This article was originally written for my weekly Facebook Sunday Notes feature on Sunday 17 October 2010
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the LORD”
This is the one Bible verse that Christians consistently quote to “prove” that it is the man who should ultimately hear decisively from God, and ask the woman out (or in the Redeemed church, propose outright). I don’t agree that this is what this Bible verse is saying, as there are other verses that refer explicitly to men that common sense tells us must also apply to women. For instance “a prudent wife is from the LORD” (Proverbs 19.14). This was quoted today and was instantly turned into “a prudent wife or husband…” because clearly both must be from the Lord. However, the reason I have decided to comply with the concept that the guy should after all, absolutely be the one to do the asking, is because the Bible does make it indisputeably clear that the man is the head of the home, and the wife should submit to him. As such, to me it makes sense that it should be after all the man doing the asking, and I guess it is for a reason that this is the custom in most parts of the world, in most ages. I just have an aversion to parts of the Bible being twisted to say what they don’t actually mean – even if what we are trying to make that part of the Bible seem to say is actually true.
10. Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
11. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.
12. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life
13. She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands……..
(These intervening verses are all very relevant, and all very beautiful – however this passage is very long!)
……28. Her children rise up and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her:
29. “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”
30. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
31. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Now this happens to be one of my favourite passages of the Bible, especially concerning women, as it shows a strong, intelligent industrious woman who is a business woman, and takes initiative, and is successful and highly regarded – and this is commended right here in God’s Word. To me it demonstrates that the argument between a woman going to work and looking after her children and family is a false one -the answer is here decisively “both”, as it surely must have been in most traditional cultures since forever – many women will run successful enterprises while bringing up successful children. I guess the difficulty in modern capitalist cultures comes when “work” for both men and women implies leaving the house or home, where previously or in agrarian societies it meant tending your own home or field where naturally you would be in contact with your own children much of every day.
Additionally, this is apparently a passage that some Christian husbands naughtily use to torture their wives, for standards that they are not living up to. I can’t imagine why – I am possibly as feminist as a Bible-believing Christian can be, and yet I simply love this passage. It shows feminine positivity and strength – the word in the Hebrew safely translated as “virtuous” apparently really means “valour” – hence “who can find a wife of valour…?” or “who can find a valiant wife….?” – clearly some Bible translators decided that wives should not aspire to be valiant, but rather to be virtuous instead (although, technically, “virtuous” itself could also be translated as “valiant”, from the Latin – complex!)
OK, now since I drafted up my Sunday note below between yesterday and today, something quite funny but also somewhat annoying happened. That is, that my Pastor decided, for the first time ever, that he was going to seriously examine the topic of relationships, and how to contract them. So this was the church sermon today – and what a sermon it was! It was in parts seriously, seriously embarrassing, and we were alll squirming. It was however also quite hilarious, especially for me as I knew I was not really in line to get that embarrassed!
I actually had the chance to talk about 5 characteristics I am looking for in my husband – thereby indicating to everyone that I am single – thank you Pastor I! I would like to make it clear that I did not volunteer for this. Rather, a mic was thrust into my hand, so what could I do?! Unfortunately, I had absolutely no notice, or chance to think deeply, so I lost forever (or until next week at least, when we are continuing the same sermon – I shall be prepared!) my opportunity to use in church the words “hot” or even er, a very “unchristian” word meaning “super-hot”, in the non temperature sense. I ended up giving a list of predictably Christian and good characteristics, with one that may have been somewhat unexpected for most people. Not that there is anything wrong with those characteristics of course, and they were all characteristics that I am genuinely crying out for – I totally strive to be spiritual, and I totally think this is a super way of living my life – however I would also like everyone (or at least everyone who matters) to know that I am a real person who appreciates real, down-to-earth things like a super-cute smile, or a side-splitting sense of humour.
So yeah, it was a little frustrating as Pastor I kinda completely stole the thunder of this Sunday note, and I would like everyone to know that actually, I had essentially written it up before his message, and I am not copying from him!
Now, following on last week – this has been a week – as indeed last week was, where the importance of the Word of God (also known as “The Bible”) has been emphasised like never before to me. Despite my weekly Sunday notes, I have always been more a prayer than Bible oriented person. However, it has finally been brought home to me how the two work so powerfully together. In short, I cannot believe I actually published a Sunday note last Sunday without any reference to the Bible – none whatsoever! So today, there are two passages to make up for it.
Now my head is still buzzing with this relationship issue – and I think I have managed to hit on quite a crucial issue, especially regarding this whole Redeemed approach to relationships. That is, how to negotiate and integrate the issues of “God’s will” and “attraction” when dealing with guys and girls!
Now, I am not from the Redeemed background – for most of my life I have proudly belonged to the Foursquare church – and I’m still proud of that association. Now, as far as I know there is no Foursquare church in Edinburgh, but there are plenty of Redeemed churches, and we are after all worshipping the same God in very very similar ways – so I’m very happy to attend the Redeemed church here in Edinburgh (on going back to London, happily attend either Foursquare or Redeemed – no conflict whatsoever). I know that there are also many people in Redeemed in the UK who come from different church backgrounds. Now, somehow, I’ve known for a while that this is “the Redeemed Way” (that the guy hears from God etc) – but I don’t know whether everyone else knows that. ( As far as I know Foursquare does not have “a way” or format for relationships to form – it may do, or different countries may have regional variations – I don’t know!)
Also, in our particular church, there are no real forums for discussion for these things to be discussed (until of course today, when it came out of the blue). For instance, there are no real opportunities to hang out with other people, to chat generally about issues. If there were, maybe things like these laws would somehow seep out. Furthermore, there have not really been any indepth teachings about relationships. (I’m just taking a moment to laugh into my hands at this point – private joke!)
Now, our church somehow has attracted many Masters students from the Edinburgh Universities. Many of these students are already married, or are engaged already from back home. The others, however, are not (unsurprisingly!). And as the Masters students complete their courses, many of them will be in the stages of life when they are looking to find a good job….and settle down. As the church becomes more and more filled with guys and girls, I think it is so important to discuss these issues so people know how to negotiate the different dynamics, and everyone is speaking the same language, as it were. So you see, I’m not just discussing these issues from my own interests, but I’m also generously thinking about everyone else (!)
So, in interacting with any one individual, considering that this person might be from a different church background, I honestly do not know whether he will know about this law or not. If we both knew what to expect from each other and what is expected of us- this is how it is supposed to be – then that would be fine, because I would just wait and that would be fine. As it is, however, I don’t know how much allowance to make/give for the fact that he might not know or be very conversant with this law – or he might not expect me to know!
I’ll give you one real life example to illustrate….
As it happens, there is a guy (are you surprised?!) who has been merrily creating a nice frustrating situation for me. I seriously doubt he’ll be reading this (she says hopefully) but if you are, then please prepare to be embarrassed young man, as I am about to reveal all your naughty behaviour – oh yes I am!
To cut a long story very short (don’t worry, I also plan to give you the long story later on) – this guy was dropping the broadest and most blatant hints imagineable without actually starting a “Dear Sister Tosin” conversation, ( letter, email etc etc. ) If you think I am being blatant here, then please understand that I am not being more blatant than he was. Someone wrote in a comment to last week’s note that I should not have to be dropping big hints. Please understand that he, he, he was the one dropping the hints over and over and over – not me, emphatically not me – until it just suddenly stopped (I really feel I need to explain the full story otherwise you might not get just how humorous this situation is!) Now, here is my dilemma as someone trying to be good, and holy, and determined not to be the one chasing the guy… With other guys, I might get the feeling “no”, and the subject would be closed, and that would be that. With this guy, I was not getting that no feeling, but I was feeling quite positive, and open to the idea and trying to be patient, waiting for the words to come from him. (I’m not saying it was definitely the will of God – but with other guys it has been so clear that it has definitely not been my own will, that I never even bothered to submit it to God to get His opinion). Now this is the thing. When his hints suddenly stopped, I was not sure whether he had been working with this knowledge of this Redeemed law or not. If so, he may have known the law all along, and may have decided to stop it because he realised that I would not, after all be the right person for him. If however, he was not aware of this law, or he did not realise I was aware, he may have stopped it because he may not have felt that I was reciprocating his interest. (Reciprocating interest would be irrelevant under the terms of the R. law – I guess? – or am I being stoo-pid?!) Without his broaching the topic, I simply do not know. So this has resulted in the situation where I have tried my hardest to show that actually, it’s not that I’m not interested….almost to the v embarrassing point where I feel I am almost the one doing the chasing! This is bad.
What is more, to make things worse, where previously he seemed to be working from the utmost integrity, now it feels as if he is definitely playing with me. Just as I could not fail to be aware of his hints, so in the same way I’m sure he also could not fail to be aware of my efforts to “indicate”, like the time when I… ( actually, both this utmost integrity and this naughty teasing are very essential characteristics for my husband – but that is a different story for a different day).
I’m also worried that he might think that this he has got me where he wants me, and that the way to sustain this is to keep up his teasing. This annoys me. I am almost tempted to overcompensate, to completely blank someone in church, just to communicate that I do not like this, I do not appreciate this….
This is why I was so grateful for the teaching last week, and want to shout it out v loudly – please do not expect me to respond to a question you have not asked – if you feel this is right, then please speak, my friend! Actually, I wish this particular guy would address this issue anyway, even to communicate that “no, actually…” and to acknowledge that yes, he was indeed dropping fat hints designed to make me start hoping big hopes. Frankly Mr, I think you owe it to me, knowing the confusion you’ve caused! (Although I can barely imagine how awkward that conversation would be… – knowing myself I would probably run away!) OK, and could this be an expression of attraction versus God’s will – although surely, attraction has to be a component of God’s will? Oh dear, such a long story, but please believe me, this is the highly, highly abbreviated version! 😉
OK, maybe I should leave some thoughts for next week, but I also thought I need to raise the question of how exactly we know God’s will – different people hear in different ways, and to different degrees of certainty – apparently we shall find out next week – I shall be listening with bated breath! Also, another very, very big question – is there only one person that could be God’s will for you at any time? Long ago, I decided that I would not buy this theory, concerning marriage or concerning any other aspect of life – that there is one specific decision that is “right”, and every other one is “wrong”. This seems like a way to beat yourself up spectacularly over every possible decision you could make in life. Even if it is right, then I decided that the surest way of getting it right is to follow the rules and principles that God has explicitly revealed in the Bible, while continuing to pray, ask God etc, and specifically ask Him for His will. This to me seems safer than relying only on what you might be hearing, or what other people might confirm, or otherwise, which surely, will be coloured by your emotions etc. I prefer to think that a decision should be made by asking God for His will, then working within the guidelines He has set for us in the Bible to choose a husband, career etc that is a sensible choice and moreover one that I like. If God drops a name very clearly, or otherwise makes things very very clear, and you know that this is definitely God, then so be it – obviously go along with that. God and I already have an understanding that I have to seriously fancy my husband, and be totally crazy about him. So if, along comes a guy where this is not the case, or does not look like it could be the case, I am not even going to bother to pray. So there! Period.
However, I bet my Pastor will disagree with me – something to cover next week.
As it happens, I had the chance over the week to be observing the strong, long dependable and holy hands of someone altogether different, and today, would you believe it, I found myself at an excellent vantage point for the same pair of hands! Different possibilities were occurring to me, which highlight the question of whether “God’s will” is absolutely, necessarily one specific person, or could be any one of a number of people….