Most men in our circles understand that they are called to lead their homes spiritually. But I’ve noticed a tendency of some guys to back away from this if their wife is the more spiritually mature one.
Maybe that’s you. Maybe your wife grew up in church and you are only more recently a Christian. Or perhaps she attended a church where she was better taught than you were. Maybe she was discipled by a mature sister in Christ, but you have yet to find someone to disciple you in that way. Or, let’s call a spade a spade: She has always just had a greater spiritual appetite than you. Perhaps she is better educated, or more naturally curious–or perhaps you’ve just found the things of God a bit more boring than she has. Sure you feel guilty about it, but spiritual disciplines like prayer and quiet times are a whip, not a joy (like she seems to find them).
All this can result in fear: specifically, a fear of leading your family–afraid to step out on a limb and lead in any way. After all, if you say, “I think we should do this,” you may be afraid your wife will come back with, “But the Bible says…” (followed by copious Scriptural citations–recited perfectly, word-for-word, along with the reference chapter and verse).
How are you gonna argue with that? Having that thrown back at you a few times will certainly make you gun-shy to lead out in your home. You may even think, “I guess my power in this marriage will be in how well I do in my career, because it certainly won’t be in our spiritual discussions or in my prayers for them.” Or, you may push back at her a bit, attempting a power grab by becoming obstinate, or by and asserting yourself when it’s unnecessary to do so (e.g., “I’m going fishing with the boys; I don’t care if it is your Dad’s birthday!”). The end game of all this seems to lead to only one conclusion: Spirituality, Christianity, church, all that stuff–that will be her thing; my thing will have to be something else.
So where does that lead you? Where do you go from here? Is there any hope that you will ever be able to be a spiritual leader in the home like other guys seem to do?
Take heart. You can still lead your family spiritually; you don’t have to wait until you pass your wife up in spiritual maturity. You see, regardless of your current level of maturity, you are still bound (if you’re a Christian) to lead your family. (See Eph 5:25 – 6:4). Leading the family can include: initiating prayer times (with the wife and kids together, as a family and individually–especially your wife, 1 Peter 3:7); taking time to read through Scripture together and talk about its meaning and application to their (and your) lives; thinking through struggles and problems by directing the family to Scripture and to prayer; discussing Sunday’s sermon and answering questions. (More about answering questions later.)
Believe me, even your more spiritually mature wife will rejoice if you routinely take the initiative to lead out in your home. And I’ll just bet she won’t be keeping a scorecard in her brain of your misquoted verses or theological errors; I’ll bet she’ll be refreshed by your efforts.
(Note for the wives: If your husband attempts to lead, let him lead whenever possible–even if it’s not how you would do it. A critical spirit can throw a wet blanket over the embers of your husband’s newfound passion to lead his family. Support whatever he does; if you have to correct him, do so privately and as lovingly as you can).
So here are ideas to help you as you set out to lead your family:
* Again, don’t abdicate this responsibility to your wife. God has no exception clause for leading your home when she is more spiritually mature than you. Step up to the plate. The phrase, “man up” is way over-used, but if there was ever an appropriate time to say it, it’s now: Man up!
Archie Bunker was a character from a 1970s TV show called “All In The Family.” He used to say that it was his wife Edith’s job to go to church, to represent the family. As long as she went, he was covered. No. If anyone has been called to represent the family, guys, it’s you. Even though Eve was the first to disobey God, God held Adam accountable for it: Scripture says that “the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 ESV, emphasis added.)
* Recognize that there are ways that you can still lead if you’re the less mature one in your marriage . Be the one responsible to schedule family devotions. Initiate prayer time with your wife and with your kids. You don’t have to be Billy Graham to read a Bible verse and ask your family questions about it. And even the least mature Christian can say, “Let’s pray.”
* Resist the temptation to resent her maturity; instead, celebrate & be thankful for it. Her maturity is actually a gift from God. Many guys are married to gals who love the world; your situation is better by far. Proverbs 19:14 says, “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” Her maturity is a gift to you, not a threat to your masculinity. In fact, you can make use of the gift of your wife’s maturity. Ask her to pray during family devotions. When you ask a question that stumps the rest of the family, asking her perspective will help the whole family, including you.
* Confess your lack of diligence in this matter to your wife, and ask her to pray for you. This is humbling, but will bring the two of you together. Besides, her prayers, will hold you up when you feel weak and not up for the task.
* Circumvent potential pitfalls. As mentioned earlier, multiple corrections from your wife can be greatly discouraging, so set some ground rules. For example:
- If she objects to where you are taking the discussion, especially if you may not be interpreting the passage correctly, ask her to use a code phrase like, “Honey, could we look at this verse together later? I’ve got some questions.” This lets you know you may need correction, but doesn’t embarass you, or cause your kids to lose confidence in your ability to lead.
- Receive her input humbly. That may be hard, but not as hard as a heart that thinks it can’t learn from his wife!
- Always end your family discussions by asking your wife, “Honey, do you have anything to add?” That way, if you’ve sort of missed the point, or left something out, this allows her to share her insights in a safe and helpful way rather than in a reprimanding way.
- It may be helpful to ask her from time to time, “Honey, do you have any suggestions for how I can improve the way I lead our family worship times?” This frees her up to provide input on what you do well and how you could better lead.
* Finally, don’t be content to stay the less mature one. Find the godliest, most on-fire, knowledgeable, mature guy you know & ask him to disciple you. Make yourself a cat on the screen door till he agrees. Be hungry for the word, for sermons, for books that help you grow, but especially be hungry for Jesus. He is the Bread of Life and the Living Water; He alone can satisfy. And if you lack this hunger and this thirst, ask God to give it to you, and don’t give up until He does!