“Though rejecting feminist politics and lesbian posturing, American culture has absorbed the underlying ideology [of the feminist movement] like a sponge. The principal tenets of sexual liberation or sexual liberalism—the obsolescence of masculinity and femininity, of sex roles, and of heterosexual monogamy as the moral norm—have diffused through the system and become part of America’s conventional wisdom.”
George Gilder, Men and Marriage
The first question that might enter the minds of young females who are reared in an atmosphere of respect for the Holy Scriptures is—“What do you mean, leadership in the home? I thought he was supposed to be the leader!” If that question did enter your mind, it shows you have been listening in church, because certainly passages such as Eph. 5 show very clearly what God’s order for the family is to be. In this beautiful passage we see a husband who loves his wife with a selfless, cherishing love, and a wife who responds to that love, giving back to him holy submission.
You cannot assume from this passage, or indeed any Bible passage that I know of, that since God has ordained man to leadership [and all of the attending responsibilities, I might add!], that women have no right exercising any leadership abilities at all. Most men would love to have more of the kind of woman described in Proverbs 31—one to whom he can delegate responsibility and know that it will be carried out; one who uses her intelligence creatively, and for his good, so that he is treated with respect; one who is industrious, trustworthy and unselfish; and all of the rest of the qualities found in that passage.
It is not the relinquishing of leadership that we are talking about here, but the right use of it. The modern day feminist movement—there has been more than one feminist movement—would have you think that leadership is an either/or situation. Either men are leaders, or women are leaders, and there are not enough women leaders. But this wrong attitude has brought about untold distress and heartache in our land, as books like George Gilder’s point out. If you are a young woman, you need to know something of leadership. The only problem is that today most people have a skewed idea of godly and feminine leadership.
Since the beginning, the Bible has been clear that woman was made for man—to be his “completer.” Except for those to whom God has given special grace to be single, the proper state for men and women is to be completed in each other—to be whole. When the two become one, and endeavor to live to the glory of God together, they have tremendous potential that would not be realized by them alone, but they need to learn to work together in their God-ordained roles. The pressing question before us, however, is how young women can prepare for this important role of “completer” of a husband. Does she prepare by becoming an attractive “doormat”, as we are led to believe all happy homemakers must be, or is there more to this subject of “leadership in the home?”
I don’t think anyone can read Proverbs 31:10-31 and come away believing that a godly woman must be an attractive “doormat.” Just in reading the passage through quickly, the force of her personality fairly leaps out! This woman was an energetic person! She “works willingly with her hands…brings her food from afar…rises while it is yet night…provides food for her household…considers a field and buys it…extends her hand to the poor…” and on and on and on. But the best part is in the end where she is given her reward…and it is not an Oscar or an Academy Award or a raise or a promotion. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her; a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” How do we become like her?
Firstly, we must learn to love the Lord with all of our hearts and ask Him to mold us in His image of the godly woman. If we do not turn our hearts to Him, all else that is said is for naught. I know that some of you young ladies are saying, in the privacy of your own hearts, that you will have plenty of time to become a “better Christian” after you have landed that young man you have set your heart on. I am telling you that you have the cart before the horse! If you do not make knowing God a priority now, you may have a severe disappointment in the young man that you become yoked with. Are you willing to take that chance?
Secondly, as we prayerfully consider our strengths and weaknesses, we must ask God to change those things that need changing and increase those things that bring glory to Him already. Many of the virtues that we must pursue are generic—that is, both men and women should be honest, trustworthy, kind, compassionate, chaste, etc. There are some things, however, that pertain just to women, and we should anticipate those things especially, because it seems they are the ones that cause the most trouble.
Peter seems to approach women’s conduct in the gentlest manner. In I Peter 3, he has some good advice, and he backs it up with some reasons. Do any of you young ladies have a proud and willful spirit—one that wants to be the boss, or have the last say, or have its own way? If you want to marry a godly man, you will need to practice submission first. When you know what true submission is, then you can prepare to exercise leadership in the home—teaching it to your children. Ask the Lord to show you how to submit cheerfully to your parents, even when you may think they are wrong, or when you cannot do what seems perfectly good to you.
Peter mentions also how important the adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit is—much more important than perfect makeup or a sexy outfit. In fact, the importance that is attached to the outside appearance often signifies a lack on the inside—and that goes for both males and females. Pray that God will use the gifts that he has given you, while enabling you to become more thoughtful, considerate of others, appreciative of little things and above all, a good listener. You will need this as a wife, and if God grants you the blessing of children, you will need it more as a mother. A good leader knows how to listen first.
Many more womanly virtues are mentioned in Proverbs and I Timothy that I would encourage you to seek out and pray about. But I must hasten on here to the third point in preparing for leadership in the home, which is: Now is the time to develop those skills that are needed for this task.
As you read Proverbs 31, you must be struck by how much that woman can accomplish. Of course, we are told that she had servants, but I notice that she is not lying in bed waiting for one of those servants to bring her breakfast. She is right there preparing for them! How are your cooking skills? What about knowing how to clean a house? Can you “sew a fine seam?”
Many today would tell us that the average housewife does not need to know these skills today. Prominent show hostess Oprah Winfrey thinks it incredible that women still operate such appliances as sewing machines and irons. I would point out here, however, that the wisest and most beloved of leaders has often “risen from the ranks,” and knows what the ones he is leading must do.
If you expect to operate an efficient household you should watch carefully what your mother does at home “practicing” by helping her. Offer to make some of the meals; if you don’t already, and start your own file of good things to eat that will go with you when you leave home. Learn to clean all the parts of a house, and what to do each season to maintain it in the best condition.
Try something new that will broaden your knowledge of the womanly arts. If you don’t care for sewing, maybe you would like basket weaving. Learning about things like that add a dimension to your life that taking courses and reading books—as important as they are—will not give you. You will have a better appreciation of your heritage and have more to pass on to your children, as well as be a more interesting person for some guy to get to know!
Lastly, if you are really serious about learning how to be a good leader in the home, add to your reading pile biographies of godly men and women. Some people have to learn everything the hard way by brutal experience. But if you can learn by reading, then some of the lives of the old saints are replete with good lessons, and you could read several chapters on a Lord’s Day afternoon that would challenge and encourage you.
There are still young men who are looking for the kind of wife that Martin Luther described—“The greatest gift of God is a pious amiable spouse, who fears God, loves her house, and with whom one can live in perfect confidence.” Our culture needs more women like that.