I'm sure you read the title of this article and thought to yourself "I love responsibility, I could use some more of that in my life!" (sarcasm intended). Actually, the idea of more responsibility sends us running full speed in the opposite direction, or at least it's had that effect on me. In college I avoided chores as much as possible. Now I am slowly becoming my mother, excited for the opportunity to test drive a brand new vacuum. Though I still have some rebellion in me, I'll leave dirty dishes in the sink over night every once in a while. When I started dating my husband, I was relieved to discover how organized and disciplined he is, hoping these tendencies would rub off on me (I'm a work in progress). But I've found that the responsibility he takes on as a husband expands far beyond household chores or finances, he is accountable to God for me and our marriage.
In our dating season, Leigh and I read Christian books and listened to sermons about marital roles, however these distinct roles weren't completely apparent to me until after our wedding. Coming home from work one day, I noticed our neighbor had hired some men to cut down branches from a tree in their front yard. Out of the corner of my eye I saw our building's garbage cans filled with these branches. My immediate thought, "that's not right!" justice for the improper use of these garbage cans must be served! Before I could change my mind about what I would do next, I turned around and told the men, "those are our garbage cans," and then offered a solution to my dilemma before they could speak, "can you use the ones that belong to this building instead?" pointing to my neighbor's. Their response was civil, but they were obviously annoyed with me, "we know what we are doing, we will leave one empty for you to use." Recognizing I already lost, I thanked them for their consideration and walked back inside, defeated. When I told my husband about the situation, he highlighted the possible effects to my actions. If they had become angry and yelled at me or harmed me in any way, he is responsible for defending and protecting his wife whether or not he agreed with how I handled the situation. This could've, in turn, put him in harms way. Listening to Leigh explain, it finally sunk in.
Being one means my decisions and actions affect my husband, even when he is not present.
Leigh as a godly husband must be responsible for me, but not in an authoritarian way, rather to show me love. The Apostle Paul stated, "The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church" (Ephesians 5:22 NIV) and commanded, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25 NIV). Jesus Christ took on the price (or responsibility) of our actions/transgressions, to cover and protect us from the eternal consequence of sin - spiritual death. That is what love looks like. Sacrifice. Christ didn't stop loving us because of what we did, He loves us in spite of what we did. When a man marries a woman, he is sacrificing himself for the marriage. As the head of his wife, he takes on the consequences of her actions, whether good or bad. He must give account to God for how he responds. Likewise, a wife is to submit to her husband as she does to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22 NIV), regardless of her husband's words or actions, except if he is leading her to sin.
Ultimately these marital roles have a greater purpose. We are called to be image bearers of God, so naturally a union created by God (marriage) is to reflect His nature. He loved us first and He showed us what submission looks like when Christ humbled himself on this earth and submitted Himself completely to the Father. Could you imagine having a God whose love was dependent on how good you are? Could you imagine how stale your relationship with God would be if you only submitted to Him when He did something you liked? Everything would be transactional and sacrificial love would not exist. Sadly, many people view God that way and will only listen to Him if He does what they want. If this is what our interaction with God looks like, certainly our marital roles will crumble and we will have missed the mark.
God doesn't call us to something that He has not already done or demonstrated to us in His character.
The reality is that many men do not want the kind of responsibility that is required of him in a marriage. It's a heavy load to carry, one that I will not fully understand as a woman. But those who avoid such responsibility are 1. not relying on the Holy Spirit to empower their leadership and 2. defying the design of God for marriage. This is why we see the breakdown of the nuclear family in society today and all the issues that follow. Women aren't off the hook either, as I mentioned in a previous article about nagging, men won't want to lead a woman who will consistently put him in harms way. When a woman is not careful about what she says or does, a man does not know what consequences may follow. Therefore, there is hesitation in leading such a woman.
Ladies, those of you who are not yet married can do a lot to serve your future husbands by working on yourselves now. Recognizing the kind of role a husband plays in a godly marriage, how can you encourage your partner to feel confident in taking on this role should you marry? Where do you rebel the most? How is God working to sanctify you? Remember, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits" (Proverbs 18:21 ESV). That scripture speaks directly to me, I need to work on holding my tongue and thinking of the effects of my actions. God is in the business of restoring us, not condemning us. Go to the Father with your cares, be honest with Him about the areas you lack in, and pray for your partner to courageously hone the role of a spiritual leader in your relationship.