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Beware the yeast of the mother-in-law: Unless she compliments your leadership

mother-in-law

Recently my malevolent mother-in-law uttered a profundity that surprised me. She was spending a couple days at our house (what sin have I committed to displease you, oh Lord?) and I was vacuuming the floor of all the dog hair shed by our fell beasts when I overheard her say to my wife: “It must be nice to have a husband who does housework.” Granted, my mother-in-law is in her eighties and hails from a bygone era (think Jurassic period) when male and female roles in the home were more strictly segregated. But things have changed since then, right? It depends.

When I was a lad, almost fifty years ago, it was a regular occurrence around our house to see my father engaged in domestic labor such as washing the dishes (by hand) and doing the laundry, in addition to his other duties around the yard and his full-time job as a professional logger. Apparently he was ahead of his time as the feminist movement had just begun to gather steam in America. Fast forward to today when I hear many professional women bemoan how they have achieved greater equality with men but not greater equity of job distribution in the home. In other words, many women today are married to men who still expect their wife to take care of all the domestic duties in the home, raise the children, and have a career . . . oh, and be a seductress in the bedroom, as well. Unfortunately many Christian men still embrace this nonsense as somehow biblical.

Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT suggesting that men need be more feminine or women more masculine. God clearly made men and women different in many ways. For instance, I like to hunt, but my wife, Cindy, is unlikely to join me in the woods, shoot a buck, gut it, butcher it, and serve it for dinner. And I am unlikely to join her at a women’s retreat where the ladies and I sit around the table and do arts and crafts. Even so I think a lot of Christian men have misused verses like Ephesians 5:23 where men are told that we are the head of our wife; a verse which establishes a system of authority in the home. But what type of authority? Authority and work are two different things, right? Certainly there are verses in the Bible that describe labor responsibilities along conventional gender roles almost two thousand years ago. But since when was Christ and his followers conventional? Take for instance the washing of feet. Jesus clearly acknowledges his own authority. His disciples recognized his authority. But Jesus also got down on his hands and knees and served his disciples by washing their feet. This was much more than a symbolic act. It was both practical (their feet were filthy from walking long distances in sandals on dirt roads) and it demonstrated God’s definition of what leadership looks like—leadership serves, often in menial ways.

Guys, if you want to receive the blessing and responsibility of leadership in your homes, do the dishes, do the laundry, iron your own shirts, pick up after yourself, clean the toilet, parent your children, get the kids ready for bed, and learn to cook. These are the ways you wash the feet of the precious people in your home. This principle also applies to leadership in your occupation, as well. If you can’t humble yourself to do these things, you risk becoming one of those guys who can only get your family to do your bidding by barking orders because you have the unholy attitude that your word is final. Period. End of discussion. That’s called lording it over others and it has no place in God’s plan for leadership in the home. Many guys want to be leaders, but they don’t lead by example. It is counter to the Kingdom of God leadership model to demand that family members under your authority do things you are unwilling to do. I’m just saying.

A Women’s Retreat for Men

MH900439274My wife, Cindy, recently returned from a Christian women’s retreat and I’ve been reaping the benefits ever since. I highly recommend a women’s retreat for all husbands . . . well, not for all husbands. If you are at least a C+ husband like me, you won’t regret packing your wife off to a women’s retreat, especially if the theme of the retreat is about marriage. Why? Allow me to elaborate. After more than 25 years of marriage, I still have a few faults as a husband (Cindy can’t fix everything). Some of my faults include, but are not limited to: failing to put a new roll of toilet paper on the empty roller (my philosophy is why bother when you’re just going to use up the replacement roll in a couple of days), neglecting to hang up my shirts after washing, leaving streaks of almond butter on my knife before placing it in the sink, failing to transfer the knife (and all other dirty dishes and utensils) from the sink to the dishwasher, failing to squeegee the glass walls of the shower stall after defiling the shower with my inglorious naked presence, failing to . . . well, you get the idea.

Why was Cindy’s retreat with hundreds of Christian women good for ME? Because ever since she returned, she kisses me more often, hugs me longer, and refrains from mentioning my shortcomings listed in the previous paragraph. I have a clever theory why this is happening. Over the years, Cindy has attended several women’s retreats where I believe she heard occasional stories from other women about the nefarious deeds of their husbands. After hearing such stories, Cindy finally had an epiphany that her C+ husband is actually an A – husband when graded on a curve. Walla! I benefit from lowered expectations. Hey, I’ll take a victory any way I can get it.

Sure, wives have plenty of problems they bring to the table of marriage (I occasionally hear about them at men’s retreats). Fortunately, most Christian husbands are not married to a train wreck, though we regretfully tend to take our wives for granted.

Finally, a word of caution for men is appropriate here. If you are not at least a C+ husband, don’t encourage your wife to attend a Christian women’s retreat unless you are OK with God stepping in to fix problems in your marriage, which can often mean fixing YOU. I’m just saying.