According to Dictionary.com, the word submit means:
1. to give over or yield to the power or authority of another (often used reflexively).
2. to subject to some kind of treatment or influence.
3. to present for the approval, consideration, or decision of another or others: to submit a plan; to submit an application.
4. to state or urge with deference; suggest or propose (usually followed by a clause): I submit that full proof should be required.
5. to yield oneself to the power or authority of another: to submit to a conqueror.
6. to allow oneself to be subjected to some kind of treatment: to submit to chemotherapy.
7. to defer to another’s judgment, opinion, decision, etc.: I submit to your superior judgment.
My personal experience adds:
8. To be required to yield control to another
But then, I seldom checked the dictionary when formulating my personal lexicon. Ask my mom about the “public hair” sometime.
So, what in your personal dictionary might benefit from a cross-reference?
Submission is not one of my favorite topics (no sniggering, please). As mentioned above, I did not have the best understanding of the term. Yet as a disciple of Christ, I need to have a good understanding. As you might expect, life has not been fun on this front.
One of my difficulties stemmed from not understanding why I needed to submit to anyone or anything. After all, this is the 21st century! Submission is outdated and barbaric, a holdover from primitive days and patriarchal societies that have no place in modern life.
Well, as I’ve recently discovered, that’s not entirely true. Yes, the acts of suppression and repression we stereotype are not good, but that’s not what submission is and it doesn’t address the matter at all. One key element of the definition and application of “submission” that we (and I) overlook all too frequently is that it is a purposeful act, not a passive reception.
Let’s look at this another way. In current events, there are many political uprisings against governing regimes. Those in power exerted influence over the people and required obedience. In effect, they demand submission. For a long time, the people obeyed, but they did not submit. Do you see the difference?
Here’s another illustration: how many of us submit to the authority of gravity? When was the last time you deliberately challenged your dependency on oxygen? Anyone successfully overthrow inertia?
There are many natural laws that govern our lives, and most of them, believe it or not, are beneficial to not only our survival but our quality of living. Accepting the boundaries that gravity places around our lives is a good thing. Keeps you healthy. So does allowing oxygen to play its part in sustaining your life. Shoot, even inertia has some value. Since we recognize that operating within the rules of these natural laws has value, we submit to them.
What if other things also have positive value when we submit to them?
You may have heard the cliche: “Too many cooks spoil the soup” or “All chiefs and no Indians”. Both of these sayings show that someone has to be in charge and make the final decision. When there is no one person or means of making the ultimate call, you get anarchy. Disarray. A really snarled ball of yarn. You don’t have order, you don’t have completed tasks, and you don’t have a pleasant existence. It could be argued that a leader is a natural requirement.
My issue has always been the poor quality of leadership that I witnessed. I saw power-mad dictators crushing people. I saw societies regress and individuals vanish. I saw well-intentioned people attempt to bring order from chaos and end with blood in the streets. If that’s leadership, if that’s submitting to authority, thought I, then I want no part of it.
Weeeeeeelllllll …. no. That’s not submitting to authority. That’s abused power. I’ve had to drag my mind away from those tragic events and refocus on the core of the matter. For one thing, does one person’s abuse of oxygen (such as using it to blow up a building full of people) mean that all uses of oxygen should be set aside? Does the invention of aircraft invalidate gravity? Does the gross injustice perpetrated by a dictator require that all government be brought down?
Ok, so those are really big-picture questions and concepts. They’re great and wonderful, but my subconscious is rather self-centered and wants more relevant examples. Why should I submit to a boss who’s a jerk? Why should I, being female, submit to my spouse (if/when I get one)? Why should I give a flying flip about what my parents think and submit to their ideas of conduct and appearance?
We’ve covered a lot of the downsides of forced obedience, so now let’s look at the upsides of properly-done submission. In the big picture questions, submission to government allows that government to do what it’s supposed to do: take care of us. Make and enforce laws, create and maintain public roads and such, defend the town and country, etc. In the personal arena, submission to bosses, spouses, parents, teachers, etc., allows those people to play the role they need to in our lives.
Parents are given to us for life and upbringing; it’s their job to set us on the right path. If I spend all my time fighting them, I will never learn from them. Maybe what I learn is all the things not to do, but if I’m not submitting, I won’t learn that. And I certainly won’t pick up many good things!
Bosses are given to us to ensure that the work gets done. Having had a small amount of management experience, I can verify that needing to drag along employees who refuse to cooperate does not get the job done. When I stop fighting my boss, I free her to do what she’s supposed to do. Maybe she’s still a jerk, but at least I’m not contributing to the problem. And by being properly submissive, I may have the chance to improve things.
As for submitting in a romantic relationship … gah, this is a hard one for me. Honestly, I’m afraid of losing myself if I were to submit. All those negative things mentioned above run through my mind. I’ve seen so many relationships go badly, so many abuses of power on both sides, that the very idea is anathema to me.
And in far too many ways, I have the same trouble submitting to God. Will I lose my identity, my free will, if I submit to God? There are a lot of crazy people out there doing things in the name of God; what happens if …
Alright brain, step back from the paranoia. We’ve already established that abuses (even multiple) don’t negate the value or necessity of an authority. Also, just because one person (or many) in a position screw it up doesn’t mean that the position is bad. Just because people claim to be acting for God doesn’t mean that God is that way.
So Who is God and why should I submit to Him? Well, to start with, I am promised that if I make God my top priority, then everything else will fall in line. I’m also promised that I won’t ever be ditched. And that God has good plans for me. And that His way of doing things isn’t back-breaking. And my life is supposed to be full and fulfilling. And God wants to give me stuff.
Believe it or not, God created us because He wanted to. He wants to enjoy having us around. It’s like when I write a story: I write it because I want to see it, to experience it, to enjoy it. It’s like when you get to do a hobby or spend time with your children. It’s a deeply satisfying and meaningful time that you look forward to and long to savor. And in order to enjoy those things, there are certain rules that must be followed. If I don’t park myself in the chair and write, then the story will never unfold. If you don’t clear out your schedule, you’ll never have time for your hobby. If no one agrees to cooperate, then parent/child time will be very frustrating.
God considers Himself our Father. My Father. He set the rules, like gravity, oxygen, inertia, and submission. When I fight those rules, I wind up tripping, gasping, stuck, and frustrated. When I willingly and purposefully submit to those rules, I get to enjoy the life I was made to have.
Pride tells me that I have to be in charge. Fear tells me that I will be let down by others. Hate tells me that I should pay in kind.
The Voice of truth tells me something else. And I’m reminded that resistance is futile. But seriously, when you look at it this way, why would I not want to submit?