I started writing this in my head a while ago. I began typing it up at my desktop the other day. And most recently, I had a phone conversation with one of my dearest best friends, Jess, which lead me to finish it up… because I have a feeling some girl out there needs to hear it.
I’ve written openly about my past, who I was, my present, who I am now, and I have to tell you something.
I’ve gone from one extreme to another and am finally finding my way somewhere back near the middle. It feels right. Dare I say, holy.
I’m talking about my husband being a spiritual leader.
I grew up in a divorced home with a single mom who, because of her own upbringing, engrained in me over and over again: thou shalt never be dependent on a man.
Now, before you attack my mom or think I’m blaming my issues on her, pause and hear me out. Better yet, read this from start to finish and don’t just skim.
My mom is one of the closest people I have. Like many kids, I am bias and will tell you that my mom is the best. I really do believe it, too. I will defend her to the death. (Don’t even try me.)
For many good reasons, she instilled in me at an early age not to depend on a man. I watched her do it all and decided I was going to be independent, just like her. Heck, I even decided, at one point, that I didn’t ever want to get married. (It takes me two hands and two feet to count up the divorces that have happened in my family. Can you blame me?)
My once “never depend on a man” mentality turned into “men are all disgusting and stupid” as I watched infidelity and boredom ruin countless marriages.
Disclaimer for the person who wants to argue: I am not saying that men are the only ones who have affairs or make stupid mistakes. I am sharing my perspective on life as it has happened. In my own little world growing up, it was men who were cheating, lying, disappointing, and not showing up. Time and time again. So yes, I’d harbored some bitterness towards them.
Oddly though, as many of you have already gathered, I wound up a boy crazy high-schooler, craving male attention and affirmation more than anything. However, I still didn’t trust men. No relationship can be built on distrust, which is the simplest explanation for why all of my dating relationships failed and had dramatic endings.
So, there I lived for a while in one extreme: Miss I-can-do-anything-without-a-man. Who needs ’em?
Flashback to four years ago and I was becoming a different person. Reluctant and hesitant, yet trusting God when He said I was safe to let my walls come down, I began dating Eric Lee Carpenter. I’ll never forget the day E looked me in the eyes and said, “Manda Sue, I won’t allow you to disrespect me. There is no excuse for it.” Hot dang it was sexy! (But also annoying.) Who does he think he is?
Through my developing relationship with Jesus, my romantic relationship with E, and friendship with some amazing Godly women, things began to change. Fast-forward the clock one year and I was a completely different person. There was a swing from one extreme to another.
The new extreme: I respect my boyfriend (and later fiancé, now husband) and I not only respect, but need, him to be the spiritual leader in our relationship.
That’s what my faith told me at least: the man must be a spiritual leader.
Whoa. Some MAJOR heart change had occurred over those years, clearly. For me to go all of the way from being a man belittler to a wife who adores her husband and wants to see him lead us spiritually, was something I can only attribute to God’s miraculous work in my life.
I thank God every day for E because he has lead me to a such a deep relationship with Christ. He was strong in his faith when I was weak in mine. He was stable when I was unstable and mature when I was immature. He asked hard questions, called me out on my crap, held me accountable, and showed me grace.
Truthfully, I’ve never seen Jesus more here on Earth than I do through my own husband. I’m not kidding. This guy lives his life to LOVE PEOPLE. Ok ok, enough of that sap.
E was the only spiritual leader for us for so long, until something changed.
What excites me most is this part. The part where I get to tell you about my slow, thoughtful, prayer-filled walk towards the middle. (No extreme swing involved.)
You see, I’m not saying that a husband can’t or shouldn’t be a spiritual leader. So please don’t misconstrue my words.
It’s just that now I believe that a woman (and a wife) can also be a spiritual leader. And that she should!
At first this inkling appeared on my heart when unexpectedly during our first year of marriage, E was in a really interesting season in which he was going through some doubts and studying all kinds of religions to educate himself and determine his own beliefs once and for all.
I was used to him challenging me, initiating prayer together, and setting the alarm for church. I was used to relying on him for my spiritual life to flourish.
Suddenly, he was challenging me, but it wasn’t the same. He would pray with me, but I had to step up and ask for it. He would go to church with me, but in the midst of his journey to rediscovering his faith, he wasn’t sure which church would be a good fit.
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a hard thing for us to walk through. Oh man was it hard. I cried a lot over it.
But looking back, I am so grateful that E went through this phase of his life when he did; with me, as his wife, by his side.
I’m so glad that it gave me the opportunity to step up as a spiritual leader. Not even for us, but for me.
I don’t need a man or a husband or anyone to ensure that my spiritual life is deepening.
And neither do you, sister.
Here I am now, walking towards middle ground between my two extremes. The landing spot seems holy.
If something happens to E, my spiritual life will not crumble. If he looses his way or faces an attack, I don’t need to step up and be the leader because I already am one. If we have kids someday, they will see both of their parents chasing after The Lord and leading in a beautiful way that I think God smiles on.
Today, E and I still share the same faith. We worship the same God. We do our best to emulate the character of Jesus. We hold each other accountable. And we’ll both tell you, we are teammates in this marriage and we are leaders together.
Rise up, ladies. You are meant to be a (spiritual) leader, too.
*E and I modeled for a styled wedding shoot & these images are by Arielle Peters Photography. The details of the shoot are here:
Photography Arielle Peters Photography
Planning & Coordination My Simple Soirée
Rentals A Party Apart
Table Helm Woodcraft
Hair & Makeup Something Blue Stylists
Hairpiece & Jewelry Hair Comes the Bride
Suit Male Fashions
Rings Trumpet & Horn
Ring Box The Mrs. Box
Florals Rose’s Bouquets
Cake Sassie Cakes
Ribbon & Gauze Table Runner Adorn Company
Stationary Kelsey Malie Calligraphy
Models Eric and Amanda Carpenter
Venue Blue Barn Berry Farm
Styling Abbitt Collective