I grew up in a family of three – my mother, my brother, and myself. Life and circumstances made us a very tightly woven little trio. My mother was a single mom superhero as she worked full-time and raised two children. She had a way of making the smallest of things special. I have so many happy memories of holidays, traditions, and tender moments we shared together.
As I grew older, I began to realize how much my mother had sacrificed for my brother and me. The more I realized her sacrifice, the more devoted to her I became. As I entered my late teens, there were moments of thick tension in our home as my mother and I both struggled between holding on and letting go. It was natural for us to experience that sort of tension – I think most teens and parents do. But this tension continued into my adulthood.
It wasn’t until after I had been married for several years that The Lord revealed to me what this struggle was really about – an improper transfer of authority and submission.
During my childhood, the hierarchy of leadership in our home seemed to happen fairly naturally. My mom, under the headship of Christ, was the authority. The Bible teaches this in Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”. By obeying my mother, I was obeying God. (I should mention that did not obey God or my mother perfectly – there were plenty of times when I didn’t obey either one of them at all.)
When it was time for me to go to college and leave home, things got sort of tricky. I was no longer “under my mother’s roof” 24/7, but I wasn’t completely on my own either. Although I should have begun to recognize Christ as the authority in my life first and foremost, I still felt an obligation to obey my mother. I’m not saying that my mom and Jesus were necessarily at odds with each other, but because of the devotion I felt toward my mom, there were times when I felt conflicted about whose voice I should be listening to.
My misunderstanding of Biblical submission didn’t become much clearer after I got married either -at least not right away. When a bride is given away at a wedding ceremony, it is symbolic of her family transferring responsibility and authority from them to her husband. Authority should no longer rest with her father or her mother, but with her husband. And together, as husband and wife, they are to be mutually submitted under Christ’s authority. (Ephesians 5:22-33 describes the hierarchy of leadership between Christ, a husband, and a wife just as Ephesians 6:1 explains leadership within a family.)
On my wedding day, I didn’t make that transition.
As a new wife, I felt more confused than ever. I still felt strong ties to my mother, I wanted to create a new life with my husband, and I wanted us to remain close with my in-laws as well. My lack of knowing who to submit to was placing a major strain on all of my most cherished relationships – particularly my relationship with God and my husband. I was letting my feelings of obligation take priority over my need to obey.
As I continued to wrestle with feelings of being pulled in different directions, I remembered a small passage of Scripture about how Jesus related to his family as an adult. Although there are similar accounts of this story found in Matthew and Luke, it was Mark’s recollection that caught my attention due to his inclusion of the context (Mark 3:20-35). In this story, Jesus came to a house and a large crowd gathered to hear him preach. His family, not understanding that Jesus really was who he claimed to be, became concerned for him. Thinking he was out of his mind, they came to the house to “take charge of him”. When they arrived, they couldn’t even get into the house because the crowd was so large – they had to ask someone to tell Jesus that his mother and brothers were outside looking for him.
This is how Jesus responded: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3: 33-35)
My jaw nearly dropped as I thought, “Wow! That was harsh, Jesus! ” As I looked for a commentary on the side of the page, I was relieved to see that it addressed the same question I was wondering at that moment – Was Jesus rude to his family? The author explained that Jesus used his family as an example to show that following God, not family heritage, was most important. Of course Jesus loved his family, but his obedience to God had to take priority over earthly loyalties.
It was in that moment that Jesus spoke to my heart. He revealed to me that I was still living under the authority of my mother and that, even though I should still honor her, I needed to make some changes. He made it clear to me that I needed to submit to God and my husband, and that it was time for me to join my husband in leading our own family – to obey God together and follow His path for us. Since then, it hasn’t always been easy to make choices that I know will probably disappoint people I love, or that they may not understand, but God has given me peace in knowing that I am obeying His design for my marriage and my family.