What is a Surrendered Marriage?

Surrender is an essential part of God’s design for marriage.

I often use the term “surrendered marriage” to describe the type of marriage I aspire to have. It’s the type of marriage that I think God had in mind when he envisioned it before he even created humankind. It’s the type of marriage that is represented by the Bridal Paradigm, which is the notion that we are the bride of Christ and he is our Bridegroom. It’s the type of ideal marriage that we as followers of Christ should continually strive for.

The English word “surrender” comes from two 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 what do you have? You have the very heart of marital surrender:

To go over and above in giving to yourself to your spouse

Surrender means being all in 100%, holding nothing back.

Surrender means complete transparency and vulnerability with each other.

This is not giving out of compulsion or duty, but out of love and a desire to see your marriage thrive and your spouse blessed.

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 after unconditional love.

Surrender means 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. It means we try to out-give, out-bless, and out-love each other. That is the only kind of competition that belongs in a surrendered marriage.

Vertical and Horizontal Surrender

The surrender I speak of happens in two principal dimensions: one vertical and one horizontal.

I’ll first address the vertical.

Foremost of all, every Christian couple is called to live in wholehearted surrender to the lordship of Christ Jesus. That means both husband and wife commit themselves to His loving leadership, acknowledging that Jesus is the center of their individual lives and of their marriage. The foundation of a surrendered marriage is based on vertical surrender.

Second is the horizontal surrender of husband and wife wholly unto one another.

Surrendering the Way of Self

A surrendered marriage calls us to surrender self.

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?”

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.

Surrender is Not Compromise

A surrendered marriage sets aside the notion that 50-50 compromise is the ideal and instead goes for 100-100, where each strives to give 100% to the other. Giving 100% of yourself calls you to bring your whole self, the good and the not-so-good, naked and unashamed, into your marriage. Each brings his or her own entire self, as the two of you are joined together in spirit, soul, and body. This is what it means for two to become one. You live as one flesh for the benefit of each other and of your marriage.

In a surrendered marriage husband and wife do not strive for equality but strive instead to outdo one another in loving, giving, and sacrificing. Score-keeping 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.”

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 well-being, 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,” as it says in Ephesians 5:24. She honors him with the gift of her respect and support, 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.

Focus on Your Part

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. Steadfastly focus more on what you are giving than what you are getting in your marriage.

Put ten times more effort into fulfilling the things God has called you to in his Word than on what the Bible calls your spouse to do. Worry about 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 beautiful dance of surrender.


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