Complementarianism in Marriage & Golf
When Jody and I play golf, we always “scramble.” This is a variation of golf that allows my husband and I to spend more time together on the golf course. It is a way to play the game when there are varying degrees of skills riding in the same golf cart. Simply put, scrambling is when you play the best shot, each time and at each hole. For example, Jody and I both tee off. Whichever ball lands closest to the green is the place from which we both take our next swing. This keeps us rooting for each other, allows us to be close enough to chat during the game and permits us to ride together in the same cart.
Jody and I didn’t learn how to scramble until about the 3rd year of playing golf together. We were at a course, and there was a flyer on a club house bulletin board announcing a SCRAMBLE TOURNAMENT. We both wondered what that meant. I thought it was a typo and had something to do with words, like my favorite game: SCRABBLE. My word skills far out do my golf swing 😊. The golf pro explained what scrambling meant, and Jody and I haven’t played golf any other way since.
Typically, we will use Jody’s ball off the tee. He has a powerful drive … if it is straight. I have a wimpy drive. It is always straight as an arrow, but never goes very far! So, if Jody slices and his ball lands in the wilderness, we use my ball and drive again from someplace in the middle of the fairway. It is slow, but less painful. When we get close to the green, we typically use my chip shot. I am better at not overshooting the green – I like the finesse of the end game. The chipping wedge is the cutest club in my bag and I like the way it swings. It has a heavy head and makes a great sound when you smack the ball. We both like to putt, so whose ball we use is truly a 50-50 proposition. So if Jody and I were golf clubs, he would be the big strong driver with just enough flexibility to send a ball into outer space, while I would be an oddly-shaped wedge – not powerful, but able to save your game by getting you out of trouble and into a one-putt range situation. Both are golf clubs, but each were created for a different mission.
SIDEBAR: In complete transparency, if both of our balls both land in a SAND TRAP, we are doomed! I hate the spray of sand in my face and Jody is usually too angry when his ball lands in the sand to swing true. So, we use our “5” club – with our own five fingers, we pick up the ball and toss it into play. My son-in-law taught me that move. He is a very good golfer. So, I don’t even feel guilty when it happens. Remember, we’re not professional golfers; we are just a married couple trying to have some fun together while getting some exercise to boot. But I digress. Back to marriage. Let me see if I can “drive” this illustration home 😊!
Scrambling on the golf course and using each other’s strengths to improve our game is very similar to God’s design for Jody’s and my marriage – a complimentary marriage where both spouses, though serving in different roles, lay claim to being equal members in the sight of God. This is NOT the failed ideology of “separate but equal,” but rather “equality that is uniquely designed and completely interconnected through Christ.” Not catchy, but solid truth. This is just like a driver and a wedge. Both are undeniably golf clubs, and both live in the same golf bag. Their unique impact on the game of golf is distinctively different. Not better, not worse. Just different. You could not play 9 holes of golf successfully without a driver or a wedge. I guess you could try to “wedge” each hole of the course, but two hours later you would have only completed two holes. You would also be exhausted because you stepped outside the design of the club. In the case of marriage, if you step outside of your giftedness it will be equally frustrating, but I’ll get back to that in a bit. Keep reading. To be successful in golf, you need a full complement of clubs. In marriage, you need a full complement of skills and gifts. So, let’s explore the topic of complementarianism a little further.
WHAT IS GOD’S DESIGN FOR MARRIAGE?
Complementarianism is a $20 word used to describe how men and women are to work together in marriage, in ministry and in the body of Christ. It is a buzz topic these days in Christian circles. I believe that there is a fair amount of confusion surrounding the topic and today, I’d like to walk through what God says about our roles in marriage and in the body of Christ. I believe that God is explicit that neither husband nor wife should be offended or marginalized as both our joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17, 1 Peter 2:9). He also clearly talks about each believer, male and female, being loved, valued and created purposefully (Genesis 1:27, Psalms 139:13-14). And, He yet requires different things from each (Genesis 2:15-25). I’m not talking about who should wash the dishes, do the cooking or even leave the home to pursue work (see YOU WASH, I DRY https://wordwashedwife.com/blog/2018/1/18/you-wash-i-dry). The Bible is silent on these topics. What I am talking about is the deeper spiritual responsibilities that are laid out in the very beginning – in the Garden of Eden.
From creation, God clearly defined the roles of responsibility for men and women. Before God created Eve, He created Adam and gave him a position of headship. God gave him dominion over creation (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 2:15), allowed him to name the creatures and gave him the ground rules for life in the Garden (Genesis 2:16-17). When Adam was found to be lonely (Genesis 2:18) and without a partner, Eve was created to be Adam’s helper – his complement. I think that even in the Garden of Eden, God knew Adam would be unable to find the milk in the fridge and would need Eve to come to his rescue 😊! Even as I typed this last sentence, Jody called to me from the kitchen asking for something that was literally 5 inches from him. No joke. He needs me. I truly do love that man! Back to the story. After the fall, it is clear that God holds Adam accountable for Eve’s sin. It is to Adam that God calls (Genesis 3:9), not Eve, in the cool of the night when the jig is up! Both are His children, and both are punished, but Adam is the one God gave the instruction and warning to about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He is the first among equals. He is “where the buck stops,” you might say. Adam is the one God questions first. Both punishments are painful realities that we still face today. Sisters, even though we would love to slap Eve during the pains of childbirth, and we all feel we have loved our husband more than he loves us at some time (Genesis 3:16), the punishment Adam received is far more severe (Genesis 3:17-19). It is a curse that he lives under every day. The curse of hard work – continuous uphill battles; never catching a break until death. The “dust to dust part” is the very reason why most men struggle under the weight of the burden of every day life. They are forced to depend on God to survive. And sisters, they need your help. I do not believe that God has ever been surprised. From the moment of creation, God knew this would be man’s fate. That is why right out of the gate He called Eve Adam’s help mate (Genesis 2:18). This is so like God to make a way for us even after we sin!
Now fast forward a few thousand years. Men and women have been living together as husband and wife, walking out the curse given the first couple for their disobedience. Paul is now penning a letter to the church in Ephesus. The theme of this letter is two-fold. He explains to the early church: 1) who they are in Christ, and 2) how they as believers should live on earth. It is a very practical book. Paul writes instructions for marriage, parenthood and the community of believers through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is in the 5th chapter that I find myself forever reading … since I blog on Gospel marriage. It’s here where God further illuminates how a God-honoring marriage should be walked out. Paul stresses the importance of the husband’s headship, but with a first emphasis on balance with a “submit one to another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).” God knew there would be ungodly men who would lord headship over their wives; probably out of frustration of the ugly uphill climb they face each day. So, God starts with this equalizing command – “submit to one another.” This reminds everyone that they are ALL golf clubs; just serving different roles. Then the Word assumes that this point is understood and gets down to the nitty gritty. Wives, honor, respect, submit, and yield to your husband (Ephesians 5:22). The buck stops with him. Support him, be his helper, and in the case of a tie vote, his vote weighs more. Husbands, love your wives more than yourselves, washing them daily in the Word of God (Ephesians 5:25-28). This part we hear more often, but the preface, the “submit one to another,” sometimes gets “lost in the shuffle.” Remember, it is the overarching umbrella that covers both roles. It is within this truth where complementarianism comes to life.
I am immediately reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 when I think about marriage the way God designed it. We all play a role in the body of Christ. A foot, a shoulder, a neck. Marriage is a microcosm of the church. In the body of Christ, we have more people, so we may only have to be a single part, or sometimes two body parts. In marriage, you have to be more parts! Jody and I periodically look at the areas we are naturally gifted in and make sure that those are the areas for which we are responsible in our marriage. This doesn’t usurp Jody’s headship. Instead, it supports it in a way that he can bear the ramifications of the Genesis curse and serve God and lead our family well. How we help each other changes with each season of life. Nothing is written in ink … all is in pencil. Well, except maybe the finances. I am far too global, and banks are such sticklers for details 😊. Jody handles our money. I am the natural dreamer, so I am always casting a vision as to what could come next. If we disagree, Jody has the last word, but 99% of the time, he confirms my feelings and we move forward. Vision casting may look like a headship role, but it doesn’t have to be. It is like my chip shot in golf. It takes us to the end game and gives us a better chance for victory.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE WALKING OUT A COMPLEMENTARIAN MARRIAGE?
1) Are you joyful and well rested? If you are working in your area of spiritual giftedness and are being supported by your spouse, life is beautiful! Life gets stressful if you are trying to do something for which you are not gifted, because you think it is a “traditional” husband or wife role to do. All the time I hear women say, “I watch my hubby struggle with _______. I know I could do it easier and better, but he is the head of our family.” I laugh and think that this is not a person that I want on my team. We all must bring to the table the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with, so that they may complement and support each other. Joy happens when we are able to be used by God in our marriage! Rest happens when I serve within the Holy Spirit’s prompting and giftedness. When I try to “Sue” an issue, I can do it for a while. You know, fake it. Expend all of my energy and then I wonder why I was spinning my wheels. Sometimes it may be God growing me in an area, but most of the time it is my pride trying to do a role for which I was not gifted. In these times there is no joy in me. Instead, I am only an odd-shaped wedge trying to be a mighty driver 😊! No joy, just frustration.
Jody and I use this “joy & rest” test often and make corrections if and when needed. If we are tired, fussy or trying to do things in our own power, we will take a pause and re-examine what we are doing in the light of the truth of 1 Corinthians 12. Are we working like a “foot, marching out to lands unknown, when God clearly made to be a shoulder that is ready for a hurting sister to rest upon it?” With this test, Jody and I have kept active for years without fatigue in ministering to God’s hurting world. When you stay within the walls of God’s plan, it is simply not you, but He who lives through you! Can I get an “Amen!” If you are tired in marriage or ministry, re-look at what it is that you are doing and pray for God to reveal the areas in which you are working with your own strength.
2) Does your marriage produce fruit? Now, I’m not talking about children, but that could also fall into this category 😊. I’m talking about being a positive influence in your neighborhood, workplace or church. Does the light from your marriage make others stop and scratch their head, wondering why you are happy, at peace and full of joy, and maintain great patience even in the midst of trials (Galatians 5:22-23)? If people can’t see Jesus in your marriage, then it is time to get on your knees and repent – you may have adapted the world’s view of marriage and its self-serving parameters. Or, you may be harboring un-forgiveness and in so doing have lost your first love – Jesus! Repent. Then stand up forgiven and get busy for the kingdom, hand-in-hand with your spouse. Please don’t forget, God’s design for your marriage has little to do with happiness, but rather your holiness and the furtherance of his kingdom. Allow your marriage to be the place where God burns-off the dross and sanctifies your heart for His work. God’s plan is to equip the saints to go into all the world. Sending us out two-by-two as complementary pairs is a powerful plan! Pray about how God wants to use your marriage. Watch out that you don’t get stuck there in “indecision limbo!” Open up your front door and embrace your neighbors. It’s a great place to start; I know God will be glorified!
As always, I’ve loved our time together! Thank you for faithfully reading my Word Washed Wife blog. Share it with your friends, and stay washed in the Word! Keep reading, friend.
“My friends, be patient until the Lord returns. Think of farmers who wait patiently for the autumn and spring rains to make their valuable crops grow. Be patient like those farmers and don’t give up. The Lord will soon be here (James 5:7-8; CEV)!”