a better posture.
Okay, I'm sure you aren't reading a marriage post in order to figure out how to sit or stand properly, so let me get to my point. As I was reading these tips, I was struck by the importance of posture in marriage and how it relates to the relationship between husband and wife, and by the fact that you can actually take steps to improve your posture.
As you know, posture (the noun) is defined as the relative position of the parts of something. However, it can also be defined as one's mental attitude or frame of mind. Both of these definitions have bearing on marriage.
Marriage Posture - Position
The positioning aspect of your marriage posture has to do with keeping things in proper alignment. As with your physical posture, keeping the parts of your body in proper alignment is the key to supporting your weight in healthy and sustainable manner. It works the same in marriage. Having your marriage in proper alignment will help your marriage support the burdens of life and keep your relationship healthy for the long haul.
What is biblical alignment when it comes to marriage? God explains that to us in His Word, interestingly enough, using the analogy of a body. Ephesians 5 explains the proper alignment in marriage is for the husband to be the head and the wife to be the body, in the same way that Christ is the head of the church, his body, his bride.
In addition to describing the husband as the head, the Ephesian 5 passage goes on to explain that wives should "stay in alignment" with their husbands. The Greek word used to describe this alignment is hupotasso, a word that is typically translated into submit or submission. The Greek lexicon that most scholars rely on says this word literally means, "to arrange one’s self under." It also means "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden."
Not everyone agrees with what the Bible says about alignment in marriage. The notion of headship and submission is offensive to some. I get that. But the Bible is pretty explicit about how a marriage should be aligned. I think God put it there for our benefit and not to diminish us. God wants marriages to be aligned so they can be strong, healthy and enduring.
I believe that many people who struggle with biblical marriage posture, do so because they don't think about it with the right frame of mind. That leads me to the second definition of posture: attitude.
Marriage Posture - Attitude
The attitude aspect of your marriage posture has to do with thinking about your marriage in the right way - with the right frame of mind.
Immediately when you start to talk about headship and submission, people start to get all kinds of wrong ideas about what that means.
Some imagine it means the husband is the boss. But there is a different Greek word that means boss, and that's not the one Paul uses in Ephesians 5 to describe the headship of husbands. There is also nothing in Ephesians 5 about the husband making all the decisions or barking out instructions to his wife.
There is also nothing in there telling a husband to make his wife submit. It is clear that it is a wife who makes the decision to keep herself aligned under her husband or not. Headship does not infer control or dictatorship.
I've also heard a number of well-meaning but incorrect analogies: pilot/co-pilot, captain/first mate, CEO/VP. These each fall short of the kind of alignment God intends for marriage.
The truth is, the only way of thinking about your marriage, the only model that is biblical, is the one-flesh relationship between Christ and the Church.
'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32
Posture According to the Bridal Paradigm
The implications of this model, this bridal paradigm as it is known, are as vast as they are beautiful and empowering.
For husbands this means:
- Loving his wife as selflessly and unconditionally as Christ loves the church.
- Giving up his rights and laying down his life for his wife
- Using his leadership position to serve his wife
- Doing all in his power to see his wife come into her destiny in God
- Beautifying and covering his wife with his love and grace.
- Being both strong and good, just like Jesus
For wives this means:
- Voluntarily keeping herself aligned with her husband's leadership
- Showing her husband respect in all things
- Leaning on him and trusting him to care for her
- Serving her husband with the gift of her submission
- Partnering with him to see that he reaches his destiny in God
I summarize this marriage attitude as being one of mutual surrender. Not surrender in the sense of giving up, but surrender in the sense of giving over. It means both husband and wife bringing the entirety of yourself to your marriage, warts and all, for the benefit of your spouse and for the good of your marriage. It means giving yourself completely to your spouse, and holding nothing back.
Intimacy is the goal; surrender is the path that takes your there.
One Flesh Posture
The Bible says that husband and wife are one, just as Christ and the church are one. This is the great mystery of marriage. It's not something you have to work for, it's something you already are by virtue of the fact that you are married. Isn't that fantastic?!
So why not enjoy the fruit of the oneness you already share. Being one means:
- There is no need to jockey for position, to keep score or to fight for your rights. In a one-flesh marriage, relationship trumps rights. (You might want to read my recent post, "What If...You and Your Spouse Really Are One." for more on how to enjoy being one flesh.)
- Being one includes every aspect of your beings: body, soul and spirit. Nothing is off limits.
- Rather than striving and dividing carefully to make sure everything is 50/50 and fair, you both go for 100/100 - both of you giving freely of your selves.
- When your spouse "wins," then you do to!
My hope and prayer is that every marriage would be full of the power, beauty, grace and strength that flows from a marriage that has the right posture - the posture that God describes in His Word.