Vyckie's Tour de Crap: When I Am Weak

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Okay ~ how’s this for the kick-off to my Tour de Crap?!!

Actually, I’m not sure if any commentary is needed except to say, “OMG ~ Can you see how thoroughly convinced I was of the martyr mentality?!!”

WHEN I AM WEAK

by vyckie bennett

During a dinner-table conversation a couple of weeks back, Warren was expounding on the children’s song, Jesus Loves Me. He wanted to make the point to our children that when we are weak, Jesus shows Himself strong. Later in the conversation, he commented that we should “make ourselves weak” so that Jesus’ strength can be made manifest in our lives.

Make ourselves weak? Now that sounded a bit odd to my ears. After all, self-improvement is one of the great American values – right up there with self-reliance, choice, tolerance, and unity in diversity.

Check the local bookstores: a myriad of “self-help” books top the bestseller lists. Advice columns are among the most popular in the local paper, fitness centers are booming businesses, everyone is on a diet, community college classes fill up fast, we wait for hours for our turn at the doctor, dentist or mental health offices as we’re all seeking to improve our lives.

Sure, we all have our struggles … relationships disappoint, finances are always tight, our youthful stamina and good looks fade, we are not immune to various health problems, stuff happens and we find that we need help – who among us couldn’t stand a bit of self-improvement now and again?

Lest I should be exalted above measure …

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

So in response to Warren’s admonition, I’m thinking, “Life has a way of providing plentiful opportunities to show Christ’s strength in our weakness – why should we, then make ourselves weak?” Still, I could not easily dismiss the thought that in all our strivings for self-improvement, how much room do we allow for God’s strength to shine forth in our lives?

Avoidance of pain, suffering, and persecution are as American as apple pie. If we step back and take a look at Christian history, we find that “the pursuit of happiness” has not always been the norm for the people of God.

During our devotional times, our family has been studying early Church history. We were perplexed to read of Christians who eagerly gave themselves up to authorities – these people actually wanted to suffer martyrdom. Hmmm….

The apostle Paul said, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (v.10) What does it mean to “glory in” or to “take pleasure” in infirmities?

Well … I’m still contemplating all of this. But, I do recognize that much of the Church’s failings today can be traced back to our studied avoidance of trouble and hardship.

Protest outside an abortion clinic? That’s too radical How about volunteer at the Crisis Pregnancy Center? Well, I’m pretty busy. Adopt an orphan or special needs child? Of course, our finances are just too tight right now. Visit the elderly? We can probably do that … maybe once a month and then go out for pie and hot chocolate. Yeah, we should do that sometime. Shut off the boob-tube? We just have it on for noise. Write to my representative? I’m sure he’s received piles of mail already. Give to the Rescue Mission? Can’t those guys get a job? Prison ministry? Well, isn’t So-and-So already doing that? Preach the gospel? I don’t really have the gift of evangelism.

What would the Body of Christ look like today if we were to embrace our weaknesses? Not enough money or patience to have another baby? Take heed to your spirit for He desires godly seed. (Malachi 2:15) Does it seem awkward to get involved in the lives of the single mom and her children next door? Pure religion demands that you do so. (James 1:27) Homeschooling not for you? Whose image do your children bear? The image of God? Why render them unto Caesar? (Matt. 22:20,21) Too tongue-tied to witness to your co-worker? Speak up! Preach not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:4)

The very areas in which we feel inadequate – lacking in resources and talent – these are the things which we should do eagerly because “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (1 Cor. 2:5)

May your faith not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God

Well actually ~ after reading this article that I wrote ~ which appeared in my own newspaper and was reprinted in several home school magazines ~ I do have a couple things to say:

This is the level of conviction required for a woman to continue year after year in the harsh and demanding Quiverfull lifestyle. Much of the literature which is readily available through home school curriculum suppliers focuses on the early church martyrs and present day persecuted church. Placing so much emphasis on the suffering of the Saints enables Quiverfull moms & kids to rationalize their own heavy burdens and the incredible amount of work (slavery) which they are undertaking in the service of God. I used to think to myself, “Hey ~ at least nobody’s burning me at the stake or feeding me to the lions.”

Another observation that leaped out at me as I was reading this was my old air of superiority ~ I just assumed that other “Christians” were self-indulgent and unwilling to make any personal sacrifices. Ugh. Like I said ~ It’s about SUPERIORITY.

“The very areas in which we feel inadequate…” see where I was preaching to myself here? I knew that my body is not cut out for childbearing ~ and yet, I had to convince myself that I should be “eager” to have more babies ~ I needed to rely not on “the wisdom of men” (such as my grandma who constantly told me that God gave me brains to know how to avoid another disastrous pregnancy ~ so why not use them?) ~ but rather, I had to have faith in “the power of God.”

Notice how, when I initially disagreed with my husband ~ I was able to think and think until I found a way for him to be right. Sure made Warren much easier to get along with whenever he could be right ~ but as several readers here have commented ~ giving an immature man what he wants (as opposed to what he needs) is a sure-fire way to create a tyrant.

  • Jadehawk

    oh wow, Stockholm Syndrome all the way :-/and yes, I do notice a whiff of superiority, heheh.

  • Susanne

    Stockholm Syndrome for sure. Vyckie, I am quite positive you do whatever you choose to do really well. You were determined to be the best QF wife in all of America, and you made the top ten list, no doubt. That picture of you so reminds me of some Mormon wives I’ve known. Now you’re on another path. I find your stories rivetting! Please keep writing.

  • Anonymous

    Oh my goodness, that picture above. You look so much better now, and so much happier.aimai asked on another thread if we were all told to submit more, pretend to be weak, and be more teachable in order to enable our husbands to be strong leaders? (Bosch thread)I’d like to answer that here.Since I was never officially part of the Patriarchy bunch, I never had a pastor or pastor’s wife or a bunch of church ladies try to tell me that.But my husband’s sister who embraced “Created To Be His Doormate” uhm, I mean, “Helpmeet” (CTBHHM) tried to feed me that B.S.It was the absolute worst advice possible and I knew it. I love this gal, but I hated her “Well at least we aren’t in a Nazi death camp like Corrie ten Boom” attitude. I tried to let her know how far off her rocker she was. Too bad she wouldn’t hear me. I had to stop communication with her for a short time. But she still sent me xeroxed chapters from CTBHHM.I’m so glad I listened to my pastor and his wife and not Debi Pearl. Things are much better for my whole family because I resisted my beloved, but misguided SIL’s tragic advice.Mara

  • EK

    No matter what any Quiverfull detractors might say about you and your “defection,” Vyckie, one thing remains clear to me:Your intellectual bravery is stunning. And for that, my friend, you rock!How many people on any side of an ideological divide can put up an article they wrote with so much conviction, an article that so many people read and relied on and which no doubt brought you acclaim, and then proceed to publicly critique it (and the attitudes that fueled it) and take it to pieces, bit by bit? How many can look back on a position that appears so selfless and righteous and flatly state, “nah, it was about making myself feel superior”?Wow.I have much respect for those who are intellectually brave. This is especially in light of the fact that people in U.S. society have been raised to have such a fear of being made to “eat crow” or to back down from a strongly held belief. In fact, many feel that a belief is not strongly held if it is not hewed to with superglue and shouted from the rooftops. Your intentional vulnerability and honesty will no doubt pay off when some woman (or man) suffering the efects of unbridled patriarchy comes across your blog.

  • Lou Ann (Grandma)

    Grandma here…Wasn’t that book “Created to be his helpmate” the one where wives of husbands who molested their daughters were admonished to take the sucker back and forgive him after he’d done his time…or some such…I think that was in one of the chapters. It was at that point in my reading of the thing I think I wanted to throw the book directly into the burner barrel. Take him back? Forgive him? Right…minutes after getting out a rifle, aiming it…south of the belt? Staking him out to an ant hill in his birthday suit covered with molasses?Oy,vey!Sorry…molesters would not be welcomed back into my house, my life, or any where near me.Yeah, I know…Jesus would just “love him into the Kingdom”. I ain’t Him. And I got a “kingdom” for any who would harm a child in any way. BTDT…bitter? Bitter? You betcha!

  • Lou Ann

    Jadehawk, you remarked about “Stockholm Syndrome” in your earlier post.I am vaguely familiar with this, but can’t remember the main gist of it…it has something to do with brainwashing, right?Could you please enlighten some of us? And TIA! All of your posts and those of others have been so supportive of ‘my girls’!Grandma Lou

  • mom huebert

    Youch. I think it’s also about GUILT. It’s the message that whatever you’re doing for God, it’s not good enough unless you’re uncomfortable doing it. You know– “get out of your comfort zone.”

  • Anonymous

    I do recall the Bible saying that we are not given to a spirit of fear but power, love , and a SOUND MIND. I love that saying so heavenly minded no earthly good. It’s about balance. I respect that you have struggled out of an out of balance situation, but many of us who serve our fellow man through Christ have done so with balance.

  • Anonymous

    Just to clear up for Grandma Lou :), (and I am not a fan of the Pearls), that Michael Pearl actually tells people in that situation to turn in their dhs and let them feel the full extent of the law against them, to protect their dds from the perverts at all costs, and he has absolutely NO sympathy for them whatsoever. Like I said that I am no fan of the Pearls ways, but I don’t think that they should be misrepresented either :).~Adelynn

  • Jadehawk

    well, I’m not a psychiatrist so i can only give you the gist. but basically the Syndrome is named after a hostage crisis where some bank robbers took a building full of people hostage. It lasted six days, and in that time the hostages became oddly attached and loyal to the bank robbers and defended them after the crisis was over.basically, it seems to be a coping mechanism in high-stress situations in which you’re powerless: you start thinking that this was right, and defend those who are doing it to you.

  • Anonymous

    Vyckie, you are brave to post this, and it is eye-opening. So much about performing, and so little about just being; so much about service and sacrifice, and nothing about joy, or love, or living in God’s presence. My heart goes out to you.KR Wordgazer

  • Arietty

    Debi Pearl also said that if your child molesting husband has served his time in prison and you no longer had children living at home you have to take him back. Appalling.. imagine how betrayed your children would feel. I can find the reference if needs be.And yes Vyckie you ARE intellectually brave. Given the choice I would rather the letters I had published in QF magazines disappeared forever!!! I hope no one ever sees them again, lol.It’s incredible what a set up that reasoning is (and I would have loved it if I’d read that article while a fundie). Not only do you have to do everything God has given you the gift of doing, you have to do everything you suck at too! I was a great one for never complaining because, you know, Christians were being executed in China. I did find it easy to have a thankful spirit for the very basics in life (in my hut, lol) such as electricity and that is one thing I’ve never lost. I am always rejoicing in my freedom of mind, my children and simple pleasures of food and sunshine. But I don’t let use these joys to to convince myself that negative things aren’t really negative an more.

  • aimai

    You are a scarily good writer, Vyckie. Its almost like giving out free samples of crack, though. Yesterday I went over to “above rubies” out of curiosity and found myself reading a pathetic essay “on pornography” by a woman who had forced herself to forgive her husband for screwing around with prostitutes and giving her venereal disease while she was struggling to cope with five children, a pregnancy, and a high needs child or two. It was absolutely jaw dropping to read her anger at the people–her own church and his own family–who had tried to get her to see that divorce was the right thing to do in this case. She seems to have brushed up against the “self help” and the addiction movements and recoiled in horror at the notion that she, or he, should take responsibility for achieving the life they want. It was all on her to do it and she was going to make him be the leader in a christ centered family if it killed both of them. Stockholm syndrome indeed.aimai

  • madame

    I think it’s also about GUILT. It’s the message that whatever you’re doing for God, it’s not good enough unless you’re uncomfortable doing it. You know– “get out of your comfort zone.”Absolutely! Not only do QFrs do that, Charismatics “build our church lord” people do that too. They make you feel like something they just scraped off their shoe if you dare say you’re not good at evangelizing, or you’re not going to an all-night prayer vigil and you’re staying at home with your three under fives. I am learning to shake it all off, knowing that guilt-induced “service” is of no use. Arietty,I am always rejoicing in my freedom of mind, my children and simple pleasures of food and sunshine. But I don’t use these joys to convince myself that negative things aren’t really negative any more.Well done. I’ve noticed something about people who believe they have to just “suck it up” or who (even worse) believe they always have to be rejoicing, so force themselves to do so. They are usually the hardest people on everyone else.People who genuinely have the joy usually have a lot more understanding and compassion for hurting people. They understand that hardship or pain is real, no matter how “small” it may look in our eyes. Adelynn,The Pearls tell women to deliver their husbands to the law, let them serve their time, and use that time to romance them back! I recall Michael or Debi saying that they should see the time their husbands spend in jail as a time in which they can love them back with love letters, weekly visits, etc… When they came out, they should be welcomed back with open arms. This was definitely the advice given to a woman who was being beaten by her husband. For child molestors, they advised she get him to do “ten or 15 years, enough time to keep him away while the children are growing so they will be gone by the time he is released”. Then she should welcome him back.

  • madame

    Vyckie,I agree with others who have said you are very brave, and very humble.You encourage me to be humble enough to view some of my “holier than thou” attitudes for what they are. I would have inhaled that article along with the rest of the magazine at one point a couple of years ago, but not now. I’m sick and tired of sermons and “second hand gospel”. Christians are addicted to processed food. We are becoming unable to process the Bible for ourselves and live by our own convictions. Mara,I also have someone who shares with me things that have been encouraging to her. Some of it is encouraging, some sounds very much like a person trying to stick their head in the sand, and some of it is akin to Debi’s advice in CTBHH. I don’t do manipulation and doormatism any more. I’d much rather say what I mean, and then choose to love, but not because someone is telling me I have to.

  • Laura

    You were absolutely right Vyckie….reading this made me want to barf! I was just like you…UGH!

  • kisekileia

    I’ve often heard that suffering promotes virtue, but I believe seeking out unnecessary suffering is just masochism. There’s no virtue in that–the virtue is in getting yourself out.

  • Anonymous

    See, that’s the thing… I don’t think it’s good for us to “make ourselves weak.” You know? Constant self-denial is just life-denying (Yeah, I’m riffing on Nietzsche there.), and if I’m going to have any spiritual praxis at all, I want it to be one that makes me–and others–feel strong instead of wasted and spent. I remember checking out the Duggar family’s website (You know, the family that TLC makes look “cute” and “harmless” and healthy.) and seeing something like “Michelle Duggar’s advice to women.” Anyway, she wrote about being so spent and broken down one night over the family laundry that she broke into tears. And it was just more of the same–relying on God “in her own weakness” and all of that. That just makes me sad. Kristin


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