In ballroom dance, I learned that it was the man’s job to lead and all the lady had to do was follow. I also learned that “just following” wasn’t very easy. It involved a great deal of strength, the ability to respond quickly, and creativity. Ephesians 5:22 tells Christian wives to be subject to their own husband as to the Lord. But, as in dance, being subject—or following—isn’t easy. It, too, requires strength, responsiveness, and creativity.
When I first read the admonition in Ephesians for wives to be subject to their husbands, as well as the reference in Genesis 2:18 to the wife as a helper, I got a terribly wrong impression. To me, “be subject” and “helper” conjured images of a servant, a go-fer, a Girl Friday. I have come to understand that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Hebrew word is ezer. It most often refers to God as a strong and mighty helper. Here are some examples:
Deuteronomy 33:26: There is none like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to your help,
And through the skies in His majesty.
Psalm 33:20: Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
Psalm 70:5: But I am afflicted and needy;
Hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay.
In the New Testament, we see that Jesus submitted His own will to the Father, but that in no way means He was weaker.
In dance, I was amazed at how much strength was required to follow. At first, it was hard just holding my arms up in dance position for three minutes. Some of the steps looked like the man was supporting the lady’s weight, but it was an illusion. In reality, she was supporting the majority of her own weight with one leg. At a minimum, the lady must have the physical stamina to make it through the dance. One partner pulling the other around the dance floor is not a dance.
In dance, the lady also must respond to her partner’s lead in a split second. The best male dancers know how to signal in advance that they are going into a turn, or hesitating, or spinning their partner and that makes it easier to follow their lead. But what happens before they gain that skill and experience? Their partner must respond and follow anyway.
The same holds true in marriage. It would be nice if all husbands planned life out in advance, gave their wives time to adjust to the next step and move forward with grace. In reality, not all husbands are that skilled—or considerate—at least not at first. And yet, God asks wives to follow and “help” them anyway.
In ballroom dance, after the lady learns the basic steps in the dance syllabus, she gets to experiment with them. She gets to flick her foot and add styling with her arms. She gets to be creative and keep the dance fun. Doesn’t the same thing happen in marriage? Early in our marriage, I remember meals culled together from the available leftovers in our ‘fridge. They had names like “Hamburger Surprise,” “Vegetable Surprise,” and just, “Surprise! Surprise!” But creativity was part of the fun.
God asks wives to follow. But it is not an easy job. It is not a position of inferiority. It requires strength, responsiveness, and innovation. You cannot dance with one partner doing “the man’s share” of the work and the other partner going along for the ride. It takes two strong partners to dance well—in ballroom and in marriage.