It Takes Courage to Submit

It Takes Courage To Submit //

“It takes incredible amount of courage and strength to go against the grain of what people want you to be.” ~Janet Mock, trans advocate, in a documentary about Bruce Jenner’s recent ESPN award

No it doesn’t.

It doesn’t take strength at all to go your own way.

That is what comes naturally. This is the human condition. Pride naturally compels us to go against the grain of what others want, and propels us toward what we ourselves want.

We all naturally want to go our own way.

This isn’t just Bruce Jenner’s problem. It’s your problem, and mine. It is easier to:

  • insist on having things your own way
  • insist that life be drawn according to your own desires, feelings, & parameters
  • insist that your church be just the way you like it
  • insist that even the Bible change its teachings in order to match your shifting beliefs
  • insist that your spouse change to suit your desires
  • insist that your unborn child be murdered in order to accommodate your desire for boundary-free sexuality
  • leave your family to pursue your own dreams, career, education, life

than to:

  • give up having things our own way all the time
  • give up control of your life to God’s better (but often, harder and more terrifying) plans
  • submit yourself to the (imperfect human) authority structures God has ordained
  • submit to the truth in the Bible, even when it is culturally and/or personally uncomfortable
  • submit to and love your spouse the way you want to be loved
  • give life and breath to the children God gives you, even though it will certainly mean that He uses them to change your life and change you
  • submit to and serve your family, finding God’s means for your unique gifts to be used for the service of God and the people around you.

But the second list is where the beauty is. It’s where beautiful relationships happen, and it’s where beautiful souls are crafted.

Whether we admit it or not, we all recognize that the second list is more difficult. It’s where we see the truly courageous heart: willing to yield to wisdom outside itself.

It’s harder to give up your life for others. It’s harder to submit to things not being the way you’d like for them to be and submit to an imperfect existence, rather than to set out on a quest for the unattainable (but gleaming) ideal. It is easy to pursue your own dreams… and harder but much more rewarding to come to the foot of the cross and say “not my will by Thine.”

It takes courage to submit.

It takes courage and strength of will for a wife to submit to her imperfect, human husband. It takes courage and strength of will for a military man to submit to his imperfect, human commanding officer. It takes courage and strength of will for a church member to submit to his/her imperfect, human elders.

It takes courage for a human being to say,

“OK, God, I give up my desire for control, for having things go my own way. You know better than I do. I feel confused, and incapable of meeting your standards. But you know better than I do. You are the Potter; I am simply clay. Shape me and mold me according to Your plans rather than my own.”

I love this passage from Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Discipline: The Glad Surrender:

“Willing obedience is a very different thing from coercion…

God does not coerce us to follow Him…

If we want to be disciples, we place ourselves, like the football player and the instrumentalist, under someone’s direction. He tells us what to do, and we find our happiness in doing it. We will not find it anywhere else. We will not find it by doing only what we want to do and not doing what we don’t want to do. That is the popular idea of what freedom is, but it does not work. Freedom lies in keeping the rules. Joy is there, too.

The violinist in the orchestra has submitted first to the instructor. He obeys the rules laid down by him and handles his instrument accordingly. He submits then to the music as written by the composer, paying attention to the markings… finally, he submits to the conductor. The conductor tells him, by word or gesture, what he wants, and the violinist does just that.

Is there any image of freedom and joy more exhilarating than a full orchestra, everybody sawing, tootling, pounding, strumming, blowing, clashing, and hammering away for all they are worth, under the direction of the immense energy and discipline of a man who knows every note… and knows how to elicit that note exactly so that it will contribute most fully to the glory of the work as a whole?”

Don’t let our culture confuse you, mama: there is strength in submission. Freedom comes — not in shaking OFF God’s ways — but in humble submission and obedience to God’s larger plans.

Submission is not being a doormat; it is controlling one’s strength within a God-given structure.

{Sidenote about Bruce Jenner: Obviously, he is still a man. Everyone who looks at him knows he is still a man. Let’s not be like the emperor’s subjects who refused to state that he was obviously naked.

Bruce Jenner is still a man. He is a confused man who did not tell everyone he was “actually a beautiful woman inside” until after he watched his step-daughters gain acclaim and fortune by plumping themselves up and pimping themselves out, and possess a fame even greater than the kind he once possessed as an athlete. He waited until society was willing and eager to embrace the idea of transgenderism, and then… surprise! He wants us to believe that he is actually a plumped-up pimped-out Kardashian-like sex goddess inside… and he wants fame and acclaim and awards and magazine covers.

He is grasping for the glory of old, with all the cameras on him.

And our culture submits to his fancies.

I am sad for our culture. Ten years ago, we recognized that a man who butchered himself to be white when he was actually black (Michael Jackson) was confused and sad and addicted to fame and needed help. We no longer are a culture that recognizes a need for help, and instead have embraced an untruth. 

And I am sad for Bruce Jenner. He is not a young, brave, beautiful woman. He is an incredibly rich, 60+-year-old grandfather who likes being in the limelight and has found a new way to do it. He should be accepting his place in the world, like all humans have to do: reckoning with his age, his weakness, his lack-of-limelight living, the fact that all of us feel “different” and “special” and yet all of us die and return to dust. Given his more recent rise to fame through “reality” TV, it is ironic that he has, too long, existed in a place where he has not had to deal with reality. But reality is still reality, and he is not living in it.}

Regardless, it is not courageous to try to go one’s own way. That is what we would all naturally do: pull away from people, pull away from responsibilities, and run toward self-idolatry and the things and dreams and goals that *we* think would suddenly make us more happy than we currently are.

True strength is shown in those who , through difficulty, submit to the will of God, recognizing the wisdom and harmony that comes from submitting to His greater design.


Oh, how our culture lies to us! This culture– even sometimes among Christians– says that your child will find the greatest happiness through absolute self-expression and “finding” one’s self, but this is not true.

You’ve gotta get crystal clear about this. 

Your child’s path to true greatness is not going to be through:

  • expressing every possible emotion he/she has.
  • shaking off authority
  • declaring himself to be a blue unicorn, fairy princess, chicken nugget, or the opposite gender.
  • glorifying him/herself through a unique path he/she alone can forge
  • seeking some perfect path of self-expression by which he/she can supposedly be “most true” to himself.

True greatness is found in:

  • learning self-control of emotions and desires,
  • recognizing and submitting to our God-given authorities
  • learning our own human frailty and need for Christ,
  • learning to submit the gifts and talents and body and personality we’re given to the God who knows us best as we steward them for His glory,
  • humble submission to God, recognizing that HE knows what is best for our lives,
  • seeking to honor God the very most according to His precepts and guidelines.

God knows what your child is for. God knows what He made your son for; He knows what He made your daughter for. Trust Him. Teach your child to trust Him (yes, even by our expression as being uniquely male or uniquely female). Teach your child to lean HARD on what God says about him/her, and to have a healthy skepticism about their own feelings. Feelings often mislead, but God leads us to TRUTH.

This is true strength & courage: submitting, with self-discipline, to the beautiful orchestral arrangement of the all-knowing Creator God.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast ( I write and wrangle kids.

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5 Responses

  1. Kari says:

    Wonderful! Thank you for the encouragement!

  2. Trish says:

    I did all this and more….and my husband became my commanding officer…and our mutual marriage ended in abuse and eventual physical threats. I ended up in a shelter with my kids, and he wielded his power with a sword. This is so common in churches today because of this doctrine and it’s also the most common thing NOT written about in blogs. Because if a woman opposes this, she is scorned, silenced, and worse.
    May I point you to this wise article that takes more than “wives submit” into consideration but helps us see the entire chapter as a whole.
    I don’t expect you’ll publish this, but I hope at least you will read it and realize that submission in marriage is mutual. God never intended otherwise. Power always leads to corruption and when men are given that power, they are unable to withstand it’s lure. If you haven’t seen that now in your marriage I expect you will one day if you are truly submitting in the way this doctrine prescribes. The leaders of this doctrine are already falling; Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, Josh Duggar….
    I’m not afraid to say I disagree wholeheartedly with your message to wives.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I think some of this must not be clear: I’m not claiming that submission to God’s ways is only for wives. Submission to God’s ways is for all of us– every single one.. But yes, in the same way that the church submits to Christ, a wife is to submit to her husband.

      That said, if there is spiritual, emotional, physical abuse, God has ordained authority structures TO WHOM THE HUSBAND IS RESPONSIBLE that God means to render earthly judgment and correction TO that husband. I do not, by any means, encourage or desire for a wife to submit to an authority-hungry, service-negligent husband.

      The biblical picture is for a husband to serve his wife “like Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her.” This is most definitely a different picture from abuse… most definitely a different picture from creepy Doug Phillips wielding his authority over young unprotected women in his home, Bill Gothard wielding his authority over young unprotected women in his office, or Josh Duggar creepily sneaking in and harming young girls.

      However, I fail to see how a misuse of authority renders all others in possession of that authority as authority-less. Kim Jong Il wields authority in a way that makes government authority LOOK abusive, and yet we are told to (generally) submit to governing authorities. I still obey the laws of this land, despite the fact that Kim Jong Il is a lunatic. Policemen can and do, occasionally, overstep their bounds. People even wrongly impersonate police officers. That does not mean I won’t pull over if a cop flashes his lights behind me.

      That some earthly husbands horribly misuse their authority, or treat their families abhorrently, does not then undo God’s placement of the man as the head of the home. It means there are sinners, and as women (like all people under authority), we need to rightly understand the sphere of a husband’s authority, as well as the proper authorities over HIM who we might go to if he has overstepped his bounds.

      All wives should know– if they (or their children) are being physically abused, go to the appropriate authorities: CALL THE POLICE. If your husband is being a jerk (but not abusive) but claims to be a Christian, pull in your proper authorities: go through Matthew 18– which eventually leads to the elders.

      Power doesn’t “always lead to corruption.” But, like the saying goes, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” which is why wives need to understand the authorities to whom her husband is accountable and how to rightly confront and speak wisdom and correction to her husband. No husband actually *HAS* absolute authority, but many feel that they do, and that is wrong. He is under government authority, and (if in the church) the authority of the elders. In the olden days, he was also seen as morally accountable to other men/families in his community. That may or may not hold true nowadays, in various places. Regardless, I don’t think a husband is an absolute authority, and he may absolutely be wrong in the use of his authority, at which point a woman is completely within her bounds to go to those who are in authority over him for assistance and potential help.

      You may yet disagree with my thoughts here, but know that I am not in any way calling for a wife to “submit” to her abusive husband. Though we may differ on some things, you & I stand in agreement on that.

  3. Joan says:

    Hi Jess,

    Wow, I feel I share a lot of values with you, but I do not see what you do in Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. I would encourage you to meet with a real life person who is considering, or who has gone through, the agony of this type of situation.

    I never expected to meet someone like that in my own life, but it turned out that a very high ranking official at a workplace had gone through that very experience. In such a situation, you look around feeling insecure for about 5 seconds, and then you realize that this person has an enormous influence on you and your community, and that everyone else has accepted it, and you move on.

    The person in question went from male to female. In American society, that basically means embracing lower pay, less respect, perhaps even violence.

    This person did not have the typical characteristics that are objectified in women. He/she was sort of losing his/her hair. It was stringy, and he/she had the body of stocky, post-middle age football player. Let’s just say that a glamorous photo spread was not likely to happen.

    As I said, it didn’t take long for all of us to simply see him/her as a person. Sometimes he/she backed us up. Sometimes he/she was a direct and abrasive. But he/she was dedicated to the work, to the community, to being a good steward of the power entrusted to him/her. I guess I should just say her, because the transition is complete. She’s a she now.

    This was over a decade ago. I believe society is far more accepting now than at that time.

    In any case, I believe God made this person as is, and therefore, I should accept that this person is perfect in God’s eyes.

    I know you welcome different points of views. I hope you’ll welcome this one.

    • Jess Connell says:

      God makes us as “male or female.” And where there is a genetic malformation (as in, the person comes out with some sort of hermaphroditic characteristics), a medical solution makes absolute sense. But that’s not what Bruce Jenner’s situation is– this is a non-genetic situation (meaning, we’re not talking about a baby born with unclear genitalia, but some sort of feeling or sense that comes on to an individual that the rest of us are supposed to bend to).

      Of course I recognize that many of us “feel” like something other than we are.

      I often look in the mirror– this is not a joke or an exaggeration; you can ask my husband– a couple days after having a baby and think, “wow, I look pretty good. My body’s back in shape.” It’s not. I look like I’m about 5-6 months pregnant. What I see in the mirror is not what I feel like on the inside. When I was 15, I would look at “godly women” and think, “why did God make me a debater, put me on the a drumline? Why was I the only girl on the boys little league team? How can *I* ever have a ‘gentle and quiet spirit’ or be the sort of woman He says I’m supposed to be? Why would God say I have to be THAT, but make me THIS?” So, in some ways, I can honestly and truly relate to feeling like everyone else expects you to be X, and you are G.

      That said, what I do with those feelings is where everything changes. You see, I believe if what God says, and what my feelings says, are in conflict, it is my feelings that are to change to line up with Him. And I’ve found that when I do that, my joy increases. In contrast with this, when you look at those who have gone through sex change procedures, you find that at the end of that road, there is greater depression, more sorrow, more suicide, greater despair… which is exactly what you would expect if God’s Word was actually true.

      For a man to change who he is is an abomination unto the Lord, a complete act of rebellion against the very core of who he was made to be, and no more makes him a woman than I can become a blade of grass. If I paint myself green, slenderize my body, have the scent of grass grafted into my sweat glands, and go and stand in my yard, slanted upward toward the sun, I’m still a woman who is trying to be something she’s not.

      Those who live their lives according to God’s Word have it, and not “what society accepts” as their standard. This is no minor disagreement– this disagreement is at the very core of what it means to be human.

      As humans, God makes us male and female, and throughout Scripture, indicates that men are to retain male characteristics (according to their cultural indicatives), and women are to retain female characteristics (according to theirs). In fact, the Old Testament actually specifies “all that pertains to” the opposite gender is wicked for us to take on. We are to embrace who we are, and clearly proclaim to the world who we are. Is it any wonder, then, that this act of self-proclamation is suddenly on the rise and being celebrated, in our anti-God, go-your-own-way, throw-off-the-Bible culture? This idea of gender-bending is rooted in an anti-God mentality and is utterly incompatible with biblical thinking.

      Jesus affirmed maleness and femaleness as the only two options, and affirmed that “a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife” is the pattern for marriage.

      Male/female– 2 genders. Distinct. Each always their own.
      Male and female– only option for marriage. Always, only to the other.

      This is a biblical distinctive and unless you do radical leaps and adjust the text in ways that essentially undo it, this is the clear and unchanging perspective the Bible presents.

      Thanks for your comment.

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