The playground antics of elementary-school boys are at once comical and revolting. As miniature men, they compete relentlessly, and turning down a dare is social suicide, with effects that reverberate through high school. Eating bugs, jumping from the jungle gym, tackling in football, and chasing girls are some of the main events. As I observed the other sex as a child, I regularly thanked God for making me a girl. Second-grade feminism declared “Girls rule, boys drool!” and I staunchly advocated this position.
My contentment subsided as gender relations became more confusing in middle school. Guys, as the boys were now called, still seemed repulsive and retarded. But they also seemed to have it so much easier. Everything that was complicated for girls—clothes, hair, thoughts, feelings, friends—seemed simple for boys. And they didn’t even have to worry about make-up, bras, or tampons. I was bothered that girls were supposed to wait for guys to “ask them out,” even though I would never have the confidence to ask someone.
In high school I added to my list of complains the fact that women were supposed to submit to their husbands, and had the dirty work of bearing children. I wasn’t sure how to reconcile my views with the Bible’s take on marriage, so I vowed never to marry. And as if it would do any good, I wished I was a boy, although I was not gender-confused in the clinical sense.
I must confess, my behavior wasn’t very consistent with my wish. I wore dresses nearly every day, had long hair, and obsessively read women authors. I even prayed that if God wanted me to marry, He would not make me endure a bunch of boyfriends, but that I could efficiently marry the first guy I dated. Graciously, God said yes, and I said yes at the young age of twenty.
But what does a wife who doesn’t want to be a woman do? For I was still harboring ingratitude about my identity. I was glad about being female because I loved Neil and liked being his wife. By the time I got married, I understood biblical submission is not degrading or subservient, and biblical leadership is not pushing people around. I trusted that Neil would be a good leader most of the time, and I was willing to learn how to follow him. Often, I learn what submission is by practicing what it isn’t: making significant decisions without talking to my husband, or worrying about matters he said he’d take care of, or getting defensive instead of listening to him, or being mean instead of forgiving.
Almost five years later, I feel increasingly grateful to God for my identity and His design for women and marriage. For me this appreciation could only come from experiencing how deeply fulfilling it is to follow a man who is committed to the Lord. To any woman who is contemplating marriage, please don’t marry a man you wouldn’t want to follow. If you don’t think he is worth following (because he doesn’t consistently follow the Lord), then think again!
Marriage is like ballroom dancing. There’s a reason the man leads. Both people can’t lead the dance, or it wouldn’t work. The partners would be constantly stepping all over each other’s feet and bumping into walls. Instead of creating art, they would just create bruises and scars on one another. Wives cause the same effect in marriage when they try to control their husbands through fighting and manipulation (and I am often guilty here). And men must learn not to fight back for control, but to win the wife’s respect through sacrificial love.
Marriage as God created, as the Bible describes in passages like Ephesians 5:22-32, is as beautiful as ballroom dancing. Two people learn to move fluidly, purposefully, and with unity. Each partner has a different role, a unique function in the dance, but neither is more valuable or essential to the routine than the other. As Elaine Stedman emphasizes in A Woman’s Worth, men and women are absolutely equal before God, but in His wisdom He made different functions for each. Sometimes the partners move in perfect unison, but often they perform complementary parts. Each person’s moves complete the other’s, connecting to form shapes, lines, and meaning that could not be accomplished alone.
And wouldn’t it look awkward if the man performed some of the feminine steps? Wouldn’t it be unattractive if the woman hoisted the man into what should be intricate and beautiful lifts?
Anyone woman has tried partner dancing knows how much depends on the man. A woman doesn’t even really need to know how to dance well if the man is a good leader in the dance. I have performed steps I don’t even know while paired with an experienced dancer. All I needed to know was the basic steps and style of the dance, and to be willing to follow. In marriage, a woman needs her own personal walk with the Lord, and should know the Word and how to serve others. But with these basic elements, the husband’s leadership can take her new heights of faith, hope, and love. Just lean into his arms, feel the beat of the Holy Spirit, and let your husband sweep you off your feet into spiritual growth.
Now I am glad my husband carries the burden and sacrifice of leading our marriage. Leadership is a huge responsibility, as I’ve experienced in serving others. Servant-leadership certainly isn’t about being in charge, bossing people around, or getting your way. Instead, in marriage both partners have the authority to serve one another. But the husband has a special responsibility before God to lead his wife spiritually. And the wife has a special role to make it easy for her husband to lead. Since getting married, I’ve found it easier to follow God by serving others, largely because of Neil’s leadership.
Professionals make very difficult dances appear effortless. And a good marriage is the result of much diligence and sacrifice. Find marriages worth looking up to and ask the couple what makes it work. I remember asking wives for examples of submission before I got married, and this helped me understand what the concept meant in everyday life.
My attitude toward having children has also changed, and now I feel privileged that I will one day experience the special connection only a woman has with her children. Just as God gave me the desire to get married when it was time, He has provided me with a yearning to have children. I encourage women of any age to let God continually reveal His design for You, because we were created to reflect God’s image in a unique way.