The spiritual significance of being a father and husband
Being married has given me a chance to test out all my idealistic notions of my single days. On the issue of gender and leadership in the family I’ve flipped and flopped. I started out with a fairly egalitarian view of family leadership which I largely accepted from society. That changed when my own personal bible study lead me to scriptures that seemed to indicate the need for restrictions on the roles of women. Slowly that was moderated as begun to understand God’s grace and stopped viewing the New Testament as some kind of new law. Eventually I adopted a more nuanced view of gender roles by wrestling with the interpretive difficulties of the seemingly plain restrictive texts and their inconsistency with other scriptures. I happily settled back in to a strongly egalitarian camp.
Now that I’m married I’m looking to settle in to a role and so far I’ve found myself taking a protective, nurturing and empowering role in my family. It feels like a masculine role. What does it mean to live in a masculine role? What does it mean to be a man? Despite society’s constant affirmation of the equality of the sexes we still expect men to be “men”. There are qualities that we equate with manhood. If someone was slandering you behind your back and refuses to face you “man to man” we think they are less “manly”. If someone was too afraid to stick up for themselves or face difficult circumstances we might say “c’mon be a man.”
Is there a certain kind of leadership (spiritual or otherwise) associated with being a man? Some Christians believe in strict and absolute gender roles; Men lead and women submit. As I reflect on it this doesn’t seem very manly at all. Why would someone with true leadership qualities need to make a rule to force someone to follow them? The people who normally do such things aren’t leading but controling. It sounds more like insecurity than anything else.
I don’t really buy the point that “absolute patriarchy isn’t our rule it is God’s rule and it says so in Ephesians 5.” Paul wrote to the ephesians that everyone ought to submit to one another and then went on to place emphasis on a few different situations. One can argue that Paul and Peter clearly instructed women to submit to men, but the reverse is also clearly instructed. Husbands ought to submit to their wives.
So what am I really thinking? I’m thinking there is something to being a man in a family. I think it does involve leadership but not the kind that takes away from others. The kind that empowers others.