Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Buon Giorno, Principessa! (or...Beautiful Headship)

(This music is just the right aesthetic for beautiful headship. Enjoy as you read.)

Headship is an incredible thing because God's design for the sexes is an incredible thing. When it is done badly, it is scarring. But when it is done Biblically, it is beautiful.

When our oldest child graduated from high school, Brett and I wanted to give him something meaningful, a memento he could take with him into adulthood which would remind him of who he is and where he came from and simultaneously encourage and sober him about where he was heading. We thought briefly about a purity ring, but that wasn't quite what we were after. We wanted something to remind him of who he is in Christ, and purity is merely one sub-category of maturity in Christ.

With that in mind, Brett came up with the idea of a headship ring. The concept behind this was that it would be something that would remind Zach that, no matter where he went,...
He is a sheep, and he is to be inspectable;
He will one day shepherd a household, and his job will be to inspect;
A fool spurns the covering of the local church, and a wise man treasures it;
Every choice he makes, he makes as a subject of the Great King.

When our daughter graduated, we got her a headship ring, as well. For our daughters, the concept of headship is only slightly altered.
She is a sheep, and her job is to be inspectable;
She will one day shepherd her children, even as she is shepherded by her husband;
A fool spurns the covering of her husband, and a wise woman treasures it;
Every choice she makes, she makes as a subject of the Great King.

Our third child got his ring when he graduated, too, and we hope to continue that tradition eight more times.

But something happened this summer that absolutely moved me. Brett and I were out on a date one evening, when he lamented that he did not have a headship ring. Why did that bother him? Because he didn't want his children to think that spiritual authority, inspectableness, subjection to Christ was just kid stuff...
that he, as the head of his household, was also to be under authority himself. 

That's beautiful headship.

Beautiful headship loves the local church.
He's not doing some ill-advised home-church thingy, avoiding accountability and the preaching of God's word and simply feeding his emotional, relational needs.
He shuns bad doctrine that says the church is simply where two or more believers are gathered.
He knows he is a sheep first, with failings and struggles and natural bents which dilute his impact in his family and in the kingdom.
Beautiful headship makes himself vulnerable and inspectable via human, spiritual authority. He craves the oversight of the local church and the growth it brings him.
Beautiful headship has this starting point: I am a sinner saved by grace.

Beautiful headship loves his sheep.
He invests the time it takes--and it takes a lot of time--to look at his sheep, to apply the rod and staff of God's Word. He eagerly speaks truth, coupled with a humble mercy that says, "I struggle, too" into his children's lives.
Sometimes, it looks like a conversation in the driveway after a men's meeting with the 22 year old.
Sometimes it looks like an hours-long, one-on-one dinner with the 19 year old.
Sometimes it looks like sitting on the grass by the garden with the 10 year old, instructing with plants.
Sometimes it looks like he and the 4 year old, wearing matching Crocodile Dundee hats, sitting on the back porch, and talking of the wonders of the coming baby.
Or sometimes, it looks like a stern, "You will not address my wife that way."
Or, "Go think about how loving your sister would look."
Or, "I'm taking this privilege away from you because it is dangerous for you."

Beautiful headship loves his wife and knows she is the weaker vessel.
He is not threatened by her input; he welcomes it.
He views her as his partner, not his project.
He sees her sin; he knows her back story. He exhorts her to resist responding to the imbalance of her past with imbalance in the present. And he lives with her in an understanding way.
He loves her when she is not lovable and washes her with the water of the Word.
It usually looks like, "Did I tell you I love you today?"

My favorite movie is Life is Beautiful. To me, it is the perfect illustration of beautiful headship. When a Jewish-Italian family is divided by the horror of the Holocaust, one heroic father struggles to keep them together. He protects his son, not from the Nazis, but from hating the Nazis, by hiding their hatred with a game. How interesting that the most important thing to this father was not that his son be spared evil, but that his son not return evil for evil. But he worries about his wife, who is separated from him in the women's barracks.

Then he stumbles upon a Victrola and a copy of their song. Risking Nazi retribution, he plays the song over the concentration camp loud speaker after greeting her with "Buon giorno, Principessa!" It is at once an intimate and public declaration of his commitment to his beloved. And from the women's barracks, his beloved hears and heeds his shepherding cry.

That is beautiful headship.
It is risky. It is vulnerable.
It is humbly serving and confidently leading.
It is intimate, and it is public.
It says, "I love the Lord too much, and I love you too much to not lead."

This Father's Day, we presented Brett with his own headship ring, one that looks just like the ones we give our sons. As they presented it, my 12 year old read this to him:
Dear Dad,
All of our lives, it has been made abundantly clear to us, your children, that we are always held accountable for our actions. Ideas have consequences: good ideas have good consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences. You have shown us that when we do something wrong, you are quick to discipline but then quick to forgive. Likewise, when we do something well, you are quick to encourage.
Headship is a firmly established office in our house. It is apparent to us, your children, that you model Christ well, representing His character with distinct clarity. Due to this, by training us to trust that you will do what you say, you have taught us to trust that God, our heavenly Father, will carry out what He says He will do, and this is what a good earthly father will do.
Matthew 8:1-10 declares the faith of the Roman centurion. A typical centurion is responsible for the care of anywhere from 80 to 1,000 men. He was a high-ranking official, with men who had to answer to him; however, he understood that he himself was not without accountability. He had to learn to trust that the official he answered to would take care of him and would take that responsibility seriously.  He had no choice other than to put his faith in such a man. Matthew 8:10 says, "When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 'Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.' "
Dad, you have shown us the meaning of headship and what it looks like. You have shown us that you are going to take care of us, looking out for both our physical and spiritual needs.
Because of your exemplary representation of God the Father in our lives, we present to you your own headship ring as a reminder to both you and us, your children, of the One who we all really answer to.
I live in the house where Beautiful Headship lives.
The same man who cries "Buon giorno, Principessa!" over the loud speaker that everyone hears is the same man who whispers, "Did I tell you I love you today?" while I'm cooking dinner.
This is the man who told me, after he had his ring for a few days, "Man, this ring is heavy!"
"Does it bother you?" I asked.
He said, "The weight reminds me of this awesome responsibility I have to God and to my family. It is a heavy thing."

It is a heavy thing; I don't envy his responsibility.
That is the stuff of headship.
And soberly embracing that weight is beautiful headship.

Oh, that all women and children could know a headship that is beautiful.

But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes and to another, 'Come,' and he comes and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith" Matthew 8:8-10 

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