Last night in my Marriage and Family class, Mrs. Tonya York spoke on joint spirituality in marriage. This topic is a sensitive topic because there is probably not a Christian woman who entered marriage without some form of expectation of her husband in leading their family spiritually. As Mrs. York pointed out, many of us have expectations of our husbands to be leading and initiating our family in devotions on a regular basis, to be intimately praying with us as wives, to bring up spiritual topics to talk about throughout the day.
However, she asked us to think in scripture about where we see this example worked out? What husband in scripture do we see sitting down every night to have “family devotions”? This does not mean that family devotions are a bad thing or that husbands and fathers should not initiate them. Yet, why is it that many Christian women feel that the spiritual maturity of their husbands lie in how they initiate such practices?
There are many men in scripture who had vibrant spiritual lives, served the Lord with vigilance, and loved their families, yet we do not see a specific “family devotion time” set in place. No doubt they spoke of the Lord continually with their families and taught them the ways of the Lord. We cannot forget Deuteronomy 6:4-9 which states:
“4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."We see in this passage that it is a Father (and Mother’s) job to teach their children diligently the ways of the Lord! This is not something to be taken lightly or to be shoved aside, or expected from their Sunday School teachers.
The problem is when we as wives begin to place expectations on our husbands that we then hold against him if he does not live up to them. We look away from our own personal walk with God and begin focusing on the “deficiencies” in our husband. (Of course, some of these “deficiencies” are maybe only expectations of ours, not necessarily mandates of the Lord.) We lose sight of the fact that our husband is on his own spiritual journey, one that the Holy Spirit is leading and directing. We cannot force our husbands into a mold that we have created. We as wives need to take our primary focus off what our husbands our doing with their spiritual life and look at our own walk. Are WE consistent in our times with God? Are WE consistent in prayer? Are WE consistent in teaching our children about God? Are WE consistent to bring up spiritual discourse with our families?
Mrs. York gave us a good example of how our spiritual journey as a couple should work. She said that we should both focus on our own personal relationship with the Lord and then as we each individually grow closer to God, our joint spiritual relationship will naturally begin to grow closer. It makes sense! As we begin to allow the Lord to be our primary focus our hearts and minds will be overjoyed with His grace, mercy, and love. That will eventually spill out into the way we talk, respond to situations, submit to our husbands, train our children, etc… We will more easily and readily begin to talk about what the Lord is teaching us and showing us in His word and in our daily lives. This will then promote “spiritual intimacy” with our husbands as we talk together. We cannot control our husbands; we can only control our own personal responses and decisions. As Mrs. York said, “The goal is that you get closer to God, not that your husband initiates.”
She shared with us Three Myths:
• Spiritual intimacy must be initiated by the husband.
• Spiritual intimacy is all about doing devotions together.
• Spiritual intimacy will make our relationship problem-free.
As a wife, we can with a submissive attitude and heart, initiate some spiritual dialog with our husbands. This is not to lord over them what we are learning or to come across puff-up or more spiritually mature. But in humbleness and meekness we can begin to open up and share with our husbands what God is teaching us. If your husband is not the type of man who opens up to you or leads in devotions or spiritual discourse, then maybe over time, as you open up to him, the Lord will begin to help him open up. Just be careful not to judge if it takes your husband a while to open up. We have to remember that the Lord is in charge of our husband’s spiritual maturity and growth, not us!
Our husbands can show spiritual intimacy with us when they pray for us, or when we do open up to them and they encourage us in what we are learning from scripture. One of the most encouraging things for me with my husband, Kyle, is that if I am ever struggling with something and ask him to pray for me, he is excellent about stopping right there and praying for me out loud. That is such a comfort to me when he does that and it was good to be reminded last night that that is an example of him taking the lead in spiritual matters in our home!
Spiritual intimacy, though it will affect and change our relationship as a couple, will not completely take away our sinful nature! We cannot hold to the expectation that our marriage will be perfect when… or that we will stop sinning once our husband finally steps up and leads us in our walk with the Lord… or we would pray more if our husband would just pray with us… No! We are responsible before the Lord for our own actions. We do not rest our spiritual growth on our husbands.
One of the obstacles that Mrs. York gave us to be aware of in thinking through this is that we as a couple have come from two different backgrounds. One spouse may have come from a believing home and one from a secular home. One spouse may have had a family that did “devotions” and the other spouse may have had a family that only went to church. We need to give grace to our spouse and again focus on our own relationship with the Lord and give over our expectations to God, allowing Him to work in our husband’s lives. Ultimately, wouldn’t we rather the Lord be the one to mold and shape our husbands into the godly men they should be?
Now, in case you all believe that I am not a supporter of family devotions, please do not hear me wrong! I think that family devotions can be a great and vital part of any Christian family. I believe that the husband should step up and lead his family in learning scripture, learning how to pray, learning to memorize passages, learning to read good books on doctrine, etc… However, I believe that we as American Christian Women can set our heights and standards so high for our husbands that they do not feel able to meet them. Instead of expecting our husbands to sit down at 6:00 every evening for devotion time and then being upset and disappointed if he is not able to, why don’t we look to scripture and see how scripture defines a man who loves God and is a godly husband? According to Deuteronomy, a husband should talk of the Lord throughout the day; when you sit, walk, lie down, and rise up. We should be looking for ways that our husband is initiating spiritual intimacy and praise him for it. Whenever he encourages you when you open up about your walk with God, thank him for his encouragement. Whenever he initiates praying with you or the children thank him for leading your family before the throne. Whenever he does open up about his walk, be careful to listen patiently, responding encouragingly only after he is finished, not interrupting or adding your own two cents.
Finally, Mrs. York gave some ideas to talk over with your husband, seeking to determine how it would work best for your family to grow together spiritually. For some people, it may mean that you start by just discussing the Sunday sermon over lunch on Sunday afternoon. For some couples, it may work for them to set down in the evening and read scripture together before bed. Some couples may enjoy the bond of memorizing the same scripture passage together. Also keep in mind that various seasons of life will need different goals for your family. We as women need to learn to be flexible and submissive to what our husbands deem appropriate for that particular season.
The point in all of this is not that we should not be growing together spiritually as husbands and wives, or that men should not step up and take leadership, the point is that we as wives need to accept our husbands as God has created them and gifted them, and not place them in some mold that our society has set up for them. Our husbands will grow in their courage and feeling of leadership when we humbly seek to encourage them where they are; not when we complain because they are not “leading” how we feel they should.
Ladies, let us never underestimate the power of prayer for our husbands. All of our husbands have areas to grow, just like us, and the best encouragement and support we can give them is to pray for them. Pray that God grows your husband into the man that He wants him to be, with the gifting and leadership style that He wants him to display. When are hearts our resting in the Lord to mature and grow our husbands, that is when we can truly accept our husbands just as they are… our knight in shining armor.