A pastoral word to critical wives...

(Tim, but written by Curt--an Evangelical Free pastor and dear friend of mine) I have noticed a trend that I find to be instructive and disturbing. Over the course of my pastoral ministry, I have been approached by a steady stream of women who are upset with the church and more specifically its men for not chastising their husbands for some spiritual problem or lack of spiritual qualities. Typically, I have taken such criticism to heart, admitting that we have not done enough to hold men accountable. Clearly, this has not been an area of strength in today's church.

But lately, my thinking has shifted. I have found myself being defensive about our church and its men. I see them as being faithful in modeling, and preaching, and teaching, and mentoring, and confronting, and offering assistance, and even hand holding when necessary. Time and again, they have given of themselves, often at the expense of their own families to help others. And yet, I've noticed that the criticism comes the next time as if no help had been provided or offered in the past.

Instead I now find myself often sympathizing with the husband, recognizing that I have just received the same sort of treatment from his wife that he has undoubtedly suffered under regularly. I am seeing such criticism as indicative of deeper problems: a rebellion against all authority and male authority in particular, an effort to deny or shift personal responsibility, a justification of sinful heart attitudes. Such a wife acts as if she is spiritually beyond her husband when in actuality her behavior witnesses a spiritual problem deeper than even her marital woes. I remember confronting one such wife and her attitude toward her husband, then being accused by her of unfairly blaming her the assumed victim.

I cannot imagine such a shaming approach by wives actually leading to improved marital relationship.  Women who think it will do not understand men. Men don't tend to respond positively to being publicly shamed by women for their lack of manliness. I know I don't. The truth is that men yearn to be encouraged in their leadership, not beaten down by women because of their faults and failures, of which they usually are already keenly aware. The God fearing men I know are not generally in grave danger of inflated egos. The God fearing men I know need to be told by their women that they look up to them as leaders despite their faults and failures, rather than be told that they themselves would be better leaders if only God would allow it. Husbands are no different from elders in this regard. Women need to understand this; type A women need to write it on their hands in permanent marker.

Comments

AMEN. Thanks for writing this article. The church has no problem telling men that they need to change, but how often do we hear the church telling women they need to change or deny their nature? Pass around the permanent markers.

P.S. Men's Fraternity is a great resource to grow up men.

Dear Mr. Fery,

>Men's Fraternity is a great resource to grow up men.

Yes, it is. Check Robert Lewis's work out, men. Years ago, David put streaming video of it up for CBMW.

Warmly,

writing...

Well, a fair bit of this sort of thing [criticism] also occurs, from the single women to many of the single men. Some of it is justified, much of it is not. I suspect that habits learnt when the women are single, carry over all too thoroughly into marital life.

Ross,

In the last year or so I have gotten three pieces of advice from wise men whose friendship I treasure.

First, stop whining. NO ONE finds that attractive.

Second, cultivate friendships with married couples. I believe the thought here is both that they will help keep you healthier than friendships exclusively with singles will, but also that they just might know you well enough to help you make a good match.

The last piece of advice is not so much advice, but a bit of wisdom that has grown up out of an email conversation. After remarking that bachelors tend to live lives that are not necessarily selfish but are self-directed. They get to choose what to do when and which commitments to take on or not. And then he said this:

"An understanding that he had a fatherly role, esp. as that suggests semi-binding ties to particular people and communities, would be a good

thing for the bachelor and the communities of which he's a part. It'd make a

man out of him."

I have been told more than once about being a spiritual mother, but we so seldom hear about the male side of that equation. I think that's a very wise thing for my friend to have said and I hope he publishes a column about it.

Kamilla

Oh, I don't disagree at all. One thing that has come out when people have been praying for me, and more than once, has been the suggestion that I look to 'actively mentor' the younger men, especially the single ones who can and do 'fall off the radar'. That said, I would have to be a Catholic for the idea of "Father Ross" to have any real currency, don't you think?! ;-)

So true... Thanks for the reminder. I needed it.

Clint, if you wouldn't mind explaining further, I'm missing the homeschooling connection.

>I'm missing the homeschooling connection.

Me too, so thanks for asking.

> Me too, so thanks for asking.

Are you kidding, Tim?

Mark, the homeschooling connection is just that in conservative churches the women that seem to be the most discontent with their husbands or have the most potential for it are the wives who homeschool.

The homeschooling mother is a strange beast. She thinks that she can educate her children better than anyone else so she does it at home. Often such a woman begins to think that even her husband couldn't possibly educate as well as she does, the homsechooling subject of "Bible" slowly becomes "Devotions" - or at lest the wife begins to think her husbands teaching devotions is not as good as her excellent education is during the homeschooling day, often the husband begins to believe it and begins to abdicate his role as spiritual leader in the family. And it gets way worse from here. Then the wife complains to the leaders about the husband she's systematically beaten down into the non-leader that he is. Such women often have control issues and have abuse from men in their history.

Do you see what I mean?

Anyway, I would say that this pattern could have happened in my own family but by God's grace I'm too stubborn and my wife is too Godly.

Clint,

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I think the homeschooling mother (on the whole) is a FAITHFUL beast. There are women in your own congregation that do not fit this uncharitable view of homeschooling women (and husbands of these women who do not fit your characterization of the men, either).
Because we are all fallen, in every situation, we will be prone to sin. I can see how this can be a temptation for mothers who homeschool. But you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, either. In fact, the Bible tells us that due to the curse, by our nature, women will want to rule over their husbands. This will exist whether a women homeschools or not.

Okay, okay, don't get me wrong.

Probably 80% of my favorite people are homeschoolers. My uncharitable talk about homeschoolers is based on the fact that we are criticizing ourselves as well.

You know how a person can criticize their own brother, sister or mother or father but as soon as someone else does it they're furious. Well, it's sort of like that.

We have five children, we have always homeschooled all of them and have felt or begun to stumble into the pits that homeschooling presents.

I've been that father who has at times, due to fatigue or laziness, not faithfully lead his family spiritually and my wife has struggled with not overstepping her bounds.

I have seen public school and Christian school families who have this same problem - you're right it is not just a homeschooling problem.

However, it is a problem that is potentially worse in homeschooling families because the mother takes such ownership of the children's education and following Deut 6, she begins to take over every aspect of the family, and the husband can become a glorified piggy bank providing nothing but monetary resources to the family.

And, of course, you can't just blame the mothers. Certain men seek women who will mother them, and certain women seek men who they can mother. It's pretty pointless to assign blame (besides all truly resides on the man for not standing up and leading no matter how difficult) but a wife can help her husband immensely by encouraging or can harm immensely by hen-pecking. There's a fine line as Curt began to point out in his message.

I have seen many good families, including pastors, deacon and elder's wives take over the family in subtle ways with disasterous consequences. It's especially bad for pre-teen sons. They are either emasculated by their mother or the mother has to learn how to let go and/or transfer more homeschooling to her husband during this time. This is potentially not as bad in public/private school families because the sons are not always under the mother hen. They can grow beyond being mommy's boy.

These are things every homeschooling father must manage very well in his home - one book that was good (from what I remember of it) was the Homeschooling Father by Michael Farris.

Anyway, I could go on and on but you're right, Rebecca, this can happen in any home. Thank you for pointing that out. Yet I would urge homeschooling moms and dads, to examine themselves even more closely for the ungodly dynamics Curt describes.

Fair enough, Clint. Thanks for your explanation.

I will say that I am particularly aware of the dangers of continuing to homeschool a pre-teen/teenage son (on my own, that is). Wherever we may be living at that time, I hope that there will be some good co-ops that are partly led by godly men, and for that very reason. We only have one son so far, but my husband has already stated that when he (or other sons) get to be of age, he wants to be thoroughly involved in his education. That would include him taking over certain subjects altogether.

Also- you mentioned something about a wife/mother thinking that no one else could do a better job educating her child or that she thinks that she could do better than anyone else (or something to that effect). Honestly, in most situations, she probably could. All you have to do is look at the statistics of homeschoolers v. state schoolers, and there is a huge difference between the two.

Anyhow, thanks for your response.

Rebecca,

No, thank you for your response! I love homeschooling - I, like most people, tend to criticize the things I love the most.

What I love more than homeschooling though are our homeschooling friends and their children, our homeschooling children and not least of all God. Sometimes we homeschoolers make an idol of homeschooling and it becomes a form of rebelliousness against schools, government, church etc.

I've got a million stories of how bad homeschooling can go - from my own family and others. I don't plan to throw the baby out with the bathwater - we still plan to homeschool at least up to high school and even then we'll probably send them to community college early - our goal is for them to have an associates before 18.

That way if they marry at 18 or shortly thereafter they'll have some college - whoahh, now I really sound insane! ;-)

PS: Homeschooling moms probably can do a better job than almost anyone else but there's more to school than academics. So the kids begin to need all sorts of spiritual training and character building that they need to get by standing up to their peers, being taught by Dad and people in the church etc. etc.

I always hate it when people in my family say, "But aren't you being overprotective - do your kids have friends?" - they even ask little questions at family gatherings designed to test whether my kids are social rejects and if they know basic math etc. I think my kids do pretty well - though I'm sure we have our blindspots, that's why I'm thankful for the accountability from church family.

Yet there are those homeschooling families where you wonder if the kids will ever be able to grow up because they live in a bubble.

I just came across an excellent post on this subject, written by a home schooling mom of 15, called The Great Deception, on the topic of how Jezebel is alive and well not only in our culture, but in our churches and homes as well. Here is an excerpt:

"She was educated. She came from an influential family. She was intelligent, and she knew how to get the job done--people didn't mess with her!

Her husband was not a bad guy--definitely not opposed to anything she proposed. He was laid-back, pretty much supported her every decision and career opportunity. In fact, he counted on her to take charge when he was in a pinch, and she loved taking up the opportunity to wield power and influence through domination, intimidation and manipulation.

Have you been touched or influenced by Jezebel?

She lives in the lives of many women we know, and some we have come to admire. She coaches and prods and bullies. She seduces and proselytizes. She sits in church pews and preaches from pulpits. She demoralizes and humiliates and intimidates.

Jezebel loved glory and recognition. She used others to make herself happy. She worshiped herself--isn't there a magazine by that name? [Self]

Jezebel was a man-hater, and enjoyed making the men in her life look very small. She hated authority, was extremely arrogant and a know-it-all.

She was religious, and encouraged others to be also, all the while being an instrument of the enemy to bring others down, especially the extremely Godly.

She was jealous and controlling--protecting herself even with the innocent and conniving to get her own way."

Read the whole thing here (Part 1):

http://ladyofvirtue.blogspot.com/2009/04/great-deception-part-1.html

And here: (Part 2)

http://ladyofvirtue.blogspot.com/2009/04/great-deception-part-2.html

Eve was to be a helpmeet, not setting the agenda for Adam.

Thank you for the pastoral word.

How would you advise a wife whose husband will not get a job or hold one when he has it and expects his pregnant wife to find a job and support the family? Whose husband is comfortable with staying home, attending college, and working on his computer while the wife supports the family? What would you say to the wife when she tells you that she desires nothing more than to be a homemaker raising her children at home and whose heart is at home but is required to work to put food on the table? How would you counsel the husband when his choices have left the family bascially homeless, and destitute? I am not asking this to be contentious, but asking because these are real life issues that several family members are going through and have been through and it is so frustrating. Oh, and these are Christian families, not pagans.

LP

>How would you advise...

The wife--not the mother-in-law--should go to her elders. Both the cases you mentioned involve wickedness of the sort that makes one "worse than a pagan," according to Scripture. This is, of course, assuming the husband/father is not a quadriplegic or deaf, dumb, and blind.

Seriously. She should go to the elders. Now.

How she should go depends on the church and its structure and family life. That she should go is undeniable.

But be prepared for your daughter to resist calling the church in.

Of course, I trust your husband--not you, but your husband--has already tried to confront the issue.

I will add that a solid commitment to, and demonstrable skill in, working hard and well is one of the first things a father should be asking about a suitor to his daughter, and he should do everything he can to stop her from marrying a man who doesn't eat.

Doesn't eat?

Yes, because the man who won't work shall not eat. He is a Christian, isn't he? If he is, surely the Christians around him aren't feeding him if he's not working, right?

Purposely naive,

LP,

Prov 12:4 says, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones."

So the solution is not to shame him but encourage him.

So how do these women feel about it - are you saying your husband isn't like this?

I get really angry when I hear about this common evil today. I think some people need college but overall it's a racket. I personally don't think anyone should go to college unless they can afford it and support their family while going. But our society and even our churches act like going broke in college is responsible. It works for some people - I have a friend whose wife paid his way through graduate school, now he's a successful professor and minister - but they're the exception and I still wouldn't go their way.

Your job is to help the wives learn how to submit, even when they doesn't agree (in fact most when she doesn't agree) and perhaps your husband or other men in the church could counsel these men to drop out of college or go half time while working full-time. Heck, that's what I did, and I didn't get my undergrad degree until I was 29 - then I realized I didn't even need it! Now my student loans are the biggest obstacle to my success - my education didn't factor in at all really.

Tim, you must have been writing your post as I wrote mine.

Why should she go directly to the elders? I guess in the case of a very unGodly man she'd have to. Ginger has always honored me that if she has been upset with me about things she has asked me before talking to anyone really.

I told her to seek out at least one or two Godly women who she can confide in and develop friendships where she can be honest with them about our marriage etc. and that if I really went off the deep end she must talk to the elders but she must be careful to examine herself.

It seems to me there are very few cases where the wife should go directly to the Elders, at the very least she should say to her husband, "I've been praying long and hard about this and I have tried to encourage you in a Godly way - but I am forced to speak to the leaders at church, I will be doing it on (such and such a date) I would like you to come with me."

If I'm wrong here, please explain.

You are assuming I am a wife, and I am talking about a daughter. You are also assuming I am a wife who has not been in this position and who has a husband who has not put his family in this position. Why? When this has been addressed with a pastor the answer has been to submit to her husband but never addressed to the husband that he must support his family. Unfortunately what I have described isn't only one family but several families and I still don't have an answer or solution. All I can do is watch it happen and pray.

LP

Several responses:

>Why should she go directly to the elders?

Because of the extremely serious nature of the sin:

"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8).

But of course, I'm assuming goodwife has already pleaded with her husband many, many times, and that her father has confronted him, and that other men of the church, including elders, have also privately admonished and exhorted him to return to the Faith--and all those more local and tender entreaties have failed.

Then, it's time for the elders.

>You are assuming I am a wife, and I am talking about a daughter. You are also assuming I am a wife who has not been in this position and who has a husband who has not put his family in this position. Why?

LP, why the attitude? You asked a question and I assumed several particulars, including that it was all happening in N. America, that the folks involved were not Hispanic or Asian, that they are presbyterian in polity, and that we were dealing with Christians--I've made lots and lots of assumptions.

If you want to clarify the situation, just do so, please.

>All I can do is watch it happen and pray.

No, that's not all you can do. You can find another church where the elders will begin to obey the explicit commands of Scripture concerning their duties to the flock. Note I said "begin to obey." This is so very basic, really.

But maybe you're at your church because they have a pipe organ? Or because it's across your back yard? Or because the church claims to be subscribed to the Westminster Standards?

We all make our choices. My choice would be to have my family in a church where the elders elder, even if their doctrine is defective in some non-essential points. And certainly I'd pick elders eldering over whether the church is a member of this or that denomination.

I'm hesitant ever to answer this sort of question here on the blog because virtual eldering is so very time consuming and frail, due to the absence of direct personal knowledge of the situation and persons. (On the other hand, think of all the virtual pastoring the Apostle Paul and Calvin and.... did.)

Warmly in Christ,

Tim, thanks for the clarification.

Add new comment