By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
It happens. Your husband who, like you, isn’t perfect, will let you down at times. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to grab the reins in the marriage and assume leadership your way.
It might, instead, be time to grasp a very precious lesson that God wants you to learn in your marriage. And that is, how to extend grace and be an encourager when someone else is trying to live under the pressure of God’s calling.
As women, we have a propensity to act on fear, which causes us to seek control. Thus, you and I, as wives, have a tendency to take the lead from our husbands. That desire gets stronger when our husbands disappoint us in the way they lead, or when they fail to lead in the first place.
Be a Partner, Not a Dictator
If you’re thinking at this point, but somebody has to lead in my home, that somebody is your husband. Many times he just needs to be allowed--or encouraged--to lead. I realize it may be difficult, at times, for you to let your husband lead, especially if you are a get-it-done woman who tends to accomplish things at a different pace than your husband.
And the better you are at getting it done, the more difficult it may be to stand back and let him lead the way in getting certain things done--at work, at home, in your marriage, in parenting, and so on.
But here is what I’ve found by interviewing numerous husbands while writing my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband: Most husbands want a partnership with you, not a dictatorship.
They want to work with you in the decisions concerning their job, their marriage, their family. They value your opinion; they just don’t want it lorded over them. They want your advice; they just want you to ask for theirs, too.
They sometimes--maybe many times--don’t know how to best handle a situation but they realize the tension in that they still feel responsible to lead. So, they want your input and then your trust if it comes down to the two of you going with their decision.
Realize This Is a Spiritual Issue
Our admonition to let our husbands lead is laid out in the New Testament as a spiritual responsibility to the Lord, as well as to our husbands:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church... Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:21-24)
God's exhortation to wives in that verse is showing us that following our husband’s lead and submitting to (or obeying) him when it comes down to who has the last say is a spiritual issue. Our spiritual issue, not our husbands'. In other words, we are not told “submit to your husbands if they are acting like Christ.” We are told to follow their lead, as we would follow Christ’s.
Even if your husband is not leading you as Christ would (and I know we can play that card, at times), we are still to yield to their lead as we would surrender our will and follow the lead and authority of Christ.
Just like men, we as women were created in the image of God. That means we, too, are naturally able to rule, oversee, manage, and administrate. We need those traits in order to parent our children, right? And in order to coordinate our family’s calendar, head up the project at work, or lead that ministry at church.
Many wives are more than capable of leading. We just need to know where and when to back off and let our husbands shine.
Understand the Pressure He Is Under
I know that gets difficult when they make a mistake, when they sense God’s leading in a certain direction and were wrong, or when their “final say” ends up costing you or your family in one way or another. But believe me, your husband feels just as badly about his leadership mistakes and failures as you do. Probably even worse.
And from what I’ve seen in talking with many husbands about this touchy issues of leadership in the home, it’s very possible your husband may be fearful of leading, of making the wrong decision, of not cutting it when it comes to your--or his family’s--expectations. If that is the case, that is where he needs your partnership, your prayer and your praise.
You can partner with your husband, first of all, by understanding the pressure he is under as the appointed spiritual head of his home. As mothers, we often take on much of the burden for how our children are developing spiritually, but wouldn’t it be intimidating if our God-given role was to be the spiritual head of the household?
I will admit that I am a lousy role model in my own home, at times – to both my husband and our daughter. And although I serve a gracious and forgiving God, I am still accountable to God for my actions. I must still confess the times I blow it and admit to God that I so need Him to control my every thought, word and action.
Yet, if I had to live with the pressure that God was going to hold me accountable for the bottom line spiritual health of my entire family, I wonder if I’d buckle under the pressure. I would probably constantly feel I was blowing it.
Do you think your husband might sometimes feel that way?
Men hate to feel that they have let someone down or disappointed someone who was counting on them. If he is blowing it in your eyes, chances are he already knows that and therefore feels even worse about himself. In his eyes, he’s disappointed you, his family and God, whether he has a relationship with God or not.
Men naturally want to do things they excel at. If they’re not good at being a leader, in your eyes, they may shrink from the task, altogether.
How can you partner with your husband and keep encouraging him to lead in the way God designed him to? By practicing these four acts of love:
1. Provide Input--Graciously
Your input is valuable to your husband, but how you provide that input makes all the difference in the world. I have, in the past, made my husband believe I was so sure of my opinion that I had already decided how we should handle a situation and I was merely running it by him for his agreement with me. Not a wise thing to do.
I have since learned to look at a situation, ask him for his opinion, and then discuss with him what we should do. I have found that his suggested approach is often a perfectly suitable (and sometimes more rationale, rather than emotional) solution. Sometimes his solution is not a solution I would have proposed, but what counts is that the matter is resolved amicably.
2. Pray for Him--Continually
Your husband needs to know you are in his corner. If you can’t say “I’m on board with you” and really mean it, then pray for a submissive spirit that enables you to say, “Because you’re my husband, I will honor your decision.” And then keep praying for him--and his decision--every step of the way.
3. Praise Him--Unconditionally
Men want to continue to do what they feel they are doing well. So, it’s important that you praise his ability to lead even if you don’t agree with how he leads. Yes, there may be times he doesn’t lead effectively. But find something you can praise, such as his initiative, his courage in taking a step, or his desire to do what is best.
As he steps out and leads, he needs to know the two of you are a team.
4. Practice Forgiveness--Always
Because your husband isn’t perfect he will continue to let you down, just as you will continue to not meet his expectations, at times. Therefore, it’s important to remember that grace is the glue that holds the two of you together. If he knows you will not hold his mistakes against him, but will generously give him another chance, he’ll keep trying to do the best he can for you and his family.
Be his cheerleader by being someone who allows him to fail and helps pick him back up again. When you do that, you are loving him as God does.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of more than a dozen books, including When a Woman Inspires Her Husband (upon which this article is based), 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, and When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection, which she co-authored with her husband, Hugh. For more on her books, speaking ministry, or resources to encourage you in your marriage, parenting, or relationship with God, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Rawpixel
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, award-winning writer, national speaker, and the author of several books to help women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and one another. She and her husband, Hugh, co-authored the book When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection. Some of her books to help you combat fear and strengthen your trust in God include When Women Walk Alone (more than 145,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You and When Women Long for Rest. You can find out more about her ministry, books, and free resources at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com .