Larry Crabb definitely believes in male leadership, but he says that most terms that we use when referring to gender–submission, masculine, feminine–need a serious biblical scrubbing.

And he proceeds to do that in this refreshing book.

He opens it telling the story of his parents, who grew up in the typical Christian culture where the dad led, and the mom cooked and cleaned and stayed in the background. In his case, his mother had a very good career, and in her job she made decisions and was treated with respect. But when she came home, she became almost invisible, because that’s what a Christian woman was supposed to do.

His dad, on the other hand, prayed and led devotions and was a wonderful leader.

But as his mom aged, and developed Alzheimer’s, some of her real feelings started to surface. And she was often very distraught–”am I any good to anyone?” she would say.

Crabb says,

I never saw Dad looking at Mother with eyes that wondered, Who is this remarkable woman? What can I do, who can I be, that would encourage her to freely give everything within her for God’s kingdom, for God’s glory, for her joy, for the blessing of others?

No, his dad saw his mom in relation to himself. And that viewpoint hurt both of them.

When Crabb married he had the typical view of male headship: his wife would obey him, and thus he was responsible for both her and himself. At first this was a heady feeling of power, but he soon became terrified. Could he make all the decisions? Would he always be right? What if he led her astray? And slowly but surely he started to see that his wife had a brain, too. And she had amazing giftings. And God had given her to him as a “suitable helper,” meaning that she was suitable to help him make those decisions, as he guided the family. He didn’t have everything on his shoulders–indeed, that’s why God gave him his wife, so that he WOULDN’T have everything on his shoulders.

And both of them found that they flourished in their marriage and in their giftings and relationship with God when they stopped trying to play “who’s the boss” and started trying to figure out how they could encourage each other to be “fully alive.”

I really appreciated this book. He spends the first part talking about submission, and the latter half talking about real masculinity, real femininity, and the unique fears and threats that both genders face. As I read it I thought he was spot on. In women’s quest for relationship, for instance, we often bowl men over and become harsh, critical, and even nagging, even when we don’t mean to be. We just want to be helpful. But this urge to make things right can lead to us storming in where we shouldn’t. I know I’m dreadfully guilty of this.

But men’s urge to be consequential and purposeful can similarly lead to them backing down and becoming overly passive when they fear they won’t succeed.

There are lots of other fears and threats, but those are the ones that most resonated with me. And through it all, Crabb shows us biblically what the real calling is for the masculine and the feminine, and how they were meant to work together and complement each other, not to be the same and not to have one be dominant.

I also appreciated his discussion about submission, because to him, you can’t separate the idea of submission from the idea of a “suitable helper.”

While some people, like Debi Pearl, see helper in a very subordinate way, Crabb sees it as an empowering role. God made us fully human, and gave us unique giftings so that we could help our husbands in their own roles and in their spiritual lives. After exploring this in great detail, looking at the passages in both Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter, he concludes with this: