You may have heard—or believe—that your husband is your spiritual leader. But I wonder what that means to you.
Based on this belief, when I entered marriage, I subconsciously unbuckled my seatbelt, got out of the driver’s seat in my relationship with God, and moved to the back. I looked to the front seat where my new husband, Trevor, sat and waited for him to lead us in daily time in God’s Word and prayer.
But that didn’t happen. (In hindsight, while Trevor didn’t lead me in the ways I expected, he led me in ways I desperately needed. But that’s another post for another day.)
I would always look to him to pray aloud—until the day Trevor remarked, “I don’t have to be the only one who prays.” Without even realizing it, I had become passive about all things “spiritual,” because I’d been told (or just inferred) that I shouldn’t overstep my husband’s bounds. I was to be responsive and not take initiative, or so I thought. Wasn’t he my “head” (Eph. 5:23)?
How foolish I was. Yes, my marital status had changed. Yes, my last name had changed. Yes, my address had changed. But my status in God’s kingdom had not changed—nor had my purpose. I was still made to be in relationship with God first, and then to represent Him. To know Him first, and then to make Him known.
Christian wife, please pursue God as wholeheartedly (more, even) than you did as a single. Yes, your times with God may look different as a husband and kids come, but keep pursuing Him individually as your greatest good and highest satisfaction.
This is still your number one need and responsibility, as seen by Jesus’ response to the lawyer’s question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matt. 22:36). His answer?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37–40, emphasis added)
Also, to be clear, the fact that God says that your husband is your “head” does not release you from your responsibility to pursue God for yourself. God is still your ultimate Head:
I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor. 11:3)
And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Col. 1:18)
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)
You still need to take 100 percent ownership of your pursuit of God, just as you did when you were single.
Our Expectations vs. What God Actually Commands
I think it’s also important to note what God does and does not call a husband to in declaring him to be the head of the wife. God does not say that means a husband is to take over and micromanage his wife’s spiritual growth. Rather, God has called your husband to this herculean task:
- To love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25–27).
- To love his wife as his own body, nourishing and cherishing her (Eph. 5:28–29).
- And in case he didn’t get the point the first two times, love his wife as himself (Eph. 5:33).
In my first couple years of marriage, I had this subconscious idea that Trevor would take away my need for a personal relationship with God.
Somehow, my complementarian ideals had led me to live as if I was in pre-Reformation days when only an elite few had access to God’s Word. I looked to my husband to lead me to God, rather than enjoying the direct access Christ purchased for me. But 1 Timothy 2:5 is clear. There is only one mediator between God and humanity, and it is not my husband. It is Jesus.
What are your expectations of your husband being your “spiritual leader”? When you’re together, do you:
- Leave all the praying up to him, or do you pray too?
- Invite him to read and pray with you, or do you believe he is the only one who can initiate that?
- Stay home with him because he doesn’t want to go to church, or are you faithfully frequenting its doors whether he comes with you or not (Heb. 10:19–25)?
Are you afraid:
- To confront your husband in love about unrepentant sin in his life (Heb. 3:12–15)?
- That you can’t pursue intimacy with God too fervently, because you might intimidate your husband and keep him from stepping up?
If you have children, do you teach them God’s Word, even if your husband doesn’t (Deut. 6:5–8)?
Dear Christian wife, I hope you aren’t tempted to “quit” your relationship with God in order to be a good, “submissive” wife. These two things are not mutually exclusive!
Yes, God has given your husband the role of “head” in your relationship. But rather than this limiting you, this should propel and empower you.
Think about it. Do truly great leaders do all the work themselves, or do they empower those under their care to thrive, initiate, and lead?
How to Re-Evaluate Expectations—
for Every Christian Woman
What does this mean for you?
Single woman: If and when you marry, your most important relationship will still be to God. Do not relinquish that privilege. Continue to pursue Him first, each and every day.
Christian woman who is divorced or has an unsaved husband: You are not a second-class citizen because you don’t have a man leading you to God. You have the only Man you need (the God-Man, Jesus Christ) opening the door for you to have direct access to God. Use it. Tramp down a beaten path into His presence.
Married woman: Does your husband not want you to read your Bible or go to church? Do not acquiesce in the name of being a “submissive” wife. Who is your first allegiance? God or your husband? Are you more loyal to your assumptions about complementarianism or to God Himself?
Christian woman with the godliest spiritual leader to be found: Don’t you dare get passive in your pursuit of God either. Thank Him for how your husband leads you each and every day, but continue to seek God on your own. Your husband is not your priest. Jesus is. Don’t be content with too little. Your husband will not always be by your side. He will pass away; Jesus and His Word never will.
Regardless of your current season of life, take 100 percent responsibility for your own relationship with God. Be a self-feeder. Pursue God as your highest priority. You will never regret it, and it will only strengthen your marriage. You too, are an heir of the grace of life along with your husband (1 Peter 3:7).
Your husband is not your connection to God, and you do not need to fear loving God too much and sharing with your husband how you’re pursuing Him.