My wife and I recently went for a hike in our beautiful mountains. We enjoy being out in nature. Walking in the cool of the day amidst pine trees, breathing the fresh air, taking in the stunning views, chatting about what we love most and least about each other—there isn’t much that can compete. Although this particular hike ended up being a bit more challenging than we expected, it still fulfilled its purpose, at least in part: Give her and me a chance to talk about life, marriage, and parenting. Our hikes have become a major component of how I lead our family.
Biblically, the husband is the servant leader of the home. Ephesians 5:22-23 says: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Without going into the usual explanations of these verses, let me just note that I am responsible for my family. I will someday answer for their spiritual state, like a CEO answers for the performance of his company, but scarier. In light of this heavy responsibility, I want to lead well. Here are some thoughts and tools I have found helpful.
My wife and I complement each other. Leading my family does not mean I am alone. My wife is my very capable helper who is strong in areas I am lacking, so we work together. Sometimes I don’t feel like starting family worship and would rather keep doing what I am doing, but my wife gently encourages me to do it anyway. Sometimes it is the other way around. I often find that our moods and strengths balance each other. When I am frustrated with something or someone, she provides calm, and vice versa. When I am too tired to help around the house, she picks up the slack, and vice versa. When we both serve the other selflessly towards a common goal, we gain great joy, not least because we usually achieve that goal together.
The greatest danger we have found is infecting each other with our bad moods. I snap at the kids because they are frustrating her, adding to both our frustration. Thankfully, we are aware of doing it and try very hard to counterbalance each other kindly but firmly. Talking about this when we are calm, like during one of our hikes, allows us to honestly share our expectations out of the moment. It is difficult to be upset when she tells me to walk away from a frustrating situation for a bit if I asked her to do just that beforehand.
We regularly plan for the future. Every quarter or so, usually before or after school semesters, my wife and I go out on a date and evaluate how we are doing as a family. We have a mission statement that summarizes our goals as a family in our current season of life, which is largely taken up with parenting preteens. We use that and notes from the last planning meeting to see how we did and identify things that worked and didn’t work to that end. Then we construct a plan for next season.
Which activities should our kids do? What should we do as a family, and how do we make sure that we actually do that? For example, we want our kids to love God’s creation and be physically fit so they can enjoy God more through it (paraphrasing a part of our mission statement). In our meeting, we may come up with a list of hikes exploring our beautiful state or surrounding areas. Then we schedule these activities on our shared calendar. Since plans change, we may decide that it is most realistic to only do one of these a month, which gives us four weeks of flexibility to make it happen. At the next planning meeting, we will look back to see if we actually accomplished what we set out to do. If yes, we rejoice! If not, we identify why and what we can change for the next season to be more successful, by our definition of success.
Pray. We seem to have a never-ending stream of responsibilities thrown at us. Every time you implement a good habit, something else pops up. Doing family worship? Great, but are you praying regularly with your wife? Doing that? Super, but are you discipling your kids one-on-one? Fantastic, how about your own spiritual disciplines? You must lead from the front, so are you reading/studying/meditating on/memorizing Scripture? Thankfully, no one but myself has ever had this conversation with me. Our duties tug on us constantly, sometimes to the breaking point, so how do we juggle them all? We must pray and ask God for help, and remember that our goal is faithfulness over perfection. God is aware of our weaknesses and shows himself strong in them, we only need to humbly and faithfully pour ourselves out according to what he has given us. He will do the rest.
I don’t have all these things figured out, certainly not to the degree that I feel like I may just coast for a bit. There is always something else to work on, or improve, or grow into as part of my sanctification. With God’s help and my wife by my side, I will. Lord, keep me faithful!