Occasionally in the dance world, I’ll hear a follower say “All I need is a good leader” or “The follower doesn’t need to know the steps, she just has to hang on.” While I can speak from experience that a strong leader enhances the dance and may be able to compensate in some ways for a follower’s inexperience, the follower cannot be overly dependent on him. Expecting the leader to carry her weight around the floor becomes overburdening and tiring to him. When a leader must push, pull or drag a follower through the moves, it is no longer a dance.
Following, whether in partner dance or marriage, is not passive. Once the dance lead (an invitation) is given, the follower executes the move by her own effort. In marriage, consider the wife of noble character described in Proverbs 31. “She is energetic and strong, a hard worker,” reads verse 17 in the New International Version (NIV). “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness,” says verse 27.
In Christian marriage, the scriptural references to a wife’s submission to her husband may be misconceived in a similar way to the follower’s role in dancing. While wives are instructed to submit to their husbands’ God-given leadership, it is not meant to be a passive stance. It is voluntary, intentional and active.
“Wives often tell me that if they submit to their husbands, it means burying their brains and becoming a doormat,” writes Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in Love and Respect, addressing a misconception about submission. His book explains the biblical definitions of hierarchy and authority by which God created marriage relationships to work. To submit “simply means recognizing the husband’s biblically given authority,” he writes, and does not mean being a doormat.
Copr. 2009 MarriageDance