On Submission

It’s surprising how much good theology you can learn from an atheist.

Case in point: My friend Phil (not his real name), a recovering addict who struggles with Step 2 and 3 of the Twelve Steps:  Believing “that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” and making “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”  What’s a good atheist to do?  I asked him about this, and he replied:

“My higher power is my recovery group.  I can’t trust my own judgment when it comes to my addiction, so I trust the judgment of my group.  Christians say ‘What would Jesus do?’  I say ‘What would my group want me to do?’   If my groups says No, then I don’t do it.  They haven’t steered me wrong yet.”

While I would love to see Phil get to know the One True Power who is there for him, I am still happy about this step he’s taken.

He’s stumbled onto a vital practice of the Adopted Life: SUBMISSION.

Submission is a lot like fasting.  When I fast, I deny myself something that I want.  When I submit, I actively seek what you want.  Father, Son, and Spirit have great fun with this.  They know submission as an adventure, not a chore.  In my experiments with this kind of life, I set aside times where I will ask my wife/kids/friends/pastors: “What can I do for you?” and then I do whatever they ask.  It’s fun.

For me, there’s also another side to submission, related to the fact that I’m wise enough to know that I’m not as wise as I think I am.

So I’m taking up the spiritual practice of disobeying myself.  So far, the results are pretty good.  I submit to Jesus and his Gospel.  And as part of that, I also submit to His Community (the church) and to His Community’s Book (the Bible).  According to Paul, our submission to Christ has everything to do with our submission to one another (Eph 5.21-24).  A life of wisdom is a life of submission (James 3.17).  If I am a fool, it is because I have grown blind to my own foolishness.  If I am to become wise, my only hope is to submit to what anothers’ eyes see.

So here I’m learning to practice submission in somewhat the same way Phil does.  I let some wise people have intimate access to my life.  When they see a problem I don’t see, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.  And when a bunch of them see the same problem, and I still don’t see it, I know there’s a good chance I’ve discovered one of my blind spots.  So if possible, I try to behave as if they are right, and then I step back to see what happens.

All I can say is this: They haven’t steered me wrong yet.

~ by John Stonecypher

2 comments so far

  1. Pastor Jonathan on

    Can you imagine heaven without mutual submission? It would be hell! The only way distinct persons can ever live in loving communion is if we learn to submit ourselves to one another. That’s the fundamental reality of existence because all existence flows from the God whose life is the mutual submission of The Three in One. Thanks, John, for pointing us to this vital truth.

  2. Timothy Brassell on

    Oh, how I wish I had learned earlier about the Spiritual disciplines from this perspective! The easy yoke Jesus spoke of. Aaahhhh. Thanks John!


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