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TimeThe Servant-Leader Husband
By Steven P. Wickstrom

And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be the greatest. And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant." (Luke 22:24-26 NASB)

Very few women want to be married to a dictator. Most women who marry one, soon wish they had made a better decision. Why is that? Why does a dictator make such a poor husband? It is because a dictator-husband doesn't really care about his wife's needs? He doesn't really care about his wife's concerns. He doesn't really care about his wife's emotions. He only really cares about himself. This makes for a lousy self-centered marriage filled with emotional and (or) physical abuse.

A dictator-husband doesn't want to hear his wife's opinion because he thinks she is always wrong. A dictator-husband doesn't like to let his wife drive because she always gets lost. A dictator-husband likes to keep his wife at home because he wants to control her movements even when he is at work. A dictator-husband can't stand to be wrong and let his wife be right. So he intimidates her into going along with him and manipulates her into granting his wishes. This is NOT a woman's picture of what the ideal husband would look like. It is also not the Bible's picture of what the ideal husband should be like.

What type of husband do most women want? They want a husband modeled after the Bible. What does the Bible want a husband to be like? The example that Jesus gave us was Himself, a servant-leader and He expects husbands to be the same. Let's take a look and see. The classic Scripture passage on marriage is Ephesians 5:25-33:

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (NIV)

Did you notice how many times the husband is told to love his wife? Four times in this passage alone! Husbands are supposed to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. On the great Day of Judgment, when God examines your marriage, will you hang your head in shame because you did not love your wife the way God required of you? Are you just going to let your relationship go (1) the way things are, or (2) are you going to try and mend it? Sometimes husbands don't even know what God expects from them as husbands. Just how do we love our wives the way God wants us to?

1 Peter 3:7 "You husbands likewise live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

We can demonstrate our love by living with our wives in an understanding way. To live with your wife in an understanding way you must first understand her. What is it that we need to understand about our wives? The first thing a servant-leader husband must understand is his wife's needs. To many men, this is a great mystery. How do we do this? How do we find out what she needs? Ask her! Does that sound almost too simple? Trust me, she knows what her needs are, and how you as a husband can fulfill those needs. Listen to her when she talks about herself. It will take time, but over time, your understanding of your wife will grow and, as a result, your communication and intimacy with your wife will deepen.

Another way we can demonstrate our love for our wives is by NOT having to "win" every time. Many of us men grew up believing that "winning is everything." And that mentality permeates everything we do, from winning in sports, winning on the job, winning at arguments, to "keeping ahead of the Jones." Winning can be so important to a man that it will destroy his marriage, and he'll walk away with his divorce papers thinking to himself, "At least I won."

Don't keep a scorecard either; keeping score is a lose-lose scenario. Your score card will become your excuse not to forgive. A servant-leader husband does not have to "win" every argument with his wife. As a side note, every time I "win" an argument with my wife, I always end up losing. A servant-leader husband values his wife's perspective and sensitivity. My wife sees issues from a perspective that I do not possess. When I listen to, and value, her input, together we can determine the correct course of action to take on an issue.

We can demonstrate our love by knowing our wife's strengths and weaknesses and supporting both. A servant-leader husband never criticizes his wife's weaknesses and lovingly encourages her at all times. Constantly affirm her, encourage her, and emphasize her significance and importance to your life. You will find that your encouragement will give, and renew, her energy to grow and develop.

We can demonstrate our love by knowing our wife's strengths and weaknesses, and supporting both. A servant-leader husband never criticizes his wife's weaknesses and lovingly encourages her at all times. Constantly affirm her, encourage her, and emphasize her significance and importance to your life. You will find that your encouragement will give and renew her energy to grow and develop.

We can demonstrate our love by helping out with the household chores. This is an area that many of us husbands have difficulty with. However, a servant-leader husband can help with the dishes. He should help with the laundry. He takes out the trash and vacuums the floor. A servant-leader husband proactively manages his home by helping. Ask your wife how you can help out and then do it. She will greatly appreciate your assistance.

We can demonstrate our love by being the spiritual leader of the home. By default, the husband sets the spiritual tone in the home. What is the spiritual tone in your home? Be warned men, if you decide not to be the spiritual leader of the home, your wife may take on this responsibility to make up for the void you have created. Ephesians 5:23 says, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body." This verse demonstrates that the husband has the responsibility to be the spiritual head of the home. Sending your wife and children off to Sunday school and church, and not going with them, sets a poor example and shows everyone what your priorities are. It also demonstrates that you have relinquished the job of being the spiritual head of the family. But there is more to being a spiritual leader than just taking your family to church.

It is not enough to be a Christian and a church attendee. You need to be responsive to spiritual things. You need to be growing spiritually by praying, reading the Bible, and fellowshipping with other Christians. You need to be praying for your wife and your family. Your wife also needs to know and see that you are praying for her and the family. This also means that your wife needs to hear you praying for her and the family. She needs to know that you are studying your Bible and are willing to assist her if requested. She needs to know that your interest in God extends beyond the Sunday service. Don't let your wife have a "headless" marriage.

To be the "head" of the wife is to be a leader, but the issue is what kind of leader? A servant-leader husband is a life-giver, protector, provider, lover, who is responsible for, and the developer of, his wife. Headship in marriage is a high and holy calling. It is something that God holds us husbands accountable to and for. On the Day of Judgment, when you must give an account to God, will he say to you: "Well done my good and faithful servant-leader husband." Or will He rebuke you for being a dictator-husband, which is contrary to what He outlined in His word? The choice is yours. I suggest that you choose to be a servant-leader husband.
Steven P. Wickstrom is an active duty Chief Warrant Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and is currently stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis based in Honolulu Hawaii. He's pretty sure that he has saltwater flowing through his veins and sand in what's left of his hair. He was born in Indiana, and has lived in Illinois, Michigan, California, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. Due to the military lifestyle, he considers himself to be a professional nomad. His hobbies include writing, woodworking, and O gauge model railroading. He is the author of the book "The Seagull Who Was Afraid To Fly." You can write to Steven care of the Letters page of this magazine.