Monday, May 25, 2009

Oh, and just as a sort of postcript...

... to my last entry: I feel compelled to add one teensy tiny disclaimer. In her appendix at the end of Get Married, Candice Watters answers questions she's been asked over time. In one of them, a 28-year-old single woman asks, "What's the best way to wait patiently for God's timing for a husband?"

Watters replies:

Based on all I've read and written, I'm convinced that at this stage, learn patience should not be your goal... If you don't have the traits Jesus set forth in Matthew 19 that qualify and equip a believer for lifelong celibacy, then you can be confident His will for you is the same as it is for most believers: get married and have children.

I feel that this is a dangerous precedent to set.

Based on this reasoning, we can assume that just because we don't feel called to do something, then we are free from the responsibility of doing it. I rarely feel a distinct calling to clean the toilet, but I do know that it's God's will that I should be a faithful steward of what I have, I should serve my family, and therefore I should strive to be good at housekeeping.

If we follow the same reasoning to an extreme, a man or woman may exempt themselves from being faithful to a spouse just because they don't feel called to pursue purity of marriage. This is a ridiculous extreme, to be sure, but I use it to emphasise my point that not feeling "called" to singleness doesn't necessarily ensure that you are called to marriage -- and soon. I would also add that I don't know of any woman who feels called to widowhood, yet this is a path God has asked some precious friends to walk down.

Just something to consider.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Get married: not really an order but an exhortation

It seems to take me forever to read non-fiction these days. Mostly it's because I read in the evenings before switching out my light, and sometimes all I can manage is light fiction. But I do slowly attack the meatier books and always find myself thankful that I've attempted it. There's so much good stuff to learn.

When Get Married, by Candice Watters, first started popping up around the internet and Christian book circles about last year, I was scornful.

The title alone seemed to take all of God's sovereignty out of the concept of meeting someone and instead place the responsibility firmly on the woman alone. That idea scared me. I didn't want to be told that the reason I am single now is because I haven't done enough. The not pretty enough, not smart enough, not outgoing enough, not skinny enough voices are rampant (enough) already.

Also, I'd had enough of women taking the initiative with regards to relationships. The church doesn't need any more of loud feminist agendas, and this new book's bold subtitle, What women can do to help it happen, seemed like the description of a power manual for relationship-savvy girls who want results and want them now.

But the new book became not so new and I found myself in a more comfortable place to finally give the controversial (at least, to me) book a go. It proved to be a case of judging a book not by its cover but by my own preconceptions, and I was delightfully surprised.

What I found in Get Married was a refreshingly unfeministic attitude stemming from a firm grasp of Scripture's complementarian picture of men's and women's roles. Instead of being a how-to manual for scoring the hottest, smartest, wealthiest (oh, and don't forget most godly) guy, Get Married proved to be an encouraging look at Christian marriage and how the postmodern generation has fallen from traditional marriage concepts to embrace independence and freedom -- in spite of the fact that no one seems to be enjoying the results.

Candice Watters' advice is back-to-the-basics, Scriptural stuff. No step-by-step "how to flirt" (I've actually seen this in Christian bookstores) or "interpreting his signals", but simple, healthy discussions on femininity, masculinity, purity, faithfulness, and community. However, those who are looking for help finding a mate won't be disappointed. Watters talks of the value of being part of a Christian community, of placing yourself under the guidance of godly mentors, of evaluating the essential qualities of a marriage partner, of living intentionally with the future goal of marriage in mind, and of defining your relationships to avoid wasted time and foolishly thrown-away pieces of your heart.

Some suggestions offered -- particularly in the chapters 'Living like you're planning to marry' and 'Pray boldly' -- may be taken to extreme and tempt the reader with the idea that she's only single because she hasn't done enough yet to earn or win marriage. This throws away God's grace and suggests He will never give good gifts until we are righteous enough to deserve them. Thankfully, we don't serve that kind of a god. We serve a lavishly-loving, fatherly God who showers us with blessings when we deserve curses, and who pours out good things again and again. A thoughtful reading of this book, along with a balanced idea of God's sovereignty and grace, should avoid that confusion however.

I learnt lots of things from Get Married. I was encouraged in my conviction not to have intimate guy buddies just for the sake of buddydom, and I was convicted of my tendency -- which arose quite possibly in defence of my own singleness -- to think of marriage as inferior to singleness instead of esteeming it as the rich covenant picture the Lord ordained for most of humankind to enjoy.

Get Married: what women can do to help it happen
Candice Watters
Moody Publishers, 2008
Rating: 8/10

Friday, May 1, 2009

Eh, what?

Today I was feeling not completely well, and not completely awake (owing to a 4.55am rising to drop family at the airport). It was also cold, cloudy, and grey. As a result of all these unique factors, I actually got to spend some time in bed cuddled up under a rug, reading. I haven't done that in a while and it was delightful.

And since it's put me in a bookish mood, let's do a meme (stolen from a friend and then tweaked). I call it the What Book Meme, and as always you are so very invited to chime in with your own answers to any or all of these questions.

1) What author do you own the most books by? Coming in first place: Mary Grant Bruce. I own 26 copies of various books of hers. These are getting harder and harder to find and I love to share them, so when I find a copy -- and if I have the dollars -- I try and pick it up. I've slowed down now, though, you'll be happy to know. Next comes Isabella McDonald Alden, at 23. This suprises me because she's not my favourite author. But again, her books are hard to find and they're very sweet. And in third, it's Laura Ingalls Wilder, because I keep giving her books away or loaning them to people, so I have multiple copies of lots of them. What does this tell you? Firstly, that I collect mostly books by authors with three names, and secondly: I finally understand why I am forever running out of bookshelf space.

2) What book do you own the most copies of? I have five copies of Mary Grant Bruce's A Little Bush Maid. In my defence, I must tell you that each of them is a different printing.

3) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Alright then. I confess: Daniel, in The Bronze Bow. Also Jim Linton in The Billabong Books. They both seem the epitome of the awesome man.

4) What book have you read the most times in your life? Besides the Bible, I'd say... Little Women.

5) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? Little Women. After all, that's why I read it so many times.

6) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year? I didn't finish Francine Rivers' A Voice in the Wind. It was compelling and yet... so wrong. Not recommended.

7) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? I really, really, really loved The Heaven Tree trilogy by Edith Pargeter. It'd been a long time since I read fiction that made my heart skip a beat.

8) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? I am thrilled beyond words to say that They -- the universal They -- are actually making a movie of a book I have loved for long ages: Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth. I hope they do it justice. I really do.

9) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? I really don't like seeing Jesus depicted in movies. He's always portrayed as such a paltry, simpering man. So I guess I'd say I'd rather not see the gospels made into movies.

10) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult? I tried to read Sahara by Clive Cussler and the writing was just really so terribly bad I couldn't finish it. But this question strikes me as rather a nasty one.

11) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read? Difficult mentally or difficult emotionally? I will have to think long and hard about this one.

12) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen? Er.... I've never seen a Shakespeare play. I'm so terribly uncultured.

13) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading? I have never read Thomas Hardy and I can't for the life of me seem to like G.A. Henty even though historical fiction lovers say he's wondrous.

14) What is your favorite novel? That question is too entirely unfair and I refuse to answer it.

Now I have a "what" question for you: What book are you going to enjoy this weekend?