Several months ago, my wife and I ran in the Montana Spartan Race, a 5-mile obstacle course race. I ran in the race last year and initially signed up again to try to beat my time. My wife signed up as well and we both set out to prepare for event. About halfway through the training process, my wife asked me if I would run the race with her. My initial response was “no.” I had set out with a goal and was quite intent on achieving it. Running with my wife would not likely make my goal reachable. As time passed, I began to reflect on this decision in relation to my job as a husband. Ultimately, I realized that the decision came down to whether it was better to try to accomplish my own goals or to help my wife reach her goals.
There is a line in Ephesians that talks about the idea that husbands are the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Many folks have read this as meaning that men have the right of dictatorship in their marriage. I would argue that to understand the passage in this way is to ignore the context. Scripturally, Jesus’ role in relation to the church is that He dies for it. Jesus demonstrates leadership by serving. He lives out the attitude He has toward the church when He washes his disciples feet at the last supper, literally doing the job reserved for the lowest servant in the household. Jesus instructs His followers to emulate His attitude. If this is the attitude of the head of the church and the Bible says that husbands are to emulate the head of the church in relation to their wives, then it follows that husbands ought to have an attitude of service and humility in relation to their spouse. This attitude of service is rooted in love. Further, it is an attitude that is aimed, not just toward serving, but toward preparing the church to be found holy and sinless before the Father. Jesus’ ultimate act of service is to offer his life as a sacrifice from the sins of the world. Certainly no husband can imitate that example, but husbands can live their lives to help their wives grow into the sort of clean spotless bride they were designed to be.
I would argue that this is not an easy task for husbands. Men are hard-wired to strive for accomplishments and to compete. Even further than this, our culture highly values accomplishment and success. These are not inherently bad things. They can be negative if the accomplishments and measures of success are misaligned. The Bible presents the idea that the greatest among Jesus’ followers are those who happily assume the position of the least and the servant of all. For husbands and fathers, this is the path assigned to them by the scriptures. We are to serve our families and sacrifice of ourselves for their benefit. We are to help our families grow personally and spiritually.
In the end, I changed my mind and ran the race with my wife. I encouraged her, cheered her on, and even helped
her a little. I did not accomplish my goal of running the race faster than last year, but I did accomplish my goal of being the kind of husband God is calling me to be, even if it took me a few months to figure out that that was what I really wanted. It’s much better to run the race with my partner than to run the race alone.
Originally Published In the Big Sandy Mountaineer 5/14