Most Christian wives have a deep desire for their husband to lead spiritually. Many of us have this romantic idea that when we get married our husband will suddenly transform into the spiritual leader. Daily, he will gather the family around the table for an evening bible study to share deep insights. He will intuitively sense when we are struggling and gently lay his hands on us to pray. He will energize the family to get to church when all we want to do is sleep.
But why would getting married suddenly change our husband into the spiritual leader?
My guess is that leading spiritually is another area that men feel they can never live up to their wife’s expectations. It was an area that I found myself critical. After I took a hard look at myself, I realized I was a big part of the issue.
When our kids were young, my husband began using simple prayers the kids learned at Preschool. Things like, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.” My husband also made prayers part of the bedtime routine with our kids. Yet I remember feeling critical . My husband lead our family spiritually and I missed opportunities to affirm and encourage him.
My husband is on his own spiritual journey. It is different than mine – and that is OK. When I experienced great spiritual growth and new freedom in worship, I had to resist judging my husband because he does not worship like I do. I had to get over myself, and pull the log out of my eye before I could see the small ways my husband had been trying to lead spiritually for years.
If you want your husband to change, encourage him in every tiny step he takes in the right direction. I have begun noticing every small thing my husband does to grow spiritually and to lead spiritually. I affirm him for teaching the kids at Sunday School. When he comes to worship with me, I tell him how much it means. I affirm his steadiness and the ways he has supported me in my ministry. I encourage the way he raises up men to host a church pinewood derby for the kids. What he has to say or pray is so valuable and I need to hear it. My husband has grown tremendously since I have begun affirming the journey that he is on.
About 6 years ago, I remember saying to my husband as he held me in bed, “I want to start praying together,” and he gently replied, “I know, me too”, and then we fell asleep. A couple of nights later we did it again. Finally, the third time I said, “I want to start praying together”, the prayers just poured from my mouth as my husband held me and listened. It would be easy to say that my husband should have led, but honestly, God was calling me to pray with my husband.
We started praying together because I felt I had to include my husband on what God was doing in my life. Gradually my husband has taken the role of making sure that we pray together every night. Sometimes he prays, sometimes I pray and once in a while we both pray. We don’t pray for a long time but we pray from the heart about things that we cannot carry on our own. I guess my point in all of this is, do what God is calling you to do and let your husband do what God is calling him to do. If God is calling you to pray with your husband, then pray with him. If God is calling you to share what you are wrestling with, then share it. But don’t use the excuse, “my husband is supposed to lead” to resist what God is calling you to do.
A couple of years ago my husband and I heard Francis Chan speak about marriage and what it means for the husband to be the spiritual leader. Men hear all the time that they are supposed to lead spiritually but what does that mean? Francis put it very succinctly. He said, “Men, when you are at the gates of heaven, God is going to ask, ‘What did you do to point your wife towards knowing me?'” Leading spiritually could look different for every marriage and there is no formula. It could be the way you extend grace and forgiveness toward your wife. It could be how you encourage her in her growth and make opportunities for her to encounter God. Maybe leading means just lovingly modeling who Christ was – a servant. Men, don’t miss an opportunity to point your wife towards knowing God.
Ladies, God has asked much of your husband and it is not easy. Notice the small steps he takes and celebrate them. I thank God for the journey that my husband is on. He has remained steady in the midst of my insecurities and emotions. I thank God for the simple prayers that Jim speaks over me and his love of children. God has given my husband a heart to strengthen marriages. I am asking God to surround my husband with Godly men that can speak into his life, and to give my husband the confidence and courage to mentor other men.