On Being the Head of my Wife

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.

photo (11)

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:

washing

 

Or, being the head of my wife might resemble the way Christ lived out his role as head of the Church, like this:

Jesus-on-the-cross-1

 

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.

 

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15 thoughts on “On Being the Head of my Wife

  1. Reblogged this on Desire Mercy and commented:
    In my sermon Sunday I shared a little about my Mother’s Day Fail. Here is more of that story, but the important thing I hope this conveys is a call and a challenge for us all to better serve our spouse as Christ has and continues to serve us. Blessings to you!

  2. I’m glad that you’ve come out as a patriarchal complementarian. I just really think that you’d do better in a denomination that doesn’t have female ordination since you’ve now publicly taken a position on gender that is incompatible with it.

    • It’s obvious you didn’t read the article, Morgan. A call to serve our wives the way Christ served the church is not incompatible with Christian teaching, nor should it be. As for seeking another denomination, should my conference determine I’m unfit to be ordained perhaps I’ll consider it, but thus far that hasn’t happened.

    • By the way, do you offer the same advice to everyone (like yourself) who has publicly taken a position incompatible with our denomination’s understanding of marriage? I think you’d do great in the UCC.

    • Morgan, where does this post advocate any such thing? The Scriptures about the husband being the “head” of the wife have to mean *something* – it is just a question of *what* they mean. So simply using the language of Eph. 5 and 1 Cor. 11 does not define any position. The UMC believes in equal leadership in the church and equal partnership in marriage for women and men not because we believe some parts of Scripture are wrong, but because we read them differently than “patriarchal complementarians” – that different reading having a firm foundation in Genesis 1 through 3, by the way. Chad does not get into detailed exegesis here, but it is extremely unfair to take his attempt to get *something* out of these passages, something which motivates him to serve his wife and repair the relationship, and then somehow take that to mean he agrees with the most conservative readings of these texts.

      It should be pretty clear from Chad’s introduction that the whole context of this thought was his being mocked and ridiculed by someone who really *is* a “patriarchal complementarian,” precisely for not exercising absolute authority over his wife. It makes no sense to then accuse him of being such. [Perhaps Chad could tell us a little more of that story at a later time.]

      I’ve seen the two of you treat each other much more respectfully in the past and so it is disappointing to see you both suggest alternative communions for one another. I think you are both “doing great” in the UMC.

      Here is a concise exegetical resource you both might find helpful from Christians for Biblical Equality. It begins by sounding complementarian but concludes firmly egalitarian. I can’t guarantee the merits of the exegesis, and I am not sure if either of you (or myself) would agree fully, but I post this mainly to help readers/commenters here understand that simply saying “the husband is head of the wife” does not equal being against female ordination, nor does it equal lording over one’s wife.

      http://www.cbeinternational.org/?q=content/i-believe-male-headship

      • Thank you, James. I’ll take a look at the link you provided.

        As for my suggestion to Morgan, that is something I stand behind, and one I’ve suggested to everyone who can’t or won’t abide by our denomination’s teaching on marriage, or any other important matter. It would be preferable that they simply find a home where they can be embraced and affirmed, and carry out their ministry with integrity, rather than insist we change our rules to accommodate them or break up our global connection.

        It’s unclear to me why he would suggest I be the one who leaves, when I affirm our church’s teaching as it now stands, in both marriage and the role of women in the church. But should it change, and I find I can no longer believe what our church teaches, I’ll go somewhere else.

  3. Chad….thank you so much for your openness and honesty…..and for sharing what you wrote in the margin of your Bible. Often times I believe it is easy to slide into a mis-prioritized life. God first, family second (which begins with spouse), and all else sorted out after. I have issues with being a work-aholic. Not a 12 step program for that one that I’m aware of. So….I took the 1 step program instead. Each and every morning without fail….before I read the Bible and meditate silently before God….I ask Him to direct and prioritize my day. That was the only way I could beat my constantly mis-prioritizeing my day…and well….life. Your words were a blessing to my heart. I believe you are right on track.

    I certainly would not let the words of a distractor get under your skin such as Mr. Guyton. I have yet to hear him speak in a way that is for the edification of the body…..unless one agrees with his opinions. His presence is a trap and snare for many….don’t fall into it.

    Thanks again for your blog! I really value it.

    • Duane – Perhaps you have not read much of Morgan’s writing, because he writes much that is helpful to people exploring Christian faith and he wrestles with Christian orthodoxy and the New Testament as one who really believes in Christ as Lord and is honestly seeking answers to our current challenges. I disagree very much with his reaction to Chad here, and said so, but it’s not fair of you to characterize him as “a trap and a snare.” Although I suppose if posts like his comment here were all I saw, I might feel that way. Something Morgan said to Chad a while back on another of his posts was this: “In our best moments we both rise above our Amen choruses.” Maybe something has changed since then, or maybe the Metho-blog-o-sphere is just having a bad week. Every day I see brothers and sisters in Christ beat up on each other on Facebook and blogs and it gets so old. If we want to build up the body of Christ we have to hold back from assuming and saying the worst about people and try to interact with grace with their ideas. Anyway, give Morgan some grace. You can encourage (and defend) your brother without characterizing the offending party as a bad influence on the world.

      • Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of Mr. Guton’s posts over the past year, and I stand by what I said. Recognizing those who’s intentions often times have absolutely no edifying value towards the Body of Christ is not misunderstanding one. I have no doubt some of his personal blog posts meet the description you’ve stated, which only gives even more reason for caution. I do believe often times his intent is to drag someone into his “negative” place, and for one in his position I can find no excuse for such actions. I’m not the judge of his influence in the world if it measures any or greatly. God surely sees the trueness of his heart and thoughts… and Him alone. I’ll leave the judging to HIm….but when I continue to see the types of responses I all too often have from this gentlemen….I will certainly encourage caution to others.

        Peace

  4. Having had the wonderful privilege of accompanying both Chad and Morgan on parts of their journey, I see them talking with one another (not for the first time) and hear the concern in both their hearts for each other. I realize I am late to the discussion of patriarchal complementarianism, but I do see Morgan’s point. If the husband is the head and the wife’s role is submission, the implications for ordination of women follow pretty clearly, it seems to me. But I get what Chad was trying to do as well. In the upside down world of the gospel, where you love your enemies and do good to those who would hurt you, the head is really the servant. I’m curious. Chad, if our church’s stand on marriage changes, what would you do?

    • Hi Larry, really good to “see” you. I hope you are well. I never imagined this as a discussion about “patriarchal complementarianism.” As James and others have noted, my post is actually a refutation of the “lord over” sort of headship that is so often equated with that. However, since scripture does say a husband is to be the head of his wife I think we need to honor that and have an answer for how that is lived out, as I’ve tried to do here. How that translates from home life to church life is something the church has worked out over time and I think with good reason. Eph. 5:21 comes to mind which calls for mutual submission to one another.

      If the UMC decided to redefine marriage then I would find a church home where I could serve with integrity. I wouldn’t remain a part of a church that I thought was blessing immorality.

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