A month ago I was a guest on Jesse Lee Peterson’s radio show, “Preachers in the Pulpit.” I was there under the pretense of getting to share my testimony and the amazing things God is doing at the church I am privileged to serve. But that didn’t happen. The second question my host asked me (the first one was, “Were you called to preach or did you go to school?) was,
Are you the head of your wife?
I knew I was in for a long hour.
Are you the head of your wife? It’s not a question I get asked very often, which I’m sure was made obvious by my fumbling around searching for the right words on live radio. However, I’m ready to answer that question without hesitation today. But first a story about my Mother’s Day failure yesterday.
It has to be some cruel joke that Mother’s Day is held on a Sunday, the day when mother’s are tasked with even more to do in order to get the kids fed, bathed, dressed and off to church on time. I have a great amount of respect for mothers, particularly the single ones, who somehow manage to get their whole tribe to Sunday school with all their limbs, and even hair, in tact. They put on a brave face and try to look cool, but I know what you had to go through to get them to church and please don’t feel the need to apologize for being 5-10 minutes late. I’m just happy you are here, and I’m proud of you for making it. I believe your Father in Heaven is proud, too. You’ll have an extra jewel in your crown, or a sound-proof mansion for napping any time you please (my guess is you’ll pick the latter).
Which brings me to my Mothers Day Fail. As a pastor my wife is essentially a single mom on Sundays. I leave early to get to church to go over my sermon notes, pray, meditate, get quiet with just me, God and my hot cup of coffee. I love Sunday morning. In the parsonage next door it’s a very different scene as Amy is getting herself and our five kids ready for church. Without fail, every week someone will either lose a shoe, get food on their clean clothes before going out the door, wet the bed and need another bath, spill their OJ all over the kitchen floor, decide it’s a good time to play in the cat litter, get in a fight with their brother and need disciplined, or any number and combination of things which would drive a normal parent crazy on a normal day, let alone Sunday morning.
So this Mothers Day I thought I would give my wife a break by forgoing my wonderful Sunday morning routine by getting the kids ready before church and making her breakfast in bed. But I failed, and miserably so. I got sidetracked at the church, lost track of time, had an emergency visit, and came home just in time to find Amy up and bathing a child who wet the bed (along with her sister’s Ipod, which was in bed with her. Wet Ipod is immersed in rice today. By the way, if you visit this week, say no to any offers of rice from my children). Needless to say, my wife was upset with me and made that very clear. I wanted a Mother’s Day do-over before it was even 8:30 a.m.
To be fair to Amy, this was about much more than me failing her on Mother’s Day. The fallout that happened that morning was the result of weeks if not months of my neglecting her needs in various ways. I have been preoccupied with other things and not fully present when at home, and my failure on Sunday morning hurt her in ways I never intended, but caused all the same.
What saved us that morning was God reminding me of the question Jesse Lee Peterson asked me a month ago and something written in my Bible from 2 years ago.
Chad, are you the head of your wife?
While I sat in my office that Sunday morning I knew that if things were to be made right, I needed to act like I was. Which means that when there is a problem in my marriage, when my wife is hurting, when things are not going the way they ought, it is my responsibility to make it right. It’s my responsibility to humble myself and die to my rights, my wants and my needs. That’s the price for being the head.
It’s the same price Jesus, the head of the Church, paid for you and I. When sin was choking God’s good creation and threatening to destroy every soul, Christ took responsibility for it all and paid the ultimate price. His death saved me, and in a similar way, my death to myself saves my marriage again and again.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27)
In the margin of my Bible next to that passage I have written the words, “When their is a problem in my marriage, it’s my fault. Always.” The buck stops here.
I wish I could say I remember to do this at all times and in all places with my wife. I’m learning, though. I’m lucky that she is more gracious than I am humble. We are getting there. Our lives together are a world different from what they were (or better put, weren’t) 3 years ago. The path to holiness is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’m thankful for the twists and turns and even bumps along the way when God, like a loving Father, reminds me how costly it is to be the head, and how important it is I live into that role.
So to answer your question, Jesse Lee Peterson, yes, I am the head of my wife. It’s not a role I would have asked for myself, but it’s one given to me by God. When I am fulfilling that role well, it looks mostly like this:
Or, being the head of my wife might resemble the way Christ lived out his role as head of the Church, like this:
When I am not being the head of my wife it is usually because I have forgotten which seat is mine (the first picture) or the price of headship (the second picture). My hope is to forget less and less, so that I can be more and more what God desires me to be for my wife.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Are you the head of your wife? By the grace given to us by God, may all of us who are husbands be able to live more and more into YES and AMEN.