Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 288-89
Believe it or not, next week will be the last installment of our Created To Be His Help Meet series. We’re finally there—at the end of the book. I feel like we need to do something to celebrate—after all, I’ve been at this for over two years! I’m thinking about finding a way to better organize these posts, and writing some concluding posts summarizing key themes and concerns. I’m also thinking about what book to do next. I may put To Train Up A Child in this slot and resume my reviews, but I’m also thinking about reviewing books by another author, possibly Joshua Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I’m interested in your input on this!
Today, we will look at another of Debi’s poems. I will not judge it on style (and I would be a poor judge indeed if I tried to, as I have never studied poetry), but will look instead at the content, and at what this poem tries to communicate.
I Am His Water
By Debi Pearl
By the title alone you can tell the direction this poem will take. First of all, when Christians say “I Am His” they usually mean God’s. As discussed before, Debi does not see wives as oriented primarily toward God, but rather toward their husbands. Their husbands belong to God. They belong to their husbands.
It’s also worth noting that water takes the shape of whatever container you put it in, which makes it a good metaphor for Debi. As we have seen, Debi teaches that women should mold themselves into whatever complement their husbands need. She also says that women are not “fixed” like men, but are rather more flexible and changeable.
I am his water;
He gazes at me as I ripple over the rocks,
The sun glistening in a thousand places over my surface.
I dance and play,
Delighting him day after day;
So beautiful! I hear him say;
I am his water, lovely and laughing.
In this stanza (is that the correct term?), Debi appears as an object. Her husband Michael looks at her, watches her dance and play, and calls her beautiful. The entire point is that Debi pleases her husband. Michael appears like an art dealer appraising a piece of art and proclaiming it worthy.
Furthermore, Debi’s use of the word play serves to infantilize.
He thirsts for me
Like a man in a burning desert,
Hot, dry sand burning his throat,
The scorching sun beating upon him,
He seeks me.
I am his deep well filled with fresh, clean,
Always there, waiting to quench his thirst;
I am his water, fresh, clean, abundant.
Again the focus is on how Debi can please and fulfill Michael. Debi is always there ready to do whatever she needs to do to make Michael happy—if this book is any guide, that is what she sees as her purpose in life. This “quench his thirst” bit could be a sexual metaphor, but it likely also stands for her peaceful and calming presence—peaceful and calming, in part, because Debi believes wives are to be subservient, to avoid challenging their husbands, and to put aside any criticism.
I should note that Debi’s presence surely cannot be peaceful and calming to people other than Michael. The way Debi talks about and treats other women in her book suggests that she is not a very kind or loving person at all. To Michael, though, she is different—at least, if she follows what she preaches in this book.
He looks for peace;
His soul grows troubled.
Rumors abound, he struggles;
He comes to me;
He lies in the soft green carpet of my banks;
I am the deep, still water.
Although he does not touch me, I give him rest.
I am his water, deep, still; I bring him peace.
Again we see this idea that Debi presents a peaceful and calming haven for Michael. This would not necessarily bother me if it were not that (a) Debi presents this as a one-way type thing, rather than as spouses supporting and encouraging each other, and (b) Debi has explicitly stated that wives should not criticize or challenge their husbands, and that they must “reverence” their husbands whether they are worthy of it or not.
He has forgotten who he is;
He searches for reality, to claim his
He stumbles and falls on his knees beside me;
He stares into my depths, searching for truth.
I lie still and reflect the man he is, good, strong, true;
He sees and is reassured.
I am his water, reflecting, reassuring,
Reminding him of who and what he is.
I’m not sure what all this is referring to, because from what I have seen Michael is incapable of honest self-reflection. But regardless, we again see Debi as an object that exists for the good of Michael. Notice that Debi does not talk. She just lays there, and he looks at her, and that is all he needs.
He has learned to trust me;
I have earned his trust.
I have danced and laughed for him.
In the bright sunshine he thought me beautiful.
I have been clean, fresh, and abundant water;
I have yearned always to quench his thirst;
Waters, abundant waters.
Notice that Debi says she has danced and laughed for him, not with him. Again, this is the central concern I’ve having with this poem—it’s completely onesided, and suggests that Debi exists for Michael—to please him, to strengthen him, and so forth.
I have been quiet and deep;
I have soothed his troubled soul:
He has found rest beside me.
When he peered into my depths, searching,
I reflected back to him strength and honor.
He had no fear with me;
He was safe being the man he was created to be.
Debi has said several times that husbands and wives are able to have especially intimate relationships when the wife follows the teachings she lays out because the wife does not criticize or mock the husband. I do agree that spouses should not make fun of each other or shame each other, and that that each spouse should feel safe with the other. But it is completely and utterly false that the sort of intimacy born of trust is only possible if the wife never criticizes her husband or tells him when he messes up. In fact, I would argue that you can’t have this sort of intimacy if both parties are not free to speak their minds. After all, in Michael and Debi’s relationship Michael is free to be who he is, but Debi is not. What sort of intimacy is that?
As we’ve discussed before, Michael does not appear to be able to take criticism. Remember how shocked he was when Debi suggested he by cheaper ground beef? The man cannot take criticism. The trouble is that rather than seeing that Michael had a problem, Debi concluded that the problem was her—and now in her books and articles she assumes that every man is like her husband, and that the way her husband is is healthy and okay.
Here is how Debi ends her poem:
Now he plunges into my cool, deep water;
I hear him laugh as he surfaces; I feel his
I see him find glory and honor—
Other men marvel.
I am . . . his water.
Well, okay then.
To sum up: I am disturbed by how one-sided all of this is, and by how often Debi serves as simply an object for Michael’s pleasure. But then, that is the crux of my criticism of this book, boiled down into one sentence.