Foundations: Head of the Family or Head of the Wife… ?

Ever been in this situation?
It is Thanksgiving. You have enjoyed a delicious meal. Your stomach is still full. Your body tells you that you are going to be feeling really stuffed and almost sick if you proceed. You proceed anyhow. You feel sick the rest of the day. You gain a few more pounds. The cycle continues.
or have you heard of the expression, “I know it in my gut” or, “my gut reaction is this…” or any other similar euphemisms. Interestingly, the gastrointestinal system has as many or more neurons than the brain does… so much so that the gut is referred to as being a second brain, which adds another level of understanding to the whole discussion of the relevance and need of the head.
Much like the body warns the head, but the head acts independently of the warning of the body, a husband can make decisions in the name of leadership, or Thanksgiving, or whatever, and have the outcomes be bad… not a blessing, but a curse. His decisions without considering his ‘body’ can be detrimental to the whole body. But, the body can (and does in many circumstances) act independently of the cognition / will of the head. We see this being played out in the various involuntary behaviors that the body has, such as the heart beating and the eyes automatically focusing.
I have heard many people throughout the years describe the husband as the head of the family. By that, I may take it to mean that he is the representative of the family and the seat of its authority. But, what it often means is that the husband uses the phrase as an excuse to be prime director of the family and the wife is relegated to being no more than another glorified child.
I rarely hear people talking of the scriptural concept of the husband being the head of the wife. To be the ‘head of the family’ to the exclusion of being the ‘head of the wife’ results in role reversal and supplanting the role of the wife. I believe that he does this supplanting to his harm, because he can’t fulfill her role and his at the same time, and do either of them well. My counsel is to get out of the way, and let your wife be your body – enacting your will through her, much like the head enacts its will through the body, but properly working, means what is good for the body is also considered.
My thoughts on this topic stem from seeing how some men treat their wives wrongly and then justify their behaviors by way of saying that they are the head of the family.
“Head of the household” is a Biblical distinction (Acts 16:31) where the husband is the representative of the household. His conversion in this case was an indication, after hearing and responding to the gospel, that salvation was to come individually to all who were in his household corporately. Ephesians 5:32 describes the mystery of creation (male/female) as a picture of Christ and the Church. Christ is certainly the Head of the church, which is also His body.And this body, composed of individuals with unique giftedness(es?) joins together into a beautiful whole- a dynamic unity. There is no male or female in the sense of coming to and being in Christ. But, the male / female designation being removed in Christ doesn’t mean that one’s gender and therefore one’s role is eliminated- rather it is fulfilled.
What really bothers me is that some men in the church at times claim the ‘head of the family’ designation and then behave in a non-Christlike way… They totally supplant and disregard the role of the wife as a co-regent… Devouring her individual giftedness and role designation in the name of leadership. The wife then sheepishly ‘obeys’ out of a so-called submission that isn’t submission at all. What these guys ‘call’ for is actually a truncated view of the wife where she is actually in a demeaned, demoralized and undignified position. They emphasize headship of the family to the neglect of their role as head of the wife. They then proceed with whatever their minds concoct as plans and require submission, regardless of what the wife thinks. These guys often fall into various schemes and afterward find that the wife saw “the train coming” but the husband wasn’t interested in listening… He was too busy being the ‘head of the household’- making decisions solely based on his view of provision / protection to the exclusion of her perspective of the impact that the decisions could make on the life of the family.
I see headship as not replacing the mind/will/intellect of the wife, but rather nurturing her, esp. In the sense of washing with the word. It is neither usurpation nor supplanting. It isn’t even substitution. When I think of headship, I think more along the lines of how a person’s conscience works inside- as a warning light at times and at other times as a lantern… Lighting the way… providing comfort, encouragement, and nurture – not merely a paycheck. The ‘head’ in this sense serves as a check against the imagination and is empowered through the memory and will… But at its best, all of these are working together in harmony.I have noticed that when I remember that I am her head, I am more patient with the questions she asks, and I don’t tend to duplicate tasks that seem to fall more within her sphere (Titus 2)… As an example. I tend to get into more trouble when I am acting apart from her input… She has valuable information I don’t have. The head must communicate with the body in order to function as an entity.As a summation – the problem is that he railroads his wife for the sake of his headship of the family to the exclusion and neglect of his role as HER head. He probably does this as a result of a lack of confidence in his leadership ability. She just becomes another child that he must manage… Rather then entrusting management to her because she is a joint heir with Christ and a co-regent in the marriage.

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