Spiritual Disciplines: The Holy Habit of Submission. (@longingtobeholy)

I think maybe I’m cheating a bit this month.  BigBible is looking at Joshua, as you’re probably aware.  And the Spiritual Discipline we’ll be looking at was inspired by Joshua.  But not by that Joshua.  Let me explain.  Our firstborn is called Joshua.  The name means ‘God is my Salvation’, and was a very deliberate choice, but you can read that story elsewhere.

As I say, it was he who inspired this month’s Holy Habit.  Sunday was Fathers’ Day here in the UK.  In the morning, as I was sat on the sofa, having had cards and presents, Joshua came wandering over to me (he’s six).  I couldn’t work out from his expression what he was thinking, and when he said, ‘what do you want to do?’, I wasn’t exactly sure what he was going on about.  “What do you mean, sweetheart?”, I asked.

Well, it’s your day, so you can do what you want“, was his response.  I was very touched by his offer.  He was submitting his day to me.  “It’s your day” was his way of saying that he would allow himself to be guided by me.  On Fathers’ Day, what he wanted wasn’t as important as what I wanted.  Thankfully, I resisted the cynical-adult response of, “Actually, sweetheart, there are a number of responsibilities that I have to carry out today, despite the tag ‘Fathers’ Day’ that has been artificially attached to it.”  Instead, I told him that what I really wanted was a cuddle.  I got it.

But it got me thinking about submission.  Submission’s not the most popular of disciplines, is it?  It’s weakness, isn’t it?  Who wants to be a doormat for Jesus, after all?

A doormat. Don’t be mistaken for one.

But, no, that’s not what submission is about.  Submission isn’t about weakness, it’s merely a decision.  When I play football with Joshua, I don’t always win.  That’s submission (though a time will come when I won’t win despite my best efforts!).  When I went for a walk with my almost-two-year-old this afternoon, I didn’t end up 500 metres ahead of him.  That’s submission.  Submission is, in part, refusing to enforce our priorities and approach on others.  It’s putting others first.  If every time I played football with Joshua, I wiped the floor with him, we probably wouldn’t be playing much these days.

Of course, our ultimate example of submission is found in Christ – not only did He submit Himself to becoming man, He submitted Himself to being killed by man.  Philippians 2 reminds us that he ‘humbled himself’, becoming ‘obedient to death, even death on a cross’.

And then I look back at the book of Joshua and find example after example of submission.  Not bowing to a greater power, but an offering of oneself.

Chapter one sees the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, who have already been granted a portion of the land, submitting themselves to Joshua and the Israelites to stand and fight with them as they take hold of God’s promise as a nation.  They tell Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go”.

In chapter two, Rahab and the spies are mutually submissive – Rahab submitting to the spies despite the danger to her own safety, and the spies submitting themselves to Rahab and her family, despite the fact that they are coming as conquerors.

And time and again, throughout the book, we see people submitting themselves to each other and to God’s rule.  We also see, as The Alethiophile wrote about, the consequences of failing to do this.

So what does this mean in the digital realm?

Well, submission is not any more popular here.  But by submitting in a sensible manner, we may find ourselves shining like stars.  In an online altercation, submission may mean simply listening to someone else and trying to submit your thoughts to their worldview.  You don’t need to abandon your understanding of truth, but you might benefit from approaching things differently.  You might benefit from looking at your own views through their eyes.

Submission might involve something as simple as asking rather than asserting.  Submission is not a lack of confidence, but it is an absence of arrogance.

Submission may at times mean holding your tongue.  Again, not to dilute the truth, but to pick your battles.  Daniel submitted himself to having a new name (and names were incredibly important and meaningful!) but refused to submit to a new menu.


Licensed under creative commons

Remember, too, that ultimately, submission in the sense of a spiritual discipline is done out of love.  When we get to a give way sign, we yield because we have to.  When we learn submission as a Holy Habit, we begin to yield because we want to.  We yield out of love.  Love both for others and for God.  Like my son Joshua was willing to submit his Sunday to me because it was Fathers’ Day and the loving thing to do, our submission to others should spring from love.

How can you submit this month, not in a way that denies the importance of the truth, but in a way that asserts the importance of another individual?

About Nick Parish

Nick is a stay at home Dad who’s slowly learning that this fact doesn’t need to be justified by adding things like, ‘I’m writing a book’, and ‘I’m a Special Constable with Derbyshire Police’ (though both these facts are true…) He is heavily outnumbered by girls during term time, living in a boarding school in the Midlands. He grew up (ish) in Pakistan, returning to England at the age of 14. Though he’s happy to think of both places at home, he keeps reminding himself that he’ll never really be home this side of eternity. He is married to Anna, who runs the boarding house in which they live, and they have two boys, Joshua and Luke. He blogs at longingtobeholy.wordpress.com and Tweets @longingtobeholy