"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Line in the Sand


God has given husbands the responsibility of leading their wives and children helping them grow closer to Him.  It’s a daunting task at best which is made even more challenging when a husband and wife don’t see eye to eye on the subject of headship and submission.

Last week I received a question from a husband who is struggling with leadership in his marriage.  It isn’t an issue in which he has difficulty following God’s leadership; rather, it’s a matter of convincing his wife and children to submit to his leadership. 

He writes:

My wife rebels against my authority all the time.  She’ll only submit to my leadership when she agrees with me.  When she doesn’t agree with me, or when it means work for her she refuses to submit.  I try to live with understanding but I tired of trying to get her to submit to me.  It’s affecting my relationship with our kids too.  They think I’m stupid and inferior to her because of the way she behaves. I just don’t know what to do.

Many husbands, myself included, face the same situation to a certain extent in our own marriages.  Husbands submit to the Lord and lead accordingly, only to have their wives stop short of submission.  I’ll follow him this far and no further.  At some point along the way they draw a line in the sand either when things start to become uncomfortable or when they disagree with the direction or decision their husbands are making. 

The fact is that we husbands are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the church, giving His life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)  This means that we must live our lives sacrificially for her benefit, giving up what we need in deference to her needs. It does not mean we should deny ourselves so that she can have every little thing she wants (that would definitely not be for her benefit), but for her good.

Wives are instructed in Ephesians to submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22).  Everything means not just the things with which they agree but everything. So, when a wife draws a line in the sand and will not submit to things that are outside her comfort zone or ideas with which she does not agree, she is in sin, plain and simple. 

But it isn’t that simple.  1 Peter 3:7 says Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  In this verse husbands are instructed to take great care of their wives and to show thoughtful consideration of them, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  This means that when they aren’t ready to submit to their husbands and to God, their husbands must be understanding and patient.  If not, the husbands’ prayers will be hindered.

What, then, should a husband do when he tries his best to assume the headship in his marriage and to take the marriage where the Lord leads, and, as this husband’s question states, his wife will not follow?  The path of least resistance is to take a back seat to his wife and and let her lead.  Go along to get along.

In Hebrews 12:14, Paul tells us to make every effort to live in peace with everyone.  He specifically says every effort.  I have personally taken this to mean that when my wife is upset with me to the point that it is causing distress (not just a small disagreement) I must make every effort to live in peace with her. When the line has been drawn in the sand, whether by word or by action, I must set aside my vision for our marriage, even important ones, to live in peace with my bride.

As a husband, am I happy about it?  No.  Does it damage our marriage and hinder our intimacy?  Yes, sometimes it does.  Is there anything I can do about it?  Pray, and be patient. 

Our wives are precious gifts from God.  We have to lead them, love them, guide them.  And when they rebel, we have to be gracious and forgive them. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My New Year's Resolution. (It's a doozy)

New Year's resolutions come in all shapes and sizes, large and small, individual and group, physical and spiritual. I resolve to lose 30 pounds.  I resolve to get out of debt.  I resolve to stay organized.  
Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I don't usually put much confidence in the New Year's resolution thing.


However, something my wife said a few weeks ago got me thinking.  We were about to have dinner, and it was our youngest child's turn to ask the Lord's blessing for the food.  (For quite a while we had been rotating around the table, giving each child a turn to pray.)   Using my wife's reaction as a gauge, I could tell she wasn’t happy with the quality of the prayers of our children.  She expressed a desire for our kids to learn how to pray more appropriately.  Then she said, “They don’t have an example.”

Ouch!

Even though her words were painful to hear, she was right.  My kids don’t have an example, and it doesn’t just affect their prayer life. Kindness, cooperation, sympathy, respect, compassion, and tolerance are just a few of the areas in which I have let this family slide. My children have a bit of a mean streak directed among themselves as well as toward others, and I’m here to say that whatever change is in my power to initiate, I am going to make that change.  Starting  here.  Starting now.

Currently every time I hear words “love,” "enjoy," or "smart," I hear three times as many words like “hate,” "can't stand it," and "stupid."  I hate this food.  I can't stand So-and-So.  That show/book/game is stupid. I wish I had a better/bigger (this/that) I hate snow.  I hate my brother/sister/room/hair.

My children tend to sit around instead of helping with housework, yard work, or general chores; they do so because I have given them an inadequate example to follow.  I have not gotten off my rear end to be an example, to help them.  I have not spent enough time showing them how to work. As a result, they don't work. 

When their prayers aren’t acceptable enough to be spoken aloud in a group, I need to step up and show them how to lead prayers out loud. I need to teach them how to pray in a way that is acceptable by doing it correctly myself.

When they display narrow-mindedness (I don’t like him because he has tattoos.  Her dress is inappropriate.  His hair is too long. They’re probably bad people because they attend (the wrong church/club/public school), I must get to the root of the problem inside myself and show a more accepting outlook in order to rid our family of such attitudes. 

When they are scornful toward each other, I must be an example of grace so they learn to be gracious.
After all, I am the head of my household.  If they fail it's because I have failed.

I need to be an example.  That is my New Year’s resolution.