From the Library of Martyrdom ~ Part 1

How I was called to give up that which I did not have..

by Arietty

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I began my journey into fundamentalism and a radical understanding of what it meant to be a mother via Above Rubies magazines. I was young, with an infant and toddler  and my life was very lonely and isolated, made more so by my increasingly hostile husband.

One day my family and a few of my husband’s friends took a long drive to the docks to see a visiting missionary ship. This ship sailed all over the world handing out free Christian literature and putting on evangelical presentations wherever it docked.   We had gone on a ship tour and I remember how the life on board seemed very appealing. The people living and working on the ship had a great sense of purpose, they had community and all kinds of interesting things happened to them. The bunks reminded me of youth group camps with all their intense camaraderie and no distractions from the dullness of day to day life,  just plenty of opportunity for deep emotional connections. There were children on the ship and they did their lessons by correspondence. Their world was a safe and happy one, surrounded by caring Christian adults. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful I thought if my husband felt a calling to this ministry? We could set sail into uncharted waters of the mission field. We would be protected from all the stresses that made him so angry. I would be free from the feeling that I was doing nothing with my life. And surely here, on this ship that was a family, I would find my place in the Christian world. I had had my children young and often felt dismissed by Christians my own age at church who were still in college and unmarried. “Just a mom”, I knew that is how they saw me as they got law degrees and talked of working for World Vision or Tear Fund. They weren’t my husband’s kind of people any way so even if they had welcomed me into their little groups friendships would not have worked out. But here on this ship people of all ages and backgrounds were thrown together and I was sure my husband would  succeed at being friends with diverse people if God called him to this mission.

Pausing from the tour our group was ushered into a small waiting room until it was time to watch a presentation about the ship’s history and mission work. The men launched into a heated discussion about what was wrong with the theology behind the mission group running the ship (no doubt their view of Revelation was flawed). Their wives talked excitedly about how laundry would be done on the ship, something our enthusiastic tour guide had not revealed. With nothing to say I started picking up the Christian magazines on display. And there was Above Rubies with a sticker on it saying “FREE, please take home”. Flipping through it I saw testimonies, families, recipes and a lot of cheerfulness. I had never seen this magazine before and I carefully put the three different issues available in my diaper bag.

Reading them at home I was taken aback by the anti-feminist stance, I had never been presented with this before. The church we were in at the time fancied itself left wing and would not have talked against feminism, though in fact like most churches of that era it was ruled by men and the woman’s role was to cook and wash up for important male dominated ministries. Reading the word feminism as a bad word went against everything I had embraced before I’d become a Christian and yet I kept reading these three magazines over and over.

There was one testimony that I particularly loved, by a woman who had four children. She had a part time job she enjoyed as well as playing tennis and socializing with her friends but her life was very hectic trying to fit four children into her schedule. One day when the chaos overwhelmed her she cried out to God and he answered her.. her true calling was to be a Mother for if she was not called to be a Mother why would God have blessed her with these four children? She was guilty of putting her own selfish interests (enjoyment of work, friends and hobbies) ahead of her little ones and she fell to her knees and repented, embracing her role as a Mother. Since then her life was filled with joys and she had peace at last. It was a very well written testimony and I returned to it again and again.

Why was I so inspired by this story? I had small children at home but unlike the mom in the testimony I did not work outside the home. I did not have any hobbies. I did not leave the house without children in tow and I certainly didn’t have lunch or coffee with friends. I didn’t do any of these things because to do them would have been deeply difficult. Oh I did try, try to have hobbies, try to cultivate friends.. but my husband made it very clear that I would pay with his moods and disapproval any time my involvement in such activities came to his attention. For a while I had raised rabbits but had to give that up when he refused to pay for any food for them. I tried my hand at crafts but would have to hide the results because my husband sneered at anything I made and would randomly destroy things. I could not cultivate friendships easily, I had to hope to that I would find some common ground with the wives of men he was friends with. Anyone outside this circle was suspect.

In the  few years following our visit to the mission ship I would have a third child and my life would become increasingly constrained. I continued to read my favorite testimony. I had not been able to acquire any more Above Rubies magazines because though they were free they did suggest you send in a donation. I could not ask my husband for a donation as he would never send money to what he perceived as a “woman’s magazine” (he had expressed disgust at Above Rubies because it was written by women and for women) and I could not bring myself to ask them to send it at their own cost. Some days it seemed the only kind words I heard were in the pages of those magazines.. “you’re doing a good job, being a mother is important, God loves you and values you..” I had no mother myself and I thought that if Nancy Campbell were there she would embrace me and make me feel like a worthy, good person.

Then came the day when the next stage in my journey into “radical mothering” was put in my hands: Mary Pride’s book, The Way Home. I read it. I loved it. I was convicted by this call to motherhood. Like the woman in Above Rubies I knelt down and repented of my selfish interests and promised to give up everything that deterred me from my calling.. not that there was actually anything in my life that came between me and being a mother as I had long had it all taken from me. But now.. NOW.. my impoverishment was anointed by God as a blessing. And suddenly it was not quite so unbearable.

As I stepped into the quiverfull homeschooling world I felt we were sailing into uncharted waters, that we were now called to a great purpose. I felt I had community and I was protected from the distractions of the world and my own desires. My family was going to be safe in our bunks, surrounded by those who shared our vision and isolated from evils, called by God to great things. I sent away for Above Rubies, boldly asking for several copies of each issue so I could distribute them, not worrying about the money. I would put them to good use and they would sustain and nourish me in my calling to Motherhood. I had my mission, I had charted my course and at last I felt I had something like community.

Some years later I read about the mission ship we had visited in the newspaper. It had sunk off the coast of South America. Everyone was rescued but the ship was never recovered. Its rusted hulk can still be seen jutting from the waters.

Operation Mobilizations Logos, wrecked off the coast of Tierra del Fuego, Chile.

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