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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