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Tuesday, June 22, 2010
This is a continuation of my series “What If…” - real-life scenarios in which a wife or husband begins the journey to surrender but their spouse lags behind. Just as a reminder for those jumping in mid-stream, we are examining the bridal paradigm described in Ephesians 5, where marriage is modeled after the love relationship between Jesus and the church. The series started back here, in case you want to catch the whole series or browse through the entire list of what-if posts.

We just covered two scenarios in which it is the wife who is awakened to the bridal paradigm, but the husband isn’t yet on board. This time let’s look at the case where a husband wants to walk in his position of God-given authority, but his wife refuses to give him space to lead. If you’re that husband (or that wife), read on.

Check Your Own Paradigm

As a husband who feels your wife is not allowing you to lead her and your family like you desire, the first thing to do is a bit of self-reflection. Remember that your focus should be on what you give rather that what you receive. Are you demonstrating Christ-like love toward your wife? Are you caring, compassionate and engaged, showing concern for her needs and desires? Is your motivation for leadership to control or dominate your wife or is it to protect and serve her?

Obviously no husband can claim a perfect record on any of these things. I know I certainly can’t. But when honestly weighed on balance, make sure your own heart is right. If not, seek revelation and guidance from the Lord before proceeding to be concerned with what your wife is or is not doing.


Look Deeper

If your wife is hesitant to walk in loving submission to your leadership, you need to ask yourself why. Reflect more deeply on what might be causing her hesitation. Are there any unresolved trust issues between you? Does she have domineering and/or abusive men in her past (or in the past/present of someone she knows) that have made her wary of surrender? Has she been subject to erroneous teaching, either that subjugates women or promotes androgyny (no difference between men and women)?

Dealing with past issues can be difficult and rather emotional, but the best way to resolve these things is to address them head on. It a worst-case scenario, counseling may be needed. In these discussions of past issues, as with any discussion concerning your wife’s submission, remember…


Approach Is Everything

Remember the old WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) slogan? As trite as I often find such sayings, in this case it’s a valid question. You are called to love your wife as Christ loves the church. He is your role model for leadership. So here are a few things about how Jesus approaches us as his bride that you should wrap your mind around before you and your bride engage in a discussion about submission:
  • Jesus never demands our submission. He invites it with loving-kindness.
  • Jesus laid down his life for his bride, the very model of sacrificial love.
  • Jesus’ only motivation was to do the will of the Father (it was his very food)
  • Jesus did what he did for the sake of the Kingdom (represented by your marriage)

Keeping these things in mind, explain to your wife that your desire is to have a biblical marriage. Tell her that your understanding of this includes a God-given level of authority for husbands. Emphasize that this is not about who is better or worse, smarter of dumber, who is more or less capable, but that it is simply a scriptural mandate. Share with her what you have learned about the bridal paradigm and how it has impacted your thinking. Don’t pretend to have all the answers about what all it means – none of us does – but ask her to help you figure out what it means. Your desire is to take this journey of discovery together.

Start Slowly

Gently let her know the areas where you feel your leadership is being challenged by her in some way, where you feel disrespected or dishonored by her words or actions. Pick one or two areas of your marriage to start on. Don’t shotgun blast her with every way she nit-picks you or pushes you aside.

I’ll pick finances as an example, since that is one common area of martial contention. Maybe you feel she is too tight or too loose with the purse strings. Maybe you want to establish a budget or increase your giving or saving. Whatever the matter is, explain to her your desire and why it is important to you. Your motivation should line up with the bridal paradigm (i.e. to care for, protect and provide for her and your family). Let her know her that you want to work together on it and that her input is very important (this must be more than lip service), but that you do intend address the issue and desire her support.

Dittos

I’ll repeat here some of the advice I gave to wives over the past few posts.
  • Soak these things in prayer and ask for God’s will to be done in your marriage, surrendering your own agenda on the altar of prayer
  • Remember what I said about not pushing on a rope. Look out that you don’t push your wife into submission, but rather gently pull her along on this journey to surrender by being like Jesus to her, full of love and grace.
  • Paint a picture for your wife of the stronger, more intimate, more passionate marriage relationship that you desire to have.
  • Respond with sincere appreciation as she works to relinquish control. Be thankful for every act of submission and every effort in the right direction.
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I believe that there are few women, who when faced with a husband who lavishes Christ-like love upon them, will not be able to respond by at least letting go a little. There is a positive cycle that is built into this journey to a surrendered marriage. The more he loves and cherishes her, the more she is willing to trust and surrender, which in turn only deepens the love he has for her, and on and on.

This is my definition of the path of intimacy which is found on the journey to surrender.

Do you have a what-if experience you can share with our readers?

The series concludes next with:  What If... My Personality Doesn't Fit My Role?

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