Verb (used with object), led, leading
1. to go before or with, to show the way
2. to guide in direction, course, action
Frequently heard in female Christian circles. Typically accompanied by the phrases “pursue,” “guard my heart,” or “coffee and the Word.”
Oh, leadership. It’s quite the topic of conversation these days. We love to critique leadership, read about it, study it, or even host entire seminars about what it means to really be a leader. Everyone seems to be an expert and there's a lot of leadership noise out there.
And I am no different. In fact, my friends and I love talking about leadership. Move aside Martin Luther, the average female postgrad has 95 Theses on the subject and we’re bound to post them anywhere people will let us. We've got 95 Theses and...ok never mind.
As women we love talking about male leadership.
Especially as milennials who grew up in a Christian context we’ve got some pretty strong opinions on the subject. One of our favorite questions to very knowingly ask in our whisper voices with concerned look on our faces- the furrowed brows and the pursed lips- as we lean in and pour ourselves another glass of wine.
“But is he leading you?”
It’s our favorite and most frequented topic. When one of our sisters finds a new man friend we’re armed with a series of customary actions typically consisting of an obligatory Facebook stalk followed by hearing the story of how they met. Then, inevitably, someone drops the “L” bomb and asks if our dear friend is being led. The room grows quiet as we all anxiously await her answer.
For some reason or another we all seem relatively satisfied by the answer we receive. She’ll rattle off some details about how he prays before meals or something and we let out a collective sigh of relief and move on to juicier topics.
If we don’t hear the typical answers we grow worried. We start wondering if she should guard her heart. We begin to probe a little deeper and voice our concerns about her state of affairs. Surely there’s someone out there more spiritually fit and capable of leading her to the Promised Land of marriage. Out of genuine love and concern we convince her that maybe it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. Gently and quietly we urge her in another direction. We casually drop hints about our other single guy friends who we’ve heard pray out loud or saw on a mission trip. Eventually we convince her to end things because life is too short not to be led.
But I think we have unrealistic expectations about male leadership.
For some reason or another we want to marry a pastor. If we’ve grown up in a Christian context we have some pretty lofty and unreachable goals when it comes to what it should look like for a man to lead us. We want someone who journals and talks about his feelings, but also happens to be a lumberjack and drink whiskey and yet still manage to feed the homeless in his spare time. He’s supposed to facilitate Bible studies and constantly remind us of how beautiful we look, all while throwing a football in one hand and cradling a baby in the other. We want dissertations on theological doctrine and we want him to be well versed in eschatology. He should also drive a white horse and slay a lot of dragons and polish his shiny Armor of God.
And trust me, I totally get it, there’s been a long era of male passivity going all the way back to Adam and Eve. There are a lot of guys living in their mom’s basement playing video games hoping to marry the female versions of themselves. They want a girl who will play FIFA and eat pizza and not make them grow up.
But somewhere along the line I think we rejected the stereotypical “man child” and created a false and idealistic version of what it means for a man to lead a woman.
I’m afraid that as much as guys want to marry the female FIFA-playing version of themselves maybe we want to marry the male version of ourselves too. We want all of the emotions and the protection and the pursuit and the leadership neatly packaged with a beard and a flannel shirt.
If I’m honest I’m afraid I’ve prematurely ended relationships in the self-righteous name of not “being led” by guys.
But by the very definition of leadership I should be with someone who excels where I’m lacking. Leadership means guiding me in the places where I can’t guide myself. It doesn’t mean praying before meals or having a leather-bound journal. Real genuine leadership involves strength to compliment my weaknesses.
And at the end of the day I’m very weak. I’m really bad at loving my family, the worst honestly. I’m an “out of sight out of mind” type of girl and my mom and brother live far away. Pursuing relationships with them is not my strong suit. Want to know where else I royally suck? Service. The odds of me dropping anything for anyone anytime are literally microscopic. If your needs interfere with my plans odds are I won’t be lifting a finger. All of my friends better hope to never get a flat tire during the season finale of The Amazing Race because it’s just not happening.
I don’t think we need to lower our expectations for guys.
No, not at all. But I do think maybe it’s time we shifted our focus on what it means to truly lead.
At the end of the day I don’t want a guy with the loudest and most eloquent prayers. I want someone who will make me better. Someone who will teach me to love others the way they deserve to be loved. I need a man who will model humility and excellence in the places where I can’t seem to get it together. I need someone who will pull up alongside me and gently say, “I think I can help you there” and will allow me to do the same for him sometimes. Ultimately I need a more robust and complete picture of Christ both in myself and in the man I date. That holistic approach only comes if I'm with someone who can show me how to look like Jesus in the places where I simply don't, or can't, or won't.
It takes two to tango and I want to dance with someone who guide me towards what's important, not what's popular or what's conventional.
And we'll need to dance in a rhythm of grace.