What if I told you a former professional beach volleyball player/fitness model and her world-class surfer dude husband resemble more of a biblical marriage than many evangelical Christians. Well, believe it. It’s true. I couldn’t believe my ears last night as I watched Rock Center and heard Gabby Reece relate her story. She and her husband, Laird Hamilton, almost lost their “picture perfect” marriage four years after it began. So what saved it? Gabby would tell you they’ve had “to work at it” – a cliché every married couple has heard. And while that’s true, I think what is most stunning about Gabby’s approach to save her marriage was the “traditional” mindset she chose to embrace as a wife.
Because the Bible is God’s special revelation to us, it conclusively tells us how men and women are supposed to interact and operate in marriage. Any married Christian man or woman who’s humble would admit that what the Bible lays out for marriage is absolutely impossible – apart from the gospel transforming our heart. So how do we explain it when a nonbelieving marriage models this better than many Christian couples? It may be a combination of personality factors, traditionalism, and the image of God stamped on their hearts. So, while it’s not my desire to hold this couple up as a model to follow, I do think they are a rebuke to many Christian marriages that ought to be experiencing and modeling what Laird and Gabby are doing without the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Here are some things I found intriguing about this interview:
She embraces submission. Gabby believes: “To be truly feminine means being soft and receptive – and, look out, here it comes – submissive.” Most would conclude from this quote that she must be a lay down in their marriage – a doormat. While she admits she initially was in their marriage, one of the factors that improved their once-sinking relationship was she learned how to speak her mind more to Laird. She implicitly communicates that submission doesn’t mean silence in marriage.
She embraces clearly defined gender roles. As she says in the interview, “Within the four walls of our home, I’m clearly the female. Laird is clearly the male. I’m willing and choose to serve the family, which means dinner and laundry and organizing his schedule – as well as my schedule, as well as other things. And I’m choosing this.” When interviewer Kate Snow responds to this comment of hers saying, “What you are describing is really set gender roles,” Gabby doesn’t budge – knowing the unpopularity of the issue. “I’m not going to try to wiggle out of it,” she says. And she knows – contrary to the egalitarian view – that men and women are different. “I think we’ve made it so complex and we’re trying to be the same – and I don’t think we are. And I just know this because I’ve lived such a hyper-dominant female life.” How refreshing.
She’s a strong woman married to a strong man. Gabby calls herself “a strong woman” in personality and wiring, and instead of this being stifled in and by marriage, she “has a husband that encourages her to be strong.” But this doesn’t mean she leads the home. In her words, she applies this strength by being a woman of service in the home – as a strong woman. Remarkably, without knowing Jesus, she clearly understands this important aspect of His view of leadership (Matt. 20.25-28).
She believes regular sex in marriage is not an option. “Exercise is like sex. You’re not always in the mood, but you gotta do it,” says Gabby. (Not ironically, Tim Keller advises Christian couples of the same thing in his book The Meaning of Marriage, albeit in a less blunt manner.) She continues on this topic: “There’s nothing, nothing less attractive than a guy feeling like he’s trying to chase or beg his wife…for some lovin’. It is so depressing. So, you do not want to put your guy…in that situation where they’re kinda like, 'Could you give me – would you give me – a crumb?'” What I find amazing about this is she’s basically quoting I Corinthians 7.3-5 without even knowing it.
Gabby is no saint (literally or figuratively). This is quite clear in the interview. That said, I found her blunt and bold approach to this topic of marriage and gender to be extremely encouraging. While the gospel has not (yet) gripped her heart, I pray it will. Until then, I think we can learn from this interview as Christians. Christian sisters, if you’re struggling to obey God’s Word in areas of your marriage that Gabby is (unknowingly) embracing, let it be a gentle rebuke to your heart. Unbelievers can do that for us at times. Gabby Reece may not have the right motives or worldview – I agree. But she gets it.