A couple of years ago, my husband began leading our family in a time of "family worship".
The routine usually looks something like this: After dinner- during dessert, Daddy reads a Bible story to the kids, sometimes they recite a memory verse, we usually sing a hymn or two, pray, and sing the doxology.
This is a great time for us to talk about the Gospel, and it is always a blessing to our family!
When we are consistent, it is evident that the kids bear fruit. They begin to remember what they've been taught and apply it in their daily lives. This is not the work of excellent parenting, but the result of them coming into contact with the means of grace!
But sometimes, things get off, life gets busy, and family worship gets inconsistent- or worse- non-existant.
When this happens, it can be extremely hard to get back in the routine of doing it on a daily basis- particularly for the man who has to lead it!
Being a stay at home mom, I deal with mental burn-out on a regular basis. I spend my time and energy on the kids. But they are my duty and my delight, and because that is the case- it doesn't take much for me- the mom- to get in a teaching/training/discipling mindset.
But for my husband, who works hard from 9-to 5 every day, the prospect of coming home and instantly becoming a shepherd and teacher- can, at times, seem daunting!
In a perfect world this would never happen. In a perfect world, man would come home to a place of peace and rest. He would be eager to teach and train the sheep in his care, and would enjoy every minute- content to live up to his purpose and calling. But this is not a perfect world, it is a fallen one. And no mere man can meet those expectations all the time. Knowing this, we- as wives- should be sympathetic. We should be self-aware, and introspective. Feeling the weight of our own inadequacies and shortcomings, we should be patient and kind when made aware of our husband's.
But being the loving help-meets that we are... what do we most often do?
If you're like me, it may be your natural tendency to meet hubby at the door when he gets home- holding his shepherd hat.
You hand it to him with a kiss and a wink, "Okay, darling! I'm tagging off. Lead and I will follow!"
And when hubby looks up at you with tired reluctance, you feel your heart sink.
As you're laying in bed at night, Satan starts whispering lies that lead you to question...
Doesn't he want to be my spiritual leader? Doesn't he love our children? Doesn't he want us to grow as a family?
Once again, if you're like me... your reaction might be to amp up your "lead-me" face. Those subtle hints for leadership might turn not-so-subtle. And you may even be willing to start a fight in order to get the conversation going.
This is so wrong!!!
I'm talking to myself here, of course!
But this is not the right way to be a helper to your husband. The Holy Spirit does not need you to do His job!
I once heard a woman quote My Big Fat Greek Wedding in this context, saying, "The man may be the head of the household, but the woman is the neck and can turn the head whichever way she wants." Meaning, it is the wife's duty to make sure that the husband follows the correct path.
Friends, sisters... this is unBiblical!
Look at what 1 Peter 3 has to say about this: "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. " (1-2)
Obviously we believe that the Lord has called husbands and fathers to be spiritual leaders in their homes and to abandon that duty would be sinful.
Nonetheless, it is not okay to start a fight with, belittle, nag, or scorn your husband in order to get him to do it.
In fact, scripture says, "It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife." (Proverbs 25:24).
And we- the wives- do not get to define quarrelsome-even if it is his sin we're quarreling about!
Look at the contrast between these two verses: quarrelsome vs quiet.
Obviously the Lord is leading us in the direction of gentility and quiet submission, as it says next in the text:
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear." (1 Peter 3:3-6)
You might be sneering at me right now thinking, well... times change, honey! No way I'm calling Bobby-Joe my master!
And to you I say, yes they do. Times do change and women do change. But God does not. And if He required it of Sarah, then He also requires it of me.
And I don't think that this text is encouraging oppression or a slave-master relationship between spouses. I don't think Sarah calls Abraham master in a spirit of fear and slavery. But she loves and respects her husband, and is ready to treat him with the honor and submission that he deserves- not as her dictator, but as her loving husband. He is the object of her love, desire, and affection. He is bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh.
So okay, you say...I'm supposed to stop nagging and be quiet. But what does that mean??
In a practical sense... How do we encourage our husbands to take up the Word and be spiritual leaders in their homes?
Well, practically speaking, here are 3 avenues that have been successful for me:
1. Be his helpmeet by shouldering His burdens: Continue to do family worship- even when he won't. Sing and pray and read from the Word to your children- or by yourself. And do it in a spirit of compassion and love- without judging him. Let him see the Lord working in your heart to produce the fruit of reverence and a quiet spirit. This will be an encouragement to him- without adding your naggy- disapproval to his list of demons to conquer. Chances are, he will be encouraged to pick it back up. Sometimes the thought of leadership is harder than leadership itself. By doing it and reminding him of the blessing that it brings, you may find you've taken away the hardest part: the thought of it.
2. Pray for Him! Why do we always forget this one?? I truly believe that we should never ever be willing to voice a complaint to our husband that we have not already taken before the Lord. (I'm really preaching to myself here!) You might find, when you pray about an it, that the problem is actually a result of sin in your life- not his. And we should remember that the Lord is faithful to listen to our prayers and petitions and often answers them!
3. Instead of dwelling on all of your husband's shortcomings, think about your own. In doing so, you should cultivate a heart of forgiveness and compassion. It should encourage you to put down your checklist, and lower your lofty expectations that- let's face it- nobody can live up to. And in doing a little self-examinating, you might find some major character flaws that your husband has been silently enduring. You might find some of your wifely duties have gone amiss. This could even be some of the reasons why your husband is struggling to lead. So think creatively, what is it that you can do for him to help him come to the place of leadership? Is he tired- could he just use a little extra sleep and rest? Is he weary from work- could he use a night out without dad-duties? Does he just need you? How can you be the helper fit for him? As I love to quote to my children, "Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil 2:4) By turning our thoughts away from ourselves, we stop feeling like the victim of a poor leader- and start feeling like an effective, active member of a two-person team. After all, that is what marriage is all about.
And not that I need to remind you, but I will...None of this is possible without the work of the Spirit. I know how hard this is. I know the tendency to be resentful and frustrated and hurt. But always, when we feel broken and despised and forsaken, we have to remember the One who offered Himself up to be broken and despised and forsaken. That is where our strength comes from. His power is made perfect in my weakness. And in yours.