Submission is one of the standard 12 disciplines. It is listed in both Richard Foster’s Celebration of the Disciplines and Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. And while they both teach submission in a healthy, whole and loving way, this discipline in particular is in danger of being misused and exploited.

My child friendly definition of submission is “giving up getting our own way.” It is particularly important that we situate the functional Image of God in the person who is doing the submitting. Submitting is an act of choice.

I have a twelve year old, and she frequently questions my mandates. She is in the stage where deciding to submit her will to mine is just that—a decision. Sometimes she gathers information until my head might explode. Sometimes she questions just to irritate. Sometimes, I patiently answer her questions, even when she debates the simplest of things. Sometimes I snap at her and want to impose a forced submission, knowing that I do her no good by doing so.

When our two wills go toe to toe, I am the parent and she submits out of trust that I know more than she does. Does she always agree? Heck no. But we talk it through, and through and through. More than anything this questioning and talking is training her to make good decisions. It is training her to govern her life. It is training her to be a good steward of the person that God has created her to be. It is training her to be an authentic person, to keep her mind, heart and body in sync.

It’s also protecting her. I can’t protect her every minute of the day. And there is a day in the not so distant future that she will not be within the reach of Mama Bear. I do not want her to submit to every authority she comes in contact with. I do not want her to obey without question. I want to instill in her the freedom to defend her dominion like her life depended on it, because some day it might. Her body is her God given property; I want her to feel the freedom to fight off trespassers. The same can be said of her mind, heart, and soul.

I want her to know what true submission is given, not demanded or forced. It will allow her the sweetness of relational love both with her God and other people. I want her to know the cost that is paid when someone else says, “Not my will, but yours.”

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