I have been married for just over two weeks and already, I am learning about the importance and meaning of my husband’s leadership role in our new family.
As Catholics, we hear that our calling from God – our vocation – is the way of life in which we become the ‘best versions of ourselves.’ While my husband and I have both clearly begun to thrive in marriage, Dan’s newfound strength is clear.
One of the areas in which Dan has begun to shine is prayer. Whenever we sit down to eat, he leads our prayer of thanks. Each week, he leads me in the Rosary, reflecting on the coming Sunday’s Gospel. Before Mass, he asks that we leave early so that we can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). On Saturday nights, he leads us in a prayer to give thanks for the Sabbath Day. During our meeting times, when we discuss budgeting and planning, he leads us in prayer asking for God’s direction. The list goes on.
When my husband makes it a point to lead us in prayer for our day, our meal, our worship, our money management, our relationship, etc., it sets a tone. And that tone, when repeated throughout the days and weeks, becomes a sacred rhythm for our life together. I don’t know if I’d be as peace-filled and joyful as I am, without Dan leading us in constant prayer. My tendency to be a worrier and constantly obsess about future obligations, commitments and potential problems has been tamed. I firmly believe that this has happened by God’s grace, through Dan’s willingness to be God’s instrument.
So, why does a husband have such influence? Clearly, I’m not an expert at being married. But from my collective experiences as a human being, I have witnessed the power of a man’s influence. Haven’t you? The many families torn apart when fathers choose to leave. Little boys learning how to treat women by modeling their fathers. Little girls learning their worth by their fathers’ actions toward women. From one of my grandfathers, I learned that the absence of a father can leave a perpetual wound in a family. From my other grandpa, I learned that the commitment of a father can teach generations of descendents to treasure life, family, and virtue.
Men and women, equal in dignity and worth, are not called to be the same. While both can lead and teach the same meaningful lessons, men and women lead and teach in distinct ways.
That is why I have a plea to all husbands: Lead your wife in prayer. Take the initiative.
It was no mistake that God came to earth as a man. He came to lead us! He says that in order to be his disciple, we must “follow” him. He calls the apostles as a leader would: “Come and follow me.” We humans needed – and continue to need – a strong leader. That is why God came as a man! Jesus is called the King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Good Shepherd. Prince of Peace. These are all leading roles.
The best model of masculinity is Jesus. And each married man, St. Paul teaches us in Scripture, is called to reflect Christ.
St. Paul teaches us that husbands are called to lead, since Christ leads the Church:
As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:24)
(Don’t get stuck on the word “subordinate.” This doesn’t mean the wife is devalued, since Paul compares us wives to the church, which is holy – the Body of Christ! Rather, a subordinate is someone who has a leader. This is what husbands are called to be.)
Husbands are called to sanctify their wives in the Holy Spirit through Scripture:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Husbands are called to love and give themselves to their wives, since this is what Christ did.
So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.“For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:28-32)
Dear husbands, your wife needs you to lead her. Lead her especially in prayer. This is Christ’s mission – to lead His Bride, the Church, back to God – and it is your mission. Lead your bride to God.