That’s a solid question. In various ways, it’s a question I ask myself every day.
“How can I be a better husband?”
“How can I be a better provider?”
“How can I develop a plan for the future of my family?”
“How can I more effectively run my business / serve others / prioritize my wife / etc?”
I think a lot of these questions, or the answers to them, stem from the answer to another: “How can I become a follower?” Even better: “How can I become a servant?”
So here’s the thing: so much of what we strive for when we talk “leadership” in our culture is motivated by lust for power and the desire to be served, rather than to serve. As a Christian, though, my whole worldview revolves around a man who has proven to be the greatest leader in history, and he came lowly, he came humble, he came to serve, rather than be served. Now, does that mean that Christians shouldn’t strive for positions of power? No way. It is a shame when people go too far in the direction of poverty – financially or socially or influentially – in the name of “holiness” because Jesus was born in a manger. Isn’t Jesus also the one who sits at the right hand of the throne of God with a crown on his head, fire in his eyes, and a position of power reserved for him and him alone since eternity past? Isn’t he the king who walks streets of gold?
By the grace of God, there will always be Christian leaders who hold positions of great power and influence in their homes, churches, cities, cultures, states, countries. As Christians, though, we believe those positions are gifts, given for the purpose of service so that Jesus might be held in honor among onlookers who see him in our love. Whether you are a king serving a nation, or a husband serving a wife, the goal is leading in such a way that people are loved and Jesus is honored.
Considering I’m not a king, though, I’ll just recap a couple of things that I’m learning recently, as a husband:
One, leading does not mean domineering over my wife. I do believe that the husband is the head of the home, and I do believe that I am, and you husbands are, either a good head or a bad head, but the responsibility of being the head is always ours. Let me just suggest that we make pretty crappy leaders when we decide that we know what is best, unequivocally, in the name of headship, without considering that we married a friend with a soul and a heart and a mind, not a dog that needs fingers snapped at it. Lately, I’ve been remembering my love for my friend, Brandi, and that love positions me to lead in kindness and humility rather than anger or tyranny.
Two, leading means acting confidently and taking responsibility. I’ll be the first to say that though I’m relatively willing to take responsibility, I’ve got a lot of growing to do on the confidence end. My pastor once told me that my wife will be more willing to follow me affectionately if I am willing to be a more confident decision-maker – even if my decisions end up being wrong. If I’m wrong, I have an opportunity for humility and repentance, but I shouldn’t stay stuck in limbo, leaving my wife to think that she’s committed herself to be led by a man whose spine is too frail to take responsibility for her well-being, and the well-being of the home and family. This is a truth held in creation. When Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, God came looking for Adam. He held the husband responsible. This is the essence of Jesus – the bridegroom – does for his bride – us. He so loved us that he bore the penalty for our sins by taking the responsibility of judgment upon himself.
Three, leading means submitting. The husband may be the head of the household, but God is the head of the husband. The husband may be the head of the family, but he is not the head of the church. And I think that there is a submissive love that he has for his wife, as well. To lead well, we must be submissive to authority. We have to allow other people to speak into our lives. We have to be willing to receive counsel lest we become fools who harden themselves to any word of advice save their own. Proverbs calls this folly. Arrogance. Foolishness. I know that submission is a bad word in our culture, and I know that the majority of those who strive for leadership strive for power so that they no longer have to be submissive to anyone. What a dangerous place to be. I am so thankful for the leaders in my life that I have to submit to. Jesus submitted to the authority of the Father, and if God models submission, then I pray that we will follow.
Fourth, and lastly for the time being, leading means serving. To give is more blessed than to receive. I love when Brandi is happy. I want to make her happy. I want her to flourish beneath my servant leadership so that she is overjoyed in our love and transformed more and more into the image and likeness of Christ. I want to get back to this. Leading even means serving people that will hurt you. Truly, who has the potential to hurt you more than your spouse? Is that not the reasoning behind so many a person’s unwillingness to commit to anyone? I can’t tell you that your marriage will be perfect, without infidelity, without pain. Jesus washed the feet of those who would betray him. He did not, and does not, lead or build his relationships with people based upon their perfection. Rather, he loves people and perfects them. He did not, and does not, commune with people on the contingency that they do not hurt him, rather, he communes with murderers and washes them clean of his own blood on their hands. Who has led us better than Christ? Who has served us better than Christ? To lead well is to love and serve well.