The Roles God Calls Us To – Lead and Submit

Ingrained in Christian marriage is the expectation of roles – that the husband will lead and the wife will submit.

Ephesians 5:21-23 –And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.

I have to admit that I still prickle at the verse. As a woman that grew up climbing trees, playing Little League baseball with the boys, and attending a male dominated engineering school, I have to remind myself that this verse is not about holding women back. The verse is about bringing order to human relationships and about loving each other by denying ourselves.  And even though the verse prickles me, deep down I want my husband to lead. In fact, it is a real turn on for my husband to lead, and I constantly hear other women say the same thing.

Wives want their husband to lead spiritually by praying over them and encouraging their walk with God. They want them to lead the family by protecting them, setting up healthy boundaries, and through active involvement raising the kids. They also want them to lead as lovers by pursuing them, planning awesome dates and even by their sureness in the marriage bed.

Women often express their dismay at the lack of leadership their husband takes in their marriage.  But honestly, this is a two-way street. How can a husband lead unless we let them?

Letting my husband lead does not come naturally.  I always seem to have a better idea about everything. But I am learning that sometimes the little things make a huge difference. For instance, when my husband drives somewhere, I don’t have to question his route. I can relax and enjoy the scenery on a new path.

Many women share, that they just wish their husband would plan a date. I remember having the sudden realization that maybe my husband always delegated decisions for our dates, because I had spent years sharing my “better ideas.” Whenever he would plan something, I would say, “well, I would really rather go to ….” And then we did.

I had to repent, and say, “I am sorry for always having a better idea. I want you to plan things that you think we would enjoy and I will be thrilled with whatever you plan. “

It is not that he always has to decide where we go. Recently I planned an overnight getaway for the two of us and it was awesome. But when my husband makes the plans, I don’t need to second guess him, I just get to enjoy it. If you want your husband to lead, if you want him to plan a date, then you have to let him. And you have to thoroughly enjoy it – even if you end up laughing together about a unique adventure like this.

Men leading and women submitting, really does not make a lot of sense.

Husbands are great at focusing on one thing, letting go, being spontaneous and not worrying – and God calls them to lead.

Women are great at multitasking, controlling things, making plans, and seeing the big picture – and God calls us to submit.

I think God calls us to one of the hardest things we will ever do, and I can only come to one conclusion…

God wants us to learn what does not come naturally so that we realize we cannot do this on our own, but we must depend on Him.

Comments 5

  1. Ruth, Thanks for sharing your experiences in submission. One of the reasons I was attracted to my wife before we were married was that she was such a strong leader. However, after we were married our two type “A” personalities clashed quite often. I remember one time taking her over my knee and spanking her butt because she was so obnoxious. At the same time she said what attracted her to me was that I could lead her spiritually where every other person she dated let her lead. So, what is attractive is not always able to be worked out in practical terms. We have been married 52 years and have finally figured it out.

  2. The comment about “taking her over my knee” is quite horrific, and is just one small example of where the teaching of completely dichotomous roles for men and women can lead. Women are not children who need to be led and disciplined by their husbands, and that idea makes it impossible for a man and woman to enjoy a truly joyous and intimate marriage. It creates a hierarchy and antagonism that may be okay for workplaces and organizations (although it’s not ideal even in those settings), but not for the most intimate of personal relationships.

    I see these verses not as saying that men and women have two entirely different roles, but rather that their actions toward the other are like two sides of a coin. They are doing the same thing, but possibly in slightly different ways. All Christians are to submit to one another, which clearly doesn’t mean to do everything other Christians tell them to do. Rather it means laying aside one’s own interests in favor of the interests of the other person. And that is what both husbands and wives are asked to do. I simply don’t see a strict “he leads, she submits” teaching in this, especially given that the meaning of kephale is not clear.

    • Ruth, What I did 50 years ago does sound “horrific” in these days and in this climate. In those days and in the way I was raised by a very domineering Italian father who used the rod liberally. It was the way it was. Today, we have messages of equality, sensitivity, anti-bullying, Biblical submission, etc. that cause us to rethink leadership roles. You are one of the leaders in this new understanding, but realize this is a new way of thinking for many men. Even today we have young men who have been raised by fathers from another country who have very different and non-Biblical views of submission. Keep spreading the the message, I needed this 50 years ago. (BTW. it only happened once, and it was in good fun.)

      • mm

        Thank you for giving us some context and helping us to understand your experiences and growth.
        Thank you also for your encouragement. This is not an easy role that God called me to, but I also cannot imagine not stepping into it.

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