My telephone rang during dinner last night.
"May I speak to the head of the house, please?"
"That depends," I answered, "on whether you think that's my husband or me."
A short silence followed. Finally the salesman said, "I can talk with you, ma'am."
Being called "ma'am" makes me feel old. But worse than that, I hate the idea that one person in a marriage is automatically considered to be "over" the other. And it's not because I'm what Rush Limbaugh calls a "femi-Nazi," although I am a 40-something woman with a brain, an education, and a job. I cringe when the concept of "male headship" comes up, not because I'm opposed to it, but because so few of my friends understand it.
A lot of people from my generation automatically assume that headship implies some kind of inequality at best and domination at worst. For decades, many of them have heard Christian authorities present a hierarchical understanding of headship that bears little resemblance to the biblical description: "The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church … " (Ephesians 5:23).
If you back me into a corner and make me say it, I'll confess: my husband, David, is the head of our home. Privately, I'm proud of this because my husband is a rare and wonderful man who understands and practices the concept of servant leadership. Instead of concentrating on the verses in Ephesians that call for wives to submit to their husbands, he focuses on the verses that immediately follow them: an injunction to husbands to lay down their lives for their wives, loving them as they love their own bodies. The result is that I hold the utmost respect for his opinions, desires, and plans and have no fear in expressing my own.1