On Friday, I posted PART 1 (click to read) of this post in response to 2 recent blog posts by William and Rebecca VonDoodeward. Rebecca wrote to the girls, and William wrote to the guys.
In part 1, I gave my reaction to what Mrs. VonDoodeward shared with the girls, and then expounded (directly from my own 11 years of marriage / parenthood) on the day to day realities of what being a husband and wife actually looks like.
Today, I'll give my reaction to Mr. VonDoodeward's admonition to guys, and finish with my perspective on dating/courtship, and gender roles in marriage.
And, we're off...
In his piece to what a guy should look for / expect / demand in a wife, to be honest, I couldn't believe several of the things I was reading. Part of me wondered if the VonDoodewards were being satirical...as if there was no way they really meant what they were saying. Mostly, because the difference between words on the page and how real life interactions work (at least for the vast majority of us) is chasmic.
Mr. VonDoodeward covered five points: how the "wrong" / "right" woman will effect your 1) spiritual life, 2) service to the church, 3) reputation, 4) work and finances, 5) relationships, and 6) health.
Let's break it down.
1 // Spiritual Life.
His opening line should be enough for anyone who cares about other people at all to stop reading the post immediately and go in search of advice that doesn't dehumanize women to the point of simply being some item that can be "tossed aside" for something better.
Here's how he begins: "If the girl is not a believer, drop her now."
Drop her now.
As if there's just no use. As if the same invitation to the table of the Lord isn't also extended to her. As if she's disposable.
He goes on to use to the typical "holier than thou" language of "don't be unequally yoked"..."if she's not regenerated"...etc.
So first off: don't be unequally yoked is NOT about these kinds of relationships. Second: if you apply it to who you date, then you have to apply the same standard to your boss, business partners, school project partners, employees, etc. Third: if the relationship you may currently be in with someone who doesn't hold to your faith suddenly terrifies you, your God is too small. Fourth: dating/marrying outside one's faith/belief system can typically cause difficult issues. It can be messy, and end poorly. Wisdom says to make sure who you give yourself to won't derail who you are, but wisdom also says don't kick them to the curb or "drop her now" simply because you think the Apostle Paul would frown upon your Valentine.
For clarification's sake, I think it's fair to remind everyone that in Paul's day, who a woman married was typically decided by a suitor and the girl's father. She rarely, if ever, had a say. Furthermore, the future husband paid a handsome dowry, no one ever married outside their social caste, and it was a giant "no no" to marry of a different religion and often even outside your own culture. Multiple wives (even among Christians) was a common practice.
If you're going to follow St. Paul's marriage perspective to the letter (don't forget he was single), then here's how he REALLY feels:
"To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am." // 1 Corinthians 7.8
The reality for each of us is that who you're dating is is person. A real, live human being. There's enough flippancy in our culture about how we treat each other, and this isn't a time or relationship to be flippant about.
Guys: how you treat the people around you will reveal much more about how you feel about Jesus than how Christian your girlfriend is. Don't dump her. Don't just throw a bunch of women at your church at her in the hopes they'll put her in the magical, "Stepford Wives" Proverbs 31 machine. Be honest.
Care about her heart and how she sees.
There's a reason she doesn't believe...don't give her more reasons by "dropping her".
2 // Service to the church.
I can't believe this was one of his points. He actually asks "Is she going to encourage you to serve the congregation with your gifts, or is she going to complain that you’re not helping her do laundry instead?"
Husbands: your service to your church is NEVER more important than your service to your wife. You better be far more versed in folding dish towels than you are at committee meetings.
And another thing.
"Helpmeet" ... sections of Christianity LOVE to bring up the idea that the woman exists to be the man's "helpmeet". Before you destroy me for complaining, let me show you something. The ONLY time that word is mentioned in the ENTIRE BIble is right...here:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” // Genesis 2.18
Did you know that the writer of this passage (rumored to be Moses, although Dr. Peter Enns has someone different in mind), didn't actually hear God say that? Did you know this book was passed down in verbal story form for generations before it ever made it on paper? This doesn't take away from its validity or authority, but it does change the reasoning behind it. Is Genesis 2 REALLY giving marriage advice, or is it telling the story of beginnings? Not even Paul or Peter or Jesus EVER refer back to this verse, yet, it's one of the most prominent passages I've heard in Church discussions on marriage and relationships.
One word mentioned one time in a cultural context far removed from the both the original occurrence and thousands of years before our own...yet...it's somehow supposed to be the foundational definition for God-fearing wives forevermore?
I think something is wrong with our extrapolation.
3 // Reputation.
Finally. Smack in the middle, we find a breath of fresh, relational air. I agree that a spouse should absolutely NEVER badmouth their beloved under any circumstances. Who you marry is yours to protect.
But, this goes both ways...AND...it's not a trait we're automatically born with, but something we learn over time. Each of us tends to mouth off when we're feeling insecure, and not throwing each other under the conversational bus is a process of deep honesty, self-control, and maturity.
4 // Work and finances.
Here's that word, "helpmeet" again. Mr. VonDoodeward claims your wife should absolutely love what you do all the time and make things as easy as possible for you at home, no matter what. Clean clothes all the time, hot dinner all the time, kids out of your way, listening ear, encouraging words, etc.
That's. Not. Real. Life.
The challenges I face in my work may not even be equal to those of my wife. If anything, I should be cooking HER dinner (and I do...because I love to cook). To box up your spouse so that she only fits one particular mold (based on one word in one verse in the second chapter of the BIble) is a recipe for disaster.
He goes on to ask if she's reckless with money, will shop all the time, is she greedy, or try to make big financial decisions without you.
A good reminder at this point is: you and your spouse are two, seperate people, but your marriage is ONE. To look at your wife/future wife as some wild stallion that must be reigned in or given away is horrendous perspective.
She's a woman. With a brain. Not some hot mess you need to corral.
To think of, view, and treat her as "other" will undermine your relationship and prevent you from EVER fully becoming who you were created to be individually and together.
5 // Relationships.
I believe the kinds of questions posed in this section are some that are best navigated over time. They're absolutely impossible to completely determine BEFORE you're married. Obviously, if your family hates your girlfriend, there's an issue...but, it may not be a deal breaker. Why? Because, they could be wrong.
As far as protecting your marriage from being dominated by the in-laws...how about giving your wife a reason to run to you instead of everyone else? It's not complicated in theory, but it takes everything you've got to live it out.