Friday, January 20, 2012

Created to Be His Help Meet: Part 2 (Sobriety)

Well it's been 2 1/2 very busy months over here, but I'm finally putting up another review. Sorry for the delay. My brains, as you may imagine, have been largely elsewhere.

Mrs. Pearl introduces Part 2 of CTBHHM with a brief overview of Titus 2:3-5 and her intention to work through the various things that "aged women" are to be teaching young wives - namely "to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands." The second part opens with a discussion of what it means to be "sober." By this Mrs. Pearl doesn't mean abstention from alcohol or drugs but rather a steady-minded attention to one's job.

Mrs. Pearl says that when a woman marries "she makes a commitment to be the best wife, mother, and manager of the home that anyone could be."(147 emphasis mine) The first thing that came to mind when I read that statement was the parable of the servants charged with investing their master's money. God didn't compare the servant with four talents to the servant with ten and say "You lazy servant! How is it that you stand before me with only four talents when your fellow servant has ten? You should have worked harder to gain the required amount!" No, God says "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master" (Matt 25:23). All that to say I winced when I saw that Mrs. Pearl had me committed to being the best wife anyone could possibly be without regard to my particular gifts, circumstances, or how far along I am on the journey of housewifely sanctification. The flip side is that there are some women who probably laze along thinking "well I'm doing the best I can" when actually they need someone to say in no uncertain terms that, while "their best" might have been fine for the first six months of marriage, by their third anniversary they should have enough practice to move the goal posts back a few yards. As Mrs. Pearl says, "When a woman soberly considers the needs, time schedule, and resources of her home, then she will be a more efficient help meet" (147).

The application segment of this chapter is the usual mix of highs and lows. Yes you are called to serve your husband when he's a jerk. No I don't think that being perfect will make your husband automatically stop being a jerk. An alcoholic doesn't cease to be an alcoholic simply because he's at a meeting of Southern Baptist elders. Lack of opportunity doesn't equal change of heart. On the other hand more women should probably be encouraged to think of their home in a more businesslike manner and employ a little more left brain problem solving to what is actually a rather complex vocation. Mrs. Pearl is gracious enough to suggest how a busy mom can get meals on the table with a minimum of fuss, but I find it very ungracious of her (by which I literally mean lacking in Grace) to suggest that bad days just don't happen to good wives. Cf the statement about doing your best above. If you're using "bad days" as an excuse not to plan then I suggest you get a clue, otherwise I think we can just move along.

I have to say my favorite anecdote of the whole book is the one where her cousin relates her despair at being told by her husband, on a very hot day in the south in a house with no air conditioning, that he just wanted a cold meal. This after she'd slaved away at a hot stove doing her very best for him. The younger generation hearing this story was very huffy, but the older women laughed it off as the growing pains of marriage. There's a whole lot of wisdom in that story, but I think I can sum it up as the following: be willing to laugh at your mistakes and keep learning. A hot, exhausted husband isn't the end of the world, and the things that crush us today will often lead us on to greater successes tomorrow. Marriage, like Mattie Ross, requires grit.

I begin to think that Mrs. Pearl never met a nuance she couldn't put in time out. Apparently after 1960 "all" media began proclaiming the year of female liberation and "as always" the established churches (by which I'm guessing she means mainline denominations) weren't far behind in perpetuating all sort of gender whackadoodle. This of course ignores Piper, MacArthur, Driscoll, Wilson, my pastor, and the not insignificant number of pastors and teachers who have labored mightily against this very thing. But no matter. In contrast we get the famous "excerpt from an undocumented, possibly non-existent, 1950's home ec textbook on how to be a good wife." I'm not going to reproduce it here. I already review this book in way too much detail. Sufficing to say I don't find it surprising that a decade so devoted to worshipful adoration of the adult male led to more than one daughter deciding that she wanted OUT! While the list might not be an actual historical artifact, the sentiments are, and I find more than a tinge of desperation in the "please dear heaven don't do anything to upset this man who has an actual paying job and earns money so that you can flit around with your little cherubs while wearing cotton sundresses that your granddaughters will one day seek for high and low through every thrift store that hipsterville offers." After all, one could postulate that in the more secular American 50's (and yes the post-war years were more secular in many ways) men had less pressure than ever before to remain faithful, diligent husbands whereas their wives were in an economy that put sociological pressure on women to return home in order to open up jobs for returning vets. This is all theory mind you, but perhaps the "liberated" women of the 60s and 70s saw their mothers trapped in a desperate cycle of trying to please their husbands and maintain the only safe and respectable position they had in society? In short, they saw their mothers putting into place Mrs. Pearl's advice (albeit likely in a secular setting) and decided based on the outcome that they'd try independence thank you very much. It's a thought. The 60s didn't pop out of a vacuum. Whatever actually happened in those tumultuous decades Mrs. Pearl closes with the whiplash inducing injunction not to make an idol of our homes (the one's we're supposed to being keeping in tiptop shape because we're Sober Help Meets) because it can cause emotional distress ie drive us crazy. If you want any of those statement to dovetail you need to bring your own router.

Also, Mrs. Pearl knows that Mary was "self-possessed, thoughtful, and always learning to make wise judgements." Given the amount of Scripture used to back up this claim I could say that Mary was a hot-headed, impulsive young thing who was happy to find a situation where submitting to God didn't mean biting her tongue when her little sister asked her to play "Moses in the Bullrushes" with her. Again. Yes, I'm probably thinking this thing through way too much.

1 comment:

  1. "Bring your own router" - hahahaha! I am glad you are doing this series. I haven't read this book because my husband doubted that the good would outweigh the bad. Sounds like he was right.