I recently had a conversation with a good friend and shared some frustrations I had about ways many husbands live out headship and perceived authority in marriage.
My friend is in his sixties, a “PK” (pastor’s kid), and a good guy who has loved God his entire life. He’s a husband, dad, grandpa, and successful in his career. As we talked, he paused and declared; “Tim, you talk so much about equality/inequality, authority, submission, hierarchy, and headship. Seriously, sometimes I wonder why you get so worked up and make such a BIG deal about those things.”
He continued; “in my marriage, as the head, I include my wife on most decisions—certainly the major ones. And I typically ask her for input. I don’t want to burst your idealistic-egalitarian-equality-bubble, but none of the men I hang out with, elders I serve with, or male leaders in my church, really care all that much about what you are so passionate about.”
While my friend was talking, as a pastoral counselor I was monitoring what I was feeling. A part of me felt angry, discounted, offended. And a deeper part of me felt sad. My friend interrupted my thoughts, and said in a self-satisfied tone; “Tim, with all of life’s stressors, and with everything going on in people’s lives, marriages, and families … the bottom line for me is HEADSHIP—SMEDSHIP! Nobody really cares!”
Frankly, I was surprised at the sting I felt in his words.
My friend seemed to sense me beginning to shut down, so he switched subjects and began to talk about our favorite sports team. We ended our conversation and I continued my day. But, our conversation kept coming back to me. Especially his confident declaration; “HEADSHIP—SMEDSHIP!—nobody really cares!”
That evening I shared the conversation with my wife Anne, and she encouraged me to go on a hike. I took her suggestion and headed to the mountains. On my hike, I poured out my heart to God. I recounted the conversation with my friend and unpacked my feelings. I let go of the sting and negative energy attached to my emotions. Then I asked God out loud; “Lord … do I make too big of a deal about these things? Is my friend right … does nobody really care?”
My questions seemed to bounce off the mountains; and for the better part of a mile all I heard was the sound of my hiking boots on the trail. I took a short break and breathed in the cool mountain air. I suddenly sensed in my mind and soul a thought. It wasn’t an audible voice, but to me it was crystal clear. Tears filled my eyes. In my heart-of-hearts I recognized God was speaking to me—three simple words …“Tim, I CARE!”
Friends, looking back over sixty-plus years going to church, forty years of marriage, and counseling for decades, I believe with my whole being that GOD CARES about equality/inequality, authority, submission, hierarchy, and headship. GOD CARES about women being restricted from using all the gifts God has given them. GOD CARES about ongoing male privileges. And I believe GOD CARES about how men and women, husbands and wives, functionally live out being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
The Bible talks about the reality of spiritual struggles.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Although it’s important to wisely engage in healthy dialogue and debate, I believe the primary struggle for functional equality is not with my good friend, not with husbands, or with church/ministry leaders. The truth is my friend is a good guy who loves God—he is not the enemy. Likewise, the overwhelming majority of husbands and church/ministry leaders are good men who love God—they are not the enemy.
I believe the major struggle for full functional equality in marriages and communities of faith involves an overlooked spiritual struggle. A struggle against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
I believe the enemy understands the untapped kingdom-of-God-advancing potential in mutual equality and mutual authority. And that is why he initiates so much drama and disagreement between followers of Christ.
Nevertheless, be forewarned. If you choose to engage in the struggle for functional equality, it will come with a cost. Anne and I are familiar with some of the costs, including disappointment, discouragement, toxic religiosity, control, and rejection. That is one reason why we often pause and give thanks to God for those who have gone before us—the gallant women and men who took the initial blast from the religious resistance to the full functional equality message.
Thankfully, we are seeing more and more married couples living out functional equality and mutual authority (co-leadership).
And many church leaders are becoming champions for the full inclusion of women to use all the gifts God has given them—without restrictions. All that is to say, my ongoing goals include taking ownership and responsibility for my part in living out co-leadership with my bride; and passionately promoting full functional equality in communities of faith.
I pray for those who continue to faithfully engage in this struggle. I pray God’s favor, blessings, and protection over you. I pray you see yourself as God sees you—and always remember that you matter to God. For me personally, since I know that GOD CARES about full functional equality, it encourages me to continue to care.
Are you up for a challenge?
Set aside some time, and ask God to share with you what GOD thinks about equality/inequality, authority, submission, hierarchy, headship, and ongoing male privileges.
My humble sense is you just might hear God say; “I CARE!”