“…the mindset that leadership is someone else’s responsibility means that our guard is down and we may not even notice the kingdom battles God is calling us to fight.” Excerpt from “Half the Church” by Carolyn Custis James.
My husband and I started dating when we were in college. We attended a small, private Christian university. We had a brief conversation not long after a couple that we were friends with broke up, mainly because he was not living up to her expectation of him being the spiritual leader in their relationship.
“I don’t ever want that to happen to us,” said my boyfriend (now husband). “Me neither,” I said, never having thought much about him being my spiritual leader.
It was kind of a nice new idea to me. I’ve never been great with self-discipline, and the idea of someone else sitting in the driver’s seat was appealing. If he was responsible for my spiritual wellness because he is the man in the relationship, then that implies that I am somehow less responsible.
To be honest, our relationship never functioned that way. We both put effort in to maintaining our spiritual wellness, and we both fell short at times. I started realizing that to put my spiritual well-being and the health of my relationship with God on my husband is not only unfair to him, it was the easy way out. The more responsibility I take for my spiritual well-being and what my relationship with God looks like, the healthier our relationship becomes. It goes both ways.
Rachel Held Evans puts it so well in her blog post, “10 Marriage Reality Checks” when she says, “The journey of faith is far too treacherous and exciting and beautiful to spend it looking at the back of another person’s head. Jesus leads us down the path, and we tackle it together, one step at a time.” What a beautiful picture of how married life can provide mutual encouragement when we decide to pursue a life of knowing and pleasing God together. I believe this life is meant to be a journey of seeking to know God, his truth, and his love that is so much bigger than we can even comprehend. And that kind of journey has a lot of ups and downs. With that kind of seeking comes questions and doubts, moments of frustration and moments of peace, times when you have an unquenchable thirst for God, and times when you feel numb and stagnant when you don’t want to be.
We thrive when we mutually encourage one another through those ups and downs (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Thessalonians 5:11). When we allow one another to be real and vulnerable about our spiritual journey. When we take turns carrying one another through the difficulties of our spiritual journey. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, there’s no need for one-sided leadership based on gender. Our marriage is a partnership, not an organization or business. We lead each other; we seek God together.
I am grateful to be married to a man who believes this, and that our relationship has grown into one where we journey together, side-by-side instead of front-and-back.
P.S. The theme song for this blog post is “Better Half” by Keith Urban because the lyrics below popped in my head while writing this post. Unless you don’t like country. In that case you can just ignore the P.S.
“They say behind every man is a good woman, but I think that’s a lie…’Cause when it comes to you I’d rather have you by my side.”
Your Turn: What resonated with you in Katie’s story? How are the dynamics of spiritual growth impacted by the marriage relationship?
Click here for more thoughts on being responsible for our own spiritual well-being.
- How I Became A Christian Feminist - February 26, 2014
- Side-By-Side: Taking Responsibility For My Spiritual Well-Being - October 28, 2013