Today, I’m starting something new – a series of guest posts centered around the subject of gender roles in the church and family. I’m not going it alone though. I’ve asked some fantastic guests to help me out. The series will conclude with a big book giveaway (well, the giveaway is big, not necessarily the book). To kick things off, I’m featuring Sonny Lemmons. At the birth of their child, Sonny committed “career suicide” by becoming a stay at home dad. Worse, in the eyes of many in the church, he abandoned his God-given duty to go to work and earn a paycheck. So, is Sonny a “man fail” for taking care of his kids?
There are many things I’ve received over the past three years from strangers once they discover I am a stay-at-home dad: high fives, smiles of approval, and the occasional cup of coffee or cookie – all freely given by people who see me interact with or hear me tell stories about my kid. But then there are some Christians, fellow believers, who condemn me sight unseen because of how my wife and I are raising our son.
They will know we are Christians by our love. …as long as our love lines up with one interpretation of the Bible, incomplete though this interpretation may be.
Financial Vs. Emotional Costs
Like every other couple we knew that had kids, we assumed that once Ashley was off maternity leave, we would put Malakai in day care. The facility we were going to place him in was literally across the street, and we could financially afford it, although it meant almost the entirety of one of our paychecks was going to pay for extended daycare. My wife and I both worked in higher education, so “normal business hours” was a phrase that only made us laugh. It wasn’t until after we sat down and realized that emotionally we couldn’t afford to only spend maybe 2-3 waking hours a day with him that we started to rethink daycare as an option.
Turn the Heresy Up to Eleven
Because my wife’s position included a place to live as part of her compensation package, we decided that it made more sense for me to leave my job. Ashley was already making more money than I was, and it had never been an issue for us. Although some pastors and theologians believe I as a man am supposed to be THE provider, the reality is that I was simply one financial provider in our marriage. To some Christians, this already placed me behind a biblical 8-ball, failing to fulfill the spiritual obligation I held to lead in every aspect of our relationship. The fact we were going to invert our “biblical” roles as mom and dad pushed our heresy to eleven in the eyes of many.
Our families, while supportive of our decision for one of us to stay home, were taken aback that I would willingly put aside a work ethic that had me at one point literally sleeping on the couch in my office just so that I could be available in case of an emergency. One of my professors from grad school told me I was “committing professional suicide” by leaving my position, as it would leave an unexplainable gap on my resume. And then there were the voices from the church who called me a failure, or who stated I would be unwelcome in and even evicted from their congregations.
What Is a “Helper?”
But Christ stated the greatest commandment was to love God and love others, which leaves little room for putting oneself first. Many religious leaders have forgotten that although Eve is referred to as a “helper” to Adam (Genesis 2:19-20), God uses this exact same term to refer to Himself (Psalm 70:5). We have mistakenly relegated the ideas of “to care for” and “to provide for” to gender-specific roles within a relationship, forgetting we are to help one another in everything. Too many people are quick to quote Ephesians 5:22-23 as the biblical litmus test for marriage without bothering to turn back a few pages to Galatians 5:22-2 to see how they are to live out life.
By providing a positive, loving, nurturing, and at times a goofy example of what a marriage of equals can look like, I believe I am honoring my responsibility as a husband and father. I love that Malakai gets to see me tear down the altar dedicated to my career or to the expectations of me as a man. There are far too many men who contribute financially to the stability of their families and yet leave bankrupt hearts and memories in their wake as they head off to yet another weekend seminar on how to be a Godly man.
Staying home does not mean I am staying out of God’s will.
Visit Sonny at his blog, Looking Through the Windshield, but first: does the Bible tell men they must work outside the home? Dads, do you ever wish you got to see your kids more? Stay at home moms, do you ever wish you got to go to work instead of stay home?