Let me articulate that the revelation that I have come to simply applies to my own personality and my personal marriage; it may not be applicable to any other marriage, and I am not suggesting that it is or should be. Those choosing to live this way are beautifully aware that each couple is different, and there is little to no judgment in sharing what works for them; I mean to reciprocate those same sentiments. If this feels offensive to any reader, it is not my intent and I sincerely apologize. I would simply defeat the value and purpose of blogging if I suppress my sincere and honest thoughts.
Last night Bruce and I had our first serious argument about domestic discipline. By his own admission he is bad with words, but after fumbling around trying to articulate what he was upset about, he finally blurted "To change yourself you need to rely less on this and more on God!" Wow. Something struck me to the core in that moment. He is right; I am relying on this dynamic to change my behavior. In fact if I am really honest with myself I have to admit that my prayers about my marriage have been less deep and have had fewer requests for His guidance since we've started this... I've still wanted to be a good Christian wife, but I have been looking in more than one place for the strength and guidance to do so. God is clear that He and He alone is enough for me in absolutely all things, so I have been entirely wrong to seek elsewhere.
I don't think this means that the Domestic Discipline lifestyle is completely wrong. I reflect back to my meeting with the Pastor... the only moment that he was hesitant was when I said we wanted to specifically use spanking as a punishment, and now I believe I understand his hesitation. It is only the formal punishment involved in this lifestyle that I am finding to be detrimental to us, and here's why: when he enforces a punishment, I do not have to want to change. He makes me go through certain actions and in response to those actions I eventually soften my heart, and then I want to change. But I should want to change because the Holy Spirit is in my heart and I am relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance in changing myself. Thus, punishments that are mandatory have only been effective in changing my behavior, not in changing my true desire to be a submissive woman of Christ. If he strongly suggests that I go into the other room and calm down/pray before continuing the conversation, he is still exerting his authority... but to be truly submissive, I have to make my own choice to take his suggestion. In order for me to own it, his suggestion of what I should do (take a moment, pray, etc.) has to be optional. I'm not talking about a few swats here and there for speaking out of line, it's just that serious behavioral choices need to be on me.
With maintenance, it is not personal change that I seek. I desire maintenance because I want to feel his authority, and I want to demonstrate that I will submit to him and trust him even when I feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. As far as I can tell, demonstrating authority and submission is a totally natural and healthy expression of Christian marriage. I need to be reminded of his authority, and I think my character (and our connection) benefits from the humbling act of laying across his lap.
Another beautiful part of domestic discipline is the disappearance of passive aggressive behavior toward one another. When we are arguing and he has run out of patience and things to say, he spanks me. I submit to the spanking because I love him, I respect him, and I don't want him to be angry. When we take this consensual "break" from discussing, we are not abandoning each other. We are still expressing the desire to be intimate, his intention to lead, and my intention to submit, but we have a minute to think. Perhaps in a perfect world he and I would never get frustrated enough to need a break, but unfortunately this is not a perfect world. While we first and foremost need to pray before continuing the discussion, I don't think this expression of authority/submission alters our motivations for being more considerate in our discussion. We come back calmer because he has re-expressed authority and I have expressed submission, but our concerns and ideas about what needs to be communicated remain unchanged (although a momentary break often gives me the clarity of closing my mouth for a while!). Only prayer can change the effectiveness of our communication.
Along similar lines, my anxiety (OCD) is a physiological imbalance that is outside of my control to a certain degree. I can pray for strength to control my behavior and soften my looping, but I am literally incapable of stopping a loop entirely. Bruce's (repeated) spankings to make me physically stop looping were beautiful because no amount of will power can possibly make that happen; it has to be a physical reset. Therapists suggest turning on the radio at an extremely high volume, or other such physical and emotional distractions. In my experience, few things are more emotionally distracting than being spanked!
Thank God that my husband is more naturally in tune with the Holy Spirit than I am. This afternoon I asked him (after a brief prayer) if we could make this one change within domestic discipline ...my owning my behavior rather than a mandatory punishment... and see how it goes. To my relief he agreed that this is the one context that didn't ring true to him either, so we are really on the same page with this. We may be totally wrong about absolutely everything, but trying to discern what God wants for our marriage is a long and winding journey, especially in this screwed up society. All I can do is try...