In the early years of my marriage, I hated feeling as if I couldn’t measure up to my dad, Gary Smalley, a great leader and counselor. I had developed a skewed opinion of what it meant to be a spiritual leader, thinking I had to become a “spiritual giant” like my dad in order to lead my family. So I avoided failure by not even trying.
Two years into our marriage, Erin and I had a daughter, but I was still not interested in my spiritual leadership role. So Erin initiated the spiritual disciplines of prayer, service and study.
I now know that, like me, many introverted, insecure or uninformed husbands struggle with leading spiritually in the home. Some of the reasons are because they …
- have misconceptions about what it means to be a spiritual leader.
- lack confidence either in their Bible knowledge or skills as a leader.
- feel intimidated by their wife’s relationship with God.
Leadership in the home
One day after Dad and I had taught at a marriage seminar, we sat in a restaurant talking. Dad started the conversation by explaining what the Lord had taught him about leadership during one of his morning prayer times.
“Yeah, you’re the great leader,” I said sarcastically. “Even my wife wants me to be like you.”
“A man can give spiritual leadership in all kinds of ways,” Dad said. “It’s more than reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture.”
And he spoke these words of encouragement: “Greg, I see an amazing spiritual leader in you. I see a man who loves his wife and daughter wholeheartedly. I see a man who takes responsibility and seeks forgiveness. I see a man who prays with his wife and for his daughter.”
God used my dad to give me a renewed vision for what spiritual leadership really means.
Re-evaluate your assumptions
I want to challenge men to let go of preconceived notions of what it means to be a spiritual leader — focused solely on spiritual disciplines. I also want to challenge women to broaden their definitions of what it means to be a spiritual leader and to notice all the ways their husband loves and cares for his family.
Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of marriage and family formation at Focus on the Family.