When I was about twenty-one, I read the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge. I don’t remember all the details. This is not a book review. Just know that I came out of it very excited with a lot of beautiful ideas about true femininity and all that Bible talk about submitting to a husband. In my mind, I was twirly-skirt girl on the cover, totally ready for the blissful adventure that marriage and parenthood would surely be:
Flash forward to my life as a wife and mom:
Don’t poke it…it might wake up. Figuring out this whole being-a-parent thing is a feat on its own. Trying to figure out how to co-parent (and stay married!) is a challenge of a different color.
But here’s a simple solution to the difficulty that is parenting together (and you’ll probably want to punch me in the face for telling you what it is): listen to your husband.
“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. Husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” –Ephesians 5:22-24
I know. It just makes you want to snap in a “z shape”, doesn’t it? Uh uh… nobody is the head of me. I’m not saying you don’t have a voice or that your opinion doesn’t matter. And obviously if your husband is telling you to sit your baby in an ant pile, I retract my previous statement. Do not listen to him.
What I am saying is that God is a God of order and I love that about Him because inside His order, there is always peace. There is an order to a holy marriage and inside of it we thrive, our children thrive, and we find peace.
And who doesn’t want a peaceful household? I say that if learning what this whole “submit to your husband” thing really means will support the peace in my home, then sign me up. So what does it mean?
God created us male and female so that He could reveal the fullness of His love to mankind. I think that the biblical advice to submit to your husband is partly about discovering your true identity in Christ, the genius of the femininity that He has created in you and called you to. If we aren’t living our true identities at home, we aren’t giving our kids a clear picture of who God is. Discovering this identity is not about who goes to work and who’s cooking dinner tonight. It’s about cultivating a heart that is humble, can listen, can trust, can follow and can relinquish control, firstly to God.
The idea that God has for you and me in a sacramental marriage and the truth of the scripture is that we can rest in the arms of a man who is continually laying down his life for our well-being. That is where the strength of our feminine identity lies. But in a world of Julia Sugarbaker (binge watch some Designing Women when you get a chance), that identity is hard to find.
I mean, I never saw her letting a man tell her what to do and I’d say about 99% of all the men in the Lifetime movies were abusive. If you grew up in the same culture I did, then you probably owned a lot of eye glitter in the 90s and it’s likely that in all the music and movies you ever took in, the most important thing you were told you could have, as a woman, was control.
And control is a hard thing to let go of. Let’s just say I haven’t always been excited to hear my husband’s ideas when it comes to these kids that I carried in the womb, bore, nursed, rocked, and whose butts I clean on the regular. It hasn’t exactly been easy to relinquish control when I knew the way that I wanted all the things done.
This is kind of how it went with us. Husband says: I think the kid should wear real pants today. I say: oh, the diaper and t-shirt is just fine. We move on. Husband says: I think the kid should go to time out. I say: wellll, he really didn’t mean to… We move on. Husband says: Maybe we shouldn’t let him eat dirt. I say: Eh…I’m sure there’s a vitamin or two in it. We move on.
These are my carefully-constructed surface examples used to illustrate a real-life-marital-problem that we had to fight (and I do mean fight) our way through. The thing was: I wasn’t listening to him. I wasn’t willing to be part of his team. I bore these kids into the world and took on the lie that it was my job alone to give them what they needed and that I was the only one who could.
The funny thing was that I found myself at one point longing for more of my husband’s presence in the life of our family. I wanted him to be more present to the kids and me. What I didn’t see was my own failure to accept the presence he offered. The more I shut him down or dismissed his ideas, the more he backed off and checked out because “what’s the point?”
And it seems only right that a mom would be in total control of the lives of her kids, doesn’t it? It’s certainly what the culture is telling us. Have you ever noticed that every parenting-related article in your newsfeed and all the parenting magazines in your doctor’s office are geared towards moms? I think there are a lot of factors we could point to in support of the idea that society has all but erased the presence of the father in the lives of its children. Today I’m suggesting that we take a deep look at our part in that.
To let go of your babies a little bit is hard. Harder than hard. I know you sometimes can’t stand it when your husband is a little tougher with your kid than you’d like him to be. Maybe you think he plays too rough and that you should immediately intervene. I know how you want to go behind him and cut the waffle the right way (just me?) and that you’d really prefer he not teach the arm-pit fart trick just yet. And we all know that the parental conflicts tend to run a bit deeper than that. In it all, though, there’s that part about relinquishing control.
I had to realize that my ways weren’t the only ways or even the best ways. They were the ways that I found worked for me as I fumbled through these first years of parenthood: these years in which I have had no clue as to what I’m doing. Don’t our husbands deserve that same chance to find their own ways with their own kids? I had to realize that the only thing worse than having a kid making fart noises at the most inopportune times was having a kid who wasn’t free to rest in the presence of his father. And it turned out, that when I was willing to listen, my husband had some things to say that were real and true and deep in the lives of our kids. He brought some things to the table that I never could have.
I think it’s the difference between playing the role of puppeteer in your family and realizing that you actually can just sit back every now and then to enjoy the show.
I sat on my couch the other day and looked out the window while my husband pushed a lawnmower through the backyard. I watched our oldest son wander over to him, saw my husband stop while they talked for a second, and then watched my son put his hands on the bar and walk underneath his dad while they pushed the lawnmower together.
Something deep hit me. The presence of the Father. The presence of the Father in the life of a child will go a long way; will cover a multitude of shortcoming and failure and hurt; will smooth over so much of what we don’t know or can’t provide; will communicate a knowledge of the love of God that will prove to be the most essential knowledge any human being can have. It’s powerful and necessary and a gift that I’m beyond blessed to have. So let me not stifle the presence of the father in my own home.
Because I don’t know a ton about lawnmowers, but I’m thinking there’s some kind of sharp cutting mechanism in there somewhere that I probably don’t want my six-year old around. But that was five minutes in my son’s life that will be part of his foundational understanding of who God is—an understanding he will cultivate primarily from his dad.
Can I just close by saying that at least once a week I am dumbfounded all over again by the bigger picture of my vocation. All of it—this whole thing—it’s not about getting the kids to college or keeping them off drugs or reaching a stage in life when I can finally pee in peace. It’s about me being drawn deeper into the love of God; deeper into the presence of the Father. Major light bulb moment for me: I was sitting on the couch watching my son share a moment in his father’s presence and my Father was there inviting me deeper into His.
It’s the heartbeat of everything: that you and I would know the presence of the Father—how by every circumstance, trial and hard-won lesson in our lives we are being drawn deeper into it.
Don’t stifle it. Forget the waffles. Be in His presence.
Copyright 2016 Kelly Pease