Help! We Can’t Control This Canoe! (aka Thoughts on Biblical Marriage)

coupleMy husband and I get along great together. Our strengths complement each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Over the years, we have worked together well in Bible schools, after school programs, church camps . . . so many ways. Both of us rely heavily on the other’s input when we are working on a project and we both know that we are stronger when we are together. It is a great relationship.

boat_canoeJust don’t ever, EVER put us in a canoe together.

It will only lead to disaster.

Tom and I weren’t even married when we had our one, and only, experience canoeing together. As students at a Christian College, we were serving on that college’s “camp team”. This meant that during the summer we were attending different church camps, working as camp counselors while representing our school. At this particular time, we were at a church camp in Northern Michigan and we were about to embark on a daily excursion with the teenagers which involved canoeing down one of Michigan’s many rivers.

Why don’t the two of you take the last canoe and bring up the rear,” the camp dean suggested, “you can help any of the teens who fall behind.”

Sure, we can do that,” Tom replied.

Of course, we had never been canoeing together before. We had no idea that the true test of our relationship was about to begin.

Shortly after God created a man, He created a woman. Knowing that it was not good for the man to be alone, He created someone who would be the perfect complement for the man. He created another human being, one that was made specifically to complete the man. It was a beautiful picture of marriage and would later serve as a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His church.

From the very beginning, Satan knew that if he could destroy the marriage relationship, he could destroy the church. When planning his first temptation, he went straight to the woman, and succeeded at undermining the authority of God and wreaking havoc on the marriage relationship in the process.

With the entry of sin into the world, the marriage relationship suffered. No longer was it a perfect institution. Instead, it was made of two imperfect people, who, instead of complementing each other’s strengths, often magnify each other’s weaknesses.

Our problems with the canoe started almost immediately. Let me preface this by saying that I had never been in a canoe before and I have an incredible fear of going under water. Stepping into that canoe was not easy for me, and it was made even more difficult when my fiance kept telling me to get in and sit down.

Finally, I got in, sat down, and began to panic, causing the canoe to tip over, and sending us both into the water.

There has been a lot written about Biblical submission. I am looking at the passage right now . . . it says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” It is undeniable, wives are called to submit. It is our job . . . our duty . . . our calling . . .

But submission is a whole lot more than giving up our rights and doing what our husbands command. In fact, that is a totally incorrect definition of submission. Submission is an act of love . . . it is one person willingly and cheerfully placing herself under the leadership of her husband and, ultimately, it is a reflection of the relationship of Christ and His church.

Finally, I was in the canoe and the canoe was steady and upright. “I can do this,” I thought to myself, “I can stay in this canoe.”

And then we tried to get the canoe to move.

No matter what we did, the canoe kept going around in circles. When we finally got the canoe straightened out, it headed right towards a patch of trees and bushes on the side of the river.

We’re going to crash!” I screamed.

And crash we did.

When two people are in a canoe and neither one knows how to steer, there is going to be trouble. They are going to crash.

When two people are in a marriage relationship and neither one knows how to lead, there is going to be trouble. They are going to crash.

Husbands are called to lead. That is their responsibility. . .their God given calling. But leadership is a whole lot more than telling the wife what to do and forcing submission. In fact, that is a totally incorrect definition of leadership. On the contrary, the leadership of a husband in a marriage relationship is meant to be dictated by love. It is meant to be a reflection of the relationship of Christ and His church.

fig_jesusThink about that.

Christ gave up all of His rights to be a servant.

Christ loved the church so much that He gave up His life for her.

Christ was wiling to die for His bride.

That is the kind of leadership husbands are called to practice in the marriage relationship.

It was while stuck in the branches at the side of the river where we were discovered by the occupants of the last canoe. Luckily for us, there had been one final canoe coming down that river . . . one that was occupied by the bus driver and his assistant.

Do you guys need help?”

Yeah, thanks! We don’t have any idea what we are doing!”

And that is how we ended up in separate canoes, following the current, relaxing and enjoying ourselves on one of Michigan’s many rivers. We made it through that trip, not because of anything we did, but because of the people who were willing to get in the canoes with us and make sure we completed the course.

Marriages are in trouble all around us. Perhaps yours is in trouble right now. Perhaps you are the ones who would say, “We need help! We don’t have any idea what we are doing!” Perhaps you need to find another couple who will get in the canoe with you and make sure you complete the course.

Or perhaps you are that other couple. Perhaps you can see the couples who are struggling all around you and you are the ones who need to step out of the comfort of your canoe and help them navigate the river, making sure they complete the course.

The Marriage RelationshipOur canoeing trip together did not destroy our relationship. We still went through with our wedding the following summer and we have now been married for over twenty years.

Our is not a perfect marriage . . . there is no such thing. However, ours is a marriage built on the Word of God, which includes Biblical Submission and Biblical Leadership. It is a marriage that will last.

Just don’t ever ask us to get in a canoe together.

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.”

Colossians 3:18-19 (NASB)

This post is similar to one found in my book Banana Bread & Mismatched Socks: 100 Devotional Thoughts From My Every Day Life.  Buy your copy today!

clip art courtesy of

4 thoughts on “Help! We Can’t Control This Canoe! (aka Thoughts on Biblical Marriage)

Add yours

  1. Cheri, what a great story! And you do a wonderful job of intermingling biblical truths about marriage about marriage throughout!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: