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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Originally published June 2013