Thursday, November 3, 2011

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 1 (Concerning Mysteries and Kingdoms)

We're finally closing out Part One of CTBHHM, and I wanted to share an insight I gained talking with my mother-in-law. As we discussed some of the problems I have with this book she pointed out that at least some of my reactions are probably heightened because I saw my mom and dad acting out a codependent relationship with my mom at the center. Even though my mom would swear up and down that my dad called the shots, her emotional state is what, from my perspective, actually ruled the family. Hence I get really jumpy listening to Mrs. Pearl talk about how women can have a perfect marriage regardless of their husbands - once again all that talk about respect and authority masking the real position as wife firmly in the central, guiding role. On the other hand, women who grew up seeing their moms (or other women around them) getting along despite a recalcitrant husband might actually be encouraged by hearing that they can have a "good" marriage regardless of the man's attitude. I still think it's potentially problematic for wives to take some of Mrs. Pearl's very pragmatic advice into healthy, maturing marriages, but I understand a little more why some women might miss so much of what completely turns me off of this book.

Chapter 13 opens with the "great mystery" of Ephesians 5:32-33 and the return of Dubious Exegesis Debi. I'm going to block quote Ephesians 5:32-33 once as cited in CTBHHM and follow with Ephesians 5:22-33 as per my Bible. Although I typically use ESV I'll post the second quote from KJV just for comparison's sake.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and church...and the wife see that she reverence her husband.(emphasis in original)
Compared with:
22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (emphasis mine)

I realize those at just a couple hunks of text tossed on the (virtual) page, but I wanted to provide a means of contrasting and contextualizing Mrs. Pearl's reference. It doesn't take an advanced degree in English to see that Mrs. Pearl is leaving a whole lot out of her quote. The Bible says "This is a great mystery:but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Basic reading here: "but" contrasts with "mystery" and attempts to provide some sort of information about this mystery. It doesn't say "and" which would you lead you into another topic. This is about the mystery. What mystery though? Is it wives reverencing husbands? The preceding sentence says "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery." Any common sense reading of this passage would equate the "great mystery" with the "one flesh" of marriage. If you look back up at the extended quotation you'll that Paul is constantly going back and forth between the unity of marriage and the unity of Christ and Church. Based on his argument I'd say that this "great mystery" refers to the "one flesh" union of marriage and furthermore applies the metaphor of marriage to Christ's union with His Church. Could Mrs. Pearl be right? Maybe. But, although I can excuse her elipsing out the husband's role she also left out this ticky little "Nevertheless." If we took the husband out of that passage it would still read "Nevertheless let...the wife see that she reverence her husband." "Nevertheless" is approximately equivalent to "however" and signals a shift in the conversation and is therefore and important word to have been left out. Given the complete quotation it would take quite a bit of 'splaining for me to accept Mrs. Pearl's version of the "great mystery."

You might think I'm spending too much time on a simple misquote, but it's important when she's making it the foundation for understanding how a wife reverences her husband. The biggest mystery is how she missed the mystery! Once she gets past her odd exegesis Mrs. Pearl actually has some good things to say about how our marriage is supposed to be an earthly picture of Christ's union with the Church and how this prepares us for the day when we really are joined to Christ.

And now it's over the top story time! Mrs. Pearl presents us with another wife (this time one whose husband visits prostitutes) who goes out of her way to make her husband feel like the most amazing dad in the world. I suppose I'm a wildly skeptical wife, but I don't think my marriage vows include anything about coming down with an incurable venereal disease because I'm having sex with a man who has sex with prostitutes. In that same vein I don't consider staying with a man who tried to kill with a butcher knife while you're pregnant to be covered by my marriage vows. Since Sunny and Amed's story (and the outrageous advice Mrs. Pearl gave) are legendary I won't add very much. If you have a friend who refuses to leave her abuser then counseling her to do everything in her power to not set him off is valid, but it's not as valid is seeing that son a degenerate rat put in jail! Actually counseling a woman to stay with her abuser could end up with with one (or more) deaths, and I'd hate to be the woman who told that wife to stay.

But, once again, if you ignore the crazy you'll find some good advice on overlooking your spouses faults (not feeding the dog, forgetting your birthday, etc) and not trying to "punish" them with our attitudes. At best you get strife and at worse you get the freedom for a find another man who'll forget to mend the door or pick up a gallon of milk. Good marriages, as Mrs. Pearl rightly points out, are made of overlooking faults and loving the other person.

I wasn't sure about adding any more to this post since it's already getting rather long, but if you'll bear with me the next chapter is pretty short.

Mrs. Pearl closes out Part 1 with a chapter on the practical outworkings of reverencing one's husband. I could go into it point by point, but basically it means publicly and privately acting in ways that build your husband up and bring him honor. It means serving him and appreciating his attentions and company and certainly not shaking off an embrace because he might mess up your dress or your hair. (Caveat: If we were getting ready for an event and Allen tried to bear hug me in such a way that it'd be another 20 minutes putting my hair back in order I'd give him a friendly warning to that effect simply because being late/arriving deshabille could also reflect badly on us/him.) So far so good. Once again though I lose her when she says that God has installed in a men a response mechanism whereby wives can win their husbands by correct behavior and that men, conversely, really can't do anything about a recalcitrant wife. She might have a point, but if you read that as "You can lead your angry husband even if he resists, but he can't lead you unless you let him" it doesn't seem to square with the roles of husbands and wives. I don't have a chapter and verse at the moment, but it doesn't sound right.

Next time we'll start on Part 2. Stay tuned :)

1 comment:

  1. I can see what your mother-in-law is saying, but I feel exactly as you do about this book so far and I don't have any background that would cause me to see it that way (that I know of!). I'm reading through your reviews and so far I am with you all the way. :)