Sometimes God gives us a feeling that something is wrong with our marriage. And when He does, He wants us to act.
I once was speaking at the FamilyLife Canada Weekend Getaway conference in Niagara Falls, and one thing that came up in the women’s session was this phenomenon where wives sense that there is something off, but they can’t identify just what it is. Those who had experienced it all said the same thing: When you sense there’s something wrong, there usually is. Don’t hide. Confront it (It’s like what Gary Thomas wrote in his recent guest post on how when something’s wrong, you need to DO SOMETHING!).
One woman told her story. She felt something was weird, because her husband was short with her and grumpy, which was out of character. He was angrier than usual without a reason. His sex drive had fallen. But she didn’t say anything for quite a few months. Then it came out that he had been using pornography. He has since said that if she had confronted him earlier, it likely would have saved them both several months of pain.
Another woman once told me a similar story about knowing there was something wrong, and later discovering an affair. But in the meantime she twisted herself inside and out trying to be a better wife, since she believed that “the only person you can change is yourself.”
My heart breaks for women like these, but both did eventually speak up before things got too out of hand, and the marriages were both saved.
Sometimes, though, we don’t feel that it’s our role to speak up when something’s wrong in marriage. And then truly horrific things can happen.
Many couples believe that, because it’s a husband’s job to lead the family, it’s not the wife’s role to speak up if she thinks something is wrong. I’ve seen this dynamic all too often in the last ten years–women who firmly believe that letting him make decisions and set the family’s tone is the definition of submission, so they don’t deal with legitimate red flags in marriage.
When a woman is highly invested in having her husband be her authority, and considers the opportunity to allow him to make decisions as an opportunity to be Christlike, then I fear she may be less likely to call him on things when those warning signs appear. If you believe, for instance, that correcting your husband is not your role (“I’m not supposed to be His Holy Spirit!”), then what do you do when you start having a feeling that something is going wrong? And this view is quite common (see my takedown of the article claiming that husbands had to “get their wives ready for Jesus.”) In many theological circles, it’s the husband who hears from God and who then guides his wife. There doesn’t seem to be recourse if the husband is off course!
For instance, this image has been doing the rounds on Twitter recently. It’s from Bill Gothard’s institute, where he taught primarily homeschooling families how to be close to God. Last week someone emailed me asking me to comment on it, and I thought it fit in well with this post. This was his image of authority in marriage:
So the husband’s authority and relationship is through Jesus, but the wife’s is through the husband. She has a mediator between her and Jesus (rather against 1 Timothy 2:5, don’t you think?).
Why is this circulating around the internet now? Bill Gothard, who never married, led a huge, legalistic cult-like enterprise for training families in “how to be godly”. And at the same time, unbeknownst to the public, he was a sexual deviant, who surrounded himself with young girls who were all blonde and very thin, and then proceeded to allegedly fondle them. He was sued, but the suit was just abandoned because of the statute of limitations.
What Gothard was endeavouring to create was a group of believers who would follow him without question. And that’s what he promoted–you obey authority. Children obey everybody; women obey men; men are only answerable to God.
When it comes to this view, signified by this umbrella, I shake my head, because the only place in Scripture where it actually talks about a spouse sanctifying the other it is completely mutual. (Ephesians 5:24-25 talks about Jesus sanctifying the wife, not the husband doing so). Then there’s this:
1 Corinthians 7:12-14
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
So the wife can sanctify the husband. That seems an awful lot like the husband can be under the wife’s umbrella, doesn’t it?
Let’s be very clear what this umbrella theology (which is essentially the same as the “husbands need to get their wives ready for Jesus” theology that I’ve debunked) is saying:
If a woman corrects her husband or tries to lead him closer to Jesus, she is actually being an instrument of Satan.
Does anyone else find that highly ridiculous? What, after all, is more important to Jesus? That a husband be the boss, or that the family is reflecting Him and being transformed into His likeness?
Women were created to be “suitable helpers”, which means that iron should sharpen iron. But as I said in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, many women are not acting as iron. They are far too squishy.
Are you GOOD or are you NICE?
On this blog over the last few months I’ve had a number of (primarily male) commenters tell me that I’m leading people astray by telling women that they are to speak up if they sense something is wrong. And I just want to say, loudly and clearly, that sometimes when you feel something is wrong it’s because The Holy Spirit is helping you to see something important! It’s because God cares about you and cares about your marriage and cares about your husband, and sees that your husband is doing something bad that will lead everyone off a cliff. And so God is revealing it to you, because you’re the one in a position to do something about it.
Don’t ignore that voice. The Holy Spirit talks to you, not just to your husband. And sometimes the Holy Spirit does so for your husband’s sake.
So let’s just “spur each other on to love and good deeds”. Let’s not worry so much about making sure that he’s making the decisions, or that you’re catering to his desires, or that you never, ever speak up. Please, let Jesus be Jesus. Don’t make your husband into your god. That will never end well.