Knowing Your Identity as a Husband
by Dave Willis
There are a few watershed moments in a man’s life. These are moments that mark a turning point in his journey and possibly even a shift in his identity. The day he is born, learns to walk, becomes a brother, the day he graduates, marries, becomes a dad, the day he turns fifty and has to get his first prostate exam (I’ve been dreading that day all my life), the day he retires, and the list goes on. To varying degrees, there are many other turning point moments in a man’s life.
For many men, I believe there’s a tendency for us to measure our identity in fairly superficial terms. When one man meets another, one of the first questions asked is almost always, “So, what do you do?”
It’s a question of career and vocation. Sure, it’s good small talk and can give you some instant reference points for what another guy is doing forty or more hours a week. Still, I think it speaks to void in the male soul where so many of us are striving to prove ourselves and define ourselves by “winning” at work. We tend to put way too much stock into our job titles and bank accounts. In the scope of eternity, those accolades are fleeting.
As it relates to marriage, I believe there’s a tendency for some men to view their identity as a husband in a negative light. It’s something that pulls them away from their work/career identity. Marriage and kids compete with their career for time and attention. Marriage can even have locker room connotations of being a killer of freedom and masculinity (the “old ball and chain” etc.).
Some men can wrongly feel like marriage marks the end of manhood instead of the ultimate realization of manhood. Some men have sadly seen their marriage as a necessary social contract which is the cost of doing business in order to have a family and the respect of the community. This broken mindset is so misguided.
I know I’m talking in extremes here, and while most guys might not struggle with these “identity crisis” feelings related to marriage, I believe most honest men would admit to struggling with some of these thoughts. Even if a man wholeheartedly loves his wife and kids, there can still be moments when he might feel like family life is stealing his manhood instead of building it. Many modern men are suffering from an identity crisis.
Before I get to the solution, let me say something else about the problem. Most guys want to be good husbands and dads. We’re wired for competition and adventure, and those masculine desires can often feel like they’re working against us in family life or they can become an unhealthy outlet where dads get far too obsessed with their children’s sports and end up harming the kids in the process.
We want to be honorable men, but our visions of manhood involve heroic battles, epic adventures and dangerous challenges. We’re just not sure how to be a man who does those things in the context of being a husband and dad, so we often believe the lie that family life is a lesser version of manhood.
Here’s the truth, there’s no higher calling for a man’s life than to be a husband and a dad if a man is willing to give his family the place of priority they deserve. There’s no more epic adventure than to lead and to love your family. We merely need to reimagine our limited definitions of “manhood” and embrace the beautiful identity God has for us in a relationship with Christ and within our marriage and family relationships as well.
If you want a healthy identity and the adventurous life God has in store for you, then the cornerstone of your identity must be Christ himself. Your relationship with Him; adopted into the family of God through grace is the foundation of the life He has for you. Next, your role as a husband and then as a father must take precedence over any other title or pursuit. Anything we pursue at the expense of these core relationships will prove to be wasted time and effort.
Love your family more than you love your career, money or hobbies. That other stuff can’t love you back!
As for your need for adventure, once you sweep away the stereotypical and superficial ideas of what masculine experiences can be, you will soon see that life’s most meaningful adventures are the ones you share with your wife and with your family. Create moments together. Free yourself from the trap of feeling like you have to compete with other people’s social media highlight reels or fictional action movies and be fully present in everyday moments with the people who love you the most.
Pray together as a married couple and ask God to reveal the unique adventures He has in store for your marriage and your family. I firmly believe God wants to invite you into an adventure with Him that will require courage and sacrifice and will get your blood pumping. God’s adventures aren’t only to give an adrenaline rush. He wants to help you see the unique calling placed on your marriage to change the world together.
Your adventure might be adopting a kid or serving together as a family at a local outreach center or coaching a youth sports team or starting a new ministry in your church or moving overseas to pursue your calling there. His plan will probably be a combination of many different adventures through all life’s seasons if you’ll fully embrace the season you’re in.
Whatever the adventure God has for you, don’t waste time thinking about what you could be doing instead. A life surrendered to God’s plan will prove to be the best life, the best identity and the best marriage a man could ever find.