It was a late Saturday morning. After a big pot of coffee and a lot of talking the two of us were making the bed together. As he tucked in the sheets and I fluffed the pillows we were still agonizing over the decision to sell our house and move down the street into a bigger place that we recently found out was for sale.

As we went through the pro/con lists again, I told my husband that I just wasn’t ready to make a decision yet. There was something that wasn’t sitting right with me.

He responded confidently, “Well then…we won’t make any decisions until both of us are comfortable with it.”

I knew he really wanted that house. But I also knew that he knew I was struggling. We were coming out of a season of great loss. And a lot of change. So his willingness to set aside what he wanted, for the sake of giving me peace in that moment was nothing short of a gift to me. A sacrificial gift on his part. And one that has had a lasting impact on my soul, like so many other passing moments in our marriage.

And so here I sit. Writing in the very house that he wanted and I was unsure of moving into. Feeling safe. Honored. Loved. Esteemed and respected. In time, God used my husband’s patience to give me room to pray. And trust. And with no pressure, to look forward to the next chapter of our lives in this new house.

Funny how it works, isn’t it? That so very often, when we are putting each other’s needs above our own, God does amazing things. Hearts are opened and then knitted together. Two minds become one. And a covenant friendship deepens even more.

______________

My husband and I have been married for seventeen years. We both became christians the second year of our marriage. When our five kids were little he worked the nightshift as a police officer patrolling the most dangerous streets in our state. Because I didn’t work and stayed home, he put in a lot of hours of overtime to support our family. Which meant that when he was around, he wanted to make every minute with us count.

It was just natural for him to take over when he was home. He knew I was tired. And was often in desperate need of some alone time. There are days when I remember him taking my hand, and leading me to our bedroom, saying jokingly that I wasn’t allowed to come out for at least thirty minutes. He wanted me to have some time to pray, and rest, and read the bible while he gave the kids a bath and tucked them into bed.

Later on as the kids were growing up and we were getting more involved in the church and learning more about marriage, I often heard the words “submit” and “lead”.  It was easy for me to take what I was learning at face value.

Submit? No problem. I always thought it meant that God put my husband as the head of our family. To protect us. And care for us. And to sacrificially serve us, like he was doing. And it was my job to love him back. And give him the respect he deserved. Simple enough, right?

But I didn’t realize that I was one of the lucky ones. Respecting my husband was just natural. I didn’t need to be told to do it because it was just an overflow of how he treated me. We were friends. Everything felt mutual. Equal. Life was hard. But we still knew how to have fun! I just figured that every christian had a marriage like ours. Time and experience would tell me different.

As time went on, there seemed to be a stronger emphasis on submission and leading in the Christian culture I was a part of.  And I started feeling the pressures of putting our marriage in this “Christian box”. I started second guessing things. Were we playing our parts correctly? Was I sinning by giving my husband my opinion on things all of these years? Was my husband sinning by allowing me to have a say in things? And when he did listen to me when I had a strong opinion about something, was I manipulating him? At one point, I was even told by a church leader that it was strange that my husband and I told each other everything.

And then I saw marriages around me start to crumble. Marriages from mentors and pastors who we deeply respected. I saw God given authority being abused…in my own church as well as the global church. And because I thought I didn’t have a safe place to go, I went online to find the answers.

The word “submit” started to make me angry. The word “lead” made me want to run and hide. The word “authority” made me want to rebel. Because the men who were proclaiming these things were using them for their own gain. I saw hurting women. And disillusioned children. All of these precious words…God’s words meant to strengthen, protect and uphold his children…became twisted and evil.

The other day I was reading something again on the roles of men and women within the Christian marriage. My husband was sitting in the living room and so I went to share with him my unrest again about this emphasis that I am seeing and how it seems as Christians we have lost what it means to be friends within our marriages.

My husband responded, “Remember what I was reading the kids this morning out of James?” And then he quoted it to me:

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

I could feel my breathing slow.

Oh, the sweet sanity of Christ.

And we both agreed. Let’s keep doing what we can to be peacemakers within our marriage. Within this friendship. Showing mercy to one another in our weaknesses. Submitting to one another’s needs. Praying that we would have pure hearts towards one another. And consider each other’s feelings day by day, as we have been.

“It’s just common sense, Kimmy.” He reassured me with a smile. “Let’s just keep working on our friendship. And not make it so complicated.”

And just like that all of the voices in my head quieted down. And I took our marriage out of the box and placed it back in God’s word where it belonged, in all of it’s mystery, it all of it’s depth.

Very often it seems it is my husband picking me up again and brushing me off, as he leads me along the way. But sometimes it’s me picking him up. Encouraging him to stay the course, too.

Because isn’t the most important thing where we are headed?….

“Christ is up ahead! C’mom! I’ll help you get there!”

And sometimes it is just that simple.

35 thoughts on “Have we Christians made Marriage too Complicated?

  1. You are blessed to have such a wonderful husband and marriage. My marriage hasn’t always been that easy. We are military (which comes with its own challenges) and I’ve taken over so many of the roles because he couldn’t do them with his career. As we reach the end of it, I have to re-learn what submission is when I’ve had a husband who lets me do what I think is best. It’s taking a bit of practice to remember to wait for him to make decisions and only offer my perspective and opinions once he’s had some time to think. My husband does a great job asking for my thoughts, but feels so valued when I make a point asking for his input. I try to remember that I’m submitting to God and loving my husband by respecting him and his wisdom. We are both lucky to have spouses who value us so greatly.

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  2. Oh it brings seeet joy to my heart to see you write again! How refreshing to see these words of truth and love for Christ. In the arms of Christ is where our healing and growing begins!

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  3. My husband and I have been in a stormy season for the last year and this post really speaks to my heart. Thanks for being God’s messenger for me today. You always give me something to think about and encourage my heart. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Christian! We are all at different places and seasons in our marriages and so I hoped this would be an encouragement to those who are doing well and those who are struggling, too. So thankful that Christ is our hope no matter where we are at. 🙂 Love and blessings to you!

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  4. Awesome! You painted a beautiful picture of marriage…my marriage! Sometimes, my husband and I say to each other, “man our marriage just flows…it seems surreal to have a marriage where we are TRULY friends!” Of course we’re not perfect nor without issues, but when God is I the center of your marriage, He holds it together and it can and does weather any storm!
    Thank you for sharing your marriage heart!

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      1. I loved your article, and I see my own marriage in it. We need to lighten up and let go of the legalism.

        I’m a freelance editor, if you’re interested in employing one. 🙂

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  5. Thank you for this well-written, beautifully balanced article. I hesitated over whether or not to leave a response since I know I’m not part of your intended audience. (My family and I are pagan.)

    This is a very needed perspective. I’ve a number of friends who are Christians and a couple of the women struggle with this very issue. They are very sincere in their beliefs, but they and their children are suffering because they believe they’re required to submit to the husband as “head of the household”–even when the husband requires the wife &/or children to do something she believes is morally wrong!

    To me, that’s appalling. Regardless of which god you pray to, everyone still has a responsibility for their own words and actions. You can’t just sign your mind and will over to some other human and you most certainly have a responsibility to protect any child you choose to bring into the world. Your sensitively written, well-balanced article is one I’m going to share with them. Thank you for sharing your perspective and in such a kindly way, too. I’m very happy for you and your husband that you have such a healthy partnership.

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    1. Annelise,

      I am so glad you decided to comment. It really encouraged me. I agree with you one hundred percent. (And the bible would as well.) NEVER should you go against your conscience on ANYthing. And if a husband is asking you to do that he is wrong.

      Within the Christian marriage, the bible says that the husband should love the wife like Christ loves his church. And never do you see Jesus using his power to manipulate and abuse people for his own gain. In fact, he does the very opposite. Always serving. Always coming under those who are the weakest to lift them up and give them life! Even to the point that he gave up his OWN life for them on the cross.

      God has VERY severe words for those who use the power they have to abuse. Jesus himself said that it is better for a person to have a rock tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than to face him for hurting and abusing his children. That is the God I serve. The One who broke the rules of the establishment and religious people and came to seek and save those that are lost and knew they needed a Rescuer. And it’s so incredibly sad that there are men out there that twist what the bible has said about that.

      Thank you again for your comment! I treasure it.

      With much appreciation,
      Kim

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  6. Oh Kim, I love this! Having walked a similar path and being told similar things from, I suspect, the same person it is so wonderful to read yoirvwords. That we mutually uplift our spouse. And that at the end of the day, week or month we are all moving toward Christ.

    Much love and so glad you love your new home! I love see snapshots of it! Emily

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  7. I am 51. Married 30 years. The first 22-23 years were awful. Awful because we were very wounded people. Very wounded people trying to survive with 4 children , therapy, financial devastation, 22 moves, and no one in our corner. We were very isolated from people. Not in a physical sense but because we had such a tremendous burden given to us in our childhoods that impacted everything. It was easier not to share that burden with others.

    Our saving grace through all of it was our Friendship! We could be having a raging argument one moment and then decide to go to the movies.
    In all our mess we never had gender role issues. There were no submission issues either.

    But I do remember the church’s proclivity towards “trends”. And authors, books sweeping through the church with “new” rules.
    Mary Prides book The Way Home and All the way home. All of a sudden birth control and family size had new rules. All of a sudden Proverbs31 was the end all be all above Christ’s example. I believed it for awhile and failed miserably. It was unattainable .

    Rules for worship, rules for prayer, rules for parenting “Ezzo method” , I remember that one in particular because it seemed abusive, it reminded me of my childhood abuse.
    And I gravitated to a more baby led parenting style.

    Then we entered and skirted around home schooling and a plethora of new methods engulfed our lives. Classical Education, Vision Forum.
    Self made authors, self made preachers, self made small business owners all developing a new biblical standard. Over emphasizing certain verses as the Law.
    Modesty, sex, women’s roles in the home and only the home. No outside job. Rules and regulations!!
    Again my “rebellious” nature prevailed and I was having none of the methods thrown at me purporting the right biblical way.
    None of these things or methods stuck with me. They seemed to bring more questions than answers.
    Because of my abuse I don’t trust people and I never trusted what these people said because it didn’t line up with the Evangelical church I was brought up in.

    As a child , teen i was taught the goal was to follow Christ. Become like Christ in whatever you did. Whether it was being a school teacher. A secretary. A mum. Patriarchy was not a deal on the table.

    The gospel I remember as a kid was very simple.
    My husband and I quit going to church a long time ago and I have had an outside view looking in. The church is a mess.

    It is bound. It is restricted with rules, regulations, Patriarchy on one end and willy nilly wild and crazy grave sucking, trips to heaven swinging on daisies at the other end. ( John Crowder, Kat Kerr)
    Somewhere in the middle of all this mess we found a lifeline of good doctrinal teaching and preaching pastoral care online. Numerous dedicated , loving , people who seek the Lord and teach for the church and her betterment in preparation of becoming like Christ and a spotless bride.
    Within this online realm the HS was able to transform ourselves and our marriage. Mutual love and respect, and submission. At times the change in attitude was dramatic and my husband overflowed with newfound love for me. Which to be honest completely freaked me out.
    It was and still is a work of the HS in us. Not a trend, a book, a self professed teacher leading the sheep down the garden path into shackles.

    There is freedom in Christ. His gospel is simple . We just need to seek him. Even if it is a small simple prayer.
    I can remember as a kid of about 11 our church piling into vans and going to Bill Gothard seminars. Institute of basic Life Principles. He wasn’t a big draw here in Canada.
    I’m not sure how much his teaching stuck. Somethings stuck though, as I can see his theology morphed into general evangelical thought everywhere. So much so it is accepted and people don’t think or realise it’s origins. . The one used on me by a very abusive parent to keep me shackled in abuse. Was the Umbrella of Authority. But I don’t recall my friends parents grasping onto it. And I have not heard it being spoken of by my church going friends.

    Recently because of ATI it is starting to seep in through the homeschooling movement though.

    I grew up in an evangelical mennonite church.( not the fundamental sect) It had stable, teachings from scripture. The grandparents and some of their kids escaped persecution in the Ukraine which produced a very prayerful , stable faithful group of people experienced in the faithfulness of God.
    At the time I thought the old fogies were boring as heck, and needed to be renewed by the spirit.
    Alas they were right all the time never wavering from the scriptures, remaining faithful.
    I think that coupled with my life experience kept me on the circumference and in the shadows watching the church trends of the last 25-30 years.

    I must say, you and your husband seem to have a very natural ease with each other steeped in genuine Christ’s love. And your husband is very wise. What a gift . Never lose the simplicity of Christ and the gospel.
    I think you have more to give through your marriage than what you realise. Just leading by example.

    Thank you for the post. I hope others can reflect and have the HS move through your words to release those shackled with an overly complicated expression of what marriage should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Kimberly,
    I’m new to your blog. Someone posted a link to it on another site and I’m so glad I followed it! This post is beautiful.
    These words resonated with me especially: “The word “submit” started to make me angry. The word “lead” made me want to run and hide. The word “authority” made me want to rebel. Because the men who were proclaiming these things were using them for their own gain. I saw hurting women. And disillusioned children. All of these precious words…God’s words meant to strengthen, protect and uphold his children…became twisted and evil.”

    Thank you, again.

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  9. This was beautiful. I came out of an abusive marriage, and a church that encouraged me to continue to submit, even though it was clearly an unholy disaster. Once I was safe, I started talking to the happily married people I knew, the ones who didn’t shun me for divorcing. Turns out that even when they were using words like submission and headship, because that’s what they had been taught, they weren’t trapped in those boxes, and they were functionally egalitarian and had deep friendship at the core of their marriages. One of my non-Christian friends who has been married to her high school best friend for 20 years once asked why Christians made marriage so hard, that if marriage was such hard work, people were either doing it wrong, or married the wrong person. Anyway, long comment, just to say Thank You for articulating this so beautifully.

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  10. your spouse is unusual and unfortunately we act like he is the norm.. that hurts a lot of marriages, putting all that pressure on each to give while only one spouse does the giving and the other “acts” like they are working on it.. fix people not marriages .. we don’t live in safe times for people

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  11. I’m afraid I do not share the opinion of most, that your resolution of this genuinely troubling subject was sufficient. The reality is, your situation would be very much different had your husband been the one to start questioning your right to give him input. Or imagine what happens when he is persuaded, by church leaders and teaching, that your genuine, even much-needed input into your joint life is actually not ‘suitable’ to your role, and that it is, indeed, inappropriate manipulation.

    I can speak as one who had a gentle, supportive, loving husband turned into a – monster seems too harsh of a word – into a far different person than he once was. Not only does the wife suffer terribly from being marginalized and undervalued, but he husband suffers just as much when he essentially cuts off his own right hand, in the name of pursuing his biblical ‘manhood’ and biblical ‘role’ as ‘head’ of the household.

    In reality, the head, as your husband understands – and mine once did – is called to serve, love, lead by godly example – not to lord it over and seek his own way. Few men can resist the temptation, when given justification by their most revered friends and leaders, to demand their own way, when, after all, the little woman is weak, easily deceived and called to submit. Yes, indeed, all of the abuse and waste that you read about is real, and it is a natural result of destructive, faulty teaching. It is destroying countless marriages that once functioned naturally, until one or both of the parties succumbed to false ideas of what biblical marriage looks like.

    I am sorry to say that your handling of the subject merely allows the abusive, false teaching to be perpetuated, on the off-chance that people will know enough to ignore the lies and continue treating one another with mutual respect. That is too big of a chance to take. In reality, mature believers who know better are called to stand up for the weak and ignorant who don’t. You need to denounce the false, destructive teaching for what it is, rather than allow it to continue to destroy other peoples’ marriages while you merely ignore it in your own.

    I’m sorry if I sound harsh, but it is a bitter pill to swallow when your once healthy marriage is destroyed by false teachers, while others ignore rather than challenge what is damaging and abusive.

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    1. Thank you so much for this well thought out comment. There were a few things that struck me in what you said. The first:

      “The reality is, your situation would be very much different had your husband been the one to start questioning your right to give him input. Or imagine what happens when he is persuaded, by church leaders and teaching, that your genuine, even much-needed input into your joint life is actually not ‘suitable’ to your role, and that it is, indeed, inappropriate manipulation.”

      I completely agree with you on this.

      Second, “Few men can resist the temptation, when given justification by their most revered friends and leaders, to demand their own way, when, after all, the little woman is weak, easily deceived and called to submit.”

      Sadly, I also agree with you on this point. In fact my husband and I have had many conversations about this…how very few men can handle the power they have been given without using it wrongly or even abusing it in some way.

      Third, “Yes, indeed, all of the abuse and waste that you read about is real, and it is a natural result of destructive, faulty teaching. It is destroying countless marriages that once functioned naturally, until one or both of the parties succumbed to false ideas of what biblical marriage looks like.”

      I feel like my husband and I got a taste of this at one point in a former church. It wasn’t until we were out of that environment that we realized how it was affecting our marriage.

      And finally, “I am sorry to say that your handling of the subject merely allows the abusive, false teaching to be perpetuated, on the off-chance that people will know enough to ignore the lies and continue treating one another with mutual respect. That is too big of a chance to take. In reality, mature believers who know better are called to stand up for the weak and ignorant who don’t. You need to denounce the false, destructive teaching for what it is, rather than allow it to continue to destroy other peoples’ marriages while you merely ignore it in your own.”

      I am thinking hard on this and have been even before you commented here. I think that anyone who knows me or has read my writings in the past knows that I am an advocate for the weak and oppressed and do not in any way excuse or look away from abuse. I was hoping this article would actually show by example what a marriage looks like that functions as both persons being equal and valuable in all aspects. But I do see your points here. They are real and valid. And I am wrestling with the very things you mentioned.

      I am so sorry that you have gone through what you have. It deeply angers me that you were treated this way in a place that you were supposed to feel safe. Thank you again for taking the time to write what you have. It is not lost on me.

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