My husband recently saw the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia. I said my husband because I was not there to witness the beauty and glory of such a sight, although he did text me a photo. I was grateful for the kind gesture, but it did nothing to keep me from longing to be there in person.
I could see sunrays beaming through the upper half of the falls, creating a rainbow in the watery mist. Yet I couldn’t hear the thunderous crashes of the water careening into the ocean below. I couldn’t experience the feelings that well up when our senses are bombarded with wonder like a massive waterfall. I saw a fraction of the majesty on my phone. I love that he sent me the photo, but it was a poor representation of the real thing.
In much the same way, my husband is called to represent the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ in our marriage. But I have to remember he’s just a photo — a representation, an image, a sketch of the real thing. Our husbands have a great and glorious calling to be like Christ for us. They’re called to love us as Christ loves the church and laid his life down for her (Ephesians 5:25).
As wives, it’s easy to get caught up in this high calling for husbands and assume (perhaps especially as newlyweds) that our husbands will immediately take on Christlikeness in marriage. Yet just because they are called to be like Christ does not mean that they are Christ.
God’s Work Through Wives
“Wives need God-given discernment for when to encourage, when to graciously confront, and when to wait and pray.”
Both wives and husbands are being shaped into the image of Christ in marriage. When we leave the altar on our wedding day, our husbands won’t perfectly be like Christ for us. God uses marriage itself to sanctify wives and husbands, so they can be like Christ to each other. It might take many years of sanctifying marriage for a husband to learn Christlike headship, and even then it will be imperfect. Wives, as helpmates, come alongside their husbands in this unfinished work.
We all know helping our husbands isn’t just child-rearing, folding laundry, cleaning a sink of dirty dishes, or preparing a steaming plate of food. We help our husbands when we study and love God’s word and when we seek to apply it in our marriage. Our practical service in the home is important, but we also practically live out the gospel in our homes through God-honoring attitudes, words, and actions toward our husbands.
Being a helper means we need God-given discernment to know when to encourage, when to graciously confront, and when to be silent and pray. When we fulfill the role of helper in marriage, it can be the catalyst for change in our husbands, so that they can live and lead like Christ. The role of helper is as much or more spiritual and emotional as it is physical.
God’s Help for the Battle
We can help our husbands be like Christ in our marriages, while remembering they are not Christ. Our husbands are really more like Moses: called to something great, but often unsure of themselves. We must help them see that their calling from God in marriage is not about them, but about reflecting Jesus like a picture of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water pouring over an African cliff.
Moses was a type of Christ in the Old Testament — a photo meant to foreshadow the coming of a better leader for the people of God. A leader so great, he would be their Messiah, Savior, and greatest Treasure. Moses was the imperfect representations of the spectacular waterfall of Jesus Christ.
The Israelites consistently forgot this truth. They looked to the image or picture, and not to God himself. And like the Israelites, we as wives can put too much faith and hope in the representation of Christ in our husbands. Yet like Moses, our husbands are imperfect, sinful men called by God to lead us to perfection.
God knew this reality about Moses — and our husbands — and provided his brother Aaron to help him. When Israel and Amalek were at war (Exodus 17:8–16), Israel would advance in battle when Moses would raise up his staff, but the Amalekites would prevail when Moses lowered his hands in weariness. Aaron and Hur held up Moses’s weak arms in battle and, through their help, Israel won. In a similar way God calls our husbands into battle — in our homes, our churches, our neighborhoods — and we are called to hold them up when they are weak.
The Limited Beauty of Unfinished Men
“Husbands are imperfect and unfinished men called by God to lead their wife and children to perfection.”
Our husbands will struggle at times with their calling and faith, so we must be there to remind them of God’s grace, through Christ, available to them now. Through his grace alone will they grow more and more into the husband — the image — they’re called to be. It’s so important for our hope and trust to be ultimately and functionally in God himself, and not in our husbands, because our earthly husbands are the imperfect representation of our heavenly husband.
God has already betrothed us to himself through the salvation of Jesus Christ. He is our hope and stay as we help our husbands in the battle for faith. The role of helper in marriage calls for a resolute faith and strength in Christ alone. He is the glory and majesty of the Victoria Falls, not just the weak representation we see in a photo on our phone. We treasure the photo — the image of Jesus Christ in our husbands — but our faith rests on the real thing, the resurrected and reigning one.