When a Man is a Real Man

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Posting about marriage is a little like taking a midnight swim in the Okefenokee swamp. You might not get bit, but you probably will. Guys always leave comments on these post and, most of which center around control. When I read words like “so I should let my wife do whatever she wants?” I think who died and made you boss? Let her? Look around. Show me a happy marriage where the guy ‘lets his wife’ and I’ll show you one where the wife has her bags packed, psychologically if not physically.”

Real men are in control, right? Not right. I confess . . . while I would have vehemently denied it, I tried to control my wife . . . for years. I had expectations. Whenever I was feeling anxious, it was usually because she didn’t do or say something I expected. After 47 years, I started making huge progress as I stopped expecting, stopped coaching, stopped counseling, stopped criticizing, stopped questioning and stopped trying to control. The more I trust God, the easier it is to give up trying to control my wife (and everything else).

Being in control implies one has authority. A lot of Christian men love the idea of having authority over their wives. They hang on the first seven words of Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands . . .” without paying attention to Ephesians 5:25, which says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” No person can control another person. Not really. And when I look at Jesus, I see the most powerful leader ever choosing to live as a gentle servant. His authority came from His influence, not from control. He could have exerted control if He’d wanted to, but instead He chose to lead through influence.

As the leader of my family, it’s up to me to lead by doing. By modeling Jesus in my marriage relationship. Did Jesus run from conflict? Did Jesus parse the truth? No. But did Jesus try to control people? No. He gave them over-the-top, unconditional love and free will.

As husbands, it’s our role to protect our wives. And if she’s making a decision that affects the family then we owe it to her to explain what we think the potential impacts might be. But very few of the decisions we want to control fit that category. We’re usually more fearful of empowering her and then losing control.

We have to remember to keep our lips closed when they’re being controlling. And instead, to encourage our wives . . . meaning to “give her courage.” Instead of more “wives, submit to your husbands” maybe we need more Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Is the husband the ‘head’ of his wife and family? Yes. Marriage between two Jesus-followers prescribes that the husband carry the burden of leadership . . . of ultimate responsibility and of being the tiebreaker in decision-making. But “Is the husband the head of the wife?” is a ‘what’ question, not a ‘how’ question. I believe the ‘how’ comes from servant leadership, character, wisdom and humility, not from power, authority or pride.

As men, our identity comes from being an adopted son of the God of the universe. If your identity is tied to being a ‘real man,’ e.g. a husband who is in control of his wife, that’s a false identity and it doesn’t look anything like Jesus.

Scripture: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mark 10:7-9


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