- Genesis 2:18 (ESV): “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’”
- Genesis 2:22 (NKJV): “Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”
- Ephesians 5:33 (CSB): “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”
IS YOUR LIFE A DANCE?
WHEN A COUPLE DANCES, the male leads and the female follows, but when skilled dancers perform, all eyes are on the female. She makes the graceful, beautiful moves, the spins, the jumps, the poses — the fancy maneuvers.
Every now and then, the male will shine, but his role is different. He’s given a support function: lifting the woman, guiding the woman, holding the woman … presenting the woman.
Here’s how the dance breaks down …
>If the man is not smooth, fluid, and gently firm in his leading, it doesn’t matter how graceful the woman is, the dance will fall apart.
>If the woman can’t be led or resists following so she can take the lead, the dance will be awkward and, potentially, even dangerous.1
With this as backdrop, I want to take you now to Genesis, Chapter 2.
IN THE BEGINNING
IT STARTED WELL.
God created man (Adam) from a clump of dirt. He created woman (Eve) from living tissue.
Man was alone in the Garden, surrounded by inferior life forms and having communion only with God, a much superior life form.
Woman was greeted by an equal life form, someone who was “comparable,” a man who loved her immediately. She was received, honored, and treasured.
Yet, despite their equality — and God told them they were equal — it must have been obvious to both of them that they were different. After all, they were naked.
Since God made it clear they were equal and clear they were different, there was an obvious conclusion:
They were complementary, not interchangeable, they were made to fit together as one flesh … metaphorically like hand and glove, physically to reproduce, or complementarily as Headship and Submission.
Our relationship as man and woman mirrors the relationship of the Father with the Son and Holy Spirit, as well as Christ and the church, as well as the relationship of God and Man.
Paul called it “a great mystery” (Eph. 5:32).
GOD LOVES TO DANCE
MOVING WITH GOD is very much like this dance. When we are led by the Holy Spirit, it opens the possibility for beautiful, wonderful, and powerful things to happen.
God loves to dance.
We’re designed to be God’s dance partner.
When we struggle over leading and submission, the movements are never what they could have been.
We are out of synch, and the dance breaks down.
In our walk with Christ, we are learning how to dance and move with Him, so we may reveal Him to the world. This can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, teaching us how to dance with God.
HEADSHIP AND SUBMISSION
HEADSHIP AND SUBMISSION. Leading and following. Loving and respecting.
As we watch the dance, we hear the music. Sometimes, we focus on just one instrument — maybe a trumpet or clarinet, a violin or guitar, some percussion, possibly a saxophone or flute, a cello, certainly a piano. Other times, we enjoy the blended mix and resonate to the numerous harmonies.
Of course, there’s always a conductor leading the musicians to keep everyone in synch.
Just as we hear the music when we watch the dance, so, too, we watch the dance as we hear the music, so that the dance becomes the visual image of the music.
DANCE AND MARRIAGE
FOR MARRIAGE TO WORK as God designed us — male and female — the partners need to dance, to flow together, the male leading and the female following, even though all eyes are on the female.
We miss something very important if we focus on male headship as the prominent role, and female submission as merely secondary or dependent.
Both are equally important, and just as the male was designed by God to lead, so, too, the female was designed by God to respond, to shine, to flourish — not to be subservient or a doormat or a servant — but to radiate. To be the center of attention. To reflect God’s glory, His beauty, His grace.
But the woman can shine properly only if she is led properly … and only if she submits properly.
MARRIAGE AND BUGS
THE MARITAL RELATIONSHIP, when understood properly, is like a bug — a hard protective covering on the outside, with a soft life pulse on the inside.
The male is the head, the protective shield — while the female is the heart, the vulnerable protected interior.
So as we unpack this “headship” and “submission” stuff, let’s let the Bible tells us how to proceed.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
The Bible tells us not to conform to the world but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds — in Christ — and that to love the world interferes with our love for the Lord.
WHAT DOES THE WORLD SAY?
The world tells us its norms and values, and we see they conflict with what the Bible says … so, naturally, we conclude that one of them must be wrong; the world concludes it’s the Bible.
Why? Well, the most recent writing dates 2,000 years ago but stretches back another 1,500 years, whereas today’s thinking is current, modern, up-to-date. Plus, everyone is on board with the world’s values.
WHEN BELIEVERS COMPARE the world’s values with the Bible, they also see a conflict, yet believers conclude the Bible is correct and the world is wrong.
What are believers to do?
Jesus tells us we cannot serve two masters, for we will love the one and hate the other. His half-brother James tells us not to be double-minded, we can’t believe and disbelieve at the same time.
So, it’s clear that for believers, we will follow the Bible.
LOVE AND RESPECT
NOW, LET’S GO to Ephesians, Chapter 5. In this heavily quoted text as a guide to marriage, we’re told that man is the head of the woman, that man leads and woman follows, that man must love his wife, and woman must respect her husband and submit to him. 2
That is tough language and difficult for us to unpack without some consideration.
So, why Ephesians, Chapter 5? What happened between Genesis, Chapter 2, when Adam and Eve, in their innocence and purity, enjoyed the dance, and Ephesians, Chapter 5, when God, through Paul, spoke sternly about our marital duties. Why was this lecture necessary?
The answer is found in Genesis, Chapter 3. Chapter 3 tells us how the dance broke down, how Eve bucked Adam’s authority, how Adam failed to protect Eve, and how both Adam and Eve blamed God for their failure.
God immediately announced His remedy. We find it mentioned first in Genesis, Chapter 3, but it’s repeated in various forms throughout the Bible, but the part that concerns us most today is found in Ephesians, Chapter 5.
GOD’S REMEDY EXPLAINED
HERE WE LEARN that man is mandated by God to love His wife. We know from psychology and just our own experiences, that women want/desire/need to feel loved to feel secure.
We’re also told that woman is mandated to respect her husband. The same sources tell us that men need to feel admired/respected/congratulated to feel their worth, to feel qualified, to feel complete.
Paul makes the same point more succinctly in Ephesians 5:33 (NLT): “Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
NOW, LET’S SUM UP, looking at the parts that fit together to form the mosaic, the intricacy of small puzzle pieces that, when properly placed, produce a completed image.
As we look at the parts that make up headship and submission, we see the dance, the integral pieces, the oneness of two distinct but equal beings, their mutuality, their subservience and respect, honor and love … and their closeness, a closeness that is possible only with two equal but different parts, where one’s strength mirrors another’s weakness, and vice versa.
The summation of this essay is this: “headship and submission” do not mean, as the world tells us, that the male is dominant and authoritative while the female is secondary and pliant.
Instead, we need to see headship and submission the way God designed us, the way the Bible tells us.
To see that, we need to go back to the Garden, to those precious initial moments when God, basking in the glory of His fresh creation, presented Eve to Adam, the crowing moment of the Creation Story.
Eve is the glorious one in creation, the cherry atop the sundae, the beautiful one, the gracious one, the emotionally vulnerable one …
… and Adam? Adam is the worker, the one God will hold responsible for success and failure, the protective one, the provider, the hard shell, the leader. The sacrificial leader.
THINK OF JESUS whipping off his outer cloak, filling a wash basin, and cleaning His disciples’ dirty, dusty, smelly, sore feet, lovingly massaging their aches and pains.
That’s what Headship looks like.
Now think of Jesus, stripped, beaten, and nailed to a Cross, obeying the Father’s command for our sakes.
That’s what Submission looks like.
In both cases, Jesus was glorified.
We, men and women, are called to do the same. As we play our parts as designed by God, we bring glory to Him.
We’re called to dance … with our marriage partner, with fellow believers, and with our God.
For those who are led by the
Spirit of God
are the children of God.
–Romans 8:14 (NIV)
ALMIGHTY GOD, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we love Your creation, how You’ve fashioned us, male and female, in Your image, to be Your image bearers on earth. You made us as man and woman to enjoy headship and submission, both in obedience to You. Heal our hearts, O Lord, from the sin that distorts that beautiful image of Adam and Eve, of our first parents, enjoying The Dance, feeling the music, moving their limbs, entering into embrace with each other and with You. Restore us, O Lord, to where we once were as You promise us future Eternity in Paradise. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN
1Dance story adapted from “God’s Dance, The Beauty of His Romance,” from Phill Urena’s book, REDEFINING GRACE, Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., ©2020, Kindle edit., pp 147-149.
2Image from Emerson Eggerichs’ book, LOVE AND RESPECT, Thomas Nelson Publishers, ©2004.