I am an independent person. I like to make my own decisions. If a joint decision needs to be made, I like a lot of consultation. If the other person doesn't care too much about it, I'll just make the decision and present it to the other person for approval.
I often have made major decisions and acted on them before anyone else knew I'd made them, even in situations where it's typical to consult with others first. For example, when I decided as a child to follow Jesus, I prayed the sinner's prayer alone in my room, then walked the aisle at church the next morning to announce my decision to the world. My parents, my pastor, and my Sunday school teacher all were taken by surprise, even though I'd wrestled with the decision for weeks.
When I was in the eighth grade, a teacher told me about a public boarding school for academically gifted juniors and seniors. I went home and announced to my parents that I would be moving out in three years in order to attend this school. I just assumed they'd support my decision (they did).
So you may think that I would have a hard time with submission. An independent person who tends not to consult others before making life-changing decisions probably wouldn't do too well when she has to relinquish her own decision-making capability to someone else, right? For the most part, you'd be right. I've rarely had problems with authority, but that's because most of the authority figures in my life were wise enough to give me general guidelines and then leave me to make my own decisions within those guidelines. That was a good strategy with me. Whenever some authority figure has made me feel the limitations on my autonomy, I've reacted with strong assertions of independence.
There are only two areas where I have not experienced problems with submission and where I would not expect to experience such problems: my faith and my marriage. I believe that the Bible is the accurate and authoritative Word of God, to whom I submit willingly to the best of my ability because I believe that He really does know what's best for me and He really does love me. I can't profess those beliefs and not also believe Ephesians 5:22-24, where it says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands" (ESV). I believe that this statement is true because God says it is; I can accept this command because I trust God--and it also makes it easier that I believe Ephesians 5:25, 28--"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ... In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself" (ESV). I made darn sure before I said my marriage vows that my husband is a Christ-following man whose judgment and love for me I trust. He doesn't abuse his authority; he has 51% say and I have 49% say, and we talk about everything. Often he yields to my wishes because I care more about a given issue than he does. He makes it easy for me to submit to him. If he didn't, I'd have real problems, and I think he knows that and chooses to make it easy for me.
But what happens when my husband can't give in to me even if he wanted to? When he is required to defer to someone else's judgment, and his submission requires me to submit as well? So I'm not really submitting to my husband, but to some other man? When I'm pretty confident that, left alone, I could convince my own husband to let me do what I want to do (although he just told me that my confidence is misplaced), but this third party is required to be involved, and there's no convincing him? This situation is where I've found myself.
I want to go to the village of Mensafis, in the Minya province of Egypt. There's some work being done there by Catholic nuns, and I was offered the opportunity to go see it. What an amazing opportunity--to go see some of my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, to participate in the work that's being done to help them, to publicize what's being done on their behalf! I want to go so badly I can taste it.
I came home all excited about the possibilities, and I told Jeff all about it. It never occurred to me that there would be a problem with me going. At most, because Jeff and I both are aware of some recent problems in Minya, I thought that it may take a little convincing before we agreed that it was safe enough, and I could go. But Jeff said, "It sounds like a great opportunity, and I hope you get to go. But I have to check with the RSO first." My heart sank. There's no way the RSO would approve a trip to Minya.
The RSO is the Regional Security Officer. He's responsible for the safety of mission personnel in Egypt. He lets us know what's going on from a security standpoint, and he makes rules about things we can and can't do for safety reasons. We're supposed to notify him of any planned trips outside of Cairo and the normal tourist destinations, and his position requires him to nix any plans for visits to dangerous areas. Minya ... well, there have been some problems there lately ... but not in Mensafis! I'm convinced that I would be safe. One of my friends has visited once already, and the Catholic sisters live there. It would just be a small group of us--three of us, plus a driver and possibly one sister--not enough to attract attention. I'd even cover my hair if Jeff insisted. But he isn't insisting on that. He's insisting--as he is required by his job to do--on deferring to the RSO's judgment. And the RSO, as expected, is not allowing any unnecessary trips to Minya on his watch.
I respect the RSO. I've met him a few times, and I'm friends with his wife. He has a job to do, and his job involves protecting me ... even when it's against my own wishes. I don't hold it against him. This is just another aspect of embassy life that I hadn't thought of before I signed up. And I'd still sign up, even with this limitation, this subjugation of my own judgment to someone else's. But I certainly don't have to like it. I just wish I could convince myself--in my heart, not just in my head--that I'm really submitting to my husband, not just to the RSO.