Men Who Won’t Lead and Wives Who Won’t Follow

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Men fascinate me; they really do. And I’m not interchanging the term “man” with “males.” All men are males, but not all males are men.

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Men who love nature. Men who have passion, whether it be for hunting, sports, music or some other hobby. Men who put their families first. Men who show their strength, but aren’t afraid to show vulnerability in the way they love their wife. There are many things that can be added to that list, but as a woman, I can honestly say all of these things are very attractive. To me, I think it comes down to the way a man displays the core of his wild heart; a man who has discovered and lives the way God created him to.

I’m always hesitant to write on this subject, despite my intrigue, simply because it’s kind of weird. I mean, how uncomfortable would it be to read a man’s take on what he thinks makes a “real” woman? How can we trust that he is not some shallow pinhead who wouldn’t know a real woman if she slapped him in the face? How could he know the trials and eternal struggles of what makes a woman, in fact, a woman?

He doesn’t. But he could offer support and encouragement from a different perspective, which is ultimately why I decided to write about this.

(Yay! I’ve been so excited about this!!!! Aaaaaaahhh!!!)

Okay, so, first I will begin with my obsession interest in World War II. American men in uniform—especially men from this era—do something for me. I’m only being honest. Some people find the showcased bodies of bodybuilders appealing, while some prefer the lean muscles of athletes, or the rippling midsection of a fit actor—but not me. Show me a man in combat boots, with a dirty uniform and an upright mission from the olden days and you will have my attention.

I particularly noticed this recently while watching one of my favorite WWII series, HBO’s Band of Brothers, with my husband for the umpteenth time. Episode 7, “The Breaking Point,” has always stood out to me (as well as to my husband), and thinking it over, I finally realized why.

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The men in Band of Brothers exemplify all the qualities that make a man honorable.

Loyalty.

Nobility.

Strength.

Courage.

Sacrifice.

Unfortunately, these are characteristics that seem to have become archaic—outdated. Some of us are lucky to find a man with just a couple of these qualities, let alone all of them. Some men strive for these words to describe them; some couldn’t care less. The truth is, we are living in a very unhealthy time, especially for men. Just the other day, I read an article on Facebook from the Washington Post titled, The New F-Word: Father. [click here to read: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-31/opinions/39653946_1_men-single-mother-households ] I, myself, had clicked on it because the post above it said, “Why Do We Need Men, Anyway?” I admire the attempt the author made in the article—to explain why we do in fact still need men—however, I found the end rather patronizing. It was as if she was describing a beloved pet who refuses to be housetrained: “Well, he still pees on the rugs and drags his butt across the floor, but we love him, so I guess we’ll keep him.” Honestly, if I were a man, I would find nothing comforting about this article.

There is some truth to her concluding line though. After talking about a child’s need for the question, “Who is my Daddy?” to be answered, the author follows this up with, “And sadly, these days, where is he?” There’s some hard truth and heartbreak in that. Progressives will tell you that men taking the backseat is evolution; women are becoming the breadwinners and, eh, why do we need men for anything more than a quick, sexual fix and procreation at this point? I find it ironic that women have fought for decades to be seen as “equals” to their male counterparts, only to now insist he play the role of the 1950s quiet, mousy housewife that we have so long resented.

I am a Christian. I realize that my conservative roots are what is currently considered by some to be a dying breed. And I’m okay with that. I want to be at home with my daughter all day, as well as any future children. I want to give my husband a warm, clean house to come home to everyday. I want to please him and laugh with him. I want us to be partners. Using the word “breadwinner” is offensive to me. There is no breadwinner in our house. We are a team; what’s his is mine and what’s mine is his.

But what I want has not exactly worked out. I work 12 hours shifts throughout the night, catching sleep when I can throughout the next day. My husband goes to work full-time during the day, also. As most parents do, we struggle daily to determine whether we need help from a family member to babysit, or if one of us will be available instead. There is often a lot of blame that gets tossed back and forth due to lack of sleep, long hours, and not enough time spent with one another. As a result, there has had to be a lot of repentance and forgiveness that follows. I grapple with the role my faith calls me to—a help-mate, a steward of my home—and the role society expects from me as an independent woman, a working wife/mom with a Victoria’s Secret body who surpasses her husband in both knowledge and ability. Adam struggles with the role our faith calls him to—as the leader of our household; our protector, our defender, our go-to person for spiritual guidance—and society’s voice telling him to sit down and shut up because his family doesn’t need him to be any of those things.

The truth is, we live in a very unhealthy time. Godly, biblical marriage is under attack as much as the Christian lifestyle itself. Everything we believe in, everything we read in the Bible is being ignored by society, or worse, twisted and manipulated to fit agendas that are not God-focused. However, we cannot blame this on people who don’t know God.

At some point, we are going to have to accept responsibility for this mess ourselves.

Everyday. Every. Single. Day. Whether in some small way or in a big way, we as Christians (and even non-Christians) relive the fall of Adam and Eve. Heck, let’s replace those names with our own. Every day, Stephanie takes the apple from the tree, and Adam—my Adam—stands beside her, letting her do it without a word of loving direction. She takes the apple, because the snake has told her that God is holding out on her. She takes the apple because she is impatient, and God is not moving fast enough. She takes the apple because she is afraid; she does not believe God is listening, or trust that He has given her husband what he needs to take care of her. She takes a bite from the apple, because her husband—her leader, her protector, her defender—has gone quiet. Adam lets her take the apple from the tree because it is easier than wrangling control from her rigid, fearful hands. He lets her take the apple because staying quiet is easier than starting an argument. He lets her take the apple because making sure she is happy is more important than God’s happiness with Adam’s obedience. He lets her eat from the apple because it was what she wanted to do, even though he knows God had asked him to lead her elsewhere.

It is a constant struggle, especially for a married Christian couple in a fallen world. Adam and I find ourselves stopping many times throughout the day, asking ourselves, “Is this the godly response of a godly husband/wife, or is this the worldly response to a snake in the tree?” I have done things—made mistakes—that made Adam feel like I didn’t trust him. Some of them tore him up badly enough that he would shut down, not wanting to try anymore. And he has said things—made mistakes—that made me feel like who I was wasn’t worth trying to lead. It would make me bitter and resentful, and very reluctant to be his help-mate. Sometimes, it’s all enough to make us want to throw in the towel; fall into what is easy and be done with it all. How do we even know this biblical marital hierarchy thing even works?

How do we really know that it’s vital that a man lead, and that his wife follows him?

I’ll tell you how. Because the men of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne have lived it, and proven that it works. Let me show you what I mean.

wwii soldier

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In episode 7, “The Breaking Point,” First Sergeant Lipton does a voice-over, explaining that he has frequently been asked by his superiors and the men beneath him, “Where is Lieutenant Dike?” Lieutenant Dike had been given command of E-Company—meaning he is given orders, and it is his responsibility to ensure that all of E-Company carries them out. However, Lieutenant Dike is often hard to find, taking walks in the woods or “making calls.”

First Sergeant Lipton is the next in command. He is below Lieutenant Dike, but is still in a leadership position. He states in the first few minutes of the episode that Lieutenant Dike “…wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions; he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.” Due to a tragic accident, one of the men in the company loses his life, and Lipton reports it himself to Captains Winters and Nixon, who are curious as to why the commanding officer is not reporting it to them instead.

How many of you know of a man like this? How many of you had him for a father? How many of you dated him? How many of you married him? In the paraphrased words of Pastor Mark Driscoll, “The question isn’t whether [your husband] is a leader. He is a leader. The question is whether he is a good one, or a bad one.” Biblically, men are to be the head of the household, but our society is breeding generations of Lieutenant Dikes; men who may help create a family, but have no hand in the emotional and spiritual upbringing of their children. Men who maybe go to work, but come home and sit in a recliner in front of the television while the kids run rampant, and Mom, who has spent the day working herself, is left to run the house because…well…somebody has to. As a result, the family is not united. Dad sits and does his thing, Mom lets the kids get away with bad behavior because she is simply too exhausted to discipline them only to be undermined and unsupported. Or maybe she corrects them by seeking control of everything because there is no structure, then gets frustrated and yells because the children, modeling their father, do not respect her. There is no glue to keep the family moving as a unit; just a bunch of individuals who live under the same roof.

Despite his misgivings, Lipton is required by rank and honor to support Dike. He is not oblivious to Dike’s poor leadership, nor is he unaware of the men’s waning faith in their commanding officer. At one point, he overhears some of them, huddled around a campfire and talking amongst themselves about Lieutenant Dike, and Lipton can hear the dissension in their discussion. Though we, as the viewers, know Lipton’s opinion of Dike, he does something surprising here. He sits down with them, and casually mentions how difficult it must be for Dike, a man who had been placed from the outside, to assume the position of commanding officer over a group of men who had been fighting and dying together for two years. The men snort and chuckle amongst one another, though they get the point—he is still their leader, and he should be respected as such. Lipton leaves, and the men begin to discuss something else.

Lipton does something here that most women wouldn’t have the grace for toward a husband like Dike. Lipton is trying to maintain some kind of morale and unity among the men. He knows the danger of having a bunch of loose cannons on a battlefield rather than a unified group. This is why the role of a mother and wife is imperative to the family unit. Our husbands are going to have their weak moments; some of our husbands aren’t even good leaders to begin with. But a family that is not united is more likely to fall to temptations, to sin, and ultimately, to deterioration. In this case, Lipton is respecting the rank, though he may not respect the man. Biblically, this is what we are called to do for our husbands when he may not be making the most godly decisions for the family.

We continue to see instances where Dike is missing, or beating around the bush about questions regarding the men’s duties. At one point, the Germans begin a heavy assault against the Americans who are merely trying to maintain the line. Lipton and the others hunker down in their foxholes for protection. When the barrage appears to have ended (or at least slowed down), Lipton peers over the edge of his foxhole to see Luz, one of the men in E-Company, and asks if he is okay. Dike suddenly rushes up beside Lipton, saying, “First Sergeant Lipton, you keep things organized here. I’m going to go for help.” Lipton doesn’t reply, though Luz makes a colorful comment that shows his own astonishment at the commanding officer’s dash. We can tell this is not at all encouraging to their faith in Dike’s leadership abilities.

Later, Lipton overhears Luz recounting the incident to the other men (Luz, who is a master at imitations, has the group roaring with laughter out of disbelief). Lipton pulls him aside, praising his talent for imitation before asking Luz not to tell anyone else about what Lieutenant Dike said to him.

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iStockphoto

How many men have you known who shirk responsibility, passing it on to their wives to worry about her fulfilling her role as well as his? Once again though, here we see Lipton respecting the rank, or office, though he has no respect for the man. As women, if we know that our husbands are fundamentally good, when we see selfish actions, we may show grace regarding him out of hope that it is an isolated incident. But some of us find ourselves in predicaments such as this, where we know those selfish habits are recurrent. Still, just as is required of a First Sergeant to his commanding Lieutenant, the Bible says that we must respect the “office” of husband—the head of our household—even if we don’t respect the man.

The Germans begin to retreat, and the men know it is only a matter of time before they are told to conquer the next town. It is at this time that Lipton takes a risk, confessing to Captain Winters that while he has all the faith in the world in the men, he has none for Lieutenant Dike’s leadership. He tells Winters that he believes Dike is going to get a lot of men in E-Company killed. He also says that while Dike is physically present, he isn’t “there”. Winters listens, but there is nothing he can do about the situation as of yet. Lipton returns, knowing that the reservations of a First Sergeant aren’t enough to have Dike reassigned.

To me, Lipton going to Winters is the equivalent of a wife seeking counsel from God, or a pastor, or in a totally worse scenario, the law. Lipton is asking for help from a higher power, someone who has the ability to speak wisdom or instruction to a disappointing Lieutenant Dike. Still, the efforts Lipton has gone to in order to keep from expressing his concerns to the men is honorable. As much as Dike’s failure at leadership is a disaster, discord within the ranks—or in our case, the home—would be much worse. Lipton has taken the burden upon himself, though he is trying to find a way to fix the situation. How many of us, in a moment of weakness, speak disrespectfully about our husbands in front of our children? To other family members? How frustrating and difficult is it to live with, try to raise children with a man who is physically there, but isn’t there emotionally or spiritually? It often feels like a hopeless battle, a burden we carry alone.

Sure enough, the Americans begin an invasion on the German-held town of Foy. Winters instructs Dike to take E-Company directly into the town and meet up with I-Company to keep the Germans from retreating. Winters tells Dike to get the men (E-Company) in there fast, before the Germans have time to bring their mortars and artillery down on them. Winters then says, “I’m relying on you. Get it done.” As Winters walks off, we see Dike give a lackadaisical yawn.

[I think it’s] D-Company provides “suppressing” fire as E-Company moves in. However, it becomes evident very quickly that Dike is confused in the chaos, asking where [2nd Lt.] Foley is, where First Platoon is. In contradiction to Captain Winters’ orders, Dike then cries out for the men to fall back. The scene is shifted back to a running Lipton who calls out, “Keep moving!” This moment of indecisiveness causes the men to hold up where they are, most stopping mid-run, even out in the open. We see Captain Winters cry out, “Will you move?!”, though Dike is only concerned about getting Foley on the radio. Winters continues yelling at them to move, and Lipton instructs the men to find cover. Dike hides behind a haystack with Luz and the radio. Reaching Foley, Dike screams at Foley to get himself and his men out to where Dike can see them. A couple of Foley’s men begin to move while Dike screams out, “Fall back! Fall back!” We keep seeing both Winters’ and Lipton’s desperate frustration, knowing how vulnerable the rest of the men are to German artillery and how essential it is that Foy is taken. We get a visual of Dike’s disorientation as men surround him, asking why they’ve stopped, asking what to do next, asking what the plan is, Luz insisting he take a radio call from Captain Winters. Finally, Dike blurts out for Foley to take his men on a “flanking” mission around the town to attack the Germans from the rear. When Foley expresses skepticism of this order, Dike snaps back, “We will provide suppressing fire!” while Lipton declares that they can’t stay where they are behind the haystack. Foley is concerned at how exposed he and his men will be, but Dike smacks his knee screaming again, “We will provide suppressing fire!”

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iStockphoto

Firstly, this makes me think of the situation a lot of women find themselves in. How do we let a man with selfish motives lead our households? How do we follow him into battle when we know he has not consulted God first? This is what happens. The one who is supposed to lead backs out as a result of cowardice, leaving his children and wife susceptible to attack and sin to fill his empty role. Dike tries to pretend like he’s got things under control by ordering the men to flank the Germans’ position, but we can all see that he is just desperate to get out of the situation. He is giving no thought to how this will imperil his men. He is thinking of how to save himself. That is the downfall of our family unit. When the husband—our head of household—is faint of heart, hiding behind a haystack, sending his children and wife out to fend for themselves under his selfish, misguided instructions, if he gives any at all. Dike is a male; he is not a man.

Foley follows Dike’s directions, his men getting shot out in the open. We see Captain Winters’ disbelief as the men get picked off one by one. Even with Dike’s “suppressing fire”, the “flanking” mission is a complete and utter disaster. Lipton yells at Dike, saying that the E-Company men are sitting ducks and that they have to keep moving as Winters had ordered, but Dike doesn’t respond or move.

Winters starts to rush out and fight with the men he’d fought with for the past two years, but his commanding officer reminds him that he is the battalion commander. Infuriated and fearing for the lives of his men, Winters calls out for Captain Ronald Speirs. He orders Speirs to relieve Dike and commissions him with taking the attack into the city.

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Captain Speirs. Captain Ronald. Freaking. Speirs. Let’s see what a difference a man who leads can make to a disconnected family.

Speirs finds Dike behind the haystack, informing him that he is taking over the attack. Lipton quickly informs Speirs of the locations of the men, telling him that First Platoon (Foley’s men) tried to flank the Germans but are too stretched out and pinned down by a sniper. Speirs is commanding, telling Lipton to have First Platoon abandon the flanking mission and for all the others to follow him in. Lipton, of course, consents.

At this point, Speirs is known throughout the battalion as a (pardon-my-language-but-there-is-no-more-appropriate-word) badass. He is the kind of man that makes decisions. He is the kind of man who is easy to follow. He is the kind of man who leads.

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iStockphoto

At last, the men are able to sprint forward while shots and mortar shells are lobbed from both sides. Speirs and Lipton are pinned behind a building, and the German infantry and a tank only a few yards away are aware of their presence. Speirs and Lipton know I-Company is supposed to be just on the other side of the Germans, and Speirs asks if Lipton can see them [I-Company]. Lipton tells Speirs he thinks E-Company needs to pull back, because if E-Company can’t connect with I-Company, the Germans are going to get away.

And then, this happens. Speirs tells Lipton to wait where he is. Lipton and another officer close by are both shocked when Speirs runs out from the protection of the building…straight…for…the Germans. The man runs straight through the German infantry. Lipton’s voiceover tells us that, “At first the Germans didn’t shoot at him. I think they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing.”

But this wasn’t even the best part. After Speirs made it past the Germans and hooked up with I-Company…he came back; he braved a return trip straight through the enemy. We see Lipton smile, and the next scene is of the Americans making a video, taking German prisoners and celebrating in their seizing the town.

WHAT!? WHAAATT?! Now, this guy is a leader. This is the kind of guy every woman dreams of calling hers, and I would assume every guy dreams of being; a man who knows how to take charge and lead; a man who knows how to take care of his wife and family, whether it be by emotional, physical or spiritual means. A man who would selflessly risk his life, perhaps even lay it down, if it meant protecting his family, whether it be from a physical, emotional or spiritual threat. Speirs gave absolutely no thought to his own life. E-Company needed to connect with I-Company so they could work together to overcome the Germans. It needed to happen. And, being a real leader, he made sure it did.

Do you want to know why I love this story so much? Do you want to know how I know that God knows what He’s talking about, when He says it is my duty as a wife to reinforce my husband’s role as head of household? This is why.

“But, Stephanie,” you say, “this is a TV show. You’re saying Captain Speirs’ action is a metaphor for a husband’s leadership role!”

Nope. Captain Badass Speirs was a real man. This is a documented, real-life incident where the concept of good leadership was applied and it saved lives and kept a band of men united.

This gives me hope. This makes me excited. This shows me that it has been done, and it can be done again.

I understand that a common argument to this concept is that, this mindset in a marriage makes the husband and wife unequal. I personally do not agree. My view is similar to the ranking in the military. Speirs was no more important than Lipton; the difference was that Speirs had been given the leadership position. Imagine how much worse the situation could have gotten if Lipton had tried to take over, not knowing that Winters had already called Speirs in. It would have turned into a massacre with the men not knowing who to listen to. Submission to my husband is not because he’s necessarily smarter or better than me; it’s a conscious decision to trust God, and to trust that my husband is consulting God in decisions that affect our family. At the end of the day, you can bet that Dike had to answer to Winters for his failure to lead, because that was the position given to him—he failed in following orders to minimize the damage that would be incurred on his men. The big picture, ladies, is that God is going to look at your husband someday—whether he was a good leader or a bad leader—and hold him accountable for the way your family turned out. Personally, that terrifies me for my husband, and it makes me want to help him in every way I can.

And guess what? You can bet that your efforts, and mine—like First Sergeant Lipton’s—will not go unappreciated or unnoticed.

First Sergeant Lipton: “Sir? These…these men aren’t really concerned about the stories. They’re just glad to have you as our CO. They’re happy to have a good leader again.”

Captain Speirs: “Well, from what I’ve heard, they’ve always had one. I’ve been told there’s always been one man they can count on. Led them into the Bois Jacques, held them together when they had the crap shelled out of them in the woods. Every day, he kept their spirits up, kept the men focused, gave ’em direction… all the things a good combat leader does. ::pauses:: You don’t have any idea who I’m talking about, do you?”

First Sergeant Lipton: “No, sir.”

Captain Speirs: “Hell, it was you, First Sergeant. Ever since Winters made Battalion, you’ve been the leader of Easy Company…”

Whether Lieutenant Dike was the commanding officer, or Captain Speirs, Lipton was still a leader, too. Whether your husband is a bad leader or a good leader, you will still be a leader to your children. In fact, if he’s a leader “who makes no decisions”, you’re the only person your children have to turn to. Lipton was the glue that kept E-Company from falling apart in the midst of a bad leader. But this was not because Lipton was calling the shots; Lipton still followed the orders of the battalion leader, just the way we still obey God even if our husbands do not.

We are in the midst of a war—a war that cannot be seen but by those who believe. The one who sought to destroy Jesus Christ seeks to destroy us today, and you can bet that his primary mission is to demolish godly marriages from the ground up and annihilate us on the way down. Marriage itself is an allegory for God Himself; the husband represents His warrior self, while the wife represents His heart and loving self. The act of lovemaking within the bounds of marriage is symbolic of His desire to discover us, and our heart’s cry to be sought out and discovered by Him. Of course Satan wants to distort that. Of course he wants to change it, blur the lines, pervert it into something it was never supposed to be.

Everyday, Adam is working on his inner Captain Speirs; being a fearless leader who prays for his family, who takes responsibility for his family, who loves, protects and sacrifices for his family. Everyday, I’m working on my inner First Sergeant Lipton; trusting and supporting my leader, enforcing his rules for our family, voicing my concerns but accepting when he chooses a different path for our family, because as my husband, he has made a covenant with God to answer for the path our family takes.

Looks like I got those combat boots, the dirty uniform and upright mission after all.

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