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Entries in Women (53)


I'm a woman, not a house plant

I read this article today by Randy Alcorn, called "Husbands, We're Called to Help Our Wives Grow in Christ." 

I think this is very true. And women are called to help their husbands grow in Christ. I don't know why he didn't mention that, but anyway.

Here is a little snippet:

So we husbands are to not stand back and wish our wives were more godly. Rather, we are to assume responsibility to step forward and lead our wives by sharing God’s Word with them. (Similarly, we don't bemoan that a houseplant has shriveled leaves and consider it a failure; instead, we regularly water the plant and expose it to the right light to help it thrive.)

I understand that he wants to use a vivid analogy, but I'd rather not be compared to a houseplant. I'm reminding myself that this man's intention is only good. But I have to be honest and say I cringe when I read this.

My husband has rarely, if ever, specifically advised me in how to grow in Christ. While he has often commented on attitudes I have had, I have always taken the initiative myself to pursue what will help me grow in Christ. He has purchased books for me as gifts, knowing that I want them, but he has never gone through my book pile and said, "this is good; that is bad." I am the student. He reads his Bible daily and he has a stronger faith than I do on most days, but he is aware that he does not need to "help" me find Bible study resources. But has helped me in other ways, and it is these ways I think many husbands may forget about:

  • Take care of the kids so she can study. Bathe them and put them to bed so she can have an hour of study time.
  • Take an entire Saturday and take charge of the kids so she can study or go to a conference. 
  • Bring home dinner at the end of the day so she has energy to study once the kids are in bed.
  • Pay someone to clean the house for her (or clean it yourself).
  • Encourage her to go to seminary if she wants to, and if you're financially able. And then help with child care if you can. And if she goes ask her about what she is learning.

That first one is the most important when the kids are young. I can speak from personal experience that it is not easy to find time for Bible study when the kids demand so much of our attention. And I did not work outside the home when the kids were young. I don't know how working moms are supposed to find time. Men cannot complain that their wives are not godly enough and then not make to give her time to make that happen. All the blog, book, and resource recommendations don't mean much without the time to read them.

When I broke my ankle two years ago, my husband made sure I got to every class while I had my cast on. He would drive me to class and ensure one of my sons would drive me home. Sometimes, he would go to a nearby cafe and work while I was in class and pick me up when I was done. When I had an all day class he drove me the hour to get there, drove home and then returned at the end of the day to get me.

Women need discernment when it comes to finding good books and materials to help in spiritual growth. It is not necessarily true that her husband has any better discernment than her own simply because he's her husband.


Ladies, do the work

"I have no idea what this is saying."

That was my reaction to a quiz in Greek Exegesis a few weeks ago. I thought I had studied enough, but looking back, the week beforehand, I had slacked off. My mark was a reflection of that reality.

Today, I checked my mark from last week's quiz. I knew I had done well. I finished the quiz feeling confident, despite knowing that there was something I did not do right. When I get the quiz back tomorrow, I know where I will have lost the mark. The difference between last week and a few weeks ago is that I did more work.

It's tempting to think we can get good results without work. And it's not surprising. In a day and age when teachers are not allowed to fail students for poor work, is it any wonder? In an age of social media and blogs, it is a race to see who can post first, so that we don't necessarily research well. We are afraid of leaving our blogs empty for a day, so we rush through. I do it regularly. But when it comes to my school work, I have to put the work in.

The same goes for women who want to be theologically astute. If we as women want to be taken seriously as theologians, we have to do the work. We have to take time away from other things that may stand in our way, and open our Bibles and any other books we may need to help us sort through things. We have to know how to think. That may mean asking someone to help us learn to think. This is probably not a popular sentiment, but how about sacrificing something to take a seminary class? Or at the least, audit one? How about spending less time reading the opinions of other women and being told what to read and whom to read and start sifting through things on our own? How about spending less time listening to podcasts to hear other people talk about matters and sort through them on our own?

I recently read a website for women and saw its recommended resources. There was not one actual biblical scholar among the recommendations. These recommendations were designed to be "accessible," but how about throwing some harder ones in there? How about a commentary that is more intermediate? How about a systematic theology book? The reason why I mention this kind of resource is because those writers have done the work. They may have laboured for years on one book of the Bible. Yes, start with accessible theology, but don't stop there. Part of recommending good resources is pointing people to the ones that will equip them to discern on their own, and that means challenging women with more difficult fare.

And if it's a matter of wanting to read only women (something I totally disagree with) then read Karen Jobes's work. 

I want to read the best resources I can find. If that is written by a woman, great. If not, I'm not going to promote women's work just because I want to be supportive. When men do that, don't we women get a little irritated?

We need to do the work. It always brings results.


Why we need mixed learning environments

This is going to be lightning fast. I'm having an engagement party here today, and I'm waiting for my kitchen floor to dry. While I was doing so, I read an article at Christianity Today, which got me thinking. If I don't get this down now, by Monday, I will have forgetten.

The article promotes the need for all-female spaces in the Church. I agree with that principle, but I also think it needs to deliberately balanced to include mixed environments, and I think we need to be careful about making generalizations about what all women "need."

The first time I ever went to an all-female Sunday school class, fifteen minutes into it, there was crying and hugging. 

"What am I doing here?" I asked myself.

I am not a public cryer. I don't share intimate details about my womanly functions in a group, nor will I ever, ever share marital issues with people I don't know and trust very well. And even then, I am hesitant. Unless my husband was being abusive, I would never share such details with people in a setting like that. I'm not sure i want to know everyone else's issues in a grouop like that, either. Sharing, something which is encouraged in the article, is not my reason for going to a Sunday school class. If I want to "share," I will find one friend and we'll share away. Perhaps some women don't mind. Perhaps some women thrive on that. It's a mistake to say all women need that. I go to Sunday school to hear the Word proclaimed.

I have taken one all-female class in seminary. While it was enjoyable, what I hoped I would learn, how to be a better teacher, was not the focus. It was heavy on group dynamics and light on the actual practice of teaching. I learned far more from my mixed gender class on hermeneutics. I don't have any plans to take any more "all female" classes, because I learn far more from my mixed classes. I want to learn content: principles for interpretation, theological truths, and ways to utilize these in my life and in my teaching. If that makes me a minority, then I plead the cause of minority rights.

I would never say that all-female environments should be banned from churches. Surely, women are also capable of gathering a group of women in their homes, in addition to the church. Why does everything have to go through committee?

I believe that women and men may discuss differently. But that cry for all-female environments needs to be made with a caution and with the recognition that sometimes, both women and men need to learn to discuss in different ways.


It isn't a matter of "can" we be friends . . . 

Over the summer, I skimmed parts of Aimee Byrd's book Why Can't We Be Friends? I had other reading which was more pressing, so I didn't spend long on it. Sometime when I am able, I wouldn't mind re-visiting the book after I've had more time to think about the question. 

Of course men and women can be friends. But all friendships need boundaries, both with men and women. And sometimes, we tend to assume that female friendships don't need boundaries.

Many years ago, I was friends with a woman at my church who has since moved away. At the time, I did not see it, but it was one of the most toxic friendships I ever had the misfortune of being in. It started at a very vulnerable time for me. We had just moved here, and my husband mentioned to her in passing how much I was struggling with being away from my family and friends. Over the years, it was the source of more angst than it was worth. She was hot and cold. She simultaneously sought me out and pushed me away. I never knew what kind of reception I would get when I saw her at church. I thought I had done something wrong. I turned myself inside and out trying to be the perfect friend.

When I began to see what was happening, confronting her was not an option. Call display meant that if she didn't want to talk to me, she simply ignored my calls; and she did that frequently. When we began using email, that was even easier to ignore. She would avoid me at church, or worse, freeze me out when I spoke to her. After about six years, I'd had enough. She moved away, making it easier to simply end things. After she was gone, I discovered that I was not the only woman who had struggled with her.

This was not entirely her fault. I had not put up proper boundaries with her. In my desire to have friendship, I had allowed her to cross boundaries that other friends would never have been allowed to do. The Church sometimes puts so much pressure on us women to have these perfect, wonderful friendships with other women that we don't think about boundaries. If we are not out shopping with our friends, having coffee and chocolate (I prefer potato chips and I hate shopping) we're not doing it right. I have come to see that perfect friendships of any kind only exist on television.

It has been my experience that my friendships with men never unfold in such an acrimonious way because going into them, I know that because I am married, there are boundaries. This is not something my husband and I have sat down and outlined; it's just something that has developed over 32 years of marriage. I have many male friends at seminary, but they are not like the kind of friendships I have with women, and that's not a bad thing. Men and women frequently differ in the way they conduct their friendships, anyway, so it makes sense for them to look different. And that includes the ones with our siblings. I love my brothers, but there are things that I wouldn't confide to them, because frankly, they would be embarrassed, and I would rather spare them that. The only man in my life who is going to be on the receiving end of my intimate expressions is my husband. Even the relationships with my sons differ from that between me and my daughter. Boundaries with our adult children are necessary, too.

All friendships need boundaries. Boundaries represent a desire to respect the other person. When it comes to male friendships, of course we can be friends. But they do require boundaries. When it comes to women, with the tendency to ignore boundaries, I am thinking that the question is less "are we allowed" to be friends and more of "are we able." That's a book I'd read.


Does Anne Shirley give us unreasonable expectations?

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley declares her intention to be Diana Barry's "bosom friend" forever. And in the context of all of the books, that happens. Even in the volume Anne's House of Dreams, we see Diana and Anne as adults chatting as Anne prepares to marry. Diana has called her newborn "small Anne Cordelia." Later, Anne calls her twin daughters "Anne and Diana." There is no record of a squabble or misunderstanding between the two women.

Even in all of Anne's other friendships with women, she is the perfect friend. Everyone loves Anne. In the book Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne has to win over a crusty colleague, and of course, she does. She is able to win the love of everyone she meets.

Growing up, I read those volumes over and over again. I expected that I, too, would find a "bosom friend." And of course, that has really never happened. Montgomery, herself, was well-liked. She was charming and winsome, and people liked to talk to her. But she did not have perfect relationships. The woman she was closest to, her cousin Frederica, died in 1919 of the flu. And her journals are filled with words expressing her feeling if isolation and loneliness.

Christian women are encouraged to have those "bosom friend" situations; to have close sisters in Christ. That has really not been the case for me. One of the most toxic friendships I have ever had was with a fellow Christian woman. There are women I've gone to church with for more than twent years who are good friends to everyone, but I share no close connection with any one woman in particular. I came into the church when many friendships had long been established, and I was a bit of an outsider.

To be completely honest, the only woman I feel like I can be completely myself with and trust with personal details is my daughter. And in recent months, I have come to see that I have not given my trust to many people. Instances when I have opened up a little only to have the individual freeze me out later have made me even more reluctant. One friend has become cool toward me since I began seminary. Asking what I have done wrong is met with a painfully polite, "Nothing at all." And yet the coolness remains. My mind thinks "You are not a safe person." And I let it go.

The reality is that friendships are not perfect. We are not perfect with one another. It takes forgiveness and a willingness to be offended. We have to overlook things. And we have to put an effort into the friendship. If I sense that I'm doing all of the initiating, I do ask myself if the friendships is actually what I believed it to be. And it's okay if we're not best friends with everyone. It's not necessary to have a "best friend." If we do, we should consider it a gift. God has his reasons for establishing us in his circumstances. Sometimes, we need reminders that our sufficiency is in Christ, not in human relationships. Even the best relationships are no substitute for what we have in Christ. He does not let us down, cool toward us, or betray us.

While the existence of perfect friendships is engaging in a book, the truth is that relationships are not easy, and if we are not Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, we're not the only ones.