Dan on Roles, Leadership, and Supporting Your Partner

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

This afternoon I’m thrilled to introduce you to my amazing husband Dan. Dan is a loyal friend, a wise and supportive partner, an entrepreneur, a videographer, and a professional out-of-the-box thinker. He’s also one of the most creative, funny, and intelligent people I’ve ever met (though I suppose I’m a bit biased). You can thank Dan for the fact that this Web site exists and runs so smoothly, as he’s the one who works behind-the-scenes to keep all my technology afloat. Some things I respect most about Dan include his uncompromising integrity, his seemingly natural inclination to "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep," and his ability to identify obscure actors in movies without checking IMDB. 

Earlier today, we examined the concept of submission in the context of Peter and Paul’s Christian remix of the Greco-Roman household codes. This afternoon, Dan shares a little about what a pattern of mutual submission looks like in our marriage.  Last year, during the infamous “year of biblical womanhood,” Dan kept a journal. The following post is adapted from an excerpt he wrote during the last month of the project.  (You’ll be able to read more from his journal when the book comes out!)




Recently, my mom made note of how proud she was that I’m able to support Rachel in her successful career, something she said that  “many men couldn’t do.” 

When viewed in the context of the yearlong "Biblical Womanhood" project, it highlighted a strange absurdity. During the experiment, I acted as the hierarchical leader of our relationship, but at the same time, I continued to play a supporting role in Rachel’s career. At first, I didn’t know how to respond to my Mom's compliment other than, "Thanks Mom." But after processing it a bit, trying to resolve my cognitive dissonance, it hit me: 

Our roles aren't static. Our roles change depending on context. 

At its core, (yearlong projects aside), my relationship with Rachel isn’t a hierarchy; it’s a partnership.  What kind of person doesn’t want success for their partner? A weak, insecure, person.  What kind of man doesn’t want success for his wife? A weak, insecure man. 

I’m not supporting Rachel like a passive piling supports a dock. I’m supporting her like the Saturn V supported Apollo 11. I want her to succeed in her pursuits, and will do everything in my power to make it happen. And she wants the same for me.

When I’m working on a film project, who’s taking the supporting role and feeding everyone? Rachel. When I took a year to buy, renovate and sell an investment property, who supported me throughout? Rachel. When Rachel’s working to finish a writing project by deadline, who’s supporting her by keeping the house clean and the laundry done? Me. Our life decisions are made in tandem. We’re the ones leading our lives. We aren't battling over who's leading who.

To be “a leader” is meaningless without contextA leader of what? 

Too many of us have succumbed to the idea that “leaders” are a specific type of people or that “leadership” is a character quality to be obtained like political capital - the more the better. But I view leadership differently. Leadership isn’t a goal. Leadership is a role that comes and goes.Wisdom and strength are what we should pursue. Not leadership. 

In the context of roles, wisdom is discerning when to lead, and strength comes from consistently practicing wisdom. Leadership is a role that changes hands depending on context. In that light, it's important to learn how to lead, not because you want to be “a leader”, but because when wisdom and strength have placed you in a position of leadership, you don’t want to screw it up.


What do you think? What does "leadership" look like in your marriage and relationships? What about "support"?  Are they static positions you hold or versatile roles that you play? 


This is the fourth
 post in our series, One In Christ: A Week of Mutuality, dedicated to discussing an egalitarian view of gender—including relevant biblical texts and practical applications.  The goal is to show how scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all support a posture of equality toward women, one that favors mutuality rather than hierarchy, in the home, Church, and society. Morning posts will generally focus on biblical texts. Afternoon posts will generally focus on practical application

To participate in the Week of Mutuality synchroblog: 

1.  Write a post around the theme of mutuality in the Church, home, and world. 
2. Share your post on Twitter using #mutuality2012, and it will show up in the live scroll here on the blog.
3. To be considered for Mutuality Week’s Sunday Superlatives, submit your post here.

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