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Built for Two - of Biking and Bethrothal

“The captain has two major responsibilities: To control the bike and to keep the stoker happy!”

That’s sage advice from cycling guru Sheldon Brown on riding a tandem – a bicycle built for two. When Becky and I bought a tandem, we were looking for an enjoyable

way to exercise together. What we got (in addition to lots of gawking and pointing) was a life lesson on how to make marriage work well.

The captain’s first responsibility is to control the bike. The captain is the rider up front. He gets to steer, shift gears, and brake whenever he chooses. He’s the leader, the one in control.

The stoker is the person on the back of the bike. Because she can’t see, steer, shift, or stop, the stoker is highly dependent on her captain. She pedals and helps power the bike, but must trust someone else’s leadership.

That’s the way The Book says that marriage is supposed to work. “Wives” the book says, “should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24). Anybody who has ridden stoker would agree: it’s not easy to surrender control.

That’s where the captain’s second responsibility comes in - to keep the stoker happy. He gets to lead, but he must do so in a way that makes the ride pleasant for the one letting him lead. That’s what husbands must realize.

I like being captain! I like being in control. Men tend to. So we love the Scripture instructing women to submit, but prefer to overlook the one that makes the submission mutual (v. 21). Or, the verse requiring husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25).

Because a wife surrenders control to the captain, the husband must always keep his wife happy. My stoker does not like surprise turns or stops or bumps on the bike. I’m learning to communicate more and more clearly about what’s up ahead and what I intend to do. I must consult her to see where she wants to go and then make sure I tell her what I’m doing. Otherwise, the stoker is not happy.

If the stoker isn’t happy, she stops pedaling. If the ride is unpleasant, she can refuse to ride anymore.

Stokers, let your captain steer. Captains, keep your stoker happy. That makes for a great ride – on a tandem, or in a marriage.


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