FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Submission Experiment

with Sara Horn | May 15, 2017
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Would your husband say that you're a submissive wife? After taking a year to imitate the Proverbs 31 wife as best she could, Sara Horn was ready for another challenge. Sara talks about the ups and downs of her year trying to practice biblical submission. Find out what she learned about herself-and God's idea of submission-during her 12 months participating in this interesting experiment.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Would your husband say that you're a submissive wife? After taking a year to imitate the Proverbs 31 wife as best she could, Sara Horn was ready for another challenge. Sara talks about the ups and downs of her year trying to practice biblical submission. Find out what she learned about herself-and God's idea of submission-during her 12 months participating in this interesting experiment.

  • 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.

Would your husband say that you’re a submissive wife? Sara Horn talks about the ups and downs of her year trying to practice biblical submission.

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The Submission Experiment

With Sara Horn
May 15, 2017
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Bob: When Sara Horn tells other women about her one-year experiment—how she set aside a year to try to practice what it means to be submissive and to be a helper—she gets some interesting reactions.

Sara: I get two different reactions. The first reaction from women is usually, “More power to you, but I could never do that.” Then, the second one that I’ve gotten from women is, “You know, I’m not sure if I could do it; but I’d really like to try.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So, how about you? Is this an experiment you’d like to try? We’ll hear about Sara Horn’s one year of submission today. Stay with us.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.

Dennis: I’ve got a question for you.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: I’ve got a question.

Bob: Yes?

Dennis: When you were in high school, did you ever have any memorable experiments in your chemistry class or—

Bob: Chemistry experiments?

Dennis: —you don’t really take biology in high school.

Bob: I took biology! I remember dissecting—we dissected a fish. It was a perch, and we named him Lurch the Perch. [Laughter] We dissected him. I remember dissecting Lurch. Chemistry—I don’t remember—I remember getting a “C.” That’s all I remember about chemistry. I did not do particularly well.

Dennis: So that wasn’t your thing?

Bob: That was not memorable, but you—

Dennis: Well, I had some experiments that kind of—

Bob: You got combustible in chemistry; didn’t you?

Dennis: —bordered on dangerous! [Laughter] I’m not going to get into that now.

We’re going to talk about a memorable experiment for a woman—specifically, a wife.

Sara Horn joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome to the broadcast, Sara.



Sara: Thanks for having me!


Dennis: You really did have an interesting experiment; didn’t you?

Sara: I did; I did.

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: And you’re sure you want to go here on this?—talk about combustible! [Laughter]

Dennis: Yes!

Bob: This could be really combustible!

Dennis: This could be, but we’re going to bring respectability to the subject. I think we need to talk about this subject with dignity/encouragement—it’s a sacred subject. It’s all over the Scriptures; okay?

Let me just tell them who Sara is. She is married to Cliff—has been for 16 years—he’s in the military. She’s a military wife, mom, and author—runs a ministry called Wives of Faith, which is a ministry to military wives all across the country.

Sara: Right.

Dennis: Share with our listeners a little bit about what you try to do there.

Sara: We try to encourage, support, and connect military wives and really point them to Jesus and help them grow in their relationships to Christ. We offer different ministries—whether it’s prayer; whether it’s “Survival Sisters,” which is a mentoring ministry where we pair military wives together; as well as online Bible studies.


Dennis: Okay; alright. You’ve written a book called My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife—and woman; right?

Sara: Yes, as a Proverbs 31 wife.

Dennis: Yes; I’m not going to tell them the name of this book. [Laughter]

Bob: —the newer book that she wrote? [Laughter]

Dennis: I’m not going to tell them the title of the newer book. I just want you to tell them about your experiment and what led you to go on this one-year experiment.

Sara: The Proverbs 31 Wife experiment—

Dennis: No.

Sara: —or the other experiment?

Dennis: The other one.

Sara: Ohhh.

Dennis: This one right here.

Sara: Okay; well, after going through the Proverbs 31 Wife experiment—and I call them experiments because they sound a little less dangerous— [Laughter]—a little—

Dennis: You don’t know about my experiment—

Bob: —in high school.

Dennis: —in high school.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: It involved sodium and water.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: That’s dangerous. [Laughter and explosion noises]

Sara: And, Bob, I wasn’t very good in chemistry either.

Bob: Okay; alright.

Sara: I was right there with you with the “C.”



But I had gone through the Proverbs 31 Wife experiment, and had taken a year to look at what it meant to be a Proverbs 31 wife—applied some of those principles we find in that passage. God just really taught me some deep, deep lessons about myself and about my marriage. So, He kind of brought me to this next point where I was, I guess you could say, a little bit more ready to take this on. So, for a year, I decided to look at this whole idea of biblical submission and what that looks like in a marriage today.

Bob: Okay; so describe for me who you were before you did either of these experiments.

Sara: Yes.

Bob: What kind of wife were you?

Sara: I was very opinionated / very assertive. I am an ambitious person to begin with—I’m very Type A. My husband Cliff is a sweetheart—he’s very Type B. So I was often the one that was kind of calling the shots. He would say, “Sure dear; whatever you want.”



We just sort of went along; and yet, at the same time, I was stressed—I was constantly just battling things, and juggling things, and just not always happy within myself. As I started to go through these year-long experiences and really apply these things, God really started to change some things within me, as a wife.

Dennis: I’m going to stop you because I want to ask you—back to Bob’s question: “On a 1-10 point scale, how would you have rated your marriage before both of these experiments?”

Sara: It’s always been a good marriage. I would say it was probably a 7 or an 8.

Dennis: Okay; and now that you’ve performed both of these experiments?

Sara: I’d say it’s a 9—I wouldn’t say it’s perfect

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Yes.

Sara: —but I would say we are as close as we’ve ever been.

Bob: But your motivation to go through Proverbs 31 and try to flesh that out was not because you were trying to fix something that felt really broken in your marriage.


Sara: Not really; no.


It was more about finding out what more God had for me, as a wife and as a mom, in my family; because, for so long, I looked at the role of being a wife and being a mom as not necessarily as important as what I did outside the home. I had a ministry—I wrote about things that God was doing in the lives of other people—and that is where I always saw my value. It wasn’t until I started going through these experiments where I realized—these experiences—where I realized there is great value in my role as a wife and as a mom.

Dennis: You’d been married more than a decade when you went through—

Sara: Yes.

Dennis: —the first experiment.

Sara: Right.

Dennis: Fourteen or fifteen years of marriage—you decide to kind of pull out the stops and say, “I’m going to take a one-year focus on what it means to be a wife who really exploits what God had in mind when he called her to submit to her husband.”

Sara: Right.

Bob: Did you chafe against that whole concept?


Sara: I did. Those were parts of the Bible I ignored—I didn’t want to think about it. I think a lot of women—we tend to overlook those passages. Yet, after I’d gone through this Proverbs 31 experience, I knew those passages were there. I knew they were there for a reason. If I recognized the Bible as my sole authority, which I do, and how God uses that to teach me and to grow me, then I knew I needed to take a look at these passages and really be more intentional in applying them and seeing what that looked like today.

Bob: So did you tell Cliff? Did you say, “I’m going to spend a year being submissive”?

Sara: I did. [Laughter]

Dennis: Oh, you actually—[Laughter]

Sara: I did.

Dennis: —you told him what you were going to do before you did it?

Sara: I did. I asked him—you know, as a submissive wife, I’ve got to ask my husband; right? You know what his answer was? I said: “What do you think about me applying biblical submission for a year? What do you think?” He said, “No; don’t do it.”

Dennis: Really?

Sara: Yes!

Dennis: Why?



Sara: I thought he was going to say, “Sure, bring me my sweet tea and slippers”; you know?

Bob: Right. [Laughter]

Sara: But he said: “That’s not us. We’re a team / we’re a partnership—we do everything 50/50 together. That’s not you / that’s not me.”

So I kind of had to pause. I was really surprised. We took a look at it for the next day or so. He kind of looked at those passages. I think he found something, online, that a woman had written talking about the biblical submission passage. He said: “You know? Okay; if you want to give it a shot, we’ll try it.”

Dennis: Now, Sara, you know there’s a generation of young ladies coming off the college and university campus today—

Sara: Yes.

Dennis: —who have heard the company line—the PC company line—that says: “You know what? You don’t need a marriage where you’ve got anybody who’s got a role.

Sara: Right.

Dennis: “It’s just purely 50/50.”



You’re writing a book, now, that is flying in the face of what the culture is promoting—

Sara: Yes.

Dennis: —and, really, indoctrinating a generation of young ladies with today.

Sara: Yes; very much so. I get two different reactions from women when they hear about this book. First of all, this is not a how-to—this is just my story and what happened during that year—because I think every marriage is different. Every wife is going to come to this from a different place / from maybe a different perspective. It may be a process for them to get there.

But I have two different reactions—the first reaction from women is usually, “More power to you, but I could never do that.” Then, the second one that I’ve gotten from women is, “You know, I’m not sure if I could do it; but I’d really like to try.” I sense a growing desire from so many women who have bought the PC line—who have tried applying what the culture says we should do, as wives—and it’s not working. They’re struggling, and it isn’t going the way they thought.


They look at this, and they say: “You know what? Maybe there is something to this,” just like I did.

Bob: But you said your 50/50 teammate marriage was working okay.

Sara: It was okay, but it wasn’t—there were still bumps in the road. For me, personally, it was because I was so consumed, I guess, with what I was doing outside the home / what I was doing outside my marriage and our family. I really felt like I needed to just come back to basics and really look at the role that God had for me, as a wife and as a mom—that’s it.

Bob: You not only told your husband that you intended to spend a year as a submissive wife, but you were living with your in-laws at the time.

Sara: We were.

Bob: You told your mother-in-law.

Sara: I did.

Bob: And how did that go over?

Sara: Well, she listened; and she said, “Okay,”—I kind of wanted more of a reaction from her. “Well, do you think this is a good idea?” She kind of looked at me, and in a very sweet but honest way, she said, “I’ve known you a long time, and submissive is not one word I would think of when I think about you.”


So, it was a very interesting process getting started with this because, with the Proverbs 31 Wife experience, you kind of have that list of all of those things that she does.

Dennis: Yes.

Sara: But what does it look like to be submissive today? You have those verses in Ephesians 5, and 1 Peter 3, and Colossians; but they say, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands as is fitting to the Lord,” but what does that look like? So, I kind of had to walk through that, and Cliff did too.

Dennis: And what would you say is the biggest misconception young women today have about submission when it comes to their marriage?

Bob: “Sweet tea and slippers”—it sounds like to me!

Sara: Yes! Well, you think you’re going to be a doormat. You think you’re going to be a Stepford wife / you’re going to check your brain at the door—you don’t have any say / you can’t say anything—you step back like you’re a servant of some sort. That’s not what it is at all.



Something that I learned from the Proverbs 31 Wife experience that really, truly went into this year as well, is that we, as women and as wives, are such profound influences—

Dennis: Oh, yes!

Sara: —such profound influences to our husbands.

Dennis: Powerful.

Sara: It’s enormously powerful, and I think we don’t recognize that. We are so conditioned today that we need to stand up for our rights and to lead as we see that we miss seeing that whole idea of being that influence and what that looks like. It’s less about being a doormat or being walked all over—it’s more about really leaning into this role of influence that God has called us to.

Bob: It sounds like both your husband and your mother-in-law were thinking: “This is going to require a complete altering of your personality. You’re going to have to become a different woman in order to become submissive.”


Sara: Yes; I think that was—you know, even my mom, when I told her, she kind of laughed pretty hard, I think, [Laughter] and said, “Okay; Sara!”

Bob: “Good luck!”

Sara: Yes!

Bob: Were you concerned that this was going to turn you into some mealy-mouthed woman that you’re not?

Sara: I was a little nervous about it, thinking, “Okay; am I going to have to keep my mouth shut more times than I really want to?” But honestly, I was approaching this from a question. You know, when you start an experiment, you have a hypothesis and you have observations you want to make. I really came into this, saying: “Okay, God; what do You want to teach me about this whole idea of biblical submission in my marriage? What do You want to teach me about my role as a wife?” and “How can I grow in this?” That was primarily my motivation for doing this.

Dennis: You know, usually, when we make an experiment like this—and we kind of put it out there—


—God soon delivers a test where He really challenges the hypothesis.

Sara: Oh, yes!

Dennis: Was there a—I’m not talking about a minor deal—

Sara: Right.

Dennis: —I’m talking about one where it was, “Gulp!” and you go, “Okay; it’s game on, and this is my assignment”?

Sara: Well, there was a test toward the very beginning of the experiment—I failed it miserably. As we got into this experiment and, you know, we were kind of going through the days, I was trying to find my way—feel my way around—what this looked like. We were living with my in-laws—my husband had just gotten back from a deployment. We were kind of resettling, if you will, and figuring out what we were going to do next.

As much as I love my in-laws, I really was looking forward to our own house again.

My husband had just, you know, been hired—had a job with the state.


We were slowly starting to work on that, but it wasn’t happening quite fast enough for me. So, I found a part-time job that I had heard about—I interviewed for. All of a sudden, I realized I hadn’t said a word to my husband about it—not asked him what he thought.

Dennis: Whoa!

Sara: Yes; and I think I was traveling at the time. Yes! Big, big: “Whoa!” [Laughter] Big: “Oops! [Laughter] Whoops!”—not very biblically submissive. [Laughter]

Dennis: So how did you brooch that subject with him?

Sara: Well, I hadn’t even thought about it. I think I was on the phone with him—I was traveling—I said, “Oh, by the way, I’ve got this interview.” He said: “Wait; what?! What is this about?” So I said: “Oh! Whoops! I forgot to tell you about that.” We talked about it. I was so far into that process already that he kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay; Sara, if that’s what you want to do.


“But you are already doing all of these other things.” So, I went ahead with it—I took on a part-time job. Probably two weeks into it, I realized what a mistake I had made.

Dennis: Did you long for Cliff to say, “You know, Sara, I’d really like you to reconsider this”?

Sara: At the time, I probably was a little resistant to that. At the time, I was still kind of in my way of thinking: “I can handle this. I know better. I can do this.” It wasn’t until I’d kind of gotten through that whole first mistake that I realized, “You know, there’s something to be said for coming to your husband and having a chat about something before you jump into it.” [Laughter]

Dennis: And—

Sara: —and likewise for him too.

Dennis: I have to give you a chance to tell a story that talks about when you got it right and you thought: “I’ve got it! This really works!


“This is really healthy for us. This is good for our marriage, and it’s good for Cliff.”

Sara: Yes. Well, one of the things that comes to mind is something I had always wanted my husband to do—was family devotions. It was just kind of hard to get him to do that. It just wasn’t on his heart—not that he was against it—he just hadn’t really done it. I don’t think they had done it, as a family, growing up. I’d always wanted him to do it, and I never wanted to be the one to initiate it—I wanted him to. For a long time, we just kind of went back and forth and never did family devotions.

I might have to tell a little bit of a mistake and then what I learned from it. So, at the bookstore one day, I had found this devotional book that we could do with our son— that was appropriate for his age, at the time. I thought: “You know, maybe I should call him and see what he thinks. No, I’ll just buy it.


“I’ll take it home and lay it out somewhere. Maybe he’ll pick it up and have this sudden motivation to lead our family devotion.”

I got home that day, and I was so excited about it! He just happened to call me as I walked in—I mentioned it to him. He kind of paused and said, “Okay; why didn’t you call me and ask what I might want to do?” I said, “Well, because I thought you might not want to do it.” He said, “Well, then why didn’t you call me?” [Laughter] We kind of went round and round. We actually ended up laughing about it, because it was so silly. The devotional sat there on the desk in the kitchen for months and was not picked up until one day he came in, and picked it up, and said, “Hey, would you like to do a devotional tonight?”

Now, something that I started learning—I got right, later—was probably two or three weeks into it. We’d been doing it [devotional] once a week. We were supposed to do it—it was a Sunday night, and we were going to do it at a certain time.



I noticed the time, and I noticed that he was still in our little game room. We were in our house by that point—he was playing a video game with our son. I was kind of watching the time; and I was thinking, “It’s supposed to be our devotional time.”

I went into the game room and I said: “Did you notice the time? Are we going to do the family devotion?” I was trying to be as nice and sweet as possible. He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I went into the living room, and I was sitting there. I read my book or whatever I was doing. About 15 minutes later, my husband and my son came in; and we did our family devotion.

Later that night, before we got ready for bed, Cliff kind of nudged me—he said, “I saw what you did there today.” I said: “Really? What?!” He said: “You didn’t nag me. You didn’t harp on the fact that I was late starting our family devotion. You just let me decide when we were going to do it.”



That was one little example of what I kind of started to learn. You know, there is so much good that can happen when you step back just a little bit and let your husband have the room to lead, and to lead in his way, and to lead with his personality and his traits instead of trying to tell him how you think he should lead.

Dennis: I think there are a lot of men, who are listening right now, who are saying, “You know, if she wants to lead, I’ll just let her take over.”

Sara: Yes.

Dennis: They get weary of competing.

Sara: Huge!

Dennis: I think the easiest thing for them to do is lead in the marketplace—

Sara: Right.

Dennis: —and come home and vegetate—

Sara: Yes.

Dennis: —and just become passive.

Sara: Yes.


Dennis: It is a wise woman, who can pick up a book like this—maybe begin their own secret—I might say [whispering]: “Don’t tell him. Don’t tell him you’re going to do this. Don’t tell your mother-in-law either!” [Laughter] [Normal voice]:


“Just do this experiment of saying: ‘I’m going to empower him. I’m going to surprise him with how I empower him to be the man and to lead in our marriage / our family.’ Just sit back and smile and see how God uses you, because a woman is never more powerful than when she is operating according to God’s design.”

Bob: There may be some husbands listening, who are going [heavy country accent]: “Where do I get me one of them there books you’re talking about? [Laughter] I wanna get my wife a copy of My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife!

Dennis: What goes around comes around!

Bob: “I’m going to put it on her pillow tonight!”

Dennis: Put it right there!

Bob: You don’t think that’s a good idea?

Sara: I highly discourage that. [Laughter]

Bob: Let her pick it up for herself?

Sara: Yes.

Bob: Well, we do have copies of Sara’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at to order a copy; again, the website—


Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order over the phone—1-800-358-6329 / 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” 

I know for many of you, the month of May can be a very busy month—lots of family activities—school’s starting to wind down / there are graduation ceremonies. In fact, we attended graduation last week. Our son was—they call it—they “Hood them”; don’t they? He was “hooded” with his PhD—so we got to go to his commencement exercises last week. Lots of stuff like that is happening in families this month; and then you’re starting to make plans for the summer, or maybe those plans are already underway.

Here, at FamilyLife, we’ve got a lot going on as well. We’ve got a number of projects that we are hoping to continue moving, full-speed ahead, on during the summer months.


To make that happen, we’re asking friends of the ministry if they could make a donation, here in the month of May, so that we are well-prepared for what is coming this summer.

We’ve set a goal of trying to raise, this month, $1.1 million. We’ve had some matching funds made available to help us achieve that goal.

We want to ask: “If you’re a regular listener to FamilyLife Today—if it’s been awhile since you’re made a contribution or if you’re able today to make a donation—would you go to and donate, online, or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone? Or if you’d prefer, you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.” We still have a long way to go to get to that goal of $1.1 million, but we’re hoping regular listeners and those of you who have benefitted from this ministry would consider making a donation.



Whatever amount you’re able to give will mean a lot to us as we head into the summer.

And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We want to talk more about how a wife’s willing responsiveness to her husband’s leadership actually empowers him and encourages him to be a more godly leader. We’ll talk more about that with Sara Horn tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with 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.

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