by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love, Joy, Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 192—194
In this section we get a letter from a woman named Ruth, and Debi’s response to it. Remember that we are in the section on being “discreet,” so presumably this relates (somehow).
Dear Mrs. Pearl,
I know that joy comes from complete submission to God and to your husband. Does that mean I should not be frustrated and just plain tired? I have a question. Should one be quiet when you know your husband is making a poor decision? Doesn’t being a helper mean that I need to help him make better decisions?
Last week my husband went to buy a new stove that we badly needed. He picked out a top-of-the-line stove and was willing to spend too much money in order to have the best. He called and asked me to go look at it and let him know what I thought. I shared my deep concern that it was simply too expensive. We do have the money, but I saw no need to buy the best, when the next scale down would do just as well. He called and told me that he had canceled the order and bought the one I recommended. We both felt better with what I picked out. Should I have kept my mouth shut? I didn’t tell him NOT to get it. I just thought it unwise to spend money unnecessarily. Do wives have to submit in everything? For example, what color to point the walls or what kind of furniture to have? Are we to be just mindless robots?
He sent my two oldest children to public school against my better judgement, and I can now see some negative effects. I guess I have to live with that. I think I save him, myself, and my careless youngest daughter from many skirmishes. I really want to do the right thing. I battle this all the time.
I want genuine joy, but it is not there.
If I were responding to Ruth I would tell her that she had done just fine, and that giving advice on key decisions is important—and, in fact, that the best decisions are made collaboratively. But then, I’m not writing the book, Debi is.
Dear Sister, Ruth,
You wrote about a stove, but the thing that caused you to write to me was your lack of joy. The uneasy void you feel is your conscience testifying to you of your blame in many matters of life. You want to change, to be the kind of person who doesn’t try to control, who is at peace and can let go of issues like this. But there is another part of you that wants to hold on and justify the very actions that bring you such misery of conscience.
Okay, I have to say, I definitely didn’t get that from Ruth’s letter. I got the feeling that Ruth wants in on decision making and being a partner with her husband, and that the only thing that is holding her back is her belief a la Debi that women are supposed to submit. In other words, it reads as though the contrast between her desire to be an active partner to her husband and her religious adherence to “submission” is what is causing her the tension she feels.
Your husband’s choice of stoves is a statement that he is trying to express his great appreciation of you and to please and delight you. Your countermanding his choice, even if it were a better choice, speaks to him about how little you value him, more than it does about how you value the dollar.
What. Okay so wait a minute. If I think of a way to save money and suggest it to my husband even though he hadn’t thought about it and had been going the expensive route, I am valuing money over my husband? Really?
In effect, your actions said that, like so many times before, he was not even capable of making a choice as simple as purchasing a stove. Your history of “cautious leading” says to me that you see yourself as a wise woman, but you view him and your “careless” daughter as lacking good common sense. You feel your husband lacks discretion in spending money, raising children, and in many other areas, but it is not your husband’s lack of discretion that troubles your conscience. It is yours.
Again, I’m really not getting that. Ruth didn’t say her husband was totally stupid. She wrote asking if it was okay to sometimes give her husband advice and collaborate with him on decisions. Those are not the same thing, and no, wanting to give someone advice is not the same thing as accusing them of lacking common sense or being incapable of making decisions. I mean, really? This is not how relationships work.
Your lack of joy tells the true state of your soul. You don’t like yourself, yet you don’t know why. Most women could tell their husband which stove they wanted or what color paint they preferred, even debate with him over it, and it would never be an issue. It is an issue with you because it is not just a stove, it is the fact that you view your husband as inept. He knows this is how you feel. This is why life is a constant struggle, why you are unhappy, why your daughter is “careless,” and why (just a guess) you do not have a good sex life. It is all tied together. Regardless of the issue at hand, your actions seem to say that you think of yourself as being somewhat wiser and him more of a fool. Your conscience speaks louder than the worldview you have adopted—louder than your logic, louder than your “wisdom” in “saving” the family from foolishness. Your conscience, at least, is telling the truth, which is why you wrote to me.
I . . . what? I mean really—what?
Debi Pearl . . . sex life reader extraordinaire! Send her a letter, and she will tell you how often you do the dirty!
Note that Debi says that “most women could tell their husband which stove they wanted or what color paint they preferred, even debate with him over it, and it would never be an issue.” Well, let’s go back and see exactly what it was that Ruth said. “He called and asked me to go look at it and let him know what I thought. I shared my deep concern that it was simply too expensive.” That’s all. Her husband asked, and she replied. Debi suggests this is wrong because Ruth has a desire to share in the actual decision making rather than being totally cool taking a back seat.
You have forgotten the pleasure of having a man do something special for you. You have left off the important things in life. “A gracious woman retaineth honour” (Proverbs 11:16).
If you had been wise, gracious, and loving when your husband called to inform you of the stove he had in mind to buy, you would have laughed and been delighted with your husband’s choice of stove. If you had viewed the extra expense as one would a gift of flowers—a wonderfully beautiful waste of money, and an extravagant gesture of devoted husbandly love—yours especially, but his life also, would have been richer and fuller for it. After all, it was just money, and you said yourself you had the means to afford the one he chose. He would have been so delighted that you were pleased with what he had picked out for you. Something that simple could have changed your relationship into something wonderful. Every time you stood at the stove cooking, it would have reminded you of your husband’s love. And, whenever he saw you cooking on it, just imagine the deep satisfaction that he would always feel for having expressed himself so lavishly toward you. But now, every time you cook on the stove you picked out, you will feel your own wisdom and economy; he will remember your rejection and his foolishness, and the food will never taste good. The stove that you must use will always be a constant reminder of what a fool your husband is.
It’s a stove, Debi! It’s just a stove!
Do you remember earlier in this book the girl who pulled her husband’s arm from around her shoulders because he messed up her hair? In effect, that is what you did with the rejection of his choice of a stove. It is no wonder that you are frustrated and “just plain tired.” I’m plain tired from thinking of the damage that you have done and what you have been missing. Your husband is probably tired, too . . . tired of this marriage.
What. There is no way Debi could tell something like that from this letter, especially when this letter doesn’t suggest anything like that. There is nothing in here about how her husband feels, except that he felt better about their joint decision to go for the cheaper stove than he had about buying the more expensive one. In fact, you could probably more accurately read into this that the husband wants his wife to share with him in the decision making—why else would he have asked her about which stove to buy, after all?
Also, wait a minute. Debi is writing a letter as though it’s her reply but she’s referring to other places in the book? Doesn’t it make more sense for her to just offer her response rather than making it look like a fake letter? Doesn’t that throw the credibility of other letters into question?
You think in terms of this stove or that stove, this choice or that, whether you have to be silent or say your piece. The real issue is your heart’s perspective. If your attitude were right in all the little areas, you could safely discuss with him about “which stove,” and no one would feel rejected. It is just that issues like the stove become the point at which you recognize the problem that exists in your mind and heart about your relationship with your husband.
So, Debi says it’s okay for women to give input on what stove, but only if they have the right attitude to begin with. Where did Ruth’s attitude go wrong, exactly? According to Debi, Ruth has gone wrong in not “reverencing” her husband enough. In other words, she needs to start from the assumption that her husband is, as my mother used to say, “so smart he must be right.” Only then can a woman give input. But doesn’t that rather defeat the purpose? It’s like saying that a woman is allowed to give input only as a fawning admirer, and not as a partner or equal.
It will not be enough for you to just force yourself into silence and start surrendering your will. It is time for you to start practicing reverence toward your husband. Go back and read the story found earlier in this book about the girl named Sunny, and ask God to do a work in your heart as he did in hers. I know you are seeking God. As you seek to do it God’s way, he will help you establish a heavenly marriage. Read again the story of Jezebel found in the first section, and make a list of responses in your life that you are going to change. Read the section on joy and learn to practice joy and thanksgiving. Then, read the section on loving your man and perhaps you both can cook up something really nice, without a stove of any kind.
And . . . it comes back to sex. Again.
I think I’ve reached the meat of what Debi is saying. She’s saying that if you don’t properly reverence your husband, you’re not allowed to give him advice when he’s making decisions. Only if you are properly submissive and subservient and fawning can you offer any input, and presumably then your input will be cloaked in sufficient awe of your husband’s wisdom so as not to make you an equal contributor to that decision. The whole idea appears to be that a wife may never, ever offer her husband advice as an equal. Even if he asks for it. And you know what? That rather defeats the purpose.
And this is apparently what being “discreet” means.
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
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