Surrender in Marriage – Part 1
Surrender is central to God’s design for marriage.
A “surrendered marriage” is what I think God had in mind when he created marriage, which why it’s the kind of marriage Jenni, and I aspire to have. It’s so central to what we believe about God’s design for marriage that when I originally started blogging back in 2010, I called my blog “Journey to Surrender.”
Because surrender is a clear component of our relationship with Jesus, it should also be reflected in a bridal paradigm marriage. (In case you aren’t familiar with that terminology, I use “bridal paradigm” as shorthand for the idea that our marriages should be modeled after the relationship between Christ, our Bridegroom, and the church, his bride. Check out our series, The Bridal Paradigm, for more on that important concept.)
What exactly is surrender, and how does it apply to marriage? Let’s start by looking at the word itself.
What Is Surrender?
Many associate the word surrender with negative connotations like loss, defeat, or failure. As we’ll see, these have nothing to do with a surrendered marriage.
The English word “surrender” comes from two old Anglo-Norman French words: Sur and render. Let’s break it down.
1. Sur – a prefix meaning over and above. Think surcharge or surtax. Something you pay over and above regular charges or normal taxes.
2. Render – to give. To hand over. To abandon oneself entirely to.
Put these two together and you have the very heart of marital surrender: To go over and above in giving to your spouse. This is especially true when it comes to giving yourself over to your spouse.
Surrender, as applied to marriage, is not at all about giving up or living at another’s mercy. So what it about?
Surrendering the Way of Self
Giving over your self – all of you – to your spouse is where the surrender of self begins. Let’s break it down:
- Surrender means being all in 100%, holding nothing back.
- Surrender means complete transparency and vulnerability with each other, living naked and unashamed before one another.
- Surrender is not loss of self but bringing the fullness of your true self to your marriage, the good and the not-so-good.
Surrender of self is also about yielding your rights for the sake of relationship. The beauty of surrendered marriage, fashioned according to the Bridal Paradigm, lies in what it compels you to give rather than what it permits you to demand.
It means living selflessly and self-sacrificing instead of living self-centered and self-satisfying. It means living against our human nature because our natural path is the path of self. Rather than focusing on the question of “what are my rights?” and “what do I get out of this marriage?” we are instead to focus on “what can I give to benefit and bless my spouse?” and “What can I do to strengthen our marriage?” and “What can we build together?”
Mutual surrender means caring about the things your spouse cares about, even if they aren’t things that would naturally matter to you. Surrender means maintaining a culture of honor in your home, attending to one another’s needs, being willing to sacrifice your own desires in order to delight your wife or husband.
The Heart of Surrender
Surrender is not giving out of compulsion or duty but out of love and a desire to see your wife or husband thrive.
It is not giving to get. It’s not a mindset of “I’ll scratch your back, but you better scratch mine at least as much if not a little more.” That’s self-serving and manipulative. We are called to unconditional love.
Surrender means giving in order to bless and, most importantly, giving to foster intimacy. It means learning what love looks like to your spouse, and then doing that in the little things every day.
Surrender means giving your spouse what he or she needs from you – and then some, regardless of the extent to which you feel your needs are being met. Try to out-give, out-bless, and out-love each other. That is the only kind of competition that belongs in a surrendered marriage.
The 100-100 Marriage
A surrendered marriage blow up the notion that 50-50 compromise is the ideal and instead goes for 100-100, where each strives to give 100% to the other. The world holds up 50-50 marriage as the standard, with equality as the goal, but the Bible calls us to a higher ideal. Of course, the reality is that there will be times when one or the other of you only has 10% to give and the other will need to step up fill the gap.
In a surrendered marriage husband and wife do not strive for equality but strive instead to outdo one another in loving, giving, honoring, and sacrificing. The Bible declares that two become one in marriage, mysteriously joined together in spirit, soul, and body. Because you are one, scorekeeping and competition give way to a new mindset that acknowledges the one-flesh nature of a marriage. “When my wife wins so do I.” “When my husband wins so do I.”
Be forthright in expressing your needs, but steadfastly focus more attention on what you are giving than what you are getting in your marriage.
Focus on your part rather than your spouse’s part. What you will find is that when you fulfill your part, you make a wide pathway that invites your spouse to step more fully into their part. This is the dance of surrender.
The Surrender of Husband and Wife
A husband’s surrender primarily takes the form of loving, sacrificial leadership. He gives of himself to serve, protect, and provide for his wife and family. He invests himself to nurture her wellbeing, to cover her spiritually, and to do all in his power to see her thrive in her full identity and to reach her full potential. With Christ as his example, he is to love his wife unconditionally.
A wife’s surrender primarily takes the form of submission to her husband’s loving leadership, as the church submits to Christ. She honors him with the gift of her respect and trust, of supporting him and remaining under his protective covering, not because she is incapable or inferior in any way, but because she chooses to live within the ordered partnership that is God’s design for marriage.
It’s a Journey
The reason I called my original blog “Journey to Surrender” is that it’s an ongoing, life-long adventure. We’ve been married for more than 38 years, and we’re still figuring it out, with plenty of failures and missteps along the way. It’s not always easy to live out a surrendered marriage, but we’ve found that it’s definitely worth the effort and the best way to build an intimate, passionate, and enduring relationship.
Surrender in marriage takes place in two dimensions. Here we’ve covered the horizontal component, between husband and wife. Vertical surrender, giving over your self and your marriage to God, is equally important.