FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Following His Lead

with Cindy Easley | October 20, 2008
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Wives, learn what submission is, and how it encourages your husbands to lead well. Author Cindy Easley talks with Dennis Rainey about why submission is difficult, but important.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Wives, learn what submission is, and how it encourages your husbands to lead well. Author Cindy Easley talks with Dennis Rainey about why submission is difficult, but important.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Wives, learn what submission is, and how it encourages your husbands to lead well.

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Following His Lead

With Cindy Easley
October 20, 2008
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Bob: As a wife, do you struggle with the biblical concept of submission? 

Cindy: Women usually think submission means oppression.  But we all submit to someone, and God established authority and, really, I believe, with submission is voluntarily cooperating with your husband, lining yourself up under his authority, empowering him to lead.  You know, this is a very natural authority that God has established if we fulfill our roles as He designed.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 20th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today we'll tackle a controversial subject and see if we can't at least start off by defining terms.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know what you ought to do? You ought to write a book on submission, you know?

Dennis: Oh!  Oh, yeah.

Bob: Well, it's a biblical concept, right? 

Dennis: It is.

Bob: That wives should submit to their husbands.  The Bible teaches that.  You're a Bible teacher.

Dennis: Oh, yeah.

Bob: I think you ought to write a book for ladies on how to submit to your husband.

Dennis: You've been reading the mailbag, haven't you?  We've had some hot letters recently from some of our listeners who don't care for some of our perspectives here on FamilyLife Today.

Bob: I think this is a good assignment for you.  This would be helpful to clarify this.

Dennis: I think it would welcome a good bit of mail.


What if we did this -- what if you and I thought about the best woman on the planet to write a book about submission?

Bob: You mean, somebody who not only understands the concept but applies it in her own marriage?

Dennis: That's right -- is biblically well-versed, she's a mom, she's a wife, she's almost flawlessly submitted to her husband.

Bob: Do you think there is somebody like that out there?


Dennis: We can call Barbara.


We have Cindy Easley joining us on FamilyLife Today.  That was a nice introduction of you.  Didn't you like that?

Cindy: That was very interesting, yes.

Bob: I liked the "gag me" part the best.  That was my favorite.

Dennis: Well, Cindy and her husband, Michael, are great friends.  They have been speakers on our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference speaker team for a number of years.  Cindy speaks for women's retreats, teaches a women's Bible study, and is a regular commentator on Primetime America and I'm going to tell you, folks, Cindy's courageous.

Bob: Yes, she is.

Dennis: She is courageous.  She not only follows Michael, she also, at the same time, writes a book called "What's Submission Got to do With It?

And you found, Cindy, that submission is a hot topic, haven't you?

Cindy: Yeah, it's a very hot topic, and I am looking forward to that mail, Dennis, that you were talking about.

Bob: When you sat down and thought, "I think I'll write a book on submission."  I mean, you knew you were stepping into no man's land, didn't you?

Dennis: No man's land, Bob?

Cindy: First of all, I have to say that I had an idea for a book that needed to be written, and I told my husband, and I said, "I want you to tell Greg Thornton," who is the senior vice president of Moody Press, I said, "Tell him about this idea.  He needs to get someone to write this book on submission."

Dennis: Oh, I thought you were going to say since Michael, at the time, was the president of Moody, tell him that I want to write the book …

Cindy: No, no, no, it was not my goal to write the book, and Greg came back and said, "That is a great idea.  Tell Cindy to write it."  And I reminded them that I am not a writer, I am a public speaker," and they said, "Good.  Write it."  And so I did.

Bob: You submitted.

Cindy: I-- yeah.

Bob: You have had women, for years, come up to you, as you've spoken on this subject and actually just touch on the subject as a part of the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember but in the context of speaking to wives about their responsibilities as wives, you've opened the door to the issue, and there's this line that forms …

Cindy: That's exactly right.

Bob: … with people with all kinds of questions, right?

Cindy: That's right.  Maybe we talk about submission for three to five minutes out of a two-hour time with women and, afterwards, I'd always have a line of women, and the first thing they would say is, "Thank you so much for explaining submission.  I never understood it before.  It's not threatening."

And then they would say, "But this is the situation in my marriage," and they would describe their marriage, and they'd say, "So what does submission look like for me?"  And I'd say, "I have no idea.  I'm not married to your husband."

And so when I thought through this book and the women that I wanted to interview for the book -- and that's what it is, it is a compilation of interviews where I asked women in marriages that are not like mine; in marriages that might have situations where it's more difficult to submit, or submission looks different than in a different marriage.  And I asked them, "What does it look like?"

And it's really in response to these women at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences who would ask me that question.  I wanted to answer it for them.

Bob: Wait a sec -- is submission easy?  You said women who are in marriages other than mine.  Is it easy for you to submit to your husband?

Cindy: Oh, no, that is not what I …

Dennis: That's not how the book begins.  But I want to take you to an illustration that you use that I think is really a beautiful illustration of what submission is to look like.  You said, Michael surprised you one day with a gift.

Cindy: That's right.  For years I had wanted to learn to dance -- ballroom dancing.  And not the froo-froo dancing but more I wanted to be able to dance at weddings when Michael would perform marriages. 

And so he surprised me with ballroom dancing classes in an elementary school where it was really hot and sweaty and not quite as romantic as I had envisioned.  But we learned an interesting thing as we went through these dancing lessons.

First of all, when you dance, the way you lead and, of course, the man always leads -- the way he leads is through putting pressure on a woman's palm or on the small of her back.  And so we found out that the whole thing of dancing was really a good metaphor for marriage dance. 

There were times that Michael would be leading, and I could not feel his lead.  He would not be giving me enough pressure, and I'd have to stop and say, "Michael, I need more pressure.  I don't know where you're trying to tell me to go."  There would be other times that I would feel the pressure, but I -- you know, most of the time when you dance, the woman is going backwards, and that's somewhat frightening because you have no idea where you're going, and I might sense someone behind me, and I would just stop, and we learned that if I was not willing to follow him, we wouldn't dance, we wouldn't go anywhere.

So it became a good metaphor for our marriage and realizing that there's times I have to say, "Michael, I'm willing to follow, but I don't know where you're going," and there's other times that I just stop dancing.

Dennis: Yeah, and when I read that part in your book, I thought, "I think she's talked to Barbara."


Because I would say most of the problems in our marriage are caused not by me leading in the wrong direction -- not that I haven't done that, okay?  But for not having given clear guidance and direction and leading her toward where we're supposed to go.  I'm assuming she gets it, and in the process we're missing one another, and we're not dancing, truly, together.

Bob: You know, hang on here.  We're jumping into this with some huge presuppositions already kind of on the table, and that is the presupposition that a wife is supposed to respond to her husband's leadership, and the husband is supposed to be giving clear direction, and some of our listeners are going, "I don't know that I buy that.  I'm not sure -- doesn't the Bible say 'submit to one another?'  Aren't we supposed to do this dance where whoever is best at leading should be the one who is leading?"  How have you wrestled through that?

Cindy: Well, the Bible does say "submit to one another," but I don't think that's in the context of marriage.  I think that what Paul is doing there is lining up all the different areas that we have of authority in our lives, and he goes from a general "submit to one another," to a specific "wives submit to husbands, husbands love the wives, children obey your parents," and then the employer-employee relationship. 

But we all submit to someone, and God loves order.  God established authority, and this is a very natural authority that God has established if we fulfill our roles as He designed.

Bob: And you said that as you speak to women and explain what submission is, many of them come up and say, "That was a liberating idea."  So explain to our listeners what you see submission being?

Cindy: You know, I have to say that, especially at first, when Michael and I began speaking with FamilyLife, and we would get to this subject on submission, I thought I might have tomatoes thrown at me, or -- because I know that it is -- you know, women usually think submission means oppression.  And just for them to understand that, really, I believe that submission is voluntarily cooperating with your husband, lining yourself up under his authority, empowering him to lead so that a man can be what God intended him to be. 

He needs to fulfill the design that God has for him, and when he does, and he is fulfilled, then I think we, as wives, are often fulfilled.  We feel better about ourselves when that whole relationship is working the way it's supposed to.  It's not meant to be a threat, it's not meant to be oppression, it doesn't mean that we don't ever give our opinion or -- my goodness, I am very, very good at giving my opinion.

But it's more the attitude that we approach our husbands -- it's gentleness, it's respect, it's how you disagree that shows a submissive attitude because you know what?  You can obey someone and not be submissive.  It's an attitude that is important to God and that shows that you are willing to line yourself up under your husband and willingly follow, voluntarily follow, not be forced to follow.

Bob: And I think you've identified here what is the tripwire for a lot of women when they approach this subject of submission.  For some of them it's because they are strong, capable, competent women, and they can stand up and take care of themselves, and they don't see any need for anybody else to be given directions.  They can handle it.

For others, they find themselves in a relationship where a husband is not being kind or gentle or loving or gracious or caring, and they think, "I am to submit to this person who is being cruel, this person who is not being considerate of me?"  How does that woman in that situation deal with the Bible saying, "Wives, submit to your husbands?"

Cindy: Oh, that is such a good question.  You're right, Bob.  There are many, many women out there who are in this situation.  I think the first thing is to note that submission doesn't mean you just take it.  It's not that you're quiet and you let either verbal or physical abuse happen in your home.  I believe that a submissive wife has a duty to intervene and to talk to her husband respectfully; to approach him appropriately when there is sin in his life.

And sometimes it means you bring someone with you -- a pastor or a good friend to hold him to accountability.  But that is part of what we do as wives -- we speak truth to our husband.  It's not that we don't speak, it's how we speak, it's the way we communicate that shows respect.  And the bottom line of submission is it is respect, it is the most respectful way we can behave is to willingly cooperate, to willingly submit to a husband.

Dennis: It's really interesting, though, today, Cindy, you look at the landscape of, really, how our daughters are being educated.  There is a strong movement that has been in place now for the better part of close to four decades that has told women they need to protect themselves, they need to look out for their own rights, they need to maximize who they are, they need to be all that God intended them to be, and in the process has spawned a group of women who have, in my opinion, have gone against the design of Scripture, which does commend and command a woman to follow her husband and to submit to him.

The problem is, we have men today who have abused that privilege.  They haven't led well, they have not been noble men who have sacrificed themselves for their wives.  They haven't given up their lives sacrificially for their wives and serve them, and instead they've been selfish bullies.  What would you say to the woman who is married to -- let's call him what he is -- a selfish bully who uses Bible doctrine to tell her to submit to him?  I actually -- one of my assistants coming in before this interview, handed me an e-mail from a listener who had written us to say, "My husband uses FamilyLife's fund appeals to tell me that I need to submit to him."  It's fascinating.

Cindy: Alrighty then.

Dennis: Yeah, I mean, he's just clubbing her with the issue.

Bob: Before she answers that, can I take a crack at that?

Dennis: Sure.

Bob: Because I just …

Dennis: You think the women really want to hear what you have to say?

Bob: I don't know if they do, but the guys need to hear it.  You know, we speak to the men at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember about their responsibilities -- what you've described, Dennis, for husbands to be sacrificial and loving.  And I always tell the guys when I'm talking to them, about being with a young husband years ago, he'd been married for six months, and I said, "How are things going in your marriage?"

He said, "Oh, they're going okay."  He said the one problem is Kathy just isn't submitting.  And I said to him, "Well, what makes you think she's supposed to submit to you?"  And he said, "Well, it says so in the Bible."  I said, "Where does it say that?"

Now, I knew where it said it, but he got out his Bible, and he said, "It's right here in Ephesians, chapter 5."  I said, "Read it to me."  He said, "It says, 'Wives' …

Bob: I said, "Stop right there.  What's that first word?"  "Wives."  I said, "Are you a wife?"  He said, "No."  I said, "Well, then, that verse isn't for you. Skip it.  Go on to the next one."  And the point is, it is not our responsibility as husbands to try to impose submission, to instruct our wives to submit.  We don't have any authority -- that's between a woman and God -- how she's going to respond.  But we have a duty to die, we have a duty to love, to serve, to respect, to value, to cherish, to nourish -- I mean, we've got plenty to say grace over without having to worry about how our wives are doing it.

So -- I don't know how you'd respond to the woman who is married to the selfish bully, but I want to get the selfish bully off to the side for just a minute and say, "Be a man.  Be God's man instead of being a selfish bully."

Dennis: Well …

Bob: Thank you.  I needed to get that off my chest.

Dennis: I can tell you feel better.  Bob, you remember, in this studio when you and I were interviewing a psychologist and a sheriff from -- I think from Milwaukee, as I recall, and, Cindy, we were interviewing them and both were here because they spoke as experts around spousal abuse.  And they both shocked us by telling us that the place where there is the greatest number of offenses of spousal abuse is in fundamentalist churches.

Cindy: Hm.  Yeah, that's not surprising.  Just from some of the interviews I did with women and some of the things they had been taught -- one, in particular, went to a church that it was "wives submit, period."  Really, that's where they stopped, and we talked about the damage that did to her marriage and how she tried to fulfill that role until she realized it was pulling their marriage apart.  They went to counseling, and one day she came home and said, "That's it.  I'm done.  I'm not going to do anything I don't want to do anymore.  I'm not going to submit just because you tell me to."

And that, for her husband, was a wakeup call.  Now, I'm not telling women that's what they should do.  This is just their experience and that, through that counseling, he began to understand, too, "Woops, I'm not being a loving leader."

But, Bob, actually, my husband addressed this in the book as well.  He wrote a chapter called "Man to Man, Chauvinists Need Not Apply."  Because I had a woman ask me "What do I do when my husband tells me to submit?"  And I said, "You know what?  I'm going to let my husband take a shot at that one," and it's a very helpful chapter.

Bob: Well, we asked our ace reporter, Tonda "Lois Lane" Nations, to head to a Weekend to Remember recently and to talk with wives about the subject of submission, and there was one wife that Tonda talked to, and she said, "Do you struggle with submission?"  And this wife said, "No, not really," and she said, "The reason I don't is because of my husband."

Pam: My husband is really good at wanting my feedback on things and wanting to know what I really think about things, so he's really good about including me, and it takes so much stress off of me to not be the one to make the decisions.   So once it's all done, and we've talked about it, and he says, "Oh, I think we should go this way," I don't have to worry about have I made the right decision all the time because he is the one who holds that responsibility, and it's not, "Oh, gee, Pam, what have you gotten us into this time?"

Bob: You know, you hear that, Dennis, and I think to myself, "How many wives would say I would not struggle with this issue of submission if my husband would just listen to me?"  How many wives are struggling with it because a husband isn't hearing his wife?

Dennis: I think it's why this issue has become so volatile and why we started this interview so gingerly, kind of getting into the subject of submission.  It is a hot topic, because men have -- well, we've not done a good job of making it easy for our wives to follow.

But as I understand what you've talked about here, Cindy, in your book and what you said on the broadcast today, a woman who does a good job both in attitude and action of submitting to her husband really invites her husband to lead and lead well.

Cindy: That's right, and sometimes, as women, we have taken up the mantle of leadership in our home, and we need to be willing to lay it down.  I think often men come into a marriage, and they are willing to lead, but their wife grabs it so often from them that finally they go, "Fine, just let her have, I mean, this is not worth the fight."

Most men want peace in their home more than they want leadership.  So if you give them leadership and peace, they'll usually pick that mantle back up, and the interesting thing -- I think one reason the women have reacted the way they have in the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences when I've spoken about submission is that women really are happy to have men who lead lovingly.  They are happy to have men that are strong and know what they want.  They are willing to follow if the men do it appropriately, lovingly, and like this woman said, if they value her opinion and ask for her thoughts.

I mean, really, think of it this way -- a man has this amazing resource that lives in his home that knows him better than anyone in the world …

Bob: His personal Wikipedia on him, right?

Cindy: There you have it, it's his person Wikipedia who not only loves him and loves their children but wants his success.  Because with his success comes her success, and yet he won't turn and ask her opinion?  It doesn't even make logical sense that he wouldn't go to her first.

Dennis: It doesn't, but a man's pride doesn't make sense, period.

Cindy: Well, there you go.

Dennis: I mean, seriously, and, you know, we've talked a lot about what the woman is to do here and, briefly, Bob got on his soapbox about how the bully needs to take the time to value his wife.

Bob: He needs to man up is what he needs to do.

Dennis: He needs to man up, but for all men and all women who are married, what they both need to do is they need to come to the Weekend to Remember because what happens on Sunday morning, and you know this, Cindy, because we've been talking about it, is the wives hear a clear, compelling presentation about what their job description is in marriage as a wife.  And while they are hearing their stuff, even though they'd like to be in both places -- they'd like to be hearing what the men are hearing -- the men are getting their marching orders from a man who is authentic, who is sharing out his own weaknesses and strengths how he has done it and how he has attempted to lead his wife.

And, for most men, they just need a clear explanation for how they are to begin to lead, love, and serve their wives.

Bob: That time on Sunday morning really is a valuable time, in fact, most of our conferees, as you know, Dennis, have said to us that that morning time is the highlight of the weekend for them.  And we do want to encourage our listeners, if you've not attended one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, we think it's an important investment that ought to be made in every marriage, and we're hosting these conferences in cities all across the country this fall.

You can go to our website,, for more information about when the conference is coming to a city near where you live.  You can register online or get more information, if you'd like.  Or if it's easier, just call us at 1-800-FLTODAY -- 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will let you know how you can get more information about an upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, and we hope you'll make plans to attend either this fall or in the spring.  Again, we think it's an important investment for you to make in your marriage.

Another important investment you can make is to get a copy of the book that Cindy Easley has written called "What's Submission Got to do With It?"  We have that book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website,, and on the right side of the home page, there is a box that says "Today's Broadcast."  If you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to an area of the site where you can find out more about Cindy's book, and you can order a copy online, if you'd like.

Or call 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Let us know you'd like a copy of Cindy Easley's book, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have it sent to you.

You know, Thanksgiving is a little more than a month away at this point, and I think a lot of families rush past this holiday; don't capitalize on the opportunity to drive home a very important biblical spiritual theme -- what it means to be thankful and to remember our heritage as Americans.  Barbara Rainey has written a book for families called "Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember," and this month when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount, we would like to send you, as a thank you gift, Barbara's book as an audio book.

It includes an abridged version of Barbara's account of the first Thanksgiving dramatically read with sound effects, great to listen to as a family as you're traveling or in your home on Thanksgiving Day.  And, again, we'd be happy to send you a copy of this as our way of saying thank you when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount.

If you are making your donation online, and you'd like to receive the audio book, type the word "remember" into the keycode box that you see on the donation form or simply call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and request a copy of the Thanksgiving audiobook from Barbara Rainey.  Again, it's our way of saying thank you to you for your support of this ministry.  We appreciate your generosity.

Now, tomorrow we're going to continue to talk about what submission is and what it isn't, and the second half of that may be just as important as the first half.  I hope you can be with us for that tomorrow.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas -- help for today; hope for tomorrow.


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