Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." - Genesis 1:26-28
While driving across the plains of Colorado, after speaking at a couples retreat in the Rocky Mountains, Anna and I felt a heaviness due to a conversation we'd had the previous night with a couple who were experiencing marital problems. Headed almost directly into the sunrise, with an hour and a half drive ahead of us through open plains, I reached for Anna's hand, and we began to pray for that couple. Both of us felt the need for the mind of the Spirit to be expressed in prayer, for we truly did not know how to pray.
As we were praying, a song began to rise up within me. It was a spiritual song, though not any melody I knew. Soon Anna joined me. What took place in the ensuing ten minutes is one of the most memorable occurrences in my entire life. As we sang together, I experienced what I would simply call a vision. It was not a trance, nor did it make me lose sight of the road; it was just a very clear picture from the Lord.
I want to describe to you that picture and what I understood it to mean. It is related to the above scripture in Genesis. The Word of the Lord to the first couple (who were called "man," for it was all the humankind there was at that time) was to be fruitful, to multiply, and to subdue the Earth and have dominion over it. Subdue means to bring forth to the most abundant productivity. It is clear in the Scriptures that the words were spoken to both the man and the woman.
The picture that the Lord gave me in the car that day had to do with subduing the Earth. I saw something similar to what you might see on "Star Trek," with the starship Enterprise sailing out in space, stars and galaxies zipping by everywhere, projecting a sense of the vastness of the universe. I was being borne along by the hand of God on course toward what I knew to be a planet. As I approached this planet, I knew that it had a name. Its name was Anna. Drawing closer, the Lord caused me to know that it was a world in itself, a world waiting to be subdued; not subjected, but a world waiting to be brought forth to its fullest fruitfulness. I understood my mission was to "subdue that planet"...that I, as Anna's husband, was the one responsible for seeing that "world" to its highest place of productivity.
It was then that the Lord spoke to me. He said, "You have failed to subdue that world."
He did not say it in a tone that made me ashamed. It did not create a sense of condemnation in my heart. But it was as though He had unlocked a place in my mind that I didn't know existed and caused me to understand something I had never realized. I instantly saw pictures, not visions from God, but from my memory of so many events in Anna's and my life together, one small facet of which I want to share with you.
I knew that He had given me the world about which He was speaking to me. We've all heard the words of poets and songwriters: "She's everything to me, she's my world, she's all the world to me." That expression was reflective of what I had felt throughout my and Anna's life together, now seen in these pictures that were coming to me. Every couple in love has felt such emotion. I thought of the song, "What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love." My world was named "Anna," a person given to me by the Lord.Yet in hearing the Lord's word to me about having failed to "subdue," or bring to fruitfulness, my world, I realized that we have a strange (and horrible) habit of forming our attitudes toward our world on the basis of how we feel our world is relating to us. That's as backwards as a farmer who is only willing to cultivate a field on the basis of what it first produces. It's completely wrong, but, sadly, it is the way that the majority of couples relate to one another.
Allow me share one of the ways in which I failed my "world." It has to do with a special area of interest and importance to me; but I'm sure you will find a parallel to things of importance in your life.
From the time I was a boy I was steered toward an interest in music. It was a God-given gift for which I had an apparent aptitude. Junior high and high school offered opportunities in which to develop my musical capacities, and so did the church of about a thousand people that our family attended. The music of our church had all the potential that would be present in a church that size. We had a very remarkably gifted organist and pianist, both of whom put on musicals every Monday night with some of the finest guests in the gospel music field. I sang in the choir and played in a church band on Sunday nights, and I was accustomed to high quality.
My wife's experience was different. Anna, who is from Nebraska, grew up in a city of about 17,000 people, and a church of about 200. Though a nice-sized church, it was in a rural area and held musical interests quite different from mine, though I did not disapprove of them. The country sound was central to Anna's church (though by no means was it "hickish"). My musical scope ranged from pop all the way to classical.
Now the irony of this is how, on our first date, I was deeply impressed with the genuineness of Anna's personality; she was (and still is) totally without affectation. Anna never tries to impress anyone. It was on that first date that I saw a truly genuine person who was wholly herself.
A group of us had been at someone's house for a luau, and later, gathered together in the living room, one person suggested, "Someone play the piano, and let's sing a song." Anna happened to be standing right by the piano. Now, oftentimes even people who play well will back away (while secretly hoping to be begged into service). But Anna didn't say anything; she just sat down and played the song in a simple way. (With my more extensive musical background, I could have embellished it marvelously.) Everybody sang, and when the song was over, Anna simply got up from the piano, without fanfare. Her genuineness impressed me, that was the person who became my world.
As we drove across the Colorado plains that morning, years later, and God brought that incident and then others to my mind, I began to understand what He meant by, "You have not subdued your world."
The next pictures took place around the time we pastored our first little church. The only special music in the church was ministered by us, so Anna and I would sing every couple of weeks. The Lord showed me a picture of myself coaching my wife in her singing: "Honey don't do it that way, do it this way," I would say. I was not unkind or cruel, but my insensitivity over the years had resulted my dear wife no longer singing around the house like she used to when we were first married. She would hardly ever go to the piano and play it.
"You burned it out of her," the Lord told me. "With your expertise, you diminished your wife's potential for music." It wasn't that Anna never sang, or never played, or that she was unhappy. But the Lord showed me how reduced something had become in her; something she didn't even realize about herself. And I was responsible. The reason for it? I was trying to shape her in my image.
Suddenly I understood that, in a very real sense I was violating a commandment! The Lord's people never have the right to shape after our own likeness something that He has created in His image. Upon that world, in my case, Anna, He has stamped His image and purpose.
His exhortation to me was, "You are to bring what I have made to its fullest fruitfulness and productivity. How you relate to that world will determine its fruitfulness." He said, "I am making a distinct loveliness in each of you, and you will always be as different in basic capacity of personality as you are different in the reality of your sexuality. I have not made you to mirror one another but to mirror Me."
I was horrified to discover that what I had done in wanting things to be as I would have them, rather than becoming a mirror of God, was not only a kind of idolatry, but also nearly akin to Satan's boasting himself against God. What I saw was that a field is cultivated by pouring life into it, by the sowing of seed, by attention given to weeds. It's not cultivated by criticizing it. I've never seen a farmer pulling weeds hold them up and say, "You dumb orange tree, look at this!"
In the case of Anna, the Lord said, "You have not brought forth what was there to be brought forth." It was several years later before I understood what was the right thing to do about it. The Bible says that wherever you find barrenness of life, where life needs to be created and brought forth, the power of song needs to be applied. It was in that climate of song that God spoke worlds into being when He laid the foundations of the Earth, the angelic hosts ("the morning stars") began to sing (Job 38).
Isaiah 54 prophesies: "Sing, o barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing..." and children will come forth because of singing. And the way for God's Word to become life in us is by "...teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
As my wife Anna and I drove across the desert plains of Colorado with our hands joined and singing in the Spirit, the Lord caused this new dimension of life to begin happening in my understanding and thereby in our marriage. I marvel now at the ministry and fruitfulness that has taken place in my dear wife. It's happened because I have begun to learn to subdue my world; to love my wife...my world to her fullest productivity. I am learning what the Father's image of her is and then loving and relating to her so as to cultivate what He made her to be.
In all our relationships, dear ones, but most especially between husbands and wives, learning to sing together, rather than to criticize one another, will bring life where there is barrenness, and will "subdue the Earth" with the fruitfulness that God intended for each of our lives.
Copyright © 2011, 2015 Jack W. Hayford
Our gift of this article by Pastor Jack Hayford is made possible by your gracious support of the ministry. Partner with us online or call toll free 1-800-776-8180 to donate. (within the U.S..)