How Do I Actually Disciple My Wife?
“Pursue your wife.”
“Men are called to shepherd their home.”
“Lead your wife spiritually.”
These, and phrases like them, get thrown around in evangelicalism so much that they begin to lose their meaning. What does it actually mean to “lead your wife?” What does it actually mean to “shepherd” her?
The Bible is clear that men are to lead their wives spiritually. For example, men are called to wash their wives in the word and to help sanctify them (Eph 5:26-27). Men are called to direct their wives spiritual lives, even when they make vows to God (Numbers 30:3-16). Wives are to direct their theological questions in church to their husbands at home (1 Corinthians 14:35). And one of the qualifications given for elders is that they lead their home (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
Though the commands are clear, men are often hard-pressed to describe how to lead their wives practically. Some try to preach at their wives (which typically doesn’t work). Others try to make their homes a mini-seminary (which typically doesn’t work). Others start reading the Bible together and then get frustrated and just give up (which typically doesn’t work). Others are discouraged because they don’t feel as though they are godly enough to lead (which typically doesn’t work).
Let me be clear, I have not written this article because I’m a good leader in my home but because I’m not a great leader. I’m still trying to figure it out and I don’t think I do it well. So, I’ve put together a helpful list of some ways that other men have encouraged me to lead my wife. Some of these tips will work better for some couples than others, so feel free to find what works for you:
1. The most important thing when it comes to guiding your wife is your personal love for the Lord. If you are loving, tender, selfless, sacrificial, joyous, and deeply love Jesus, this will have the greatest impact on your family of anything that you could do. Actions speak louder than words. Modeling Jesus in your own life will naturally guide your wife. In some ways discipleship is more modeled than taught. How you treat her is far more important than what “religious” tasks you do with her (1 Pet 3:7). Imitating and modeling the love Christ has shown you will naturally foster an environment in which her affections for Christ may grow.
2. Try to engage your wife on a heart-level. Many men just serve their wife by doing external tasks like emptying the dryer (which is good, by the way). However, you have to find out who your wife really is and find out how to make her feel loved internally. Going after your wife’s heart is key. Asking questions about her and how she is doing spiritually can be a good way to do this. Don’t just ask generic questions (i.e. “how are you”) but ask more specific questions (i.e. “what makes you love Jesus this week?” or “where are you struggling with sin?”). Asking deeper questions is an easy change you can make to better serve your wife by engaging her heart.
3. Pray with your wife. This can be tough for many people because it becomes another daily task tacked onto an already busy schedule. One of the things you can do is to just pray in bed before you go to sleep. The prayer doesn’t have to be long or elaborate. You will perhaps even feel like you’re not praying “the right way” or you’ll feel insecure. These are often just ploys of the enemy or your own flesh fearing discomfort. But, an ineloquent prayer is better than no prayer at all.
4. Read scripture together (Deut 6:7). Now, this often turns into a “preaching moment” for most men; instead of trying to be your wife’s professor, just read a chapter of scripture out loud before you go to bed. She can read the next chapter tomorrow night, and you can alternate. You don’t have to “teach” the passage; you can just read it and then go to bed. Of course, you are always free to talk about it with each other if you would like, but don’t feel as though you have to.
5. Read different books and then talk about them. Read a book together or read two different books and set up a coffee date, once a week, to sit down and talk about what you are learning.
6. Listen to sermons, lessons, or studies together. The easiest way to do this is when you are riding in the car. Pick a sermon, lesson, or study that you can download on your phone, and listen to it together as you travel to your destination.
7. Have regular dates where you talk about issues in your marriage. Most conversations tend to center on work and kids. But there need to be times where you can talk about hard issues. Ask where you can be a better spouse. Express fears and doubts and concerns. Talk about intimacy. Not only will you know and trust your wife more, but you’ll actually be growing in your faith as you grow together.
8. Worship with your family. Perhaps once a week, or once a month, you can plug in your ipod to some speakers and play some worship songs. Allow your family to sing, worship, and allow your kids to dance. Not only is this a great way to lead your family in worship, but I have found it is one of the most helpful things you can do to foster your wife’s growth in the Lord. Worshipping gets our eyes on Christ and allows him to minister to us. We are more apt to love him only after we realize how much he loves us.
9. Be involved in community. Your wife needs a place where she can bounce ideas off of other women and be encouraged and challenged by other wives. You need the same thing from other men. Talk to other godly couples about your marriage struggles. Ask them what they do when struggling with the sames issues.
10. Keep being faithful even when you don’t feel like it. Take your family to church. Keep reading the Bible. Keep praying. Keep doing the things God calls husbands to do while you wait for your heart to catch up. The enemy will always attack you when you are trying to lead your wife. Fight through the discouragement and do what the Bible commands. You might feel like you are doing a bad job or not feel like a good leader, but good leadership is doing the right actions even when your “feelings” discourage you.
We all fall short in this area and no men lead as well as they should (myself included). But God will still bless your faithfulness and your imperfect attempts to lead as he has asked you. There is grace where you mess up and community to guide you in the future.