I find myself reminded of a scene from the HBO’s mini-series about John Adams, founding father from Massachusetts, and second President of the United States. There is a scene where shortly after John Adams is sworn in as President, George Washington (his predecessor, obviously) turns to him and says:
“I am fairly out, and you are fairly in. See which of us will be the happiest.”
For most politicians, the office of the President is the most coveted, most highly sought after office in the land. The fact that there are so many candidates vying for the position right now (especially on the Republican side) shows just how enticing of a position it. It is no mystery why. No other office holds as much power, as much prestige, as much fame, or as much potential for a lasting legacy, as the office of the President.
I don’t know if George Washington actually said those words or not. But it is an interesting thought non-the-less that the first man to have held such an honorable position would have been so happy to have finally been free of it.
Whether he actually said those words or not, it is no surprise that those who have held the office may have at one time or another wished that they had not held it at all. As enticing as the power, and fame, and eternal place in history that the Presidency holds, the enormous pressure, stress, and the weight of the responsibility of the office can also be crippling.
With the invention of photography we can compare images of these men as they enter into the office, to those when they leave the office. It is shocking how many years many of these men have appeared to aged in a relatively short 4, or 8 year period; the most notable of which being Abraham Lincoln. In photographs from his final days you can see the impact that 4 years of leading the Union through the Civil War had on him, emotionally and physically.
It appears being in a position of leadership may not always be what it’s cracked up to be.
Leadership may come with the authority to get what you want, but it also comes with the enormous pressure to deliver. It may sounds like a cliché out of a Spider Man movie, but it really is true that, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
This is a fact that is often overlooked in the Biblical roles defined for men and women in marriage.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Our modern society, especially modern feminists, sees that the “wives must submit to their husbands” and immediately get worked up into a frenzy. They picture a dirty, unshaven man sitting on his butt watching TV in his “wife-beater” crushing an empty beer can, letting out a belch and yelling, “Hey sweet cheeks! How about another beer?”
They immediately start making references to the 1950’s (the God forsaken 1950’s) when women were expected to wait on their man, being at their every beck-and-call, and when they were not fetching them newspapers or cups of coffee then the woman was to be expected to be ceaseless cooking and cleaning, all while having several babies on their hip. All this is while the man sits in his leather arm-chair, smoking a cigar thinking about how perfect his life is.
Both of these images that are often invoked, very likely have happened to wives in past, and in some cases may continue to happen to this very day. It isn’t an entirely fictional scenario, and any woman (and any man) has every right to be repulsed by it.
But this is not a picture of Biblical marriage.
Biblical marriage is the union of a Godly man, to a Godly woman.
A man who lounges on the couch watching TV and drinking beer barking orders at his wife is not a Godly man. I can scarcely say he’s even a man at all. He’s more like a little boy who likes to pretend that his wife is really his mommy (who, apparently, failed to teach him how he is supposed to treat women).
A man who expects his woman to cater to his every need and keep the house in tip-top shape, and keep the children clean and fed, while he smokes cigars and relaxes after a “hard day at office” is not a Godly man.
A Godly man, when he is married, “Loves his wife, as Christ loves the church.” Such love is so powerful that he will do everything he can to care for, protect, and defend her. If necessary he will lay down his life for her. His wife is not his servant who is expected to follow his every command. His wife is his companion, his partner, his treasure.
Yes, the husband is the head of marriage. Yes, he is supposed to be the leader. And yes, the wife is supposed to submit to his leadership. But leadership is not a privilege that comes with the benefit of getting your own way. Leadership is a responsibility to put the needs of those you lead above your own. Leadership comes with the burden of living with the consequences of your decisions.
As a husband, most of the time, I’m not really making any decisions in my marriage. When it is Friday night and we feel like going out to eat for dinner, I seldom decide where we go. Usually my wife asks me where I’d like to go, and I typically respond, “I don’t care, whatever you want,” usually because I know she already knows where she wants to go and me saying this will help us arrive at a decision quicker. The day-in, day-out routine of life is usually comprised of decisions that we often make together as a team, and in many cases I will defer to whatever my wife wants. Usually it’s about something I don’t feel all that strongly about, and making my wife happy usually trumps everything else. This is partly because I love her and I want nothing more than to see her happy, and partly because I’ve discovered the wisdom in the expression, “Happy Wife! Happy Life!”
But then come the hard decisions.
Sometime, in the thick of parenting, even the seemingly simple decisions like where to eat or which church service to go can be difficult ones. My wife will have days when she gets to the end of her day and feel like she has made about a gazillion decisions, and just can’t bear the thought of having to make any more. In those moments, in which it seems I am usually also near the end of my rope, I have to stand up and take the lead, even when I’d rather not. Even seemingly trivial decisions can be important for a husband to make in taking care of his family.
However, beyond the simple decisions, every so often a major, potentially life altering, decision that has the power to have lasting or eternal consequences comes around. The right answer is seldom obvious, or if it is, is often so painful that making the decision is difficult.
In those moments, when I would love nothing more than to sit back and say, “Whatever you want honey,” that is when my wife, overwhelmed by the enormity of it, says to me, “I need you to make this call.”
That is what being the leader means. It means standing up when times are hard, and making the tough calls, that no one wants to. It means putting aside what you want, what you desire, or even what you think you need, and thinking about what is best for your wife or your family. It means bearing the weight of the decision and being the strong one, even when you may want to cry just as much as your wife. It means taking the responsibility and bearing the weight solely on your shoulders.
Should you leave your current church, saying good-bye to all the relationships you have there, and find a new one because your new neighborhood that you moved to is just too far away and you find yourselves skipping church more often than not?
Should you take that promotion at work that comes with significantly more pay and benefits that you know your family could use, but also knowing that you will probably lose precious time with your family?
Should your child who is sick, and might benefit from a new, but risky medical procedure, receive the treatment, where success could restore your child to health, but there is no guarantee that it would not leave your child even worse off than if you did nothing?
These are not simple or straightforward questions. The decisions made could have lasting impact on the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of your whole family. Your wife may have thoughts and opinions, and perspectives, and her voice should most certainly be listened too, and her feelings taken into serious consideration. But the responsibility to make the final call falls to you as the husband. Not because the woman is incapable or inferior, but because God has chosen to lay the burden on the man, as a mirror for the burden he laid upon Christ to save His Church.
The final call may not be what you initially wanted. Christ did not want to go to the cross as he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But he loved His people, His Church, His bride, so much that he was willing to submit to the will of His Father, saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). Likewise a Godly husband and father, guided by the Holy Spirit, must put his own personal desires aside and do what is truly best for his family.
That is leadership, and it is not a fun job.
It’s an age old debate on who has the harder job in a marriage, the man or woman. Both have hard jobs, and both should be there to help the other through them. But whoever has the more emotionally, mentally, or physically demanding job; I believe the man has the scarier job. Because no matter how much work is involved in your respective jobs (whether in the “workforce” or being a “stay-at-home-parent”), no matter how the split of house chores is done, and no matter who does more physical labor, or who does more to care for the children, at the end of the day the man will have to stand before God and not only give an account of himself, but an account for his wife and his children. Not to say that God will not hold each of them accountable for their own actions or decisions. But as the divinely appointed “leader” of the family, it is the Husband’s and Father’s responsibility to shield his family from the evil of the world around them. It is the Husband’s responsibility as leader to teach his family the word of God. It is the Husband’s responsibility to ensure his children are disciplined.
God won’t judge the man for the decisions his family makes, but He will certainly judge the man who does not do everything in his power to adequately equip them to make the right decisions. Just as Christ not only died for us to save us, but also lived his life to show us how to live. So husbands and fathers bear the added responsibility to be the example of Christ to his family. That is a daunting, and terrifying job.
So to any man who is married, engaged, or thinking about getting married. Yes, being a husband means you are the leader, but that is not something to brag or boast about. It is not something to hold over your wife. It is not a role to enter into lightly. Being a husband is an awesome responsibility. Your wife’s well-being is your responsibility. Your children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being is your responsibility. It’s an enormous job.
Don’t screw it up!
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