I'm keen to know how you work 'mutual submission' out.
The particular challenge related to decision making in response to God's call.
I am concerned though that it might be seen as a cop out situation. After all major life decisions about responding to God's call don't tend to come around everyday.
So this post is more about how we work out decisions in ordinary life.
Again the same ground rules apply.
First, the framing of the question is important, so something like:
How does decision making work in general life for a married couple who see each other as equals without fixed roles defined by gender.
Second, I am certain that every couple will have their own way of doing this. The way that Jane and I do things won't be right for everyone, what works for us comes from our personalities, particular gifts & experiences, our family backgrounds, culture etc. So this is not a set of instructions for how others should make their decisions but instead reflections on what works for us.
Third, this is inevitably neither complete nor accurate. We don't have a fixed decision making process, things have evolved over time and circumstances vary. One of the beauties for us is the flexibility that equality gives – decisions don't have to wait for the "right" person, the one with authority.
Anyway given all the caveats, how do we make decisions?
Now we get to the hard part. I have spent a good part of the evening thinking about that and in one sense I am a bit stumped.
How we approach things is generally straightforward, we talk about them and we plan them. We involve our sons in many decisions (like obvious ones such as where we go on holiday, which appointments for ministers go on the short list, choosing a car).
But when it comes to the actual decision it just isn't very clear. I think that we just reach a point where one says to the other "Ok shall we decide to do X" and the other says "ok". It is definitely not always the same person and sometimes if things are tight for time or one of us is eager we just go ahead and decide for us both (again I can think of many examples when each of us has done this). We don't really have many areas where one of us always makes the decision. Certainly we always share decisions in major areas like finance, home, education, holidays etc.
I guess when it comes down to it the whole thing hinges on the related issues of mutual submission & mutual trust. I know that both Jane and I are comfortable with the other making decisions, I know that we both trust the other completely in both making decisions but also in discussing with us. We know that the other is always looking out for us so we don't need to worry about whether we have been "consulted" or not. Does that mean the other would always make the same decision as we would – of course not, but that just isn't important to us.
I look back over 23 years of marriage and I can't think of decisions that Jane has made that I am unhappy with, I can't think of things that I wished I had been consulted on. Maybe we discuss more things than I am always interested in (I would be quite happy to abdicate from all decisions about gardening for example) but on the other hand the bonus is that I enjoy Jane's company and enjoy talking with her.
When things have gone wrong (and of course they have) there has not once been a situation where one of us has blamed the other for a decision.
We had a major financial crisis after we had been married a few years that was caused by a combination of falling house prices leaving us with lots of negative equity (our flat with a 95% mortgage nearly halved in value), at the same time Jane was made redundant and the freeholder of the block of flats invented legal costs that gave us a bill of 10's of thousands of pounds. We had lots of sleepless nights and it took us over 10 years to get things sorted out (with several job changes each on the way to achieve that), yet at no time did we have a problem with how decisions had been made or what decisions needed to be made.
Another critical factor for us is the way that one of us can step in and help the other out when their decision making is impaired. That can happen in lots of ways from simple tiredness (with Jane a morning lark and me a night owl there are plenty of times when one of us is not very awake and it is better for the other to make decisions that might affect our safety such as when driving).
However, it also works in more significant ways. When my Mum had just died and Dad was terminally ill with cancer I was suffering from depression and so Jane took over all the things I could not cope with (basically anything that involved making a decision). That meant stepping in as Managing Director of our business, it meant running the family, our finances and home while I moved in with Dad to care for him. I never had any fear that she was taking over or anything like that, she acted as a kind of safety buffer for me and did it so well that many of the people around us never even knew that I had been unable to cope and had run away from everything.
I have read many claims of the need for a final decision maker from those who believe in Male Headship, but I just don't get it. I look back on our marriage (and also my parents) and I cannot see a single instance where Male Headship would have been a better way to make decisions. However, I can see countless occasions when Male Headship would have resulted in worse decisions.
Why would I choose to have a system that would reduce the ability of my best friend, my partner and the person I love above all others to contribute all her gifts, skills and commitment to our lives?
Even more to the point why would the God who loves me so much want me to do that?