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A Wife Asks, “Why Is It That It Seems Like the Wife Always Has to Change First?”

ADMIN NOTE – IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SIGN UP FOR THE PEACEFUL WIFE CONFERENCE IN COLUMBIA, SC THIS WEEKEND!

Here is an interesting discussion that took place in the comment section last week between two of my readers. I love to hear what God is showing other women and how He makes His truth real to them. Sometimes hearing multiple people describe and explain the same concepts just helps make things click. May this be a blessing to you, my precious sisters:

FROM A WIFE:

Update: Hubby and I are in counseling! It’s really cool because the pastor is a John Piper “fan” so he’s totally on board with the whole biblical manhood and womanhood ordeal. So, naturally, headship and submission is brought up and good thing I’ve been wrestling with the topic and following your posts for a while because it’s not so foreign or offensive when we talk about it.

Though the topic is much easier to talk about, the journey is still “trenchy” and hard as ever! In fact 2-3 weeks ago we threatened the relationship and nearly divorced! IT IS ONLY BY THE GRACE AND INCOMPREHENSIBLE PEACE OF GOD THAT WE ARE STILL HERE! I’ve had to repent lately because I was going through the stage of, “Nothing I’m doing is working,” and I found myself just lingering and frustrated. But God always uses April and the posts here to jolt me out of my spiritual pity party and get back to fighting to trust and put my eyes on Him.

My current wrestle is feeling like its actually the wife who has to lay down her life for the man to be a man. Maybe that’s a fleshly perspective but that’s how it feels.

FROM FLOWER:

Yes, we all (men and women alike) called to die to self. But in addition to the things that people in general are supposed to do, there is also something a marriage is supposed to do – to portray the mystery of Christ and the church to the world (Eph. 5:22-33). The husband is supposed to love his wife and the wife is supposed to respect her husband. The husband is also supposed to lead and the wife is supposed to follow.

  • How does the wife’s effectiveness at following depend on her husband? It doesn’t, really. She can follow him (provided he is not asking her to sin or condone sin) even if he doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere “special.”
  • How does the husband’s effectiveness at leading depend on his wife? It does. A lot. You can’t lead effectively if no one will follow you. A husband could be the most godly, Christ-like man ever, with the best leadership talents, but if his wife refuses to follow, he can’t SHOW that he’s an effective leader.

So from that perspective, I would say that the wife’s willingness to follow EMPOWERS her husband’s leadership. (But both are called to die to self for Christ, and both are responsible to God for their own actions.)

WIFE:

Flower,

Thank you for giving me a better perspective about my current wrestle. I guess it just seems topsy-turvy to me. The concept that his leadership depends on my willingness to follow. Christ was already a great leader before He called anyone to follow. He was secure in his purpose, personhood, and knew God before He led.

Ephesians 5 says the husband is to love the wife as he loves himself. Does the husband learning to love himself, know God, grow up as a man, heal up as broken man depend on my willingness to follow? I get me following in certain respects empowers him but it just seems a bit weighty especially with my specific marital situation in mind.

FLOWER:

I would say that his leadership’s EXISTENCE does not depend at all on you. The ability of his leadership to be SEEN (by you and by others) depends on you and how you respond to him.

Love your example about Christ! Yes, so true, He was already a great leader before He called anyone to follow.

The thing is, no one else could SEE that He was a great leader UNTIL people started to follow Him.

Similarly, if you don’t follow your husband, no one else will look at your marriage and SEE the Christ-and-the-church-he-leads-she-follows part. But when you do follow, people will look at your marriage and SEE that. 🙂

Does the husband learning to love himself, know God, grow up as a man, and heal as a broken man depend on your willingness to follow? NO. He is responsible for that on his own. But your respect will make it easier for him. And your disrespect will make it harder. You are not responsible for making him grow in Christ; you are responsible for being the best wife to him that you can be, according to God’s Word and with God’s help. <3

WIFE:

I see. Maybe I’m a bit petty, I just feel like it could go both ways then. I could easily say that my husband knowing God, learning to love himself, growing up as man and healing up as broken would make it so much easier for me to follow because it would!

  • In the same respect, when following Christ we have to learn that He is good and He wins our trust. According to the gospel we know Christ died because He first loved us but it isn’t until we come into a revelation of that love and who He is that we began to trust him as Lord to LEAD our lives. Why is it not so for a husband if parallelism is the goal?

I do not struggle with feeling like I’m not loved by my husband. I know my husband loves me and can be very loving to me. It’s his own personal issues that prevent him from being the best version of himself and this inevitably effects me too and whole of the relationship and love. Just like any unaddressed issue of mine would take effect on him and the relationship. Yet and still I guess this logic gets trumped by a command and the logic of reverting back to curse Christ freed us from that still is somehow relevant as though we are still tied….??…??
Sigh….maybe I’m overthinking.

FLOWER:

Yep, it does go both ways – him trying to be a good leader will make it easier for you to follow as well. But you can only control your actions, so the only part that you really have influence over is how easy you make it for him to lead.

“Why is it not so for a husband if parallelism is the goal?” This is a great question and I had to think really hard about it! I think it’s mainly because of two reasons:

1. If a wife thinks she only has to submit “if her husband is a good leader,” she will probably think things like, “No, I really think he could do better. In situation X the other day, he did Y when Z was a much better choice. Also, he still needs to get more spiritually mature.” This causes her to have a critical spirit. She is not her husband’s judge. God is. (And her husband is not her judge.) So if she thinks that she is only supposed to follow her husband if he is a “good leader,” then she has to come up with the idea of what she thinks a good leader is and make sure he conforms to what she wants in a leader before she follows. This puts her in position of judge rather than follower.

** See notes below from April about this. 🙂

2. Christ loved and led us before we submitted because there was no other option. Christ’s relationship with us is between one who is sinless (Him) and one who is sinful (us). If we were sinless, we would have respected and followed him immediately. And if we were sinless, His sacrifice, atoning death, and resurrection would not even have been necessary for us to have a restored relationship with Him. Christ had to love and lead us before we submitted because that was the only way that He could bring us back to Himself. Ideally, we would have submitted to Him immediately.

Because the relationship between a husband and wife is a relationship between two people who are sinful, God calls each of them to change ASAP. But each of them can only change themself, they can’t change each other.

April’s “Why Do I Have to Change First” post is a great read. But to clarify something, it is not that you have to change first because the wife has to change first and that all wives have to change first. You have to change first because if God opened your eyes to your sin, you have no right to sit there and refuse to change until God opens your husband’s eyes to his sin as well.

Ultimately our change is about our obedience to God, not about whether our husbands deserve it. (Similarly, if a husband’s eyes are opened first, he also would have no right to sit there and refuse to change until God opened his wife’s eyes to her sin. I have seen situations where God opens a husband’s eyes first.)

So the changing first thing is not, “You must change first because you’re a woman,” it’s, “You must change now because your eyes have been opened.”

 

FROM THE WIFE

The last part especially has officially disarmed the petty! It makes sense! You have brought another piece of clarification that blessed me.

 

FROM APRIL (to add a bit to point number 1 made by Flower):

If a wife has the authority to decide when her husband is a “good leader and when she will follow,” then it is really the wife who has the authority, not the husband. There are limits to a believer’s submission to any human delegated authority, but apart from those limits, we are to honor the authority’s leadership, trusting that God will lead us through that person. Not because of the person. But in spite of that person – because God is sovereign and this is His design to lead us through human God-given authority.

When we honor a person in a position of God-given authority, we honor God’s authority. When we rebel against a person in a position of God-given authority, we rebel against God and bring judgment on ourselves. Rom. 13:1-2 And we malign the Gospel of Christ when we rebel against our husband’s leadership. Titus 2:5 It is also important to remember that wives may not have positional authority, but we do have influential authority, which can be even more powerful than positional authority, at times. Although, the ultimate goal is to please and glorify the Lord, not to have “the most power” for ourselves or for our own agenda.

RELATED:

Spiritual Authority – a General Overview

What Is Biblical Submission?

Does Being a Biblically Submissive Wife Mean I Can’t Say How I Feel and What I Need?

Biblical Submission Is Not Passivity

Biblical Submission, Respect, and Sexual Attraction

Do I Condone BDSM or CDD?

Biblical Submission Does Not = the Husband Is Always Right

When Would I Not Submit to My Husband?

Should a Christian Wife Ever Consider Separation?

Oneness in Marriage Not Too Close but Not Too Far Away

Closeness in Marriage Looks Different from What I Expected 

How to Make Your Husband an Idol

Respecting Your Husband VS. Idolizing Him

Dying to Self
Dying to Self Can Be Dangerously Misunderstood
25 Ways to Respect Myself
Is It Possible to Disrespect Myself?
25 Ways to Reverence God

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