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On Being One Flesh
The Audacity of the Bridal Paradigm
The Path of Intimacy
Shame and Intimacy
Grace In Marriage
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The “What-If” series started back here, in case you want to catch the whole series or browse through the entire list of what-if posts.
I’ll wrap up the series with a final real-life issue that often comes up in the context of any discussion on marital order (headship and submission). What if my personality, gifting or natural inclinations aren’t well-suited for the role that The Bible calls me to in my marriage? What if I’m a husband who isn’t assertive, who isn’t a natural leader or who is shy and reserved? What if I’m a wife who is a strong type A, outgoing, or a skilled administrator?
Before I deal with husbands and wives separately concerning these questions, let me make a couple of general observations.
Each One Unique
I think one reason this kind of question comes up is due to the stereotypical way in which we think of male headship and female submission. We think it has to look a certain way for it to be valid. That’s actually a lie that the enemy uses to accuse you or your spouse into feeling inadequate or to discourage you from embracing your biblical role.
God created you just how you are, with all your quirks and warts, talents and inclinations. He was very intentional about it. Rather than trying to run away from or change who you are, you should instead bring the fullness of your unique self into the mix. That’s not to say that you should never grow and change, for we all need to do that, but you should not start off by disqualifying yourself or assuming that you need to work outside of who God created you to be.
Right Believing Makes For Right Doing
The bridal paradigm is not a set of rules to be followed. It’s not a cookie cutter formula that forces all marriages down the same path. No, the journey to surrender is going to be unique for every couple, based on the distinctiveness of the individuals in the marriage. That is a beautiful thing.
You see, the bridal paradigm is firstly about what you think and believe about yourself, your spouse and your marriage. When you get your head wrapped around the fact that God calls husbands to be Christ-like in loving and leading their wives and calls wives to be church-like in surrendering in love to their husbands, you have come 90% of the way in your marriage journey. What you do, then, will follow naturally from what you believe about your role. Yes, you’ll be imperfect in your execution, but what you do will tend to be driven by a combination of the way you think and by your unique make-up.
Of course your marriage may look rather different from other marriages. I think that OK. Actually, I think that’s fantastic.
For the Men
So, maybe you don’t think you are well-suited to lead your wife and family. Perhaps you’ve disqualified yourself because you are quiet and reserved or because you don’t possess natural leadership qualities. Truthfully, to a certain extent, this describes me.
If you’ve read what I’ve written about the headship/leadership/authority of husbands, you’ll see that very little of what I describe has to do with the way we traditionally think of leaders (making decisions, giving orders, setting direction). You are a leader if you love your wife unconditionally. You are a leader if you lay down your life for her, see her as beautiful despite her flaws, look out for and protect her, nurture her and encourage her in her calling in God. None of those things has much to do with your personality or your talents. They have to do with your heart. These are all things you can do in your own unique way, regardless of your personality.
The second thing I’ll say is that the authority God has given you as a husband does not imply that you should have all the answers. It is likely that your wife is naturally better at certain things than you are. I know it’s true in my house. A good leader knows how to rely on those around him to fill in the gaps in his own abilities. God gave you your wife to compliment you, so act accordingly. Draw on her strengths and work together as a team.
For the Women
Do you think you are disqualified as a submissive wife because you are outgoing, driven, logical or decisive? As it is for husbands, if you view submission through the lens of your scriptural role rather than some Stepford Wife stereotype, you will discover that submission is principally an attitude of the heart.
You are a submissive wife if you maintain a culture of honor in your relationship with your husband, choosing to approach him with respect, even in disagreements. A submissive wife acknowledges the order that God has established in marriage by caring about the things her husband cares about, by believing in his love for her, and by responding to that love with trust and surrender, forgoing rights-oriented thinking for giving-oriented thinking.
There is nothing in this definition of submission that indicates to me that a strong, intelligent or outgoing woman cannot also walk in submission to her husband. She may need to work harder than other wives to resist her inclination to seize the reigns of control or to push her own agenda and priorities without regard to her husband’s opinion. But there is no reason that such a woman cannot join her strengths to her husband’s in a way that makes the two of you together better than either of you alone.
My Own Journey
Through the course of our marriage I have had to adjust my own thinking on what it means to be the head of my home. The fact that I am reserved and tend to be a man of few words doesn’t mean that I cannot effectively lead my wife and my family. I have had to get comfortable with the fact that the way I walk out the authority God has placed on me as husband and father isn’t going to look the same as it might on other people. There is not a single right way. I have chosen to believe that God has equipped me uniquely for the benefit of my wife and family, and as hugely imperfect as I am, I am the one chosen for the task.
What about you? Are you comfortable bringing the fullness of who you are into the role that you are called to in your marriage?
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