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On language and expectation.

[This is just from the rehearsal. I promise I wore a pretty white dress at my wedding. Not jeans. I did wear Chaco sandals, though.]

Erik and I recently had a discussion about what it means to be a "Spiritual Leader." You know what I'm talking about, right? What every good Christian woman wants in a man. We started talking about the expectation that fills that term, along with the fear of inability and failure that comes with it.

Personally, I believe my husband leads me well. And when I say "lead" I mean that Erik is the one that sets the tone in our marriage and our home. When I fly off the handle about something relatively insignificant, he reels me back into reality and speaks Truth and perspective. He never allows me to check my theology at the door, regardless of life's circumstance. He encourages me, he guides me and he loves me. He asks great questions that challenge my opinions. He engages my mind, he pushes my buttons (in a good way), and he has pulled me through some really tough experiences.

However, we don't do Bible studies together. We don't do devotionals together. But I'm not sure that those things are really our personality as a couple. We operate under the banner of our faith differently than other couples might. But does that make Erik any less of a Spiritual Leader? I certainly don't think so.

Which begged the question in me: I wonder what other men and women see in the term, "Spiritual Leader." And, I wonder how it plays out in their marriage?

So I have a two-part question for you today, and it's simply to satisfy my curiosity (and hopefully start some good conversation!)

What does the term "Spiritual Leader" mean to you and how does it play out in your marriage?


  1. It means that my husband displays God in leadership. He is a good strong husband who can lead our home in the direction of the Lord. He knows when to pray, when to take control and when to listen to his wife. In our marriage we dont do devotionals together but we do bible study with our friends, we pray together and we hold eachother accountable when we know we arent doing the right things. Sometimes a leader means just being a team player. :)

  2. You are really blessed to have a husband like that! There are so many (probably the majority of men out there today) that don't even want to be a spiritual leader. I am not really currently married (divorce is almost finalized), but God has totally changed my "wants." I married a man who claims he is saved, but did not want to be a spiritual leader. I had to beg him to come to church with me, spend time with me and my daughter, not hang out with the wrong kinds of people, etc. I saw all the warning signs before I was married, but I got married young (18 - now I'm 21) and looked past them thinking I could change him later. We are now almost divorced and God has really worked in my life during this really tough year of separation and becoming a single mom on the opposite side of the country from my friends. I see a spiritual leader as am man that looks forward to going to church, has good friends, wants to be more like Christ every day, patient & kind (the true meaning of love from the Bible), and is willing to sacrifice for God and for his family (not perfect, but strives to be like the picture of perfection - Christ). I pray that God will bring a spiritual leader into my life one day that can lead both me and my daughter in our daily walk with Christ.

  3. GREAT QUESTION! Thad and I do not do devotions together - we like 2 different styles. He prefers and attends a men's bible study.

    But when I think of "spiritual leader" I think of - decision maker as in what outreach we participate in which church we attend and etc., he's our guiding compass of what is allowed into our home like types of movies/music/games, and also the one who points us back to Christ when (cough) I get a bit emotional and/or maybe a few times ... crazy.

    He does not facilitate family devotions w/ the boy because he's not gifted to teach and has full confidence in me to do that. He decides how punishment is carried out w/ our 7yr old - he's the discipliner - and types of rewards when appropriate.

    I guess I filter everything thru him.

  4. Interesting question... my running partner and I often have this discussion and we've never really come up with a good definition. As far as my marriage? Not sure really how it plays out, since I'm not even sure what 'it' is. I know we're really happy and love being married. We treat each other well and we both put the other person (and our children) first which makes for a very peaceful, happy, easy-going home. We attend church together and often have deep, interesting theological discussions on the long drive to Salem. The 13 years we've been together (married 7) we've never had a situation where we had to define who is the "head of the household" or "spiritual leader" so I'm not really sure how to answer this question...

  5. We are so like y'all.

    Spiritual leader? Yes. In the sense that he challenges me, my faith, what it means to me. He doesn't allow me to rest on what I learned in Sunday School as a 7-year-old. He has helped me shape a child-like faith into a grown-up relationship with God. He's patient. He's sharp. He's not afraid to ask questions & to question. He's EXACTLY the Spiritual leader that I need.

    As far as getting our butts into church? That's all me. I push him to simply rely on faith, to simply BELIEVE, & to help him recognize the difference between his faith & politics in the church. I am EXACTLY the spiritual leader that he needs. & I do not say that with arrogance - I say that after years of self-doubt & prayer & guidance.

    & we don't do devotional together. Not our style. Not our style to pray together before bed. I'll ask him to pray for something specifically for me, & vice versa. We oblige. But we don't sit & pray together.

    Every person/couple/family is different. I believe that we are spiritual leaders for EACH OTHER, not necessarily one doing all the work & the other following.

  6. Wow, these are all really good responses!

    Alysha, I totally agree on the Team Player aspect. I'm not going to follow a guy who can't be humble, too. You know? That's wise of you to seek that out!

    Elizabeth, I will pray this for you fervently today. I'm so sorry that your former husband set such a bad example for both you and your little girl. I do agree, there are far too many passive men in the church who won't step into their place as MEN and lead their families. My heart breaks for you that you had to experience that. Don't get me wrong, Erik is not a perfect man by any means... but he is a good example for me and my son. I hope that Rowan sees the good in him and chooses to run after that.

    Stef, I'm not so sure that my hubs and I click on the Bible study thing, either! I prefer structure and prompts, he is much more free-form reading. How awesome that he encourages the teacher in you! Your little boy is blessed :)

    Janna, I think I'm in the same boat as you on a lot of fronts. The term "Spiritual Leader" gets so overused in Christian culture, I'm not even sure what it really means anymore. And I think the term itself can put a lot of unwanted pressure on our men.

    BA, how interesting that you also see yourself as a Spiritual Leader! In the modern, evangelical point of view, that is seriously frowned upon in many circles... seen too often as "feminism" in a negative sense... the desire to overtake a man's role in his family & faith. But I like that idea... both spouses lead out in their own way, in all things Spiritual.

    Great discussion, people! Keep it coming!

  7. Yep! Of course, Doug & I's story is a little different considering that we came from VERY different backgrounds spiritually. It was something I prayed over for years & the book of Ruth has been my guidepost. I always saw her as a quiet Spiritual leader.

    oh, & you know me ;) Just a radical reformed Southern Baptist that screamed her way out of the Convention much to The Momma's displeasure.

  8. This is something that my husband and I are still figuring out as well. We try to read and do life journaling together when we can. Recently we found that evenings after the little one is in bed is the best time. This is also a time for us to talk about life in general, pray, and support one another.

    My husband is the leader in that he has designated this time and is in charge of keeping us accountable to it. We're still figuring out what God's purpose for him as the spiritual leader looks like, I think that it changes and evolves as relationships and family dynamics do. He's actually planning on reading through this post and these comments tonight to further our discussion.

  9. I have come to learn that by God-given role, men are the "Spiritual Leader", a.k.a. the "head of the wife" --however, men can carry that out well or poorly. But either way they are leading. They can abdicate that role to their wives, but that is essentially a manner of poorly leading.

    I think how we carry out our faith and bring God into our lives, marriages and parenting is a separate issue not to be confused with Spiritual Leading as a role in marriage.

  10. Wendy - I totally agree. Men can do it well or poorly. However, I think abdicating that role to the wife isn't bad leading, it's the absence of it altogether.

    Would you argue that how our husbands carry out faith, bring God into our lives and marriages is mutually exclusive from Spiritual Leading as a role in marriage? I would say that's what 99.9% of Spiritual Leading actually is. Does Spiritual Leader ONLY mean "head of the wife"? Or is it more intricate than that?

    Just playing devil's advocate here. :) But maybe I'm off base?

  11. Nish, I love that you have this discussion going. It's such an interesting subject--and one that is emotionally charged in a lot of evangelical circles.

    I really wonder the ways the young women and men today are going to work out their marriages, all the while keeping Christ in the center. Our generation (I'm 25) of women are far from shrinking violets and are the products of feminism being an accepted rhetoric their whole lives. I love this about the women of my generation (generalizing majorly!!), and I also worry about our (my) ability to hear the word "no" and submit out of love...both to our husband's and to God.

  12. Hayley, I wonder the same thing! Where do we find the balance of being a strong, secure and confident woman... both in the world and church... without coming across as "feminist?" It's such a fine line! And how do we teach the next generation of marrieds how to find the balance in their marriage? Where does submission & being led fit in?

  13. Okay, I'm back, because I did a bit more research and I'm even more confused on our terminology. Where is the verse that states a man should be a spiritual leader? I can't find it and I wanted to read it to figure out what this means. Can someone let me know the verse or verses that we are referencing?

  14. Janna - interesting that you bring up that point. I didn't include verses that would direct to a definition of "Spiritual Leader," for a reason, being and that the actual term doesn't exist in Scripture. It's very cultural-driven by the Christian community and the church, which is why I think it's so loaded & burdensome for so many men. I think the closest that you'll find are in the following verses:

    Ephesians 5:22-33
    Titus 2:5
    1 Peter 3:1,5,7

  15. Thanks! I have read those verses many times (and just did again) and I know that my marriage is definitely following God's design.

    I must say I am a bit relieved that Spiritual leader isn't in the Bible. I have never liked that term :)

  16. Loved hearing a bit of this in person today. (-: I think, as you got at, it will look different for each couple. I think what will be hardest (as a single person) is being "led." Trusting that the man I choose to marry will lead me as best he can, even when I may object or differ.

    My favorite part is that you said, "He never allows me to check my theology at the door, regardless of life's circumstance."

    That is a powerful statement.


  17. I worry a bit about the idea in some evangelical circles that feminism is inherently a bad thing. I consider myself a Christian and a feminist (in that order), and believe strongly in the importance of women's equality in the church and in society. While there are certainly forms of feminism that may be harmful, believing that both men and women are created in the image of God and stand equally before God is important (Galatians 3:28). We are both created in God's image and called as Christ's disciples individually and as a couple.

    I also think each marriage is different. Husbands are called to lead but also to serve. Wives are called to love but also to be strong. There are parts of our marriage where I'm certainly the leader (it's really hard for my dear husband to tithe) and areas where he is (when I'm grumpy and have had a bad day I do NOT want to pray sometimes). There have been times in my marriage where I've needed Daryl's leadership and correction, but also times where he's needed mine. The key is in Ephesians 5:21, I think (the verse right before the often-cited wives and husbands passage): Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Thanks for asking these questions, Nish! Makes me miss you.

  18. @cbe I LOVE your comment - you wrote everything I was thinking but couldn't put into words :)

  19. I am 21 years old and 35 days away from my wedding. My fiance and I have been struggling with this for a little while now. We have been engaged for almost two years and have been long distance almost our whole relationship.
    To be honest, the struggle may be mostly my fault. And for a minute I thought it was entirely my fault. Seeing your comment, "I think abdicating that role to the wife isn't bad leading, it's the absence of it altogether," really reminded me, he takes part in this as well. I am a very strong-willed women, who loves being independent. I want my future husband to be the head of the house, but I have to remember to LET him lead me.
    Thank you so much for this post, it takes courage to be so transparent. Thank you for your boldness. I have really taken a lot away from the post and comments.
    I JUST found your blog and I am definitely adding you to my reader!