I have been in a lot of conversations over the years about gender roles in marriage. This is part 1 of my thoughts, the part that we all talk about.
Within the church there is a lot of talk about "wives submit to your husbands" from Ephesians 5. Men as the spiritual leader of the family is a phrase thrown around a lot, especially as it relates to how women are to relate to their husbands. What I find interesting when talking to people about men as the spiritual leader of the family is that they point to Ephesians 5:22 - 24, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." This is the passage we always discuss when talking about gender roles in marriage within the church.
And before you start to wonder where I stand on this issue, know that my husband and I both believe that we are to submit to the Lord and when we submit to the Lord, we are honoring one another and pleasing God. I know that sounds like I don't believe in submission to my husband, but before you judge me look at my track record. I have moved over a dozen times since being married to my husband with almost all of those moves for his job. I have been pregnant overseas twice so he could follow his dream job. I became a hockey fan. I care about Michigan football. I no longer sleep in on a Sunday morning. I am conscious of our spending and have worked hard to build up an emergency savings account. All of these things I did not care about but were important to my husband.
Often when we are faced with a decision and we disagree, we go with the one that cares more or knows more. I make most education decisions, my husband makes long term investment decisions. When I have been wrong, he kindly reminds me the next time I go to the make the same mistake. And I still give him grief about not buying Apple stock when I wanted to years and years ago when I got my first iPod. When we come to an impasse, instead of just saying the tie goes to the husband, we both agree to pray about it more. To give God time to work on each of our hearts so that we can come to a united decision based on what God wants, not what each of us wants. It took months of patience on my husband's part and prayer and God working on my heart to get me to be willing to move to Puerto Rico. But we allow each other the time. And so far, thirteen years in, it has worked for us.
As I write this there is a huge part of me, raised in a family where "the man was the leader of the family" that makes me want to explain that my husband does not believe that he is the singular leader of our family. I want to tell you that my husband believes that over the years, our faith and spiritual maturity will ebb and flow. Sometimes he will be the one driving sometimes I will be. I want to prove that I am submitting to my husband's more egalitarian view of spiritual leadership, thus absolving me of any wrong doing. Because while I do believe that we are supposed to work together to both lead and grow ourselves and our family toward God there is huge part of me that is glad I can still blame my husband for this view and thus be "submitting" to him.
See notice how in that last paragraph, I was able to somehow shift the decision making to my husband and thus make him responsible for any wrong decisions we make. By making my husband the spiritual leader of our family, I can blame him when we don't prioritize church, reading the Bible or prayer. By making my husband the leader of our family I can absolve myself of my responsibility to personally grow closer to God, disciple my kids or help my husband in his walk with God.
This is a complicated issue that the church has simplified to the point of dismissing the partnership that God created when He made Adam and Eve. I know it is a complicated issue. I also know that I respect my husband. I love my husband. And if he needed me to give myself up for him, I would.