31 Days of Marriage Series: Love Does Not Envy

I’d watch him walk out the door (to provide for our family … or whatever) and crave that separation, that solitude, that freedom for just one day.

And to some extent, that feeling is natural, okay even.

But when missing my freedom turned into resenting my husband for his, when I began begrudging him for a choice I had made, when envy began to cast shadows on my joy, that’s when this verse jerked me into the light: Love Does Not Envy.

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Attend any wedding and you’ll likely hear 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It is a beautiful litany of verses that describe the nature of love, unconditional love. Sadly, like Psalm 23 being read at funerals or even reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily in elementary school, you become numb to its rich meaning.

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And now I know, the moment you believe your marriage is immune to big problems is the exact moment it becomes vulnerable to big problems.

I was convinced we would never struggle.

Then all of a sudden, there we were, two-freaking-years into this thing and practically underwater.

The Lie About Spiritual Leadership in Your Marriage

Being raised in the church, I religiously (pun intended) attended Sunday school, Wednesday night huddles, lock-ins, bible studies, mission trips, church camps, and all the “RE” youth events:  “ReIgnite”, “Revive,” Rekindle”, “Recharge” … you get the picture … where people say deep things that include phrases like “this season in your life” and “spiritual high” and “guard your heart.”

Obviously, I attended a lot of those “girls only” talks. You know the ones: loving yourself for you, beauty is on the inside, boys only want one thing, and, of course, what to look for in a Godly husband. These are important conversations that are crucial for the malleable minds and souls of 12-year-old tween girls.  During many of these conversations, a catch phrase is tossed around, one that should top the list of what all good little girls hope for in a husband: Spiritual Leader.

Hear me: I believe in the role of a husband as a spiritual leader. I guess I am old-school in thinking that he is the head of the home, in that men value respect and women value their affection. The two are intertwined, each dependent on the other. However, to think that men should not and will not ever go through valleys or falter in faith, never doubt, never go through ruts or times of complacency is complete (and udder… 😉 ) bull.

Here’s the problem with the heavy emphasis of this phrase. Maybe I just got the message skewed, but somewhere between 10 and 28, I breathed out a heavy sigh of relief and decided that I was off the hook. The spiritual leader is husband-only territory. If he’s not leading, it’s certainly (and thankfully) not my job. I’ll just sit and nurse the baby, unload the dishwasher, fold the laundry, and wait for him to step into his God-given role. I won’t suggest we pray together… that’s his job. I won’t suggest a bible study… not my role. I won’t push him to spend time in solitude … he should do that without my prodding. For he is, in fact, dubbed the spiritual leader. I’m exaggerating a little bit… but sadly, not much.

I do believe in the leadership of a husband, but I shouldn’t expect to never have to lead. The problem with this model is that I use it as an excuse. I use it as an excuse to continue in my own rut, to justify my own distance, to feel comfortable sitting at arm’s length.  Thank goodness he’s not pushing me right now because I really don’t feel like moving. And thank goodness I don’t have to push him because I’m not really in the mood.

Here’s the thing. As in all marital roles, this one is never going to be permanent. There will inevitably be ebbs and flows in each spouse’s desire to grow toward Christ. But one of us had better start flowing. What might seem to be a minor leak in this area will eventually evolve into a drowning marriage because this is the source from which all rivers run. Every part is affected.

My husband’s passion for seeking after his heavenly father is one of the things that hooked me. I am so thankful for his encouragement, his challenging, and his leading by example. So to return the favor every now and then is the ultimate form of serving him. I can joyfully, humbly fill his shoes, showing him grace and encouragement without emasculating or demeaning him. Nobody lives on a mountain top… and those that claim (or, scarier still, actually believe) they do, are a frightening breed.

Most wives probably already knew this or figured it out year one, so I’m feeling a little anxious about admitting to this. I hope you did already know and I hope you haven’t waited around like me, arms crossed in begrudging silence. I hope you already know to thank him when he leads but are also willing to drag him along, help him up, or even carry him when he falters. After all, we would expect him to do the same for us.