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Monday, February 27, 2012
I posted a couple times last week on the touchy topic of submission (See “A Picture of Submission” and “The S-word and the F-word”).
I’m moving from the sensitive topic of submission to the downright controversial topic of headship. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!
That’s right, this week I’m talking to husbands about their role in marriage. Listen up, husbands, this week is going to be for you.
What’s The Real Problem?
My wife will tell you, I’m not one to hold back from saying what I think. That sometimes gets me into a little trouble, but that’s just the way I’m wired.
I’m going to make one of those bold statements right now:
The reason there aren’t more biblical marriages today is not because too few wives are willing to submit to their husbands. It’s because too many husbands are afraid to lead.
Now don’t flame me. I know there are husbands who err on the other side and abuse their authority. I believe that historically that has been a big problem and the main cause of the pendulum swinging so far the other way. But the pendulum has indeed swung.
Why So Afraid?
I think there are several contributing factors to the reticence of so many husbands to assume the mantle of authority that God has placed on them. Some or all of these may apply to you:
- Manliness is not so much admired or celebrated as it is broadly maligned and denigrated in society at large
- Fear of failure, of making wrong decisions or of leading poorly
- Lack of good male role models
- Not knowing how to deal with a strong wife in a way that preserves her strength yet acknowledges your leadership
- Unable or unwilling to defend the biblical notion of a husband’s authority against peer or family pressure. What will they think of me?
- Fear of taking responsibility
- Lack of correct biblical teaching by the church on what constitutes genuine, Christ-like headship
- Unwillingness to do the hard work of leadership. Yes, sometimes it’s hard work.
- Feeling disqualified due to past mistakes.
What Should You Do?
The first step in claiming or reclaiming your proper role is to realize that whether you accept it or not, God has placed you in a role in your marriage. Acknowledge the fact that you have authority, regardless of how or whether you use it.
The next step is to get educated. Thankfully I’m seeing more and more people willing to write truth on the topic of the role of husbands in marriage. Paul Byerly, aka The Generous Husband, wrote a few really good posts in just the last week.
- Husbands, Lead with Love
- What if My Wife Won’t Let Me Lead?
- Being Both Strong and Good
- Are you Smothering or Covering?
The third step involves a conversation with your wife about all this. Maybe you are afraid to broach the subject for fear of her reaction. Maybe you have been shot down before. I suggest that rather than using generic emotionally charged words like headship, submission and authority, you instead paint a picture for her of what that looks like. It looks like unconditional love. It looks like sacrifice and laying down your life for her. Tell her you want to learn to be both strong and good for the sake of your marriage. Explain that your highest desire is to love her and lead her well.
The final step is to make some concrete changes in the way you do your marriage. Make a specific plan that flows out of the learning you’ve done and the conversations you’ve had. Talk to your wife about your plan, or better yet, just start to lovingly lead her. Here are a few things to consider doing:
- Tell her you want to get a handle on your finances and that you want to sit down together to make a budget.
- Suggest that you pray together.
- Instead of asking her where she wants to go to dinner, you pick the restaurant – one that you know she enjoys
- Defend her against those who come against her. Make it clear that you are on her side.
- Take a more active role in parenting, demonstrating your love for your kids
- Write her a letter, a love letter; base it on what you have been learning about loving her like Christ loves the church
- Plan a weekend getaway – plant it all: the child care, the packing, what you’ll do. Bonus points if you can pull off a surprise.
- Honor her with your words – every day. Tell her how beautiful she is and how thankful you are that she is your wife.
- Hold her until she makes you let go.
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