Wives, Lead Your Husbands

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About a year and a half ago my husband and I went through a rough patch for about six months. We were both unhappy with our own lives and things did not seem to be working out for us personally. So, like any super spiritually mature couple; we took it out on each other.

At the time, Luke was in a job he hated and I was in the midst of “starting a ministry” that I was not totally confident would ever pan out. I also talked Luke into moving back to Pittsburgh, PA (my home city) from Virginia Beach (where we met at grad school).

Luke agreed this was the best decision for us six months prior, but when it actually came to literally moving, he really had a hard time with it.

The truth is that we were financially struggling living in Virginia Beach and we had no “close” friends or family. Oddly enough, I was a children’s pastor; it’s amazing how one can be a pastor and have no real Christian community – no one who really knows the crap going on in your life.

As a pastor, I hid all my sin-struggles and tried to appear like I had it altogether. The Christian Church, in general, has forced pastors to do this. If we want to keep our jobs, we had better be darn careful what we post on social media, what we share with church members, and what we do in public.

So, basically, I let no one see the whole me – the ugly side, the pain, and the loneliness. For years, I wore a big, bright smile and saved my tears for my husband’s chest. Oh, the countless white t-shirts with mascara stains.

Finally, I could not take it anymore. Luke and I agreed that it would be best for me to move back to PA early, before him, so I could spend some time with loved ones who I rarely saw.

I was in Pittsburgh, living with my folks without Luke, for about two months. Luke was waiting on a transfer from his past company and it was taking a while to go through. He was staying with a friend of a friend. At one point, Luke got a transfer and then it fell through.

We were not even 100% sure if he would get a transfer after that. So, I had no job, Luke had already put a notice in at his job, we had no home, and we were not even in the same state.

It was a major decision, that I led us in making, and things did not appear to be working out.

Plus, Pittsburgh sort of sucks compared to Virginia Beach. Luke finally did get a transfer (doing the same job he hated, but now in Pittsburgh where it’s cold and without beaches).

Luke had to walk across an icy bridge all winter with freezing, snowy, rainy, overcast weather. He was pissed at me because I was the only person to be pissed at. Even though we made the decision together, I pushed it, so he held me responsible.

Oh, and did I mention we lived with my parents for a year? Now, my parents are pretty cool, but Luke is a very private guy and their home is fairly small. Plus, these were my parents, not his parents.

I was making no money. I was working on a “blog.” Do you know how annoying this was for a very practical guy like my husband? It’s not that he did not believe in me, but he didn’t totally get the vision yet, was wondering when I was going to get a real job, and I was asking him to trust me.

Anyways, he became very frustrated and passive aggressive with me, so I became agitated with him. The fights began. He was growing bitter and I didn’t know what to do about it, so I went and saw a marriage counselor by myself.

I ranted on and on, “Well, if Luke would just be more assertive and directive, then I would not have to lead us all the time and be responsible for everything. I mean, I don’t want him to lead all the time, but 50% of the time would be nice!”

The counselor cleared his throat, “Hm, are you not a feminist blogger? Isn’t your whole mission about encouraging women to lead? Maybe, you are simply the natural leader in the marriage and maybe that is OK.”

Dang it. He was right. How annoying! I was still trying to force Luke to be at least partial “conventional leader” in our marriage.

What I mean by “conventional leader” is one who tends to take risks, is assertive and directly influences others to move forward towards set goals or causes.

“Conventional leaders” normally get beat up a lot because they take a lot of blame when the crap hits the fan. “Conventional leaders” are willing to step out, so others hold them responsible when things go wrong, but give them a lot of praise when things go right.

It’s hard to be a “conventional leader,” but some men and women were born for the task and would not be fulfilled in their lives if they didn’t find a way to do it.

I went home that night and had a heart to heart with Luke. I said, “Babe, do you think maybe I am the natural leader in our marriage and you are the natural manager in our marriage, and perhaps that is OK?” He looked relieved, and said, “Yes.”

Luke and I had both grown up in the conservative faith community, and were expecting each other to be people we were not. Our personalities never fit so called “biblical gender roles.” I was far from “soft” and “submissive” and Luke was far from “aggressive” and “dominating.” 

It caused us both enormous frustration in our marriage. The interesting thing is that our parents did not even directly teach us “gender roles;” it was just something embedded deep within our psyches from culture and church, I guess.

Just a few weeks later, Luke had a one on one with the same counselor (that I practically made him go to) and let out all his frustrations. He came home at peace. The bitterness was gone. It turned out that Luke just needed someone to talk to about stuff in his own heart. From that day forward, our marriage became peaceful for the most part and we finally accepted each other for who we are.

Now don’t get me wrong, Luke does lead me in many ways, but not in the conventional directive/assertive ways.

Luke is a manager (sometimes a micro-manager…lol). I mean, I don’t even know where I am going half the time. He makes sure I eat and bugs me about picking up my clothes off the floor.

Luke teaches me how to use technology and about politics. He makes sure I check my work email. He helps me apply for jobs. He keeps me focused and on track. He remembers where we parked the car. He arranges all our travels. He makes sure I don’t forget my drivers license. He tries to dress me sometimes. Not joking.

Luke makes sure I have money and gas in my car. He takes the trash out and wipes the snow off my windshield. He pays our bills. He makes sure I have the equipment I need to be successful. He tells me when I am acting like a brat and he encourages me when I feel insecure.

Luke has invested every cent he has ever made into me and even when my dreams don’t make a lick of sense to his logical mind, he forces himself to follow, because he has made my dreams his dreams. He empowers me. Everyday, he lays down his life for me and would give his right arm to take away my pain.

This is what “husband headship” means in the Bible; it has nothing to do with “greater authority” or “greater conventional leadership skills” or “bread-winning” or “being the sexual pursuer all the time” or “providing a spiritual covering/protection over your wife.”

The biblical call to “husband headship” means to act like Jesus; not be Jesus. It’s that simple and it will look different in every marriage because we are all unique people. A husband that puts his wife above himself is doing a darn good job, no matter if he is a funny-stay-at-home-dad or passive-pastor or laid-back-truck driver or an assertive CEO.

The Bible does not define “manhood” or “womanhood” because there are many ways to be a godly man or woman. Our God delights in super chill dudes as much as he delights in “get it done” dudes. Likewise, our God delights in aggressive and loud women as much as He delights in sweet, submissive women. God is a parent and loves His kids just as He created them! 

Luke actually finds great fulfillment in assisting roles (to me and to the Church). He has assisted me in ministry since I met him and normally has no desire to take “conventional leadership” roles. He works hard at his job, will probably be some big shot manager someday in the business world (he will hate that I even wrote that), but will probably never want to be in the spotlight. He is the man behind the scenes making everything work and making sure I don’t fall apart. When I do fall apart, he is there to pick up the pieces and put me back together again.

P.S. Luke eventually got a new job he is enjoying, my blog and ministry took off, I got a part-time professor job teaching theology, and we are living in our first townhome. God has wives lead husbands, just as much as God has husbands lead wives  – trust each other as you both look to Christ as your ultimate guide! 

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36 Comments

  • I love this Jory. One thing the husband and I discuss, a lot, is the idea of what a biblical life looks like (we came from a legalistic cult). We decided that there is no “biblical” life. There is faith and finding Abba’s will for our life. And that looks different for each child and that’s okay. We have 3 children. We parent them differently. They have different rules, privileges and responsibilities. And that’s okay.

    What we have discovered in removing the concept of biblical roles from our life is that we are EACH individually responsible to live our life in the manner our Father called us. For me that means I step up and fight when I need to and I back off when I’m called to nurture. For him that means he speaks up when he needs to and he stays quiet only when he needs to. We both have a tendency to hide and that can be a dangerous combination. If he tried to lead me and I tried to submit it wouldn’t work. What works for us is mutual submission and letting the other lead when Abba is telling them to lead. But no more “head” or “lord ship” in our house.

    It actually works well when you let Abba lead you both…

    • This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Taunya! God is complex and so are men and women because we are made in His/Her image. We cannot be defined by roles. You are right, Abba knows best and will guide the family best. We should be led by the Holy Spirit, not the voices of mere men.

  • Love this! Sorta the same thing my husband and I have gone through.. except I’m not in ministry.. We’ve come to realize that we both lead at different times and different situations.. We are much more happy and at peace this way. Also! I live in Virginia Beach!! Do you know of any churches that or more egalitarian here? We left our very comp church 3 years ago and have struggled to find anything.. and honestly it has been quite hard to even go back to church because they treated us soo poorly.. simply because we were not like them, our marriage was not like theirs. And well also, I had started to wake up out of that whole “men lead, women be quiet and submit” thing.. Even though I never argued with anyone about it.. No one there liked my questioning of things. We miss church and God has actually blessed us with many close Christian friends we didn’t meet in church. (Actually met through martial arts.) Anyway, we do miss attending a service but we just can’t stomach any more of these comp places.
    Thank you for being open and all you write. I don’t comment much but it really helps. =)

  • Oh, this is good. Thanks for sharing your story. Reminds me a LOT of me and my Hub. He IS my ‘hub’ – does for me what yours does for you. I share the same frustrations you mention, given our giftings and personalities. It’s so unfair to expect someone to be who they are not – male OR female.
    We have been happily pastoring together in The Salvation Army for over 26 years. (MOSTLY happily).

    Blessings.
    Deborah

  • To say that at first my heart sank as I read your blog, (as a mamma bear) I instantly wanted to fix it…then whoops thats not your business Faith rang in my ears. I love you to pieces and Luke is just about as sweet as they come. I am so glad you two are on one accord and God has gifted you both in your roles–conventional or not Jory is Jory…Luke is Luke together they are ONE. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Much love and continued blessings to you guys! Love you!

  • I love this! My husband and I are in this conversation. I, like you, have a ministry that God has placed in my heart. My husband has made my vision his vision; frankly, he has more faith for it than I do! We feel pressure to turn our ministry and work into something that is more “us” (read: where he’s in charge and I work with him), but neither of us feel that way. Thank you for this affirmation and your continuing fearlessness in using your voice!

    • You sound like you have a good man by your side. I think you should chase that ministry dream with all your heart and never look back, Nicole! Xo

  • Interesting, I was an assistant pastor in VA for a year and felt super frustrated as well with no Christian community. After a year I came home to PA and have been much happier. Even though my denomination in general doesn’t obsess over gender roles, I found in VA that everyone expected me to be the pastor in the kitchen, not out in the church ministering to visitors. Crazy. Thankfully, I’m out of that atmosphere.

  • What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing this part of your story. Do you know of any egalitarian churches that you would recommend in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area? That’s where my husband and I currently are, and we would love to find a church out here that’s a good fit for us. Keep up all the amazing work sister!

    • Thank you so much, Katie. I honestly don’t know of any egal churches out there. When we lived there, I was a children’s pastor for a very comp. lead pastor. I will never go to a comp. church or serve under a comp. pastor again.

      May God lead you!

  • “…there are many ways to be a godly man or woman.”

    Indeed – recognising our unique, God-given gifts and strengths seems like such common sense! I remember being asked at one time why I was an elder in my church, and my husband wasn’t. It felt like I’d been asked why the sky was blue and not green.

    (Of course, the answer was that God had called me… not my husband.)

  • “The Bible does not define ‘manhood’ or ‘womanhood’ because there are many ways to be a godly man or woman.” – Precisely right. The Bible has a lot of examples of men and women serving God, but none of them are definitional as to which roles are manly and which are womanly.

    • Thanks Tim. It is amazing how many rules Christian leaders have added to the Bible. We are living among so many modern day pharisees!

  • Jory,

    I understand some of the things that you are saying in your post, I don’t agree with all your stances expressed in this post, but I have a question that I would like to hear your take on.

    I was asked by a person in my church to look at your post and give them my take on this post. I told them that since I don’t follow your blog I was unsure of your beliefs and I don’t like to categorize people even by the titles they sometimes choose for themselves.

    Since you might disagree with my stance or take on male accountability, I am going to ask you to play “pretend” (I truly am not trying to be sarcastic or coy). Let’s pretend that when life is over and your husband faces the Savior in an “accountability” role. How does this passage (emphasis mine, sorry for the all caps, but I couldn’t bold the part I would like an explanation of) play out when Jesus asks about his “loving leadership” in your marriage…

    “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church SUBMITS TO CHRIST as he exercises such leadership, wives should LIKEWISE SUBMIT to their husbands. (Eph. 5:22-24 ~ MSG)

    I am a stronger personality, and have had to go through some counseling to see how I sometimes come across. I have studied and taught leadership/management for years. I have been an advocate for females in leadership roles and have encouraged couples like you and your husband to see how their natural God given talents can be relied upon in a marriage. This may sound condescending and patronizing, but I do not mean it that way, but I have at least 3 close friends in ministry who have served in senior or associate pastor roles with teaching and preaching in adult services under their belt.

    So, help me grasp your husbands answer to the “submit” part of the passage. Maybe even give me your take on what you feel you would say to Jesus as well. To clarify why I ask this, I cannot picture the church (who Jesus is head of) saying to Jesus (head / leadership / responsibility role~buck stops here sort-of) “I think I should take the head / lead / responsibility role because I am better at it.” Please don’t misunderstand, since I can’t have this conversation in person or by voice, I have to try to express my thoughts in type, which can really easily be misconstrued.

    In light of the language and comparison, how does parallel roles outlined in this passage play out and what is your take on this passage…

    Thank you for your time, I am grateful for your answer.

    You don’t need to post this comment, I am not trying to “test” you in public. I have moderated electronic conversations and it is the right of the author to keep the conversation civil. Posting this comment may just turn into a slug fest. I will leave that to your discretion but it is not my goal to make any heroic stances.

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