I hope to add a commentary to every day’s lesson over the next few months, first as a means of expanding on the lesson, but also to give more about my own history, which at least one reviewer has pointed out would be a helpful addition to the text. I decided not to give my history so as to keep the text to a minimum, more like a devotional, than to tell lots of stories.
Today I discussed this lesson with a couple of guys who had lots of questions for me. One is married, and the other used to be. I could tell they were having a hard time with the headship concept, not because they don’t accept it in principle. These are Russians, so that idea is, if anything, too fixed. As a result, they see almost any conflict or disagreement as a questioning of their headship. “Isn’t the wife supposed to just do what I say?” There’s a partial reaction here to the phenomenon of a largely matriarchal society, where women all too often wear the pants and rule at home over husbands who are deadbeats, drunks, and largely worthless. They are mothers. So at some level I applaud the desire of Christian men to take leadership back.
They kept wanting to know how to deal with such conflicts, and I kept having to point out that 1) a lot of their questions will be answered as we go through the course, and 2) they are too focused on behavior, rather than on the heart that generates the behavior. As I repeat many times through the course, the heart, or the motives are more important to God than the behavior in relationships. Otherwise, He would have given us a manual. Do you want to live under the Law? Then start asking a new set of questions, those that wonder more about the context that generated the present conflict.
“So, Lyle,” one asked me, “isn’t there a time when you just need to put your foot down and just say it like it is? How is it in your marriage?” Good question. I reflected some and then answered his first question: “Of all the instruments you need in your toolkit to deal with a problem, the sharpest and bluntest can be effective in the moment when there is no time to waste. But why use only them, and only in such critical heated moments? There are a whole range of tools available to you, and we’ll be discussing these. Use them well, and you won’t need to use the blunt ones nearly so often.” I had to explain that indirect methods, questions, and such need to be developed. Developing an atmosphere of trust is critical.
And as to my own experience? I answered that there might be 5% of all significant conflicts caused me to come down hard with a firm “This is the way.” In nearly every case, when we seem to be at an impasse, I refuse to play the leadership card, and the result can look like my giving in. And in the flesh, it can be, and we have to be on guard for this. But I’ve grown as well. I’ve come more to entrust such situations to God, knowing by know that I very well may be in the wrong, as we later find out, or that I can let Him deal with the results, with my wife’s heart, or whatever is not right.
In fact, I want to add that I have never once in 22 years said or insinuated that I am the head in our home. Early on this was no doubt because I feared she didn’t buy the concept anyway. Later, I came to realize that playing that card is one of the most fruitless exercises you can make. With a little child you can say, “Because I am your Daddy.” With a teenager, it gets really problematic if your authority is not already well-estableished. With a wife, this is nothing but control, pure and simple. It demeans her, and it shows just how out of control you feel. There are few things a woman reacts to more than naked control, aggression, or domination. And there are only two kinds of reactions: anger and fear. She picks up on it instantly, as you may find out when you do the “Come here” exercise for Day 1. This game is meant to help you realize and discuss the ways you come across to your wife, and the need for communication at a whole new level. It’s not just about finding a pleasant tone, as one guy asked me. The tone has to match her where she is at. It may change from day to day. It has to be given in the context of love and trust. It has to feel inviting. Your leadership at home has to feel warm and inviting. Even as you challenge your wife to “come” towards you in ways she is not used to, if you do so in a way that invites her to a place she wants to go, your masculinity and her femininity will be released to a new level.