Created to Be His Help Meet, pp. 15-16
In this section, Debi explains what she’s going to do in this book and she doesn’t mince words.
This book reveals God’s plan for obtaining a heavenly marriage.
Debi believes she has the answer. She knows God’s plan. This isn’t simply her attempt to pass on some wisdom she has gained, or to give you some tips to try in your marriage. Oh no. “This book reveals God’s plan.” Ans where did Debi gain this knowledge?
I am not an accomplished, professional* writer who has collected and collated material from other writers and speakers. I am a happy, creative wife, homeschool mom, and grandmother who, many years ago by the grace of God, found God’s will through his written Word, my husband’s instruction, and a mother’s example.
So, where did Debi learn of God’s plan? Through “his written word, my husband’s instruction, and a mother’s example.” The first makes sense, given that Debi and other evangelicals and fundamentalists hold the Bible up as the center of their faith. The Bible would of course be the first place they would look to learn about what God tells his people about how to have a good marriage. The second two are rather odd. Why does she state that she found God’s will through her husband’s instruction if, presumably, her husband is simply pointing her to the Bible? The answer is probably to be found in the idea that each woman has a God-given male authority, and that God can and does communicate with that woman, teaching her things and instructing her, through her husband. Finally, while Debi says she learned of God’s will for marriage from her mother as well, notice that she references not her mother’s “instruction” but rather simply her mother’s “example.” Either way, it’s interesting to note that she mentions finding God’s will not simply through the Bible, but also through her husband and her mother.
The following pages are filled with simple instructions, examples, and many letters from women, some doing the wrong thing and reaping the bitter fruit, and others doing it God’s way and drinking from a fountain of life.
Debi is explaining just how she is structuring this book. Much of it is centered around letters she has received, which she reprints and then responds to. This is a common expository style, but it’s worth mentioning because Debi uses it a lot. It’s not just one tool in her writing toolbox, it’s the tool in her writing toolbox.
We also see here clearly laid out the idea that there are only two ways to do things: God’s way, or the wrong way. And of course, if you do things God’s way you get the fountain of life, and if you do things the wrong way you get “bitter fruit.” And of course, Debi knows God’s way and is setting out to lay it out in her book. In other words, if you don’t practice the things in her book – which is of course God’s way – then you’re doing things the wrong way, and the result will be bitter fruit. So you better follow her book.
You do have a choice in how your life plays out. Some of you are fighting your present situation and making no more progress than someone fighting quicksand. You fight your husband, and every verbal punch you land leaves a bruise on you as well. It is time to stop struggling in strife, bitterness, frustration, and disappointment. You are about to read God’s plan for a joyful marriage. It has worked for me, for my daughters, for my mother, my grandmother, and my grandmother’s mother. It has worked for many other young and older ladies alike. We didn’t just happen to marry perfect, or even saved men, but we all learned to be help meets to our men, resulting in heavenly marriages.
Marie Griffith suggested in her book God’s Daughters that for some evangelical women, particularly those in already troubled marriages, the teachings about submission can actually be a positive thing. Her argument is that women who are in troubled marriages to begin with can feel some sense of power and agency in implementing the submission teachings they learn about at prayer meetings and conferences, and that that alone can be enough to improve their satisfaction in their marriages. Now clearly, this is all assuming that women these women are going to stay in these abusive relationships in the first place, rather than get out. Griffith is operating from the understanding that women make bounded decisions, and that some women in troubled marriages, because of family pressure or children or religious beliefs or monetary challenges, will see staying put as a better option than getting a divorce. In this situation, Griffith argues, implementing submission teachings can be empowering. (Obviously, I have some issues with this.) Anyway, Debi’s promise of agency to the women she is about to instruct in the practice of submitting naturally brought my mind to Griffith’s book.
This passage really could be summed up as “Debi has God’s plan, and if you follow it your marriage will be stupendously amazing, and if you don’t follow it your marriage will be a horrible disaster.” This is a very appealing message to evangelical women who are in unhappy marriages. They know that what they’re doing isn’t working, and Debi explains why (because they’re doing it wrong) and promises these women that if they only follow her instructions, they can have that perfect happy marriage they want so badly. But this message isn’t so appealing to those who already have happy marriages. Why would I want to do it Debi’s – I mean God’s – way? I already have a great marriage! And besides that, I have a great marriage even though I’m breaking basically every rule in her book, so I know that her claim that you’ll have a troubled marriage if you don’t do it her – I mean God’s – way is false! In other words, I think one thing that’s particularly dangerous about Debi’s book is that it has great potential to attract specifically those women who are already in abusive or troubled marriages, and the instruction it contains is basically How to Be A Victim 101.
Finally, at the end of this passage, Debi gives us one more glimpse into the early years of her marriage:
As I described above, my marriage began rather spontaneously, but it didn’t begin perfectly. In our early years, I experienced a considerable amount of defeat. On one occasion, I even threw rocks at my husband.
Don’t worry, there’s more on this as the book goes on!
* Remember that many conservatives see too much university learning as a bad thing. So the fact that she specifically declares herself just a wife, homeschool mom, and grandmother, not a “professional,” generally counts in her favor.
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Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
The Beautiful Girlhood Doll by Libby Anne
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce