My novel opens with:
A virtuous heart keeps an orderly home.
I made up that quote. But the idea that a good Christian woman will keep a good Christian house is pretty common even out of Fellowship-like circles. Witness this quote from a couple of Elizabeths:
“I love what author Elisabeth Elliot said, ‘A sloppy life speaks of a sloppy faith.’ We’re careful in our faith…careful to tend to our spiritual growth, careful to obey God’s Word, and careful to maintain the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, and giving. So why shouldn’t we also be careful of how we manage our homes? That’s not a put-down. Far from it! Creating a safe and comfortable place for your family and yourself is a privilege and significant accomplishment.” –Elizabeth George
Do I enjoy a clean house? Yes. Do I want my home to be safe and comfortable for my family? Yes. Do I consider it a reflection of my spiritual state if I let clutter build up on the table, don’t vacuum the floor, and don’t clean the pencil marks off the wall?
I’m sorry, Elisabeth Elliot and Elizabeth George, but you’re wrong. You’re taking a societal standard and making it a spiritual requirement.
The standards of society change, but every generation has its own set of “virtue indicators.” These days, it’s more along the lines of eating “clean,” avoiding classist/racist sentiments, and accepting everyone’s choices as a universal good. Nobody actually does this perfectly, but the better show you put on, the more virtue you seem to have.
But just like having a clean house doesn’t get you anywhere closer to God, neither does avoiding processed foods or using the term “First Peoples.”
Good things are good. Do them. God things are God’s. Do those. Sometimes there will be an overlap. But I’m all done letting anyone — revered Christian writer or not — tell me that I have to live up to the standards of modern America in order to please the God of all Eternity.
8 thoughts on “Good Things, God Things”
You said that SO well! Thank you for clearing away some of the fog of American Christianity.
Over a year later, I’ve gotten ahold of a 1970 version of “The Bride’s Book of Ideas,” which very definitely enforces this brand of American Christianity. I will be posting on it, of course. 🙂
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Finally!! Somebody is saying what needs to be said about these publications and studies. I glad to have found someone (and it took a while) to articulate what I feel in my spirit. I think “what is wrong with me, I must be a really rebellious woman because I hated above rubies and A woman after God’s own heart.” I think these studies and magazines promote a spirit of judgment when your home doesn’t look like theirs, which of course is the Biblical way. These studies and magazines do not motivate me to be a better women. They lead me to despair and what I do get done is done out of guilt. And we wonder why Christians commit suicide. These people twist scripture and do not know how to “righty divide the word of truth.” If you are going to put us under words written to Israel then you had better get your shove and go out back to bury your waste, because if your going to be under some of it you have to be under all of it. This is not the gospel, and if I’m depressed it doesn’t mean I need to go for a run or read my Bible more! The thing that I still don’t understand is that while I’m getting angry because I think my husband should be able to throw a milk carton in the trash these women seem really happy with this. I think “at least they are happy while I’m hurt and angry when I’m told I need to go exercise or think why can’t he throw a load of laundry in.” Any thoughts?
Late to the game here — and really, I think this is something you have to work through and reconcile for yourself. Which you’ve obviously made a good start doing.
As for those who are really happy while you are hurt and angry, well, there are lots of reasons why that might be. Two reasons might be:
1. Personality differences. We all look for and appreciate different qualities in a spouse. I remember my sister-in-law remarking on some silly-sweet thing I’d written about my husband, “Our husbands both know how to cherish their wives. Mine does it in different ways than yours, but we both feel cherished.” So what’s important to one wife (PICK UP YOUR OWN MESS) is not to another (THANK YOU FOR FIXING THE SQUEAKY DOOR WITHOUT ME ASKING).
2. They are pasting smiles over their own hurt and anger, because they’ve been told they have to.
Ultimately, your marriage is among you, your husband, and God. You operate within that framework, not some construct that someone else says you have to fit into.
Thanks for commenting!
You nailed it here, Sara. As soon as I read what Elisabeth Elliot said, my red flags were waving all over the place. Words of do and do and do and you didn’t do enough. And my charming story is that back in the day when my now-grown children were young, I day-dreamed about eventually speaking at homeschool gatherings about how to keep a clean house, because I figured one day God would finally show me how to do it! It never happened (well, not to the extent I was hoping for), but I’m happy to say that I now welcome people no matter what the house looks like and know that sitting with someone who is hurting is . . . can I say FAR more important than keeping a clean house? And the house has *nothing* to do with my faith standing. NOTHING. Father God is well-pleased with me by the work of Jesus Christ who loved me and gave Himself for me.
I’m enjoying reading your blog and getting to know you better. Love to you.
That’s funny, but also a bit sad that the greatest message you looked forward to sharing with other women was… how to keep your house clean.