(NOTE: I write from the perspective of a formerly controlling, Type A, perfectionistic, driven, prideful, disrespectful wife with a passive husband. If your husband is very dominating or if he is abusive – my blog may not be a good fit for you, please seek godly help. It is possible to be TOO respectful and TOO submissive. Some wives give up their personalities, ideas, feelings, desires, emotions, talents, gifts and influence authority. That is destructive, too! There is a balance in the middle we are aiming for, too far one way or the other is a problem. If you have severe marriage problems, please seek help. If you are not safe in your home, please seek help ASAP. Women who are truly abused need very specific help, reading my blog about normal marriage respect issues can be dangerous for them. I hope to have some trustworthy, godly online resource to direct women to that should be available in the next 2 months. The Salvation Army is able to help women who are abused.)
I think these are some VERY important issues I am about to bring up. MANY, MANY of us (maybe, the vast majority of us) see our husbands not doing these things and we cast serious judgement against our men – assuming we know their level of spiritual maturity and assuming they are “horrible spiritual leaders” in our families.
God’s Word says that the “husband IS the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” (Ephesians 5:22-33) It’s not that he “could” be or “should” be. He is.
I can’t take that role from him – even if he is not a believer. God gave the authority to him and God did not give it to me. God’s wisdom is much greater than my own! I have to be willing to reject our culture’s warped and ungodly model of marriage, femininity and masculinity and authority in marriage. Then I can humbly accept that God did this for my good, my husband’s good and our family’s good and for God’s glory.
MY SKY HIGH EXPECTATIONS
I used to expect a LOT of specific things from my husband. I would harp on my husband about how he needed to be “a better spiritual leader” and then I would list off things I thought he needed to do in order to qualify for being a “good” spiritual leader. (see how many of these things are things God has commanded him to do, and what are just my personal preferences, or ideas I read in a book!) My list included things like:
- praying with me daily (with HIM initiating the prayer, not me – if I had to initiate the prayer, then “that didn’t count” as him praying with me in my mind.)
- him taking me to church weekly or more
- him taking me to the church I thought was best
- him tithing (what I thought was an appropriate tithe)
- him giving generously to many other charities that support orphans and the poor in addition to the tithe
- him giving time to serve God in a ministry
- him having a long “quiet time” with God of his own daily (that I could observe)
- him praying a lot on his own (and me knowing all about it)
- him reading the Bible to me/with me/to our children
- him not watching tv anymore at all
- him spending more time talking with me about deep spiritual things and connecting with me spiritually
None of these things on my list are really wrong. They are all “good” things. Many of them are very godly things. The problem here is that I was placing myself in the position of JUDGE (with evil thoughts) over him and whether he is doing a godly enough job for ME.
My husband answers to GOD for his leadership and how he handles his God-given authority. He does not answer to me.
Who am I to say how he should lead? If he is not sinning or asking me to sin then I am sinning against God if I do not cooperate with my husband’s leadership. Who am I to add things that the Bible never even specifically said he needed to do?
God made my husband the head of our home (I Corinthians 11:3). Greg needs to be the one who decides how he leads. I need to be extremely careful before I tell my husband that he is leading wrongly! There have been times that I fought against my husband’s leadership that I was actually fighting God. I can and should tell my husband what I want, how I feel, what my concerns are (respectfully – and usually once) and then, if he is not asking me to sin, I cooperate with his leadership – even if and especially when I do not agree! THEN I TRUST GOD TO WORK THROUGH MY HUSBAND FOR MY ULTIMATE GOOD!
This is ultimately all about my faith or lack of faith in God and His Word – NOT about my faith in my husband!
I pridefully thought:
- I know better than my husband
- I know best
- I know better than God
- I should be in charge. I’m a much better leader than Greg is.
- I know God said the husband is the head, but that just won’t work in my situation. Greg “won’t/can’t” lead. So I obviously have to.
Those are some of my very ugly sins. I committed those sins for 15 years and DID NOT EVEN SEE IT. I was so blind to my sin against God and my sin against my husband. All I could see was his “sin” and his “failure” in my eyes as the spiritual leader. And I arrogantly assumed I should step in and take over. I pridefully condemned my husband and judged his heart and spirituality. I was WRONG.
WHAT I DO NOW
Now, I allow my husband to lead as HE sees fit and do what HE believes God wants him to do, and I try not to interfere with the line of communication between my husband and God, even if I don’t agree.
Some things are not biblical mandates. We as Christian wives have these ideas in our minds about what a “spiritual leader should” be – then when our husbands don’t meet our expectations, we get ANGRY, CONTROLLING, DISRESPECTFUL, PRIDEFUL, JUDGMENTAL, CRITICAL, BOSSY, UNFORGIVING, RESENTFUL, CONDESCENDING, HATEFUL and full of CONTEMPT. That is what I did, at least. Some of us may even SLANDER our husband or GOSSIP about him or attempt to create DIVISIONS in the family over these things. Who was really the less godly one here? 🙁
- praying with me.
Jesus, Himself, often went off alone to pray privately to God. He did teach the disciples to pray when they asked Him to, He modeled “The Lord’s Prayer” for them. But most of the time, according to the recorded accounts in the gospel, He seemed to pray mostly in private.
My particular husband prefers to pray in private. So, I don’t push him about that anymore. Occasionally I will ask him to pray with me about something specific. Primarily, I make sure that I pray privately myself and seek to abide in Christ and I pray for God to give my husband His wisdom, direction, strength and to accomplish His will and His glory in my husband’s life, my life and our children’s lives.
- having a nightly devotion with the family after supper is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
But those attitudes I used to have when my husband didn’t meet my expectations were clearly sinful. My husband wasn’t necessarily sinning. It would depend on his motives – and I was not privvy to those. I mean, it would be NICE if he had devotions with us – but it was not a sin for him not to read a devotional book to us. Deuteronomy 6 does tell parents, including fathers, to teach their children to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength and to talk about the things of God all throughout the day. But those families didn’t even have a copy of the Bible, much less a devotional book. Fathers can have talks about God and direct their children to the things of God without having an official devotional time with an official devotional book. We can learn to trust God to move our husbands to do what God wants and not impose our own expectations unfairly. It’s fine to say, “I’d love for us to have family devotions at suppertime most nights” or “I’d love for us to read the Bible with the children every night.” But then we can give our husbands some time and space to decide how they want to handle that. If they don’t do it, it may be something we can do with our children at bedtime.
II Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” So it is my husband’s responsibility to decide how much he wants to give. I can say what I want to give. But he decides what to give to church, if he will tithe, how much he will tithe, if he gives to other charities. And I know that many women assume that not tithing is a sin. But I don’t find anywhere in the New Testament that mandates that Christians must tithe 10%.
– We are to be godly stewards.
– I love the idea of tithing or giving way above the tithe.
– We are to be generous to the needy and to our believing brothers who are impoverished.
– I believe in tithing. Greg and I have always tithed.
But I don’t believe it is a wife’s place to demand that her husband tithe a certain amount of money. My husband does tithe, but I don’t monitor him. It’s fine for me to say, “I want us to give 10% as a tithe to God, please.” Then I allow him to decide how he handles that between himself and God.
If a husband doesn’t want to tithe – I think a wife can pray for God to work in his heart according to God’s will. A wife can tell God, “I really want to tithe, Lord! I want to give generously to Your kingdom’s work. But I want to honor my husband’s leadership. I pray You will put it on his heart in Your timing for Your glory for him to tithe. I will wait and trust in You in the meantime.” Then we trust God’s sovereignty to work in our husbands’ hearts.
- I believe that it is important for me to go to the church my husband wants to go to (unless it is a cult). I can tell him where I would like to go. I can tell him if I don’t want to go to the church where we are going – but then I need to follow his leadership, even if I disagree, and allow him to choose the church. I can go and be joyful about it, have a willing spirit and be flexible enough to worship Christ wherever my husband deems is best, expecting God to work in our family through this decision.
- How my husband spends his time is his decision. And it really isn’t much of my place to dictate how much he prays, when he prays, how he prays, where he prays, how much tv he watches, how often he reads the Bible, how long he reads the Bible, what translation he uses, if he writes his prayers in a journal or not, if he reads the Bible to the family or not, if he does some type of ministry or not, if he chooses to have a mentor or not, etc. He is a grown man. He can make those choices himself. The WORST thing I could do is nag/preach/lecture or try to force him to do what I think he should do. Not only are my words about these things ineffective, they are likely to make him very resistant to the very things I want him to do. I must trust God to grow my husband, not myself! I can pray for him respectfully and lift him up, seeking God’s wisdom, protection and power in his life. And I can seek to obey God myself and make my husband’s job a as great a joy as possible.
- My husband talking with me about spiritual things and praying with me would be AWESOME! BUT, I can’t force him to do these things. The harder I try to MAKE him do what I want, the more he will resist me, especially if he is not Spirit-filled. And if he were Spirit-filled, he would probably want to do these things with me on his own. I actually find now that he talks with me about deep spiritual things EVERY DAY – any time I want to. Now he even turns off the tv to listen to what is on my heart. That NEVER happened when I was trying to force him into conversations all the time!
HOW I EMPOWER MY HUSBAND TO LEAD NOW
Now, I ask my husband for what I want (once) i.e.:
- I want us to give more to X charity
- I want you to pray with me, please
- I want to have family devotions
- I want to help orphans somehow
- I want to think about adopting a child
- I want to read the Bible together sometimes
Then, I leave it with him – and I don’t bring it up again. Or I may email him about it once every year or so. ie: “Honey, I would really love to give more to X orphanage. I trust you to do what is God’s best for our family about that.” And then I don’t bring it up again for many, many, many months. I don’t nag. I don’t try to force. I pray that God will lead our family through my husband and give him godly wisdom to lead. If he doesn’t bring it up again. That’s ok. I have my answer. And I trust God to work His will through my husband.
Whenever I see my husband do something I appreciate as our leader, I thank him verbally or in an email or text for what he did and tell him how much I admire him.
Then I rest against God, trusting Him, and I lean back and rest against my husband and trust him, too. And I wait. In the meantime, I praise God, pray, minister to others, care for my family, am filled with thanksgiving, joy and peace.
- How do YOU empower your husband’s spiritual leadership?
- Gentlemen – I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.