When I married my wife, I had no concept of what it meant to be the head of my family or to lead in a biblical way. I was an atheist, a product of the prevailing culture. It was not until a few years later, at the age of 29, that I came to faith in Christ. At that point, he began convicting me in nearly every aspect of my life, especially so in my marriage. Probably the most anxiety-producing conviction was that I was in no way leading my family. I was loving my family, I was providing for my family, but I was not leading them as the Lord calls husbands to do. As the Lord continued working on my heart, I realized that what he said was true—men are called to lead their families by sacrificing themselves in their leadership, by laying down their lives for them (Ephesians 5:25-28, Colossians 3:19, 1 Peter 3:7).
As the Lord began convicting me in this area of my life, I was petrified that, if I approached my wife about this, it would somehow damage our happy marriage. I finally mustered the courage to talk with her about what God was doing in me. I confessed my sense of utter failure compared to God’s call.
I told her that while I was sure to fail frequently, I was hoping to pursue together a God-ordered marriage.
Thus began a decade and a half journey, which we are still on, joyfully, together. If I could share any wisdom with my younger self, it would be to trust God’s plans and commands without reservation however much they may contradict what the world teaches. I would tell my younger self that the Lord is trustworthy and that in submitting to his call for me to lead my family, my wife and I would find peace, joy, and blessing in our marriage and my children would grow up with a Christ-like model of sacrificial servant leadership in their home.
What does the Lord have to teach us about our role as men in marriage? He challenges us to accept the obvious—that women and men are in fact different and in creating us in a different but complementary fashion, there is a beautiful, God-designed promise for marriage. We are like puzzle pieces that, though completely different in shape, fit together perfectly and create a beautiful picture. Husbands and wives with their own strengths and weaknesses work together, bringing different, but equally valuable, contributions to achieve God’s intended form for marriage.
God also asks us to pursue and implement a biblical understanding of leadership. We all have feelings about what leadership is based on our life experiences or the caricatures propagated by our culture. Not surprisingly, God’s call looks far different than what the culture would have us believe. We might believe that the role of leader is the place of most value and respect and that those under leadership are somehow less valuable. This idea is turned on its head by our God, whose ways are not our ways. Sacrificial servant leadership looks like continual sacrifice for others. As husbands lead according to our Lord’s model, we lay down our lives for our wives, and we can experience the joy and freedom of obedience and trust. When we give God the burden of control in our marriage, we can dismiss fear, which is often the driving force in our desire to order our marriages in opposition to his clear commands.
In leading our families biblically, we must cast a God-worthy vision with and for our family and we must do the hard work of pursuing that vision.
At times, we must make the hard decisions and wrestle with what will be best for our families in seeking the Lord. We do not do this alone. Rather, we seek the wisdom of our wives, whom God has gifted in unique ways, in a loving partnership pursuing Christ above all. As with all true leaders, the ultimate accounting before God will be our responsibility. There will be no pointing at our wives as Adam did, saying, “she told me to.”
Men, if we follow the Lord in obedience, seek to be trustworthy, humble, and repentant when we fail, as we most certainly will, if we seek our wives’ blessing in it all, I have experienced firsthand the promised blessing in my wife’s humble though not perfect submission. Likewise, she herself has recognized a strong desire for me to lead that she did not even know she had. This is the reality of obedience to our good God; he replaces our fleshly bent with godly desires, and in so doing, we are blessed beyond what we could have ever crafted on our own.