Lay your life down for your wife | A guide for husbands
This is the third post in a series from A Guide to Biblical Manhood. Download the whole guidebook as a free PDF here.
Lay your life down for your wife
Regardless of any examples or influences you may see around you of marriages that seek to be 50/50 and fully equal, it’s your responsibility to lead and give 100 percent. Based on Ephesians 5:24, you’re the head of your marriage as Christ is the head of the church. You are responsible to lead. You carry the burden when decisions need to be made and God will hold you accountable to lead.
And regardless of any examples or influences you may see around you of men who are dominating in their marriages, you are responsible to be a servant leader. Based on Ephesians 5:25, you are to love your wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” In other words, you lovingly lead by laying down your life.
Just as we saw in the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13, Christian leadership is sacrificial. Your leadership as a husband is modeled on the example of Christ who demonstrated His love as head of the church by laying down His life.
That means your love and your leadership are not based on your emotions or on how your wife treats you, and they aren’t tied up in any kind of score – keeping in which you only give based on what you get in return.
Instead, you anchor your love and leadership in Christ.
When you come home from work exhausted and just want to crash in front of the TV, you lay your life down to engage with your wife in a meaningful way. When you’re eager to get back into a book you’ve been reading but see that your wife is troubled, you lay your life down to stop and help her process whatever is weighing her down.
When your wife is sick, you lay your life down to adjust your plans, give her the care she needs and pick up any house and family responsibilities she’s not able to cover.
This is the kind of sacrifice that lovingly serves your wife, but also brings glory to God as it steadily chips away at your self-centeredness and remakes you into His image.
Live in an understanding way with your wife
A primary way that you lead in your marriage is in becoming an active student of her. “[H]usbands, live with your wives in an understanding way,” the apostle Peter writes, “showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Living with your wife in an understanding way means you’re supposed to know her. You’re not supposed to treat her generically — you’re supposed to treat her uniquely. And in order to treat her uniquely, you have to work at knowing her.
People who know me [Randy], know that I’m not real keen on vegetables. Let’s just suppose my wife wants to honor me this evening for a hard-working day and she says, “Honey, I love you so much and I want to honor you and so I’ve made you the best vegetable souffle I could make.” Well, now I’m conflicted. She’s shown an act of appreciation and kindness, but the way to my heart is through beef. And what I want to say is, “I’m grateful for this, but you don’t even know me.”
Some of your wives are saying, “You don’t even know me — you’re treating me generically.” You can’t do that. You have to treat your wife uniquely. So, how can you live with your wife in an understanding way? Study her, make intentional efforts based on what you learn, examine your marriage regularly, and lead in planning dates and getaways in order to provide the means in which most of these things can happen in a natural and enjoyable setting. And here’s what all that looks like day to day:
You can’t just read a book to find out how to live with your wife in an understanding way, you have to read your wife. Does she like walks more than flowers, flowers more than candy? You have to study her and learn about the unique person God has joined you to. You should seek to know answers to questions like these:
- What blesses her?
- What energizes her?
- What five things is she good at?
- What three ways has she shaped you for the better (for which you can thank her)?
- Where does she think she’s inadequate?
- What’s weighing on her heart today?
Make intentional efforts based on what you learn
Living in an understanding way means not only discerning what your wife needs and what blesses her but then acting on it. That means going into your week committed to do something with the answers to the previous questions and being discerning about opportunities that come your way.
Where can I weave into this week something that will bless my wife? (One way to stay on top of this is to keep building a list of things you know bless your wife, hints she drops and even a list of her sizes in your wallet or on your mobile device and to check that list regularly.)
How can I bring her encouragement in the areas she feels inadequate?
Where can I carve out time to pray about the things on my wife’s heart today?
Examine your marriage regularly
How is your marriage doing? Where are you strong and where do you still need to grow? An important aspect of living with your wife in an understanding way is routinely setting aside time to review your marriage at a big-picture level. Some couples do a quick version of this once a week or as part of their date night once a month. This is a great time for you as a husband to ask, “What’s something I can work on over the next 30 days?” — and to then review at your next check up.
What can really pay off in this area is to do an annual or quarterly retreat where you can get away, have fun together and then spend time reviewing questions along the lines of the following:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of our home?
What are three ways we’re being sanctified by our marriage (for example, I pray more, I take better care of my body, I listen better because you’re in my life)?
What priceless things do we enjoy doing together that we need to protect on our calendar?
What one thing would we most like to see improve in the next 30 days, 90 days or year (based on when you plan to do a similar retreat)?
A Guide to Biblical Manhood
– Randy Stinson serves as Senior vice president for academic administration and provost. He is also associate professor of leadership and family ministry. You can follow Dr. Stinson on Twitter at @RandyStinson.
–Dan Dumas is senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary. He is a church planter and pastor-teacher at Crossing Church in Louisville, Ky. You can connect with him on Twitter at @DanDumas, on Facebook or at DanDumas.com.