The counselor shook his head as he looked at Zac’s and my gifting… spread out on the pages before him were detailed profiles of two very catalytic directional leaders. He chuckled and said, “Well you rarely see this… such strong directional leaders married to each other.”
He wasn’t stating a new problem. We had been married 6 years at the time, we knew we were swimming upstream and someone had to compromise. I shut down my gifts and my callings and my passions “in submission” to Zac.
I wrote Restless to help in finding and embracing your God given callings and I knew that, like me, many women have shut themselves down in their marriages. And I’ve heard many single friends express that they feel they need to shut themselves down to ever find a spouse.
Zac and I pray these words would serve as a conversation starter in your marriages or hope that there is another way. We know God calls each family and individual to unique lives.
I love this man so much- he is humble and strong. He leads me and our family so beautifully for God’s glory here…. but our strong marriage now was hard fought with years of counseling, prayer, sacrifices and fights. Here is his story.
An excerpt Zac wrote for husbands in Restless:
It was a perfect, eighty-degree day on the lawn of a plantation house in downtown Little Rock. This was the day all of our dreams would become a reality. I stood looking in Jennie’s eyes, and before God, I promised to lead her by daily dying to my selfish desires, just as Christ did. The record states that the pastor read that day from Ephesians 5:28 to 30,
“Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies . . . for no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for it, just as Christ does the church, for we are members of his body.”
But honestly, I don’t remember the ceremony very well or the charge of the pastor, or the vows I spoke to Jennie. I just know in the midst of sixteen years of marriage, many moves, four kids, mortgages, and unfulfilling jobs, the dreams we dreamed on many dates before marriage quickly gave way to a lot of weighty responsibility.
I went from trying to win this girl’s heart and longing for her freedom to pursue God’s dreams for her, to actually using the Bible’s language of submission to kill any dream that would inconvenience or threaten me. So, not long after the wedding day, Jennie found herself with a passive-aggressive, emotionless husband, and her God-given passions and dreams began to die.
At the time, I thought I was right and biblically justified in my “leadership” of Jennie. But I was wrong. I had memorized “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands,” but had no clue of what it meant for husbands to nourish and cherish their wives (Eph. 5:22).
Honestly, it took years for me to grow in maturity to see my error. And if you find yourself reading this and realizing you no longer have a clue how to nourish and cherish, take courage; neither do countless other men reading this- that their wives asked them to read. So hang with me because I want to help you lead your wives. My goal is not to beat you down, but rather to call you to one of the most noble callings of your life.
Husbands, to nourish and cherish your wife means to unleash your wife to be everything she has been designed to be in Christ. Yes, that means you are to live with her in an understanding way: to know the hurts she brings into marriage, to know her passions, and to listen to her dreams, even when you have no clue what to do with them. To nourish and to cherish means you become the most powerful earthly display of unconditional love. And part of that unconditional love is shown as she gives herself to the many seemingly mediocre tasks of daily life.
But husbands, don’t miss this: to nourish and cherish also means taking the initiative to shepherd her gifts and callings and to help her dream.
So how did I miss all that? Why did the dreaming die so quickly after “I do”?
I think I can boil down my failures to nourish and cherish to two reasons:
1. I had a darkened, jaded view of submission. I used submission to squelch my wife so I could justify my “more important” pursuits. Of course few of us would say that as men, our callings and gifts and passions are more important than those of our wives. But that is often how I led. So tonight, or on a date this week, ask your wife if she feels safe to dream with you. Ask her if she feels cherished and empowered to use her gifts.
2. I was insecure in who I was in Christ. If I was not performing well at work or if I didn’t have a fulfilling job, I felt like a failure. My worth was not coming from the approval of the God of the universe, but from the disapproval I felt internally. Here is what I know to be true: an insecure husband will never be able to cheer for his wife’s calling or cherish and nourish her gifts. Insecure husbands think about themselves first. There were countless times early in my marriage when I would secretly resent my wife’s gifts. Or maybe I would even be so noble to encourage her to use her gift of teaching, only to resent being left with the kids as she went to use those gifts.
It took me years to realize the problem wasn’t being married to a passionate, gifted, “unsubmissive” wife who would start using her gifts only to have me reel her back into reality. The problem was me: my misunderstanding of my role to lead us as a team on mission, and my resentment of seeing my wife walking in freedom while I was immersed in my own insecurities.
So, husbands, if you are still reading this, I believe you really want your wife to be all she is designed to be in Christ. You want your children to see a mom serving and using her gifts in and outside your home. And I believe you want to want to sit across from your wife on that date and affirm her God-given dreams and callings.
So, how do you become a dream-releasing husband?
Realize you have nothing to prove. As long as you are searching to prove yourself or your identity, you will never grasp how completely loved and fully accepted you are before God. If you are in Christ, you have nothing left to prove. Jesus fulfilled your desperate desire to measure up. The more that truth sinks in, the less you will look to your job or money or your wife for fulfillment. Dream-releasing husbands are secure in Christ.
Take hold of your role. Realize that your call to nourish and cherish your wife does not depend on her performance. Christ gave his life for the very people (you and me) who put him on the cross. As you become more secure in your own identity in Christ, you will begin to experience the joy of seeing your wife use her gifts and respond to her callings.
Embrace the loss of control. As you become more secure in Christ and begin cheering on your wife to use her gifts too, you will feel a new tension surface: a life that feels semi-chaotic. You realize that what you had been calling “balance” for your family was really a determined effort to control your life at all costs. You see, God never promises balance. So this new life that feels semi-chaotic is likely a symptom of a couple attempting to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. And no matter the suffering or sacrifice or a sink full of dirty dishes or lack of clean boxers, you will be full of joy because Jesus is infinitely more satisfying than the god of control.
Men, husbands, this is God’s call on our lives. It is one of the noblest callings on the planet. And I’ll bet, in the midst of your leading courageously, you will rediscover the woman you fell in love with.
What are you thankful for about your spouse or what do you pray for in your future one?