Thoughts from The Excellent Wife
The God Card ~ Thoughts on Patriarchal Teachings
Someone in the church told me that I should have known it was abusive when my husband was controlling my life (the details of which are in the parts of my story that I have shared thus far here). It’s like these people don’t realize that the very books they recommend Christian wives to read are the very books that taught me that my husband was not abusive but was, rather, a godly man.
For example, in the popular book, “The Excellent Wife,” by Martha Peace (1999), a woman learns that,
“Your husband is the one in charge. Being in charge does not mean he has to do everything. It does mean that he is responsible for managing his home. A part of that managing is delegating responsibility to others, including you.” (p. 52)
Martha Peace goes on to tell women that their role is to submit to their husbands authority and, “use your energies to glorify him” (p. 53).
How does a woman glorify her husband? The author explains that a husband is glorified when a wife obeys him, and goes on at length to describe the many ways a wife can obey his commands, seek to further his goals and defer to her husband’s will.
The Excellent Wife reads,
“You may be smarter, wiser, or more gifted than your husband, but you are still to respect the position God has given him. You are like the soldier who stands at attention, salutes, and says, ‘Yes, Sir!’ to his superior officer….
“Probably the most helpful thing you can do is ask your husband to hold you accountable for showing respect to him. If he agrees, he would, then, point out your disrespectful words, tone or countenance. …How willing you are to let your husband help you in this way will reflect your level of maturity and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.” (p. 109, 111)
I know that for me, there was no way I could help my husband feel respected. Nothing was ever enough. Disagreement, lack of adoration, opinions that differed—all of those things were considered by him to be disrespectful.
For so many years, because of counsel like the above passage, I felt like such a horrible wife. After all, a wife is supposed to see to it that her husband is respected, and no matter how hard I tried, it seemed that I couldn’t even do that one very basic thing right. It never occured to me, until years later, that perhaps the problem wasn’t with me…
Many complementarians fuss that some of us have taken wifely submission and made it into a salvation issue. Many of us have responded by saying, “Um…yeah?” The fact is, we were taught (and not by a few oddballs but by mainstream evangelical books like the one I am quoting from in this post) that wifely submission was indicative of our relationship with God.
The emphasis in the following excerpt is from the book’s author, not me:
“…Submission to her husband is the heart of God for the Christian wife. It is so important to God that He made submission to her husband a manifestation of “walking with the Lord,” “being in the will of God,” and “being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15-18).”
When you are a fundamentalist woman who loves God and wants to walk in His will, and you have a husband who does not ask you to “sin” per se (since things like giving you a list of how you have to clean the kitchen before you’re allowed to go to bed—- or how many children you will or won’t have, or what outside-the-home activities you may or may not participate in—– are things not technically in any list of “sins” in the Bible), what do you make of the above advice to wives?
You make of it exactly what the author teaches you to. Your role is to submit joyfully. If there is a problem anywhere, it’s with you. After all, aren’t YOU the one who feels privately humiliated by being treated like a child, who feels weighed down with the demands of perfection instead of joyfully accepting them as God’s will for your life? If the marriage has any problem at all, it is probably yours.
After all, that’s what your husband keeps telling you. The books join with his voice. In a very real sense, your husband becomes your god, a mediator between the woman and God.
“Viewing life through God’s sovereignty and goodness is seeing every tiny detail in life as arranged for you by God. there is no such thing as fate, luck, or chance. God has purpose in your every circumstance (including your husband’s decisions). God channels the king’s hearts, and He can certainly channel your husband’s heart. God is in control, whether you like it or not! (p. 179).
“Rebellion is a very serious sin. If you disobey your husband, you are indirectly shaking your fist at God. …When you rebel against your husband’s authority, you are grieviously sinning. It is a frightening thing.” (p. 181)
People wonder why abused wives in the patriarchal system don’t just “get out.” It’s simple. Because they only rarely are aware that they are being abused in the first place. With advice like the above, how would a woman be able to tell? How would those she goes to in her church, asking for help, be able to tell?
The God Card by Journey:
- Thoughts On Patriarchal Teachings
- Subordinate but Equal
- Thoughts From The Excellent Wife
- Ask Your Husband
A Tale of a Passionate Housewife Desperate for God by Journey:
More from Journey:
- Dear Happy Full-Quiverer …
- It’s Complicated: Why It Wasn’t As Obvious As It Seems Like It Should Have Been