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Finding God in the Story of Your Life

Superheroes and submission


Today, we welcome again Timothy Fall, a regular contributor of insightful comments here at Deep Breathing for the Soul, with an interesting look at superhero movies, mutual submission and Christian marriage.

         My wife likes superhero movies. My wife loves me. But I’m no superhero.

  We saw The Avengers recently. It was all we could hope for: lots of action, great lines, special effects like you wouldn’t believe, and more. I kind of feared that an ensemble cast might be a bit much for the story line, but they pulled it off magnificently.

            I didn’t have to drag my wife to that matinee. This was her idea, in fact. We like superhero movies. For me, they are a trip back to my childhood when I read comics incessantly. For her, they are simply a good adventure story.

Part of the attraction is that most of these movies go easy on foul language and sexuality. Romantic scenes are rare, and typically played for laughs or to break the dramatic tension. If a movie tries to show anything approaching realism in sex, or if they give us a bunch of shock value potty mouthing, we won’t be staying around.

You’re Supposed to Protect Me!

I’m no superhero. One time we were watching something we recorded that had looked promising. It wasn’t–and suddenly we found ourselves watching a scene of an elderly woman reading a radio script that ends up being a vivid and detailed description of a sex act, complete with four letter words.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but my wife responded more quickly than I did.

“Do we have to listen to this?!”

“Sorry,” I mumble. Never mind that the remote was a lot closer to her than to me, I was the one who grabbed it and hit the stop button. Her next words hit me right between the eyes.

“You’re supposed to protect me from stuff like that!”

Excuses started boiling up: “You were the one with the remote … I was as shocked as you were … Sorry, but it took me time to react … but, but, but …” They were all lame, because she was right.

Married and Responsible for Each Other

This isn’t about wives being weaker than husbands. (Check out 1 Peter 3:7 if you’re wondering where that came from.) This isn’t a venture into egalitarian or complementarian doctrine. This is about what it means to be married. This is about two married people and how they serve one another.

Inside our wedding rings my wife and I had inscribed the first words of 1 Corinthians 13:8 – “Love Never Fails.”

I like that translation. Using the word “fails” (instead of “ends” or “ceases”) gives insight to an added dimension of the love we know in Jesus Christ. Love does not fail: it lasts forever. But it also always succeeds. And if there’s anything I know about God, it’s that he always succeeds. (Isaiah 46:9-10.)

For some reason, God chooses to use his people to achieve that success. It seems odd to me, anyway. I know me. I’m not all that successful at spiritual things. I can’t even reach a remote fast enough to turn off a really offensive movie. Yet God tells us we are responsible to our spouses in ways that revere Jesus himself.

            Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21.)

Many people look at the verses that follow this one to explain what that mutual submission looks like. That’s a good idea, because it’s always good to read Scripture in context. But part of that context includes the text leading up to this verse.

Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: 

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
 

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  (Ephesians 5:8-17.)

I’m supposed to be careful how I live, and I am supposed to submit to the needs of my wife. That day, she needed me to see what had been exposed to the light, that shameful dialog which was nothing more than a fruitless deed of darkness, and take action. Could she have done the same for me? Perhaps, but I know that this is the type of things that paralyzes her even more than it did me.

I’m No Superhero

I may not be a superhero, but when it comes to my wife I’m the one who is supposed to take action sometimes. It’s not a role I can fill on my own. Rather, I rely on what Jesus told Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9.)

You know, my wife’s not a superhero either, even though I count on her to protect me sometimes too. But in our mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to step up for one another.

I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing when to grab the remote, too.

Question to discuss: what does mutual submission look like in your marriage? In your relationships within the body of Christ?

Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids (one in college; one just graduated, woo-hoo!), his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. He’s a regular contributor to several blogs, including The Radical Journey

15 Comments

  1. Tim, I think the idea (from the Ephesians passage) about seizing opportunities is a big thing in marriage. Yes, there are things we need to be proactive about, but most of the time (at least for me) it seems like the relationship consists of reacting to things. There are numerous opportunities to display or not to display love. Just like we are constantly having to decide between the flesh and the spirit, we are having to make choices in a split-second that let our spouses know that they are loved.

  2. Becky, I love that idea of split-second ways to show love to our spouses!

  3. I don’t understand the point of this. You were supposed to protect her and failed to do so? Is that it?

  4. Tim, thanks for this little flick from your marriage. I think your wife did a very helpful thing by speaking up about what she needs from you. Sometimes a superhero is found in the little things :)

  5. Thanks, Aimee. One area where my wife is really good at leading is through communication. Her example to me is excellent!

    Ruth, you hit on part of what I was getting at, thanks. The ultimate point I was trying to make is that our marriages are full of opportunities to serve and submit to one another, and even though we don’t always succeed there is one whose love really does never fail: Jesus Christ. It is that love Paul spoke of in 1 Cor.13, and Jesus is our ultimate unfailing protector. Sorry that wasn’t very clear in the article, and thanks for the opportunity to try to clear it up!

    Tim

  6. Hey Tim – have you heard Brandon Heath’s song “Love never fails”? My wife and I have been listening to it together the last couple of weeks, she introduced me. Fits perfectly into your post, here.

  7. Just this morning, a friend posted a word on encouragement on my facebook wall, calling my husband and I “Team Van Loon”. Your post points to this notion – a healthy marriage is a team sport. I heard the essence of how that teamwork is meant to function in your words “But in our mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to step up for one another.” You and your wife may not be superheroes, but it sounds like you’re a wonderful team.

    Thanks for this “food for thought” post!

  8. Interesting. I’m not sure I would have told my husband he needed to protect me from that, or anything else.

  9. Great discussion, everyone. Very thought-provoking post, Tim, and I think the fact that people are raising questions and respectfully dialoging about their different opinions is fabulous!
    Karen, I probably wouldn’t say what Tim’s wife did either. I’d probably grab the remote, and say, “why are you watching this trash? this is why we shouldn’t even own a Tv.” (I’m not bragging or recommending that–it is not exactly a gracious response!)

    But upon reflection, here’s the beautiful mystery: I would never say what Tim’s wife said either–but I understand why she would, and I think it’s cool that Tim has created a safe place for her to tell him that kind of thing. And that’s her expectation of their marriage. Our expectations are based in part on what we’ve COME to expect–because of past behavior. So Tim’s willingness to protect his wife made her expect him to do it again–which is great.

    It’s not the expectation I have of my marriage–that’s because each marriage is unique. In a certain way, each marriage itself becomes a sort of “person”–the one that the two become. And each of those “ones” is an individual, unique and different.

    In every marriage, there are really three “beings”–the husband, the wife, and the “one” they become. We have to be aware of and nurture all three. And respect this: other people’s “one,” by definition, will not look like ours.

  10. Keri, thanks for the encouragement. I guess you’re right, my wife and I do have a marriage where we can say these types of things to each other.

    Karen, your comment that you would never say something like this – along with Keri’s agreement that it would not occur in her relationship with her husband – got me thinking that I should have included in the article that my wife had never before told me that she expected me to protect her from anything, and she has neve again said such a thing. Frankly, if anyone had asked me before that day about this type of thing I would have said along with you that my wife was also the type who would never tell her husband that he needed to protect her from anything. She’s just not one to rely on a man qua man for anything.

    It was a singular event, that’s for sure. Her usual response to crud on TV is more like what Keri suggested: “Why are we watching this junk?!” Then we turn to the Food Network. We like the Food Network. Even more than superhero movies.

    Tim

  11. Karen and Keri, I’m with you: that was my initial response, too. Then my next thought was about the time my husband and I were in a movie theater watching a movie we had both greatly anticipated and it was getting worse and worse (I mean really, really bad!), and finally, my husband said, “Let’s get out of here.” I fell in love with him all over again. And, as Tim said in his last comment, we’d never had (and never have again) had that kind of situation happen. So I wholeheartedly concur with the idea that each marriage is unique–and filled with unique moments!

    (Keri, I love what you said about the three entities: husband, wife, and the marriage. I just wrote something about that in my book MS and wasn’t all the sure about it. I am loving the affirmation here!)

  12. I watch HGTV and get ideas of chores for my Tim to do. I might not have the expectation that he protect me but I told him when we married that I do not take out the trash. LOL.

  13. I’ve worked with a few men who struggle with sexual addictions. I believe the proactive stance for wives and husbands who are in mutual submission would be to protect each other in their areas of weakness. I am firmly convinced that a wife must contend for her husband against all enemies–including movies–if this is his weakness, just as a husband must protect his wife against evil.

  14. I love how you pulled these different messages together into one. Always a pleasure to read your blog entries, Tim.

    I think it is great that your wife wanted you to protect her and that you are one with her but are the one created first (in terms of man, perhaps your wife is older than you, so then she obviously would be created first, but you know what I mean). She was taken from your side which means you are to be the one to wrap your arm around her waist and swing from the vine while jumping to the next cliff together! You are a team connected together, and it is great that you are willing to see to her needs after you listen to her concerns.

    I think it is great that you have “Love Never Fails”inscribed on the inside of your rings. That’s amazing. I love what you wrote about it too as an “added dimension of the love we know in Jesus Christ”. Beautiful.

  15. Thanks Victoria. You are so right that my wife and I are a team. There are times when she is the team leader and times when I take the lead and most times no one needs to be out front, but it is always as a team that we are best living the life the God has given us together.

    Tim

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