I have posted this before so if you have read this previously you will have to forgive me. However, I think this has been on my heart/mind recently because I proposed to my girlfriend last night and she said YES! One of the major things I have learned during our relationship so far is Spiritual Leadership. There is tremendous responsibility in marriage. With the God appointed role of a husband, I am endowed with the spiritual well-being of another person. This has been on my mind a lot and I am thankful that God promises to give help in all of the areas of our Christian life.
A picture? Yes, a picture. Marriage is a picture. We see the evidence scattered all over scripture. What is the picture of? Christ and the church, of course. That loving relationship between a man and his wife is an example to us of the “marriage of the Lamb” where the church is described as “the bride of Christ” and Christ is the perfect bridegroom that has given his life to redeem, win, and swoon his bride. Too often we don’e see the beauty of Christ’s pursuit of His bride. The Holy Spirit is actively in the business of winning people unto Christ. We see that in a man who has fallen for a woman and really puts on his best to impress her, to swoon her, to capture her, but that woman still has a choice of her own. Much like sinners being called by Christ. Christ cannot force a person to love Him, the sinner must make that choice on their own. But that marriage relationship is a picture of Christ and His church.
I feel the weight of this and am completely ecstatic that I can show the love of Christ, and give God glory in my marriage.
So if there is a picture, many times in scripture, there is a pattern to follow. Ephesians 5:25 gives husbands a pretty clear pattern:
Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.
Ephesians 5:23-24 is pretty clear for wives:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
And of course, there is Genesis 2:24 as a pattern to both partners:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
What I have had brought before me in a totally new way is my role. To love like Christ loves the church. Unconditionally. Completely. Uniformly. What a task! Why is the traditional line of the vow “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part”? Simple. That is what Christ does for us. Is that all He does? In the words of DC Talk, “Love is a Verb”. If I am not acting on that love then it really isn’t love. If I am not seeking the best for the object of my love then it really isn’t love. I will continually put my wife before myself and her needs before my own. What it also means is that I will sometimes (as the leader of the home) have to make the hard decisions that I would have love to avoid, but must be made for the well-being of my family. As a spiritual mentor of mine told me this morning in an email, “You are commtting yourself to a great responsibilty as well as great potential for joy.” When we follow the roles that God has given and follow His will, there is an abundance of joy that comes with the tremendous responsibility of marriage. I look forward to the day!
I’m sure we have all heard the two previous things before. If I heard that stuff once, I’ve heard it 100 times. And there is nothing wrong with that as the truth is tremendous and I would listen to it 100 more times more. The principle on my mind today was the idea of “following the leader”. In a marriage, or any relationship, the role of a man to be a leader is made much easier by a wife/significant other who is willing to follow. Forgive my crude example to follow (I assure you I have no implications by the things I will say).
There is nothing harder than trying to lead a dog somewhere it doesn’t want to go. You are trying to have a nice leisurely walk around the neighborhood and your dog is chasing squirrels, barking at other dogs, running circles around you, and generally going the exact opposite direction as yourself at any instant during the stroll. “Leading” the dog suddenly becomes “pulling” the dog in the direction you desire. The illusions of an easy walk are met by the reality of a constant struggle and you collapse from exhaustion as you fall through the front door. For a man, “pulling” your wife in the direction you desire is quite problematic as well. The marriage becomes a struggle and exhausting. I wonder if this could be a cause to so many marriages ending? Just a thought. The husband gets tired of the constant battle for direction and purpose in the marriage. But what about when the dog wants to follow wherever you go? The walk becomes so much more enjoyable for both the dog and yourself. Both can share in a pursuit in the same direction (maybe the dog will need a bit of encouragement here or there) but what a blessing when the dog wants to follow you! In a marriage, is it really any different? As I said to Julia, “It is easy to lead someone who is willing to follow.” When a wife is willing to follow, the role/job of the husband is made so much easier. Both can pursue the purpose of God and go in the direction of God’s leading. The husband is given the role of the head of the home and how much easier of a role it is to carry out when the wive is willing to submit and follow his direction.
Now, the other side of the example is the direction you want to lead the dog. If I walk my dog through a group of bigger, stronger, meaner dogs then of course my dog will not want to go the way of my direction. If I am leading my dog on every walk in a way that is dangerous or not in the best interest of the dog, he/she will be much less willing to follow me. Does this also apply to the marriage? Absolutely! As a husband if my direction in leadership is purely selfish, I will not be leading my wife in a good direction. If I do not have her best interest in mind she will not be willing to follow and look for a way to keep out of danger! But, if my direction is to pursue God and his ways, then my best interest, and her best interest is always in mind. I will lead my wife with only her safety and growth in perspective. How much easier will it be for her to follow that kind of leader? As Julia said to me “It’s easy to follow someone who relies on God and has my best intentions in mind.”
The way a marriage should be.
But that was just the first stage of what I was provoked to ponder. The second half? Oh that is much more universal. I mentioned that marriage is just a picture of Christ and the church. And so it is. Take all these examples and apply them to our Christian life with Christ as our Lord and head! How difficult am I making it for Christ to lead me? Impossible? My willingness to follow directly affects his ability to lead. He will never force me to comply or follow his command. I will never be held against my will and pushed in a direction I don’t want to go. Christ is all about submission and willingness. But the flip side has no controversy. A husband may lead a wife selfishly but Christ will never do so! Christ is God and leads as such. He himself was fully reliant on God during his few years here. His delight was to do the will of the Father and he never missed a step. I am thankful that is my Lord. The Son of God who ALWAYS has my best interest in mind. His plan is best and his way is perfect. How easy it should be for me to follow when I acknowledge his character and submit to his Lordship.