At the beginning of my book, Gospel-Centered Womanhood, I described my reality as a new wife and mom. The things I was struggling with, the things I was learning. But in sharing all that, there is one line I wish I had never written. I wrote this one particular line as though it were the correct paradigm for a wife. But only now I know that I was missing so much. There is this one line describing my new wife reality; it is on p. 11 in my book and reads like this:
Staying home full time, laying down major ministry projects, and following my husband in his various pursuits truly became a crisis of belief for me.
When I wrote that line, I was still developing my understanding of marriage. At the time, I was still heavily influenced by my background having grown up in and spending my young adult years in male dominant streams of Christianity.* I believed that I was meant to lay myself aside to follow my husband in his pursuits.
I don’t agree with this any more. I have a much more synergistic, team understanding of marriage now than I did back then. I have a deeper “co-heirs” theology about husbands and wives now.
But before I go any further, let me assure you that I align myself with Biblical concepts of marriage. It is Biblical for a wife to submit to her husband. Just as it is Biblical for a husband to lay down his life for his wife. Both are acts of surrender to each other. Both are ways of listening to one another. Both are ways of valuing one another.
But I have learned to not focus only on the Biblical ideas of wifely submission as the primary teaching on marriage. I have learned to take in what the rest of what the Bible says about marriage. The truth that husband and wife were designed for oneness with each other. The truth that husband and wife were given the mandate to do meaningful work together on this earth. The truth that God’s mandate was not given to Adam alone to later have Eve follow him in it, but instead it was given to them after they were together. The truth that husband and wife are heirs together of all spiritual things in Jesus. We miss so much when we limit our Biblical teachings on marriage to submission and respect only. We miss the overarching message of togetherness, mutual surrender, and equal worth and calling as presented throughout the Bible.
So, yes, I believe in a wife submitting to her husband expressed by respecting and trusting him just as much as I believe that he is called to lay his life down to love his wife well. And I also believe that the husband and wife are of equal worth and value with gifts, calling, and purpose that are meant to be intertwined into a oneness that reflects the Divine. A synergistic dance of two people with powerful purpose as they reflect Jesus together on this earth.
So back to the line I wish I had never written. I used to think a wife was called to follow her husband’s calling. While never explicitly expressed this way, I had somehow absorbed during my time in various churches that a wife’s gifts, calling, and purpose were secondary to her husband’s. I cannot even fully express how wrong I now believe this is.
I no longer believe that the wife’s gifts, calling, and purpose are secondary to her husband’s. Nor do I believe that the husband’s gifts, calling, and purpose are secondary to his wife’s. I am learning to embrace the truth that God puts two equal creations in marriage to work together on a combined life. He talks about oneness as the ultimate marriage reality. He talks about concepts of mutual surrender, not one person as the primary personality in the marriage to which the other becomes secondary (whether husband or wife). He talks about equality as spiritual beings, which would only lead to an understanding of the wife and husband as equally gifted, equally called, equally purposeful. So, it follows that in His design, the ideal would be that the two people in a marriage would interweave their gifts, calling, and purpose to create a “new” trajectory, with both people expressed and living fully as they were created to live.
Of course, there will be seasons where one person’s gifts or call is more expressed given life circumstances and stages, but it should not be forever at the complete cost of the other. It should be agreed upon as a connected season where both persons are working toward the one person’s gifts/call for the agreed upon time, purpose, or goal.
The best marriages have two full and whole people who are very much together, connected, and one. This, I believe, is God’s design.
I regret misrepresenting this design, potentially leading other women down a path toward pursuing second-class status in their lives. I was still learning back then. I still am. And I hope I will always be growing in a deeper understanding of God and how He designed our lives to be.
To read more about what all this looks like in real life, I recommend reading these passages in the following books as well as a particularly impactful blog post (link below):
Anything by Jennie Allen, “A Letter from Zac,” pp. 193 – 197
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, “Brandon’s Take” pp. 42-43 (original edition), pp. 39-41 (second edition)
Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons, pp 189 – 190
“Being a Husband Who Unleashes His Wife” by Zac and Jennie Allen (click here)
* As an aside, as a single woman in these streams of Christianity, I did have male leaders who both affirmed and made space for my gifts and callings within the Kingdom and specifically in their respective church bodies. For that I am very grateful.
 1 Peter 3:7
 Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8
 Genesis 1:28
 1 Peter 3:7