Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Spiritual leadership  

I often wonder what it really means for the husband/father to be the leader of the household. One thing I know for sure: leader is not the same as boss. I did not marry my wife so that I could have someone to do my bidding. My family is not a corporation and my role as husband is not a job with an annual review of how well I and my employees fulfill our set responsibilities. My family does not run like a well-oiled machine under my strict supervision, nor should it because we are individual people and not switches or gears or cogs in a wheel.

So in a way I know what being the leader of a family doesn't mean, but what does it mean? People have told me in the past that a husband and wife should discuss family decisions, but final decisions belong to the husband because God has anointed him as head of the family. Others have told me that a marriage should be a 51-49 partnership, with the husband controlling the 51 percent. I used to know a family of six (two parents and four children) that operated as a weighted democracy: each kid gets one vote, Mom gets five, and Dad gets ten. I'm not comfortable with any of these scenarios because in them the man of the house functions as a ruler rather than a leader.

I try to base my actions on Paul's exhortation to husbands in Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Jesus gave up His own life for the benefit of the church. No boss or general or dictator would do that—in most earthly scenarios, that just wouldn't make sense. Those of a higher rank hold a higher importance and would not sacrifice themselves for an underling. That's why I don't look at traditional leaders as husband role models, but rather to Jesus.

Jesus sacrificed Himself for the church, but He did more than that. He taught, He fostered, and He lived as an example. I feel like I should do that in my own family. I do okay as a leader in some areas, though I continue to learn more every day. But I run into problems in the spiritual arena. How do I foster spiritual health in my wife? I don't know that I should be held completely accountable for her relationship with God, but shouldn't I be providing an environment conducive to growth? Shouldn't I try to give her the tools she needs to learn? Shouldn't I exercise faith in my own life so that she can see how faith works? I'm sure I should, but I also have the nagging feeling that there's a lot more to it that I'm not even aware of.

In our church's last worship service of 2003, our pastor handed out Bible-reading schedules for the new year. This particular reading schedule takes you once through the Old Testament, twice through the New Testament, and a few times each through Psalms and Proverbs. Mrs. Happy took one, turned excitedly to me, and said, "We should do this!" She was right. We should have been doing it five years ago, and I should have led the effort, but it never really occurred to me. So now we're following the schedule, and we haven't missed a day yet. It wasn't my idea—not everything has to be—but I intend to make sure it continues and doesn't fizzle out after a few weeks. Maybe this is my first lesson in spiritual leadership.

This is where it kills me not to have a comments function. I have an intense desire to hear everyone's thoughts on spiritual leadership in the context of a marriage. Please send me an e-mail at comments[at]atimelikethis[dot]net.

Update: Comments are back! Check out the posts for Thursday and Friday to read others' thoughts on spiritual leadership in the home.