Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book #22: A Woman After God's Own Heart {Part 1}

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Oh this book. I loved it and I hated it. It was convicting and challenging and helpful and daunting. I thought its main focus was going to be on nurturing a relationship with God. Of course, that's the core of the book, but it also highlights marriage and mothering and home-making.

Throughout the book, George gave me an important perspective: spiritual discipleship is just that - a discipline. She says, "Only through regular exposure to God's Word can you and I draw out the nutrition needed to grow a heart of faith" (29).

The first four chapters are along those lines. I underlined a lot and felt convicted to change. And then came the chapters about marriage . . . dun dun dun . . .

Marriage
I read these chapters then made Justin read them and tell me honestly if that's really what he wants/expects from me because I was so shocked. Haha. (For the record, he said no. I'll get to that later.)

This book was written in 1997 (at least the version I read. It's since been updated.), but these chapters could've come out of a manual for the Perfect 50s Housewife. Let me say again that I do not consider myself a feminist. I am not a post-modernist. I'm not looking to tweak or re-interpret the inspired word of God. But I also want to take the Bible at its word and not read more into it than what's intended.

George posits that our husbands should be our greatest priority - second only to God. At first glance, that doesn't seem so awful. I know it's something I should work on. My life, right now, is consumed by my very needy children. Justin gets put on the back-burner because he's a fully grown man and doesn't need me as much. But I know that my kids will grow up and move out and I still have to have a relationship with my husband. George takes it to another level, though.

I shared a blip on facebook that was my first clue I might not like where this book is going. Haha. Here's some more:
I began a life of serving Jim [her husband] that has continued for more than two decades. Oh, I have many things to do, but my primary purpose and role each day is to help Jim, to share his responsibilities, to respond to his nature, and to wholeheartedly cooperate with him in God's plan for our life together. (59-60)
Hold the phone. My primary purpose is to help my husband? She gets this idea from the Biblical description in Genesis 2:18 of Eve as Adam's "helpmeet."In context, this verse comes just before Adam starts naming the animals. So essentially, God says, "You shouldn't be alone. Let's see who can help you. Here come a bunch of animals." Adam names them all, but no suitable helper is found. What does Adam need help for at this point before the fall? I'd say companionship, maintaining the garden, and ultimately reproduction. Animals sure aren't going to help there. So God makes the woman.

From that one verse at the creation of the world, we're supposed to assume that all women for the rest of eternity have the same responsibility? I'm not trying to be sassy. I'm honestly wondering. Are we all "little Eves"? George goes on to say, "God wants us wives to focus our energy and efforts on our husbands - on his tasks, his goals, his responsibilities" (60). I just don't see how she gets that from Genesis. I understand being partners, helping as needed, and fulfilling certain roles. But making my husband my career? Focusing all my energy and effort on him? Are you serious?

One night this week, I flipped through my Bible searching for every "woman of character" passage I could find. I read Titus 2 and Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, and of course Proverbs 31. The Proverbs 31 woman respects her husband, but she's also busy caring for her household, buying fields, and helping the needy. Her life does not revolve around her husband.

And then she started in on submission. Oh boy. Haha. Now don't get me wrong. I believe in submission. I believe that the husband is the head of the wife. I don't deny that there's a little bit of hierarchy there. But to me, that means when we have to make a decision as a couple, Justin gets the final say. It's actually kind of freeing. If we're uncertain about something being God's will, it's on Justin's head if he gets it wrong. I was just submitting. Haha.

Ms. George, of course, takes it a few steps beyond that. The part that really rankled me is her instruction to "respond [to your husband] with a single positive word." She elaborates, "I chose the word 'Sure!' (and that's with an exclamation mark behind it and melody in my voice.) And I began to use this positive response and say, 'Sure!' on the small things" (73). She goes on to share a horrendous story about her friend whose husband loved to take the family to Price Club (like Sam's Club) randomly throughout the week.
Well Dixie - with three children, one of them a baby at the time - could have presented a watertight case against dragging the entire family out to Price Club on a school night after dark - but she didn't. She also never challenged Doug's leadership in front of her little family. Instead, she just smiled, responded "Sure!" and got everyone into the car for another trip to Price Club. (73)
Gah! That makes me crazy! I understand sacrificing for the good of your husband, but blindly agreeing to everything he says isn't a relationship! It's servitude! What if Dixie would've said, "You know, maybe we could go Saturday morning or Friday evening. But do you think it's best to go on a school night with all three kids?" Maybe her husband never knew she hated it. Maybe he would've gladly said, "Oh honey! I didn't even think of that." Is the Biblical call to submission really a demand for becoming smiling Stepford wives who don't question our husbands? Again, these are my honest questions.

I know this is so long already, but there's a little bit more. George goes on to share 8 ways to make your husband your "number one human priority."
1. Pray for him - I take no issue with this one. ;-)
2. Plan for him daily - She says we should match our schedule to our husbands'. Go to bed when he goes to bed. Get up with him in the morning. Send him off with breakfast and a kiss.
3. Prepare for him daily - Clean the house before he gets home, put on some make-up, clean the kids' faces, get the kids excited that Daddy's coming home, prepare the welcoming committee, greet him with a kiss, have dinner ready, take on the attitude of 14th century monarchies and declare "the King is in the castle!" Focus your time and attention on him. Have your housework done and your social visits over. He is your world now.
4. Please him - Learn what he likes. Do it. If he likes sports, get into sports. If he likes the top of the refrigerator dusted (even if he's the only one who can see it), dust it. I'm not making this stuff up, people.
5. Protect your time with him - She shares the story of one woman whose motto is, If my husband is home, I'm home. Forget outside activities - even Bible Studies. Make sure you're available to your husband every minute that he's in the house. (Ok, I'm getting a little sassy now.)
6. Physically love him
7. Positively respond to him - Already covered this.
8. Praise him - I don't take much issue with this one either. Men love words of affirmation.

I can see the value in most of those. But I bristle at the thought of my life revolving around my husband. It seems like George is implying that the husband is more important than the wife. That's what I can't wrap my brain around. Here's one more quote that will leave my feminist friends dry heaving:
Learn from a darling cartoon I have of a mother and her two children standing in the family room with a checklist. Mom announces, "Your dad will be home any minute, let's go over the list: TV remote, check; comfy pillows, check; dinner, check; loyal canine companion, check; doting family, check!" How's your family doing in the doting department? (87)
I may not work outside the home, but I keep the home running. I do the housework and the budget and the bills and the grocery shopping and the cooking and a lot of the child-rearing. So why does he get the comfy pillows and the TV remote? Again, let me re-iterate that Justin does not expect that of me. But does the Bible? Does God? Is it really my position to continually die to myself and put on a mask of happy, helpful wife all the time?

I could keep going, but I'm sure I've lost most of you by now. If you have any helpful, respectful insight I'd appreciate it. No facebook debates. :-)

Stay tuned for part 2. A few more questions (non-marriage-related) and some more of the good I took from the book!

2 comments:

  1. I remember raving about this book when I first read it -- I was in college, so I wasn't married yet so those chapters didn't stand out to me then. :) I think you and I are in a similar position here. We're not complete I-can-do-it-myself-feminists, but we're also not door mats. A few random thoughts that popped in my head as I read your post:

    1. The Genesis/creation stuff -- the biggest term that strikes me is companionship. "It is not good for man to be alone". I see my role not as doing everything that he does and forgoing all of my own tasks, but instead walking beside him and being willing to show interest in what he does. I'm not going to teach Rocky's classes for him when he stays home sick, but I will ask about what he's currently teaching, and be that friend and companion who shares time with him. He's told me more than once that he really appreciates and feels loved when I show an interest in the things he enjoys, even if I couldn't care less about opening chess moves. :) But is that all I ever do? Of course not! I have a life and my own interests too! (and I probably talk about them with him way more than I should)

    2. I'm with you on submission. I've deferred to his judgement on things at times. But it's always when I really don't know what to do and don't want to make the final decision -- if it's something I have a strong opinion about that affects us both, we will talk it out.

    3. That "Sure!" thing irritates me.

    4. I do get up with Rocky in the morning (granted, he gets up at 4:30 to do schoolwork and I get up at 5:30 to pack his lunch and sit with him and read, then see him out the door at 6:30). I have vivid memories of my mom getting up with my dad, making his lunch, seeing him off, then going back to bed! I think that's part of companionship -- I'm more happy and patient and nice to be around in the morning rather than the end of a long day with kids. Though I do often go to bed before him, because I physically need more sleep than he does.

    5. I tidy up the house a bit before he gets home. Is everything perfect? Of course not. But I think a little effort (with the house and myself) shows him that I have been thinking about him (companionship!) even when he's not physically there.

    Wow I could keep going and probably write my own post from this comment. :-P Have you read the book Love and Respect? I feel like George's book hits too much on the respect [your husband] without acknowledging the love [your wife]. I'd be interested to see how George's husband's book A Man After God's Own Heart speaks to what the husbands are to do for their wives (does say to let them escape the family in the evening??).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I might have to re-read this book sometime. And I'll focus more on the other chapters. :)

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  2. I agree with some of the ideas the author is trying to get across, but it seems that she takes them a step too far! While I agree that your husband needs to take priority over your kids (anything that's good for your marriage is ultimately good for your kids) and many other things in life, he is not a god to be worshipped. Obviously we should give each other our best, but I feel like she's setting up some seriously unrealistic expectations.

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