Imagine you’re in the middle of a vast forest: there’s a complexity to the maze, and while no one tree looks quite like another, you do your best to recall prominent branches and colorful blooms to construct the best roadmap for you mind. “Should I ever get lost…” you think to yourself.
Add to this picture your best and most trusted friend. She’s not looking to make the ultimate decision regarding your travels, but she’s quick to lend thoughts from her own sound judgment. Sometimes you wonder if it’d be easier if you went your separate ways — at least you wouldn’t have to bear the burden of navigating her in the wrong direction or having to second-guess whether her suggestion might actually be better. You find yourself giving in as often as persisting in your own stubborn will, discovering that being headstrong leads you astray as much as caving to her desires. If only the two of you could always be on the same page…
The spiritual journey can be a lovely trek full of rainbows, fragrances, aviary serenades, and delicious fruit. But any that have been Christians for any length of time understand how unsure we can become at nightfall. We’d love to sleep under the black in full assurance of His protection, but our lack of vision and inability to identify the foreign sounds can drive us to fear.
Even before man knew what it was to fear the absence of God, he was given a blessing:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18-25)
Sounds great, right?
The Hebrew word translated “helper” is azer: more properly understood as a “succor,” one who rushes to aid or comfort, especially in times of difficulty. That is to say, woman can be of greatest resource to a man when the journey get rough.
While God didn’t specifically mention that this blessing would also be Adam’s responsibility, it can be assumed. We exercise greater precaution and care for anything we’re given of greater value. This custom-designed helper should’ve been no exception.
If I’m in the vast forest myself, and I love the woman standing next to me, the hardest thing is to tell her she can’t have something that she reasonably desires. And yet we all read this story and acknowledge that Adam was in the wrong. How does a man lead while grappling with the fallout of telling his wife and greatest aid “no?”
I feel that in every decision of spiritual significance, there are six possible scenarios:
- The man and woman choose in agreement, and this is in agreement with God
- The man chooses in spite of the woman’s desire, and this is in agreement with God
- The man chooses to submit to the woman’s desire, and this is in agreement with God
- The man chooses to submit to the woman’s desire, and this is in disagreement with God
- The man chooses in spite of the woman’s desire, and this is in disagreement with God
- The man and woman choose in agreement, and this is in disagreement with God
In a perfect world where there is no sin, enemy, will, or personal desire, it would be great to conclude each spiritual decision with #1. Likewise, two people coming to the same sinful decision only demonstrate how little they are seeking the Lord.
Numbers 2 through 5 admittedly can get messy. In determining whether the righteous act of leadership is to submit or hold his ground, a man must ask himself two questions:
- “Are my desires God’s desires?”
This question provides an unwavering barometer for making decisions. Asking this question could have saved Adam or Abraham some long-term consequences from submitting to their wife’s desires, but likewise, it led to honor Zacharias and Joseph when they supported how their wives had heard from the Lord.
The first responsibility a man has in leading his wife is being intentional about being led by God. While men have the knee-jerk propensity to fix and problem-solve, the best leader will explore along with his wife: “What would God have us do?”
The second question can be more difficult to resolve…
- “Is God even concerned with the outcome of this decision, or is this simply a matter of my desires vs. hers?”
The majority of our leadership conflicts occur when desires of preference are in opposition. This becomes less a question of how we must live and more a lesson on how we can love.
The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:3-4)
Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. (Colossians 3:18-19)
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered… (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
How do we relate to one another when our personal desires are in opposition?
Only the Holy Spirit can transform our hearts to love in the manner that God loves us. Most disagreements of desire can be resolved through a selfless attitude, but where is the line between giving and receiving. As a man, if I continually give of myself selflessly, will I ever receive?
The question is irrelevant in regards to love, but this is why we are equally given this responsibility. As leader, the man’s primary service is to love his wife: to find out what she enjoys, treat her with honor, consider her deepest needs, and protect her from harm or injustice. Likewise, a woman is to respond to her husband’s leadership by giving. The act of submission is not an unreciprocated act, but a loving response to Godly leadership. When a woman is walking in the Spirit and led by a man that takes responsibility for meeting her needs, she wants to return that love with her own act of service.
However, if a man determines not to lead, the woman has no compulsion to submit. How many of us desire to give everything of ourselves to one that never considers our own needs? Love feeds Godly leadership, Godly leadership feeds the loving response to submit.
This doesn’t mean that a husband or a wife will always get their own way. It’s important to evaluate our partner’s greater desires, and to marry someone with the expectation that these desires must be met. Likewise, we have to understand that some of our less-purposeful desires may not be met as a full package.
Andrea and I began our relationship 6 months ago after nearly 2 months of conversations. We had to evaluate in our own hearts which expectations were reasonable and necessary for our future spouse and which parts of our lives we could do without sharing. This was imperative, because unmet expectations are a catalyst for bitterness. If we looked at one another five years from now and resented that I couldn’t dance or that she doesn’t like baseball, things weren’t going to work. We placed smaller desires aside for the sake of the greater expectations that we sufficiently can perceive being met by one another joyfully.
There’s nothing simple about trusting Andrea to meet my desires as I continue to meet hers. However, this is more about trusting God, believing Him to understand how my needs need to be met and how to guide Andrea in being a good wife. I also must rely on His guidance to love Andrea selflessly and to offer my life as an act of service to her.
by A. W. Marks
From Laurel: How I know the author
I began reading Anthony’s blog, Solomon’s Ledger, a year and a half ago. The messages he conveys are heartfelt and rooted in truth, so I have come to trust and highly regard his thoughts on a variety of topics. I’ve learned a lot from his careful thinking and articulate writing so I asked if he’d like to write a guest post on my blog and I was thrilled with his “yes”!
If you’d like to keep up with what Anthony’s writing, you can do so at his new blog here.