Reluctant Leader: Help Your Husband Become the Spiritual Leader of Your Home
by Judy Bodmer
When my husband, Larry, became a Christian, he was eager as a newlywed. If the church doors were open, we were there. As the years went by his enthusiasm dwindled and I worried about the example he was setting for our two sons. I had visions of him leading Bible studies in our home, taking a leadership role at church, praying with me over our problems, and talking about godly things with our children. Instead he stumbled over grace at mealtime and hardly ever brought up the subject of God or faith or church.
He took us to church every Sunday, but was that enough?
Fearing our children would grow up without knowing God, I pushed; he resisted. I nagged; he sidestepped. Spiritual leadership became one of those issues like money, discipline, and in-laws. We avoided talking about it, but it never went away and nothing was ever resolved.
With every good intention, I increasingly took over the spiritual leadership role and Larry didn’t even seem to care.
Then one night on the way home from our home fellowship group, we had a confrontation. The minute we got in the car I knew Larry was upset. I could tell by the way that he carefully avoided eye contact.
“Are you mad at me?” I asked.
His silence gave me my answer.
I tried to keep my voice calm. “Can you tell me what I did?”
I clenched my Bible not in hopes of finding godly inspiration but in an effort to keep from over reacting. I replayed the evening. Our group was studying Matthew. The discussion had been lively. I’d shared several insights I’d had that week. My husband had said little, but that wasn’t unusual. Towards the end someone had brought up the subject of spiritual leadership. Was that what he was angry about?
I thought he wasn’t interested. Now, as I looked at his clenched jaw, I wondered if I was wrong. I laid my hand gently on his knee. “Please help me to understand.”
He hit the steering wheel with his fist. “You, you know everything. I don’t know anything. I feel like a fool. I don’t even know what a spiritual leader is let alone how to be one.”
My husband’s angry outburst surprised and confused me. Of course he knew what a Christian leader was. Or did he? I listened, probably for the first time, and this is what he told me.
He had grown up in a non-Christian home. His dad had ridiculed Christians and said things like: “Religion’s just a bunch of bunk.” “Christians are fools.” “All they want is your money.” When Larry converted at the age of twenty-nine, he had all of these negative tapes playing in the back of his mind, countering everything he was trying to learn. He secretly feared that he would turn his back on all this God stuff. Then how would he look to two small boys or to me?
Also, there were many things he still didn’t understand. Being a Christian carried with its own set of terminology. It was like learning a new language and he didn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of me or our boys or our home fellowship group. Since I had grown up in the church he assumed that I was better equipped to answer our sons questions.
Sensing my willingness to finally listen without getting angry, he shared the most surprising thing of all. “Judy, when you act bored with my prayers and the boys seem more interested in playing outside than doing Bible studies, I get discouraged. I need your cooperation.”
I didn’t want to hear that, but after much thought and prayer I came to realize, he was right. I hadn’t been cooperating. In fact I was standing in the way.
After that night I made some changes in my behavior. If you too are struggling in this area, what I learned may help you.
Understand how he sees your spirituality. I have a Christian friend and wherever we go she shares her faith and her love. It’s like being in the room with a 500-watt light bulb. Next to her I feel like a night-light. I love my friend dearly, but after a few hours with her, I go home feeling like a failure. Instead of inspiring me, I feel intimidated. That’s how my husband felt about me, and that’s why he was reluctant to talk to me about spiritual things.
Let God change your husband. I thought that if I had a quiet time, studied the Bible, and memorized scripture my husband would somehow see what I was doing and want to do it, too. Now these are all good things to do, but my motive was wrong. I was manipulating, and according to Chuck Swindoll, “Manipulation only fosters suspicion and disunity.” Letting God change your husband will take a lot of faith especially since your children’s souls may be at stake. But I truly believe we do more harm when we manipulate and undermine their leadership. The scripture says, “If any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1 NIV).
Pray for him. Our husbands carry a lot of responsibility. Not only are they challenged to be good spiritual leaders, but also husbands, fathers, sons, and providers. They worry about the future and whether anyone really cares about them. Most don’t have close friends. They need our prayerful support. Every day ask your husband for a particular need that he’s going to face at work. After I began doing this, I found I was a lot more interested in his day. We began to talk more openly to each other about all aspects of our marriage. The spiritual side slowly became a part of that discussion.
Be honest about your own struggles. Let him know that you too have times of doubts and fears and that you too have questions about some of the teachings in the scriptures. After I did this, we had some wonderful discussions about the Trinity, end times, and how a loving God can allow people to suffer. He gave me new insights into areas that I’d questioned for years.
Look at your husband through God’s eyes. Many of us carry the wrong image of what a godly man looks like. We see the pastors, elders, and deacons and wish that our husbands were more like them. Remember God doesn’t look on the outer appearance; he looks on the heart. My husband’s prayers were simple, but heartfelt. He taught the three-year-olds in Sunday school and loved it. At work, people sought him out for counseling and he was known for easing the tensions of the most difficult customers. He was so honest he would drive back to a store if he thought he’d been given too much change. His life demonstrated his faith. I encouraged him by pointing out these strengths and praising him in front of our children.
Let him be the leader. When I took over the leadership role, I thought it was for the best. Since he thought I knew more, he was more than glad to let me take over. If you’ve fallen into this trap, stop and put him back in charge. Ask him questions about passages in the Bible you don’t understand. Don’t argue with his point of view. Consider it carefully. Don’t belittle him; he might not share with you again. Honestly seek his advice when making difficult decisions and then follow it.
Since that day in the car my husband has surpassed me in knowledge and spiritual maturity. He began to go to seminars, retreats, and men’s meetings, not because I suggested it, but because he wanted to go. More and more he shut himself away in our bedroom to study the scripture. Our children often would burst in and find him, his head bowed and his Bible open on his lap.
He slowly began to feel the call into the ministry and returned to school to get his masters degree. He is now the counseling pastor at our church. Whether or not the changes I made had anything to do with it, I don’t know. Whatever changed him, I praise God for it every day.
We never were very successful at having family times or praying together. He still doesn’t lay a scripture on me every time I turn around, but my husband led one of our sons to the Lord. I don’t think any of us, whether our husbands become pastors or not, could ask for a better leader than that, do you?
©Judy Bodmer 2007 All Rights Reserved