In the years since writing The Shack, it’s been an honor for me to see which parts of it move and inspire people the most. I’ve noticed a few quotes seem to especially resound with readers, and I thought it might be helpful for me to unpack a few of those moments a little further here.
“Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.”
–The Shack, pg 145
Submission is a great word to talk about, and not just for reasons we might think. There’s a whole lot more to the idea of submission than we usually give it credit for, because the whole idea of it is actually fundamentally tapping into our understanding of God. Does submission, as we understand it, come from God? Or is it something we invented outside of God?
As I see it, the root of the matter is this: Do we believe there’s a hierarchy inside our relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
That’s a basic question, because the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the model for all of our human relationships. And if there is such a hierarchy in the Trinity, we have a validation for hierarchy on earth. But if there is no hierarchy in the Trinity—if they’re all equal to each other—than our own relational hierarchies don’t reflect God at all.
Actually, that was one of the questions that drove me into the Trinity. And what I found in my own research and exploration of the Bible is that, instead of a hierarchy, you have an eternally equal, face-to-face reality inside the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Historically, the Christian tradition said that there is no hierarchy in the Trinity. Every Christian tradition has declared that the idea of “The Son being eternally subordinate to the Father” is heresy. The Son and the Father are one.
Once we understand God outside of a hierarchical power structure, we’ve got to redefine our understanding of submission. It’s not one person forever submitting to another; it’s fluid, moving thing. I give up this, at this moment, because the relationship matters to me. You give up something else at another moment, because the relationship matters to you. It becomes a relational dance.
Actually, we see this in how God interacts with us in our own lives. He doesn’t come to us and say, “You are terrible at making good choices, so I’m going to make this choice for you.” No, God never makes our choices for us (even though, at times, we may have wanted Him to.)
No, God says “Alright. If that’s what you’re bringing to the table, let’s build off of this.” That’s God submitting to us.
The cross itself is a grand testament to the idea of a God who is submissive by nature. And if we’re made in the image of God, then we need to submit one to another—because that is an expression of the being of God.
How have you seen submission become an active, fluid thing in your own life?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. (And be sure to give your email at the bottom of this page, if you haven’t already, and we’ll keep you up to date on our unfolding conversation.)