Every home has a leader. Someone must be in charge while everyone else follows. What’s the orientation of your home? Who’s in charge? Who can you trust to take the reins of your family? Who do you want to lead?
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Jay is passionate about Jehovah. Jenny, Jay’s wife, is joyfully following Jay. Jeremy, James, and Jacob, the children, are humbly submitting to their parents. Jack and Jill, the dog and cat, are fat, lazy, and happy. They are one big happy family like they ought to be. They have established the orientation of their home as God-centered. Their family is an excellent picture for you to use to evaluate your home.
Start with the Husband
Husband, your agenda is straightforward: to follow hard after God. The Lord should be your passion, your goal, your life. If you love God more than anything else in your life (Matthew 22:37), you are not only pointed in the right direction, but you have positioned yourself to serve your family the most useful way you possibly can (James 4:6).
If you are leaning heavily into God (Philippians 3:13), you will be sustained and equipped by Him. If your wife is a Christian, she will more than likely follow you with joy. A woman would have to be insane not to desire a husband who is passionately in love with God, as evidenced by him practically being Jesus to her.
Part of your job description is to create an environment that compels your wife to follow you. You should be developing this kind of God-centered momentum in your home. If you are biblically “crazy” about God, your attitude, thoughts, and behaviors toward others will be consistently transforming into the person and work of Jesus (the gospel). Even when you fail, your passion for God will motivate you to repent quickly, which will reestablish the God-centered orientation of your home.
Who’s on Point?
If your wife is not following you, I suggest before you begin to critique her, you take a fresh and discerning look at yourself. Before you think about whom she is following, give consideration to whom you are following (Matthew 7:3–5). Who is on point in your home? If the Lord is not the point person of your home, you need to change the leadership structure of your home (1 Corinthians 11:1).
After a lot of living and a good bit of failing, one thing I have learned is I cannot be trusted to be in charge of our home. My wife knows this. So do my children. I have put my sin on display in our home many times (1 John 1:7–10). Hiding failures in a family is impossible. It is no secret to my family how I can mess up things.
It’s imperative for Lucia to know that I am not the leader of our family. She needs this assurance. She needs to know that someone more capable than me is leading our home. As you evaluate your home, let these two ideas guide your thoughts and discussions: Who leads your family? Who do you and your wife want to lead your family?
The Orientation of the Home
As you think about the orientation of your home, who or what would you say is on point? Who or what pulls your family along? What defines your home? Whoever or whatever is on the point of your family is your functional god.
- Your work?
- Your ministry?
- Your activities?
- Your spouse?
- Your children?
These are important questions. Some may ask how a person in ministry could not have God on the point of his family. The answer to this excellent question is one of the sadder commentaries about the Christian community. It is no secret that the fallout rate among pastors is high, partly due to their inability (or unwillingness) to guide their families biblically. It is also true that the rest of us, who lead small groups and Bible studies, fail in leading our families.
Ignoring family failure can be easy. Being ministry-minded more than marriage-minded is commonplace. Some church leaders’ ministry is a way of placing an ointment on the failures in the home. There are also many women in horrible marriages who lead Bible studies. Being an example to their followers is not as important as filling a slot in the church.
Their Bible study can become a refuge—their brief moment of sanity in an otherwise disappointing family dynamic. If you are ignoring marriage and family failure while pursuing ministry activity, what keeps you from dealing with your marriage problems?
- Is it your reputation?
- Is it your craving for security?
- Is it your desires for approval?
- Is it not a priority of your church?
- Are you afraid?
Anything that replaces the work needed to put Christ on display in your life, marriage, and family is idolatry. God replacements like these can suck the life out of what should be a vibrant, God-centered home. I have known many men in ministry who have undesirable marriages. Christians place these men on pedestals, praising them for their reputations and skills.
Other husbands and dads spend their waking hours chasing the dollar. The American dream has duped them into pursuing a lie. They want the right neighborhood, the right job, the beautiful wife, activity-centered children, and the approval of their circle of friends.
Too often, Christianity becomes a tack-on to their lives. Religion is a means to be connected to the right people while providing morality-based training for their children. Nominalism is a dangerous business. God is not the point and purpose of these families.
The fallout is inestimable.
Clogging the System
Have you ever sat in traffic behind a car that was not moving? All the other cars were moving, but you were in the only stopped line. The person in front of you was texting. That is what a wife feels like when her husband is not passionately pursuing God. He is preoccupied with other things. The Godward momentum of her family gridlocks because her husband is not progressing in his walk with the Lord. When the man is not moving forward, it hinders everyone behind him.
In the movie, My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle was at the racetrack pulling for her favorite horse, Dover. Eliza was a lower-class Cockney flower girl who was being trained by Henry Higgins in the ways of a proper lady. She was put to the test when asked to have tea at the track with some of the upper crust.
She did well until the race was closing in on the finish line and her horse, Dover, was not moving fast enough. As the horses were heading toward the line, Eliza, in a momentary lapse into desperation, yelled, “Dover, move your blooming arse!” As you might imagine, all the proper ladies choked on their tea. They were flabbergasted.
Though a Christian woman might not say it exactly the way Eliza did, that is how many of them feel when their husbands are not leading in the sanctification of their home. It is as though the wife is running up her husband’s backside because of his lack of spiritual forward movement. If your marriage and family are stagnating like this, here are a few questions for your consideration:
- Husband, does your wife humbly ask you to follow the Leader of your home?
- Do you have a hunger for God and a desire to follow Him as your family follows you?
- Do you know how to lead this way?
- Are you embarrassed to lead your family because you feel like a hypocrite?
- Wife, how are you encouraging and motivating your husband to lead you?
- Do you nag him? Are you critical of your husband?
- What is he more aware of: your critique and nagging or your encouragement and motivation?
- Can you and your spouse talk about the leadership failure in your home?
Talking about Leadership Failure
The first step in reorienting your home to God is to be able to speak about what is wrong with it. You will not be able to do this without the humbling power of the gospel working in both of your hearts. If you cannot talk about what has gone wrong in your marriage, you will need a gospel reorientation of the heart so you can have a gospel reorientation in your marriage and family.
Only humble people can talk about what is wrong with them. Couples who cannot honestly and humbly share their faults and failures with each other have drifted far from the truths proclaimed on Golgotha’s hill. A man or woman who knows where they came from has nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and nothing to protect (1 Timothy 1:15). The gospelized person is not afraid of what others may know about him because he is resting in this truth:
I was once a lost sinner, but now I am saved. I am the Lord’s beloved child; His approval is all I need. By grace, God saved me. I do not fear what others think about me or what they may say about me. God has declared me free, not guilty, and pleasing to Him. The works of Christ define me. (See Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8–9; Mark 1:11; Hebrews 11:6, Proverbs 29:25)
- What hinders you from talking about how each of you has failed the marriage?
- Husband, can you address your failures without attaching her failures to yours?
- Will you humbly ask your wife how you can lead her more effectively?
- Wife, can you address your failures without justifying or defending them?
- Will you humbly let him know how he can lead you more effectively?
The two most common misapplications regarding the orientation of the home concept are the child-centered home and the passive husband.
Child-Centered – Some families put their children on point. Everything centers around the children. The typical mom in the child-centered home can spend ten to fifteen years of her life in a minivan, caving to the culture’s expectations for children, which is to cart them around and keep them activity-centered.
These children become increasingly self-centered, as life revolves around what they want to do. They rarely learn humility, respect, and submission. They are also typically weak when it comes to serving others. They don’t know how to serve because it’s not their habit (Mark 10:45).
Passive Husband – Another common problem in a family gone wrong is the spiritually passive male. The passive husband home is where the wife takes on more of the spiritual leadership, while the man is preoccupied with other things that feed his self-centered preferences.
The child-centered, passive-husband home is upside down. Typically, the child and the dad are in the same home since the lazy dad opens the door for the child to be the center of attention. Most parents don’t realize the monster they are creating until the child becomes a teenager.
Call to Action
If the orientation of your home focuses on the wrong person or things, please understand there is no way to correct what is wrong unless you both are willing to sit down and talk about it and make a practical plan to change.
If you cannot talk about what’s wrong, I appeal to you to find someone who can walk with you through the problems in your home. The wrong orientation of the home rarely auto-corrects. If it continues, the future fallout will break your heart. There is only one right way for the home to function: the Lord must lead, and everyone else must practically follow His leadership.
- Will you talk about the questions put forth in this chapter?
- Will you set aside some time to talk about your marriage?
- If not, will you find someone to help you and your spouse?
- Are you in a church that values your marriage over your ministry?
- If only one of you is willing to make changes, will you begin making those changes today?
Also published on Medium.