This past year my 32-year-old husband, Luke, was diagnosed with diabetes type one, and it has rocked our world. For a few months prior to the diagnosis, Luke was urinating every half hour, and his thirst was unquenchable. He was also consuming sugar in a way I had never seen him do.
When one’s pancreas stops producing insulin, blood glucose levels rise above normal. Sugar, found in simple carbohydrates, is necessary to human survival and energy. Luke did not know it at the time, but his non-stop craving for sugar was his body saying, “I am dying.”
Since diabetes runs heavily in Luke’s family, and he was displaying common symptoms, I told him to go see a doctor for a few weeks (or maybe months). As a man who was used to good health, Luke felt doctors were unnecessary for him, and ignored my advice. That was, until his eye sight became blurry, and his limbs started to tingle for hours at a time.
Luke drove himself to the nearest urgent clinic, where a doctor told him that his blood sugar was dangerously high, since he had ignored my advice and his body for far too long. The non-specialist gave Luke insulin, without much direction, and sent him on his way.
By the time Luke had returned home, he had begun to lose his mind. Normally, Luke is very rational, level-headed, and non-emotional. Since Luke is fiercely independent, I was letting him figure out his own problem, as he prefers. So I was sitting on my bed, writing, when Luke walked into the bedroom. The look on his face made me think someone in his family died. “What is wrong?” I asked in a panic. He didn’t answer me.
Luke simply walked over to our bed, laid down, nestled his head under my armpit and began to sob in a way I had never seen him do before. He was able to let me know that no one died, but he was completely overwhelmed by the news and he was actually unable to think reasonably.
When one’s blood sugar is too high or too low, it very much affects one’s mind and emotions. He had medication, but he had no idea how to use it. Neither one of us was educated on how to manage this disease, and it became apparent that we needed to find a specialist immediately.
Luke could not think straight, so I sat down and began to call one specialist after another. They each gave us appointments that were at least a month away. We did not have a month. In fact, we did not have a day. Luke was seemingly losing his mind and his eyesight.
As Luke’s wife, I am used to him taking care of us, keeping us calm, and directing us in times of stress. But this time was different. He needed me in a way that he had never needed me before, and it was time for me to rise up.
As tears streamed down Luke’s face and he was becoming increasingly agitated, I made a “final” decision.
“We are going to go to the emergency room at the hospital, right now,” I said. I just had to run upstairs and grab something. As I was jogging up the stairs, I sensed a deep gut feeling that the Holy Spirit was about to speak to me. The still small voice said, “A head must listen to its body, or both the head and body will begin to break down.” All of a sudden I understood God’s heart for marriage, as best as I can as a human.
In the Church, there has been a hyper focus on wives submitting to husbands as their “head,” but almost zero focus on husbands submitting to their wives, as their “body.”
Though Luke submits to me a lot, he would not submit to me when I told him that he needed to go see a doctor weeks earlier. Because he did not listen to me, his body and his mind were pushed to the limit and were breaking down. Further, because he did not listen to the signals that his body was giving him, both his body and mind were dysfunctional.
I ran back downstairs and we got into the car. Luke’s eyesight was getting worse, so I drove. Like most married women, I am used to Luke driving most of the time, but it was now time for me to take the wheel. The Spirit continued to speak to me. “You are Luke’s eyes when he cannot see.”
If Luke and I represent a one-flesh unit as a married couple, then my eyes are his eyes and his eyes are my eyes. We are one, as the Bible tells us in Mark 10:8.
“Husband headship” (based out of Eph. 5) has often been thought to mean the husband having “authority” over the wife, but the linguistic evidence for this interpretation of scripture is minimal to non-existent among ancient texts.
Egalitarians have often thought that this word “head” (kephale in ancient Greek) means that of “source.” In other words, man was the source of woman, because Eve came out of Adam. While this view has more ancient linguistic evidence than “authority” does, the evidence is still minimal.
What if the Apostle Paul did not think the meaning of “head” was “authority” or “source?” What if Paul was writing about a literal head?
Kephale meaning a literal head would have better linguistic evidence among ancient texts. What if Paul was using a head/body metaphor to help married couples understand the importance of mutual love and mutual submission? After all, the passage begins with the command to both husbands and wives to “submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).”
Some argue that Eph. 5:21 does not go with the rest of the passage on marriage, but it most certainly does. As my friend and theology student at Fuller Seminary, Nick Quient, puts it,
Ephesians 5:15-21 contains a string of participles. It ends with v.21 with the injunction to “submit” to one another. There is no verb in v.22-23, and so common sense (and basic syntax) means one draws from the previous section and the verb therein. The verb “submit” is in v.21, and there is no more verb until v.24, and that verb is applied directly to Christ and the church. However, there is a lack of a verb in v.24b regarding husbands and wives – it is inferred from v.24a, which the stress falls upon.
V.21 is thus the entrance into the household code, although I would press it back further to 5:15. Whatever one says about “head” must flow from the context of v.15-21. Thus, v.22 is grammatically dependent upon v.21 and there is no exegetical or syntactical reason one should separate the two. Thus, v.21-22 are directly linked and the injunctions are given to both husband and wife. Mutual submission is grammatically, syntactically and contextually necessary because of this.
The husband is given the only imperative in the passage (5:25: ἀγαπᾶτε), as I can see.
Wives are not directly commanded to do something, and it all flows from v.21 where both parties “submit themselves” (middle participle, reflecting self-action). [Nick’s research sources that were most prominent in his findings: Philip Payne, Craig Keener, and Gordon Fee].
Could it be that the Apostle Paul meant it when he said, “husbands and wives, submit to one another?”
If so, it seems that Paul is commanding husbands to both submit to and love their wives, while wives are commanded to simply submit to their husbands. It seems that husbands are actually being held to two commandments, while wives are only being held to one commandment. Of course, we don’t read the Eph. 5 in a vacuum. We read it in context with the rest of God’s written Word.
Jesus tells us that the two greatest commands of God are to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). Surely God expects wives to love their husbands as they would love themselves.
The entire New Testament points to mutual submission and mutual love, not just among married couples, but among the entire body of Christ.
And so, there we were, in the emergency room, facing Luke’s problem. But it was becoming increasingly clear that Luke’s problem was my problem. It was our problem, and I was ready to stand beside my man as his eyes, ears, and greatest advocate. I was ready to be the ezer (Greek word for helper in the OT) that God created me to be – not an “assistant” sort of helper, but an “equal, strong partner” sort of helper.
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