Thursday, March 5, 2015

Christian Men, Are You Up For The Challenge?

Just to note: Marriage is a vocation of mutual submission and service to one another. I hope to write about the female side of this dynamic someday, but today I am focusing on the male side as my husband inspired me to do so with a comment he made last night. Please don't think that I don't think women also have a role of service and submission, as they definitely do. I just want to make sure I give justice to the role of a "husband" by focusing solely on his mission right now.

Last night, just like most nights, my husband and I were deep into a conversation about our days, children, and family life. During this conversation, when we were talking specifically about family, he said something that was full of so much wisdom that it really reminded me of why I fell in love with him way back when I was fourteen years old. He said to me, with a humble air that he always has,
"Being the head of the household doesn't mean I get to do whatever I want, when I want, without having to answer to my wife and family, it actually means I have more responsibility. I mean, providing for the family is important, but it can't be the only thing you do as a husband. I go to work, but when I am home, I am PRESENT and actively involved. If someone thinks it is license to let their wife take care of everything else, then they are wrong."
I think his words really ring true to the heart of one of the most contentious subjects in the Bible.  There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the dynamic and structure of a Christian household as outlined by Saint Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33. Many women balk at the direction to be submissive to their husbands. I think this might be because, due to the fallen nature of man, and thus the fact that we can all be selfish and prideful, a misconception about what it actually means for the man to be the head of a Christian household has come about. Visions of a man lording over his family, having his way no matter what, while a woman tends to his every whim come to mind, but, if you read the whole context of what Saint Paul was saying and his description of a husband's role in the family, you see that this is really a perversion of a really beautiful concept. First, let's read the whole text of what Saint Paul said:
Wives should be subject to their husbands as to the Lord,23 since, as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife;24 and as the Church is subject to Christ, so should wives be to their husbands, in everything.25 Husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her26 to make her holy by washing her in cleansing water with a form of words,27 so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless.28 In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself.29 A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church,30 because we are parts of his Body.31 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh.32 This mystery has great significance, but I am applying it to Christ and the Church.33 To sum up: you also, each one of you, must love his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband. 
While women are to be subject to their husbands, if you read what is expected of husbands, it is obviously no easy task. Being head of the household is no excuse to just do whatever you want, In fact, a husband has many responsibilities to his wife. As my husband pointed out, it is more than just being willing to die for her as Jesus did for His Church, it is also a call to live in service to her and his children. To lead actively, but kindly. When I read this, knowing what I know about the vocation of marriage, this is what I hear Saint Paul calling husbands to do: to help their wives be holy in order to help her get to heaven, to keep the spiritual life of his family healthy, to help her when she needs it as he should love her as he would love himself, to lead without dominating as she is to be like a part of his own body, and to make sure that she feels respected, honored, loved, and valued as he would value his own person. Being the head of the household is not a position of power, but of extreme service and sacrifice to your wife and family. It isn't license to get your way all the time. It means busting your butt and taking responsibility for the health and well-being of your household. To give all you have to God and your family.

I know that humanity isn't perfect, and we don't always manage to live our vocations in a perfect way, but the point is to try and aim for the vision God had for marriage as best as we can. If a man can accomplish this 80% of his time, think of the benefits it could bring to the spiritual life of his spouse and children! I am known among my friends for being very stubborn, but I am perfectly willing to say that I submit to my husband. This is because I know he respects and values my opinion and will not abuse my trust in him. He takes his role as head of the household so seriously, I never doubt him. I trust him implicitly because he puts his family before himself, so I know he will do everything in his power to do right by us the grand majority of the time.

Sometimes I step up and tell him to relax because I can see he is burning himself out trying to care for all of us. I do it joyfully because I know that he will do the same for me when I need him to. I do not fear being taken advantage of as my husband acts like a husband and not like another child I need to care for. There is no running tally of who is contributing more to the relationship. We both contribute all that we can, and neither of us is bitter when that isn't exactly "equal." To sacrifice and to serve is to do so without expecting something in return.

Saint Paul's words need not be explained away or seen as outdated in modern society; they simply need to be read without our fallen natures getting in the way, free of pride and selfishness. We must be sure to remember that we die to ourselves and live in service to God and one another when we take our vows at the altar to one another. If we try to always keep that in mind, then we know that neither spouse is given license to be selfish, cruel, or demanding based on Saint Paul's directives for a Christian household, but rather to always try to do the opposite.

Being the head of a Christian household is no easy task. It comes with a rather hefty list of responsibilities.

Christian men, are you up for the challenge?