Pam and her husband Bill wrote, in Marriage in the Whirlwind:
I had a dream the other night that I was approaching the gates of heaven. I noticed that there were TWO GATES to choose from.
Over the one at the left was a sign that said, “Men who have made their own decisions.”
Over the one at the right, “Men who have been hen-pecked.”
In front of the right gate waited a line of men that stretched as far as I could see! In front of the left gate stood my friend John, all alone.
In amazement, I went up to John and said, “This is incredible. There is a huge line of henpecked men, and over here I find you standing all by yourself. Why are you standing here?”
John gave me a quizzical look and said, “I don’t know. My wife told me to stand here.” (1)
[Note: Actually, henpecked husbands are no laughing matter. Wives, we need to love and respect our husbands. But that humor makes a point... ]
No matter who you are, someone tells you what to do. Listening to and submitting to authority is not just a “women’s issue,” as so many think in the church. It’s a people issue.
Think about it.
- The government has a good deal of input for sure.
- If we work outside the home, our boss tells us what to do.
- If we are wives living in the model of biblical womanhood, we submit to our husbands’ leadership ~ and though he can wisely listen to our counsel ~ ultimately, he makes the decisions. [Men are to listen to God as they lead women ... they are to model listening and obedience.]
- Authorities in our lives like the local police and highway patrol can tell us what to do when we travel in our cars, and judges can tell us what to do in court.
- When we go to church, we listen to the pastor and other church leaders, expounding on the Word and will of God, and telling us what to do in order to live in righteousness and power.
No matter how independent we think we are, someone, somewhere, has the job of telling us what to do. It’s a fact of life.
And we can have one or two responses.
We can allow their words to grind in our spirit and make us edgy, maybe even rebellious. We can resist and maybe even get angry: “Who are they to tell me what to do?”
Or we can keep our spirits soft and our hearts teachable. We can listen, consider, and stay humble. We can ask God for His truth in others’ words. We might say, “Help me hear with my heart, Lord, and understand Your voice behind theirs.”
I’ve had both responses in life ~ sometimes to the same person. It all depends on the condition of my heart at the moment. For example, sometimes I listen to my husband’s counsel, eager to follow his lead and knowing that God will lead me through my husband. But there have been times that I’ve resisted ~ my heart insisting on my ways, my rights. A tug in my spirit alerts me that I need to ask God for help to seek His wisdom and for the power to respond as I should.
God gives us great freedom, but He also gives us specific voices to heed. If we are wise, we will listen. Some passages on properly responding to authority are Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:15-17; and Ephesians 5:22-28.
The Father uses authorities in our lives to shape, train, and discipline us for His glory … and also to protect us. I’ve discovered that when I listen to God’s voice, I’m more likely to listen to the voices of authorities He places in my life; but I have to abide in a position of humility.
The Farrels define humility as a voluntary action, “placing ourselves under God’s hand, as a child nestles under the loving arm of a parent. From this place of shelter,” they say, “the child waits and is nurtured for the challenges that lie ahead.” (2)
It really doesn’t matter whether we agree with the words our authorities speak to us or not. We still need to listen with respect and humility. We can share our viewpoint, but humbly, trusting God to sort out anything that is not of Him; or trusting Him when things don’t go our way ~ believing that He will nevertheless work all things out for good (Romans 8:28).
Of course, the greatest authority in our lives is God. (Whether a person believes and submits to Him or not, God is still the ultimate, sovereign authority.) If we will not willing hear and surrender to the Lord’s voice, we will listen to other voices ~ perhaps the voice of our sworn enemy, Satan, or our own flawed voice. We may listen to deceitful voices, or voices with their own agenda.
So, think about this carefully ~ Who are the “authority voices” in your life? Who tells you what to do? And how are you responding?
(1) Bill and Pam Farrel, Marriage in the Whirlwind: 7 Skills for Couples Who Can’t Slow Down (InterVarsity Press, 1996), p. 92
(2) p. 94