CTBHHM: Sweet Little Teresa’s Story

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 241—242

Remember that we are still in the chapter on obedience to one’s husband. In this section, Debi uses the story of “sweet little Teresa” to discuss hopeless cases and the way a wife can make a difference.

Is There Yet Hope?

There is hope. We can hope in God’s Word when circumstances and counsel are all to the contrary.

I once heard about a sweet and godly lady named Teresa, married to a godless, dope-head criminal who made his living dealing heroin. Her church prayed and prayed for him, to no avail. Finally, he was busted for his crimes and given many years behind bars.

I’m still not completely sure which of these stories is genuine and which is invented. Some read as so contrived that there’s no way Debi’s not just making them up to make a point. This one, I’m unsure.

In the same church there was a fine man of God who had a wife totally disinterested in the things of God, and not very interested in her husband. When Teresa’s husband was locked away, Ben was counseled to divorce his wife and marry Teresa, whom he had greatly admired for many years. He followed their counsel, and the church and a grand, happy wedding for this new union.

I feel like I haven’t attended enough churches to know whether this is plausible or not. On the one hand, conservative churches don’t tend to smile upon divorce. On the other hand, they do tend to smile upon situations where it looks like God set everything up perfectly.

The lady who was telling me the story would periodically stop to exclaim, “Look what God hath done! Isn’t it wonderful?” When I had heard the whole story, my heart was broken, and I told the teller to stop blaming God.

See what she did there? Nice, Debi, nice.

People see only the here and now; we look only for ways that will make us happy today. God sees so very much more, which is why he gave us his Word as a light to direct our path when we cannot see clearly.

This basic argument is used in many many many situations to prevent people from making decisions best for their happiness and wellbeing. Your happiness, the argument goes, matters far less than doing what God wants of you—whatever that may be.

I knew that God was dishonored by the whole mess. If sweet, little Teresa had believed and trusted God and had been willing to suffer alone, she could have devoted herself to visiting her husband in prison, sharing books and tapes with him, and taking her little ones to see Daddy. He would have finally begun to treasure his faithful wife and family, and he would have come to know that only the power of God could cause a woman to love the rotten, lowdown sinner he knew himself to be. Mr. Dope-Head then would have been open to God. Who knows how many men in that prison would have heard the old, old story of how a Savior came from glory just to save them from their sins, all because one little lady was willing to live her life for Jesus by honoring and reverencing the man who was her husband? He was her hope, and she was his. If only wise men and women could have helped Teresa see the miracle God could have given her.

Woah. Wait, wait, hold on one minute there. Debi just spun a story out of thin air wherein if Teresa had stayed with her husband after he was sent to jail for drug offenses, he and his cellmates would have become Christians in a sort of prison revival. She more than spun the story, she claimed it was fact—”Mr. Dope-Head then would have been open to God.” Says who, exactly? What proof or assurance are we going on there?

Now, of course, we could dial it back and speak of it as one possibility. And it is true, that is a possible outcome of Teresa acting as Debi describes. But it is certainly not the only outcome and it doesn’t seem all that likely to me. It reads as though Debi would have women sacrifice their own happiness and their own needs for that little sliver of a chance that they may win their husband and his associates to Christ through her submission and reverence. If there’s any chance that things will change or get better, in other words—and Debi would argue that there is always a chance—the sacrifice is worth it.

Debi then quotes I Corinthians 7:10-16, which instructs Christians not to leave an unbelieving spouse and instructs against divorce. She then goes on:

Is there hope? Yes, there is hope! It is not always the way we think hope should be. God gave us a plan by which, through our submission and reverence, he could change the heart of any man to some degree.

You’d think God could have struck upon a more equitable plan here.

In the end, the Scriptures teach that there is something bigger and more important to God than our happiness. It’s not about our happiness; it’s about our holiness.

This bit—this bit right here—is so very very important. It’s not about your happiness. Your happiness is less important than God’s plan. This belief tends to be held most strong by conservative Christians, but also exists in Christianity as a whole. I hesitate to say  it’s foundational or held everywhere in Christianity, because I understand that liberation theology and other more progressive theologies often approach the issue differently, and find other ways to discuss this principle, ways that don’t devalue human happiness.

Regardless of how much it hurts, whether or not we see results, even if our man does not get saved, God is worthy of our obedience, which in His eyes is worship.

Debi may have used the story of Teresa to argue that there is always hope, but in the end that is not what her argument hinges on. In the end, her argument is that women must obey and submit to their husbands even if it hurts, even if nothing changes, because God has commanded so. Period.

And that, quite simply, is why sweet little Teresa should have sacrificed her happiness and remained married to her drug-selling prison-dwelling husband rather than marring good godly Ben and establishing a new life with him. Teresa’s happiness is irrelevant. Only two things matter: her obedience to God, and her jailed husband’s soul.

Next week’s section is called “But I’m Already Remarried.” Make sure to tune in then!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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