I was flipping through a rack of dresses when I became aware of a disagreement going on beside me. A teenage girl was holding a miniskirt up to her waist. Her mother shook her head halfheartedly.
“Lynn, you know what your father thinks about those short skirts,” she said.
“I don’t care,” the girl replied. “He’ll never know if you don’t squeal. Look at all the times I’ve kept secrets for you. Besides, you took Bill’s part when he decided to wear his hair long.”
My visit of the afternoon before suddenly came into sharp focus by way of comparison. I had gone to the home of Katrine, a new girl in my Sunday school class, whose parents had migrated to the United States only five years before.
The mother was a warm, friendly person. Even her house exuded hospitality. What impressed me most, though, was her constant reference to her husband. Whenever there was a lull in the conversation, a boy about four would ask, “Is it almost time for Papa?”
Later, the children came in from school, greeted me politely and went to their chores.
“I’m going to start some of Papa’s favorite muffins,” the oldest daughter said, heading toward the kitchen. As I rose to leave, Katrine asked wistfully: “Can’t you wait a small moment and see Papa?”
By this time I was undeniably curious about this remarkable man who commanded such love and respect from his family. I didn’t really need the mother’s second invitation: “Yes, sit a moment until Lawrence comes.” The shock of meeting Lawrence was almost too much. Instead of a well-dressed man of brilliant speech, a small man, twisting nervously at a mustache and talking brokenly in the accent of his native tongue, greeted “the teacher of his leetle Katrina.”
All day I had pondered the mystery of this man’s place in his home. Now as I overheard the conversation next to me, the answer came. It’s not who or what the father is personally, but mother’s attitude toward him that makes the difference.
Our husbands can take their proper place at the head of the house only as we respect and honor their wishes, then giving our children the desire to do likewise.
Wives set the example of attitudes toward submission. And the obedience we demand from our children will be given us in direct proportion to that which we give our husbands.
“Aw, do I have to do it now?” my preschooler grumped when I asked him to leave his play to run an errand for me. Somehow those words sounded familiar. Then I remembered. The previous night when my husband had asked me to do something for him, I had grumbled: “Does it have to be done now?”
In Proverbs we read, “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.” I strive to teach my son cheerful obedience, but my teaching and training will be effective only when there is also a leading—a showing of the way. We may say Dad is boss, but deep in our hearts we know that this is not so, for we generally do as we please if there is a conflict of wills. Children are quick to notice the difference between professed attitudes and real attitudes.
The other day when I was at a neighborhood coffee session, the hostess laughingly pointed to a gaily decorated motto above her husband’s desk. “See what I bought yesterday,” she said. We all stopped to read:
“The sentiments expressed by the man of the house are not necessarily those of the management.”
“I guess that put Phil in his place,” Marian said with a giggle. Ann countered: “God says, ‘Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the Husband is the head of the wife.’” Instantly the laughter was gone. The subject changed and I could sense the embarrassment. We felt that those verses in Ephesians were not meant for us in today’s changing society!
They were never easy to follow. Back in the seventeenth century, Pastor Byfield said of wives, “Nature makes her a woman; election, a wife; but only grace can make her subject.” However, one of the greatest things a woman can do for her family and her country is to give her husband his rightful place as head of their home.
A minister was counseling a young couple about to be married. He asked if they had any questions. “Why isn’t the word ‘obey” in the vows?” the bride-to-be asked.
“Modern brides prefer that word be left out,” the surprised minister replied.
The girl was adamant. “Sir, all of my life I have observed my mother joyfully obeying my father,” she said. “He was a happy, contented man and I was a happy, contented child. I want that kind of a home. And I want the word ‘obey’ back in my ceremony.”
We wonder today at the rebellion of our children. At least part of the answer would appear to lie in our homes where basic Bible truths have been neglected. Discipline and obedience must be instilled in children at an early age. If we disregard the Word of God in this significant principle, all the church going and Bible reading in the world will not really help. Our children must not only be told, they must be shown, for the heart of teaching is example. What an exacting responsibility falls on us mothers!
If my husband is respected and loved by me, my child will acquire the same feeling for him. If he sees that what father says and wants counts with me, he cannot fail to be impressed and influenced.
Young children need a hero. Why not Dad? It is an immeasurable boost to a father’s ego to know that he is the most prominent person in his child’s life. He will do all that is within his power to live up to what his child believes he is. It is the attitude of Mother that can make Dad a hero. A child needs experience before he can learn. A child cannot verbally be told Dad’s place in the home; he must be shown the practical outworking of this truth.
Since my own discovery, my son David greatly anticipates the return of his daddy every evening. This is the climax of his day—and of mine. Since morning we’ve been talking of things we want to tell Daddy. We lay the paper on his footstool, prepare something for supper that Dad likes, pick up toys in the living room so that it will look nice for Daddy. All of these things say to David that his dad is important and that, because we love him, we spend part of every day trying to please him.
A man who is privileged to have a wife who is lovingly submissive and who creates within the home an atmosphere free from bitterness and unfair criticism will meet the struggles of life without being unduly shaken. He will feel a peace within. Nervous problems are unlikely to afflict him, for he has a place where the storms and misunderstandings of the outside world can be forgotten. His future may be uncertain—but a man who is foremost in his own home is equipped to face the world.
My husband may not have any outstanding talents that the world would acclaim. But he is unique in that he is God’s gift to me. A husband needs to be taken and loved for himself. We need to stop regretting what he isn’t and put more emphasis on what he is. In obedience to God, let us love, honor, cherish, and obey him. Let us put Father in his place—as head of his household.
“...and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Ephes. 5:33