If you are anything like most men I have spoken to over the years, you have had your struggles becoming a true Christian man. Not the least struggle is learning to become a true patriarchal leader in the home. As most men can attest to, being a familial leader in a society that has adopted an egalitarian ideal that puts all members of the family on equal terms, is a difficult task.
This struggle often gets messy when the wife has been brought up in a society that is constantly telling her to take charge. This is the flip-side of the manly struggle to be a true Christian leader. Society is trying to train leadership out of boys and men, while at the same time, trying to instill it in the female gender. I think of the term bandied about by many, "empowerment". While I would be the first to defend a woman suffering from domestic violence, this is not what we are speaking about. The struggle is to accept, adopt, and grow into our God-given roles as Christian men and women, particularly in the calling of marriage.
One can see this struggle in a very tangible way in watching young people attempt to learn more traditional styles of couples dancing. The male is often the docile student of the female, however, due to the very nature of the dance, the male must lead. Once a man has learned the dance well, he will come to terms with his need to lead. If this well-schooled man takes a partner that is new to the dance he may have to struggle to lead her around the dance floor...."Let me lead!" he may say with pursed lips.
What makes this messy in the home is that both parties, husband and wife, have almost no experience or models in which to learn the correct way to lead and submit. This can become a battle of wills, who has not said or heard the following:
"Just take the lead"
"Just make a decision"
"No, you decide, I will do whatever you want"
"Be the man"
"Let me lead"
Sometimes through manipulation and quiet prodding, one spouse will learn to get "their way". This of course is not the Christian ideal. Nor is a wife to outright order her husband, "to be the man". On the flip-side, the man is not to become a bully, using his God-given role as a sort of stick to get his way. Throughout this struggle a couple with inevitably have battles, but what must be learned is the proper way for both man and woman to obtain the same goals. Neither should be a bully or be bullied, neither should claim to have no desire or will on a matter. Both should work together, however, utilizing the gifts of their roles to reach their desired end.
This can be a very confusing way of operating, especially for the newly married, or the couple that has been married for years, but living outside the properly defined roles. The husband may be too tough or too soft, the wife may be too submissive, or to strong-willed. When one is too far to either extreme it can lead to further extremes in the other spouse. This is why communication is so important, in all its forms, verbal and non-verbal. Couples must work this out...this is what St. Paul was referring to when he told the Philippians to, "with fear and trembling, work out your salvation." (Philippians 2:12) It will not be an easy task, but it is possible, however it may take a l