With our recent discussion on the appropriate use of Game for Christian men, I thought it would be helpful to offer some detail on how this can be done. I’ve titled this Headship Game, and as the title suggests this isn’t for unmarried men looking to attract a wife, but focused on how a married Christian man can use Game with respect to his role as a husband.
Your frame is essential, and in Headship Game your frame must be a biblical frame*. To attain this you must first study, pray, and be humbly prepared to bend your beliefs and opinions to Christianity, not the other way around. As a Christian husband you are called to wash your wife in the water of the word, and you must take this extremely seriously. Your frame as a Christian husband must be one of unshakable righteousness, neither turning to the right hand nor the left. Know in advance that what the Bible teaches us is extremely unpopular in our modern age, and if parts of it don’t initially make you uncomfortable, chances are you aren’t studying closely enough.
Part of this will require a careful study of the commands to husbands and wives in the New Testament. If you want a place to start, you can start with the Scripture referenced in the table at the bottom of my post Reframing Christian marriage. That post is the beginning of a series of posts outlining how feminist Christians have reframed biblical marriage into something new and unChristian; understanding how the original is frequently reframed will make it easier for you to maintain your footing as you are tempted by the culture to turn to the right hand or the left. Other posts which should help you identify and resist common tactics to reframe away from a biblical frame of marriage are Rebuilding the mound and Don’t be tricked into responding to a reframe with an intellectual argument.
Your wife is craving your leadership, especially when she is in rebellion. Sometimes your leadership will be active, but other times all that she really needs is for you to remain immovable, her rock. When she storms over you with her emotions, what she is craving is the reassurance that you won’t be overwhelmed by the very thing which is overwhelming her at the moment. Be kind and loving in how you do this, but be the immovable anchor she can cling to and don’t allow her emotions to sweep you both away. This is a profound gift you can offer your wife.
At times this will mean your wife will make unreasonable demands or do outrageous things to see how you will respond. Your response to these must be ruled by your role as a loving Christian husband, but this doesn’t mean you should cave in to unreasonable demands or encourage bad behavior. Elspeth recounts the good advice her husband offered another man here which gives an excellent example of how to respond to a fitness test. Other times the best response is to simply say “no”, with the firmness which comes from the confidence a righteous man displays when being obedient to the Lord. Sometimes your best response to a wife who is being overwhelmed by her emotions is to simply pull her into you in a strong embrace, letting her feel your gentle firmness as she makes a show of trying to push you away**.
If you find your faith in your ability to fulfill the role of headship faltering, recall the words of young David before he faced Goliath:
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
If David could summon the strength to stand up to the Philistine Goliath, can you not summon the strength to do something far easier? If you respond with confidence and in accord with your role as head of the household, very often you will find your wife’s mood changes with bewildering speed. However, your steadfastness must come from your faith in God and obedience to your responsibility as a husband, not from your faith in human psychology. If your response was righteous and loving is what matters, not whether your wife responds as desired. Note that this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be attentive to understanding your wife’s own personality and needs, and tuning your leadership style to make it easier for her to honor her own obligation to submit to you. It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek and seriously consider your wife’s counsel when making decisions which impact the family. The Bible tells us that husbands are the head of the wife, but it also tells us to dwell with them in understanding. You don’t need to (and must not) become a tyrant, but you need to be sensitive to when your headship is being challenged and respond firmly with Christian love when it is.
Leading With Joy
As Cane recently reminded us, a wife is a gift from God. Never see your responsibility as a husband as a burden, but as something sacred. Never allow yourself to become frustrated with your wife for needing your strength. Instead, take joy in the opportunity to be strong for her. God in His wisdom has seen fit to make women and men different, and yet He also joins us in the mystery of one flesh. Rejoice in this, and learn to treasure your wife’s differences. After nearly two decades of marriage I find my wife’s idiosyncrasies profoundly endearing.
Some fitness tests represent true rebellion, and as such are serious business. But if things are going right these will be rare. There are also marriages where the husband or the wife are stubbornly unwilling to follow their biblical roles. But assuming your wife is not in serious rebellion, for the bulk of the time leading your wife with Headship Game should be full of laughter and joy. Learn to use humor to playfully establish your frame of leadership, and learn to see the humor in everyday interactions. One of the things my wife says with some regularity (in mock protest) is:
A wife is not an endless source of amusement!
She of course knows this isn’t true, and she knows I love her all the more for it not being true.
Understand that even in times when headship and submission were widely accepted, wives struggled with submission and husbands struggled with headship. You can’t do her part for her, you can only do your part as best as you can and try to make it a bit easier for her to do hers (as she can for you). You also can’t expect to make this all happen all at once, and once you both are in line with headship and submission you can’t expect not to have to continue working on it or to never experience slippage. Your role as a husband is a life long role, and you need to remember that you are in this for the long run. Neither of you are going to be perfect, but God has kindly given us instructions to work through over a lifetime to gain in wisdom, faith, and obedience.
If you followed the first steps and are leading from a biblical frame, sorting out what is appropriate and what is sinful should be much easier. Still, as a reminder I propose the following simple test when considering if applying a Game concept is sinful or not:
- Is it loving, and in accordance with your role as a biblical husband?
- Is it otherwise sinful, or does it encourage either of you to sin?
If you can’t answer yes to question number one and no to question number two, you should avoid the action.
*Catholics and Orthodox Christians among others will want to also include the core teachings of their church.
**This requires good judgment on the part of the husband as in some extreme cases she won’t be pretending to push you away. One good sign to look for is when your wife’s facial expression and posture shifts from white hot anger to one of exhaustion or feeling lost.
Moderator’s note: Since the definition of Game has been a long term derailer of discussions I’m asking commenters to refrain from engaging in yet another debate on the true definition of Game. This doesn’t mean you can’t state your own view so that others can understand how you are using the term. In fact, defining how you use the term if different from others will add clarity to the discussion. For example if you believe Christians shouldn’t use Game, you should clearly define what you include in the category you are prohibiting. This also doesn’t mean you can’t ever discuss the proper definition of the term; if you are interested in this I encourage you to do so, just not here, on this post. If you wish to discuss the definition of Game on my blog, I invite you to do so on the post Cypher’s Problem where discussing the definition of the term has been occurring since August of 2012. If you wish to discuss the definition of the terms used in the definition of Game, Cane Caldo has a post for this here. If you wish to discuss the definition of the terms used in the definition of the terms used in the definition of Game, I’m not aware of a specific post addressing this yet but I have every confidence that someone will create one soon.