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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This is part four in a series. If you are just joining me, you might want to back up to part one to get the full context.

My last post answered the question “Why does the man have to be the leader?” and the corollary “Can’t it be an equal partnership?” My short answers to these two questions are “because God set it up that way,” and “equality is a myth.”

Is it possible for a couple to have a happy and healthy marriage in a shared leadership arrangement? Probably so, but I do not believe it’s the best way or God’s intended design for marriage. Beyond that, however, what troubles me is that those who insist that shared authority is the only “fair” way to run a marriage may have underlying issues. I’ll skip restating my argument against using equality as the measuring stick for marriage and simply state what I see as the possible subtext for those who are reluctant to accept the biblical mandate of a husband’s authority.

When it is the wife who pleads this case (which I think is the more typical scenario), it sends one or more of the following messages to her husband:
  1. I don’t trust you to take care of me or to be attentive to my needs
  2. I want to make sure my voice is heard and that I “win” at least half the time
  3. I’m an adult and can assert my rights whenever I want to – you aren’t my boss
  4. I certainly shouldn’t have to do something if I don’t want to
  5. I am smarter than you are and/or a more capable leader
  6. It’s not fair for you to lead all the time.
  7. I’m not going to be your doormat
Alternatively, a husband too may make a case for shared leadership. In doing so he sends one or more of the following messages to his wife:
  1. I don’t want the responsibility that comes with this authority.
  2. I don’t want to have to take care of you too. (I’m too busy taking care of me.)
  3. You are just gong to complain about and criticize what I do anyway, so there is less grief if I just let you take charge of things
  4. My job ends when I bring home my paycheck.
  5. You aren’t worth the effort and risk it takes for me to lead. (And I’m afraid I can’t do this leadership thing.)
I know that these generalizations might be over-simplified and overstated, but there is a core truth about the messages that are implied when there is resistance to a husband-led marriage. For the wife who resists her husband’s authority it comes across as fear, doubt and disrespect to her husband. For the husband who is reluctant to lead, it comes across as disengagement, laziness or lack of love for his wife.

You see, what most people actually intend by asking for co-leadership is, “Can’t we have an equal power sharing agreement?” But I believe we need to move beyond power sharing and get to power exchange. In a mutually consensual power exchange we see the wife ceding power to her husband’s authority, placing her trust in his sacrificial and unconditional love. She chooses to “arrange herself under” her husband, which is as close a translation as I can make to the Greek word for submit, hupotasso. Likewise, we see the husband “giving over himself” and his rights for the sake of his wife and for the good of the marriage, arranging himself over her in a way that protects, nurtures and cherishes her, not in a way that smothers or limits her.

A surrendered marriage is absolutely a partnership, one in which the man and woman are of equal value but where each has a different role. He loves, leads and serves her. She and loves, honors and surrenders to him. In this paradigm is the potential for lasting intimacy and genuine beauty in every marriage.


Kathleen Quiring | Project M said...

Scott -- what a great series. Seriously terrific stuff. I will be reflecting on these ideas for a while, especially the difference between authority and equality. I think it's a shame that more people haven't read it, though, and I intend to direct as many readers to it as possible!

Technical side note: at the end of each post in the series, you should have a link to the next one. It would make it easier to read through the series from beginning to end.

Scott said...

Kathleen, I greatly appreciate your kind words and the endorsement. I will continue to follow and chime in on the related discussion on your blog too. I think it's an important topic and one well worth digging into, and I really appreaciate hearing what others think about this complex and sensitive topic.

And thanks for the suggestion on the links. I've update the series to include them.

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