It's (Not That) Complicated by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin
Our Response to Rapunzel
Posted April 19, 2012
Thank you for your email. We happen to already be familiar with your story as presented in “Tangled,” and even know a little more about your backstory than you do, and so we do have some thoughts for you.
We will be unusually blunt, because we know you are not a real person with feelings; you are the carefully written, cast, voiced, sketched, sculpted, scanned, painted, rigged, animated, rendered, and composited brainchild of John Lasseter, Glen Keane, and the Disney scriptwriting committee. We’re talking to you, polygons.
And not only were you meticulously handcrafted by others: Your entire universe was built around you, detail by detail, by these same imagineers. Your particular situation, down to Flynn’s serendipitous appearance in your window – your moral dilemmas, down to your conflicts with your mother – the characters you ran into, down to the last pub thug – didn’t just happen, but were deliberated over by a bunch of businessmen for approximately ten years. Everything about your world, including the ethical system by which it operates, came out of somebody’s head.
But here you are, in the middle of it, and you need advice. Let’s get down to helping you out! We would like to propose the following course of action for you:
Kill your mother with her own dagger (for poetic justice), run away from the tower once and for all, reunite with Flynn Rider (and propose to him – why not?), rally the thugs to your side, storm the castle together, throw out the authorities that were trying to imprison Flynn (doesn’t that make them the villains?), and establish yourselves as the ruling elite, where your word can be law, now not only for you, but for everyone.
No, of course that’s not the right answer. But why not?
Some might say that since your universe is a fantasy universe, God’s ethical system does not apply. But if His moral standard doesn’t have jurisdiction over this film – if, since this film isn’t a “Christian” film, we shouldn’t require it to line up with the Bible – then who could dare say bumping your mother out of the way would be wrong? Who’s to say any other solution would be morally better? Are we admitting that there is some overarching standard after all?
We’ve got good news for you: You, Rapunzel, imaginary creature though you are, are not ultimately under the lordship of Disney Studios, but of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands all men to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” – which means every imagination, every script page, and every film frame. Christ demands that every man’s mind and the stuff in it bow the knee, and that would include you. And His moral system – His law – is still the standard by which your moral system must be measured. In other words, stabbing your mother would be wrong, not because it’s not the sort of thing a nice girl with a dream would do, not because it would be politically incorrect, not because it would disturb children – but because it breaks one of His commandments (Ex. 20:13). And that’s why, even though you’re a fairy tale creature, we’re going to respond to you as though you were a real person.
What makes advising you tricky is that the brains who crafted your universe and situation never presented you with a good option. The film offered you two choices at the beginning: 1. Rot your useless life away in the tower with the world’s most detestable mother; or, 2. Defy your mother and run away from home with a thief. Your only visible choices now are: 1. Rot your useless life away in the tower with the world’s most detestable mother; or, 2. Follow your feelings, denounce your mother as a kidnapping imposter with no evidence, and leave again. Yes, it does occasionally seem that the only options life presents are bad ones, but in reality, doing right is always an option. Film has the power to create dishonest moral scenarios, forcing its characters to play a version of the lifeboat game (Who will you throw overboard, passenger A or passenger B?) and never offering a third option. And by making your option A look unspeakable, while making your option B look irresistible, “Tangled” draws us in so deeply that by the time your first moral dilemma comes around, we’re rooting for you to do (what we would normally call) the wrong thing.
So what is the right (biblical) thing for you to do, now? Here are a few (serious) suggestions:
1. Check the facts regarding your identity.
Feelings, hunches, and childhood drawings are a bad guide (and insufficient evidence), especially in such high-stake situations. There are ways to figure out who you are. We, the audience, of course know that your Mother is actually an evil kidnapper and the villain of your story; but you, the protagonist, currently have about as much reason to suspect this as every girl in the audience does her own parents.
If you were wrong, and she turns out to have been your biological mother all along:
2. Apologize sincerely for disobeying, deceiving, and defying her.
Some protest that you were justified in breaking the 5th commandment because she wasn’t really your mother, but let’s be honest: You didn’t leave because you knew that. You didn’t leave because you knew your mother’s command was biblically unlawful. You didn’t leave because you thought it would be wrong to stay and submit to the unbiblical tyranny of a kidnapping sorceress. You left because there was something you really wanted to do, the authority over you forbade it, and you decided to do what you wanted to do it anyway. You actually believed, and said, that it would be wrong for you to go. In your mind, you were as guilty of rebellion as the girl whose parents forbid her to go to a wild party and who sneaks out to go anyway: You left because you didn’t care.
We’re truly sorry that the filmmakers gave you such a loathsome creature as a mother. But if it’s wrong for her to be a law unto herself, you need to hold yourself to the same standard. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Sam. 15:23)
3. Biblically examine the legitimacy of her commands.
Even if she is your biological mother, however, that doesn’t mean you have a duty of unconditional submission to her whims. “The requirement of unquestioning obedience by any human authority is a sin and defiles the very intent of God’s Word,” writes R.J. Rushdoony. “The unquestioning obedience which Scripture requires is only to God, never to kings, rulers, employers, husbands, or parents. To render unquestioning obedience is a sin.”
There comes a time when, in the words of our founders, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God!” What you need to ask yourself is: Is your mother forcing you to sin, or is she forbidding you to do something God has commanded? In either case, you must disobey. (By the way, God didn’t command you to go see the floating lights.) And if she is physically abusing you or endangering your life, you have a duty to not be an accomplice to her crimes. You need to get out of there. Thankfully, you are fit and resourceful, as well as handy with your lasso hair, and you’ve gotten out of tougher scrapes. We’ll root for you.
4. Appeal to her regarding her sins against you in the spirit of Matthew 18:15:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” If she refuses to be reasonable, the biblical answer is not to simply walk away from her forever. Verse 16 continues, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Use your resourcefulness to bring in some authorities to handle the situation – and, yes, submit yourself to them. Unaccountable autonomy is an alternative Scripture never offers anyone, man, woman, or child.
However… If she is not your biological mother, but instead a kidnapper:
2. Employ your resourcefulness to go to the authorities.
God condemned kidnapping as seriously as murder (Ex. 21:16, Deut. 24:7), and she needs to be brought to justice. This is bigger than you and your feelings; she has sinned against God and your parents as well as you, and right must be done.
However, if justice is really your concern, then…
3….You also need to report the most wanted thief in the kingdom, who has also stolen precious items (the tiara) from your parents.
Flynn has also sinned against God and your parents, and again, this is bigger than you and your feelings. Biblically, he wouldn’t be hung or have his hands cut off, but there are consequences for stealing (Ex. 22:1-4, Lev. 6:1-7, Prov. 6:30,31).
This is not, of course, to assume that Flynn couldn’t repent of stealing. If he did, though, he would certainly go further than saying he’s sorry and never doing it again: He would make restitution to everyone he robbed, as many times over as biblically required. It would be nice if repenting meant not having to suffer the consequences, but God is a God of justice Who requires that things be made right. That He is also a God of mercy means that He does give second chances to those who repent, confess, make things right, go their way, and sin no more… and we can too.
4. Don’t embrace thugs just because they’re nice to you.
This film for young girls contained an interesting message: That everything your mother taught you was wrong. One interesting example was your mother’s caution that the world contained dangerous men. No one would dispute this fact in the real world, but it was a point the film pulled some tricky stunts to prove wrong. At the end of the day, the openly brutal and violent thugs were proven to be harmless to pretty blond girls. The ones shown to be the real villains were parents.
As regards both Flynn and the pub thugs – of course they have souls! But it’s no amazing discovery that the more villainous elements of society also have feelings, dreams, even artistic impulses. Hitler was sensitive and introspective, wrote poetry, loved music and art, collected artifacts, had a dream (a big one), and liked pretty blonde girls. A penchant for collecting ceramic unicorns doesn’t make a criminal innocent. It also doesn’t prove that your mother was wrong about the world – even if she was wrong about how people should respond to it (i.e. hiding in a tower). Unfortunately, neither you nor she figured out what it means to be in the world but not of the world, or the right way to be a light in the darkness.
5. If you are found to be the Lost Princess, step up to the role of royal daughter, and all that that involves.
As the daughter of such obviously wonderful parents, you will obviously not have any excuses for running off to attend events they forbid, or becoming romantically entangled with young men they disapprove of. (If you never had an “authority problem” to begin with, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.) As a princess, however, your new responsibilities go even further than this. As soon as you put on that tiara, you have to stop being the main character of your story and let your subjects take that place. Instead of being slave to a tyrannical mother’s whims, you must now be a slave to duty and the needs of your people. Dancing with the peasants and drawing pictures with them on the sidewalks will not be enough. Whatever your feelings may be, you have to set an example of law-upholding conduct to your people. Whatever your (or others’) dreams may be, you have to impartially uphold justice. Whatever your diplomatic power may be, your word cannot be law.
And Rapunzel, we’re afraid this means that you are going to have to become a different kind of girl.
Your example, unfortunately, can no longer be what it has been throughout the whole movie. You may be one of Disney’s most appealing recent characters, and you may have done some admirable things (such as try to sacrifice your life for Flynn). But your character is nonetheless an extremely dangerous one for girls to relate to.
Why? Because although your situation is so different from ours (our parents generally are our biological parents, and they generally aren’t locking us up in towers), and your universe operates so differently from ours (none of us have magic hair), your struggles, feelings, and questions are just the same. “Tangled” tackles the biggest issues in a young woman’s life: relationships with parents, attitudes toward authority, relationships with young men, the outside world, the use of our time, and our bigger purpose in life. It raises the questions every young woman is asking. Then it gives the exact wrong answers.
When a girl sits down to watch your movie, she is about to vicariously live your story with you, feelings, attitudes, romance, temptations and all. She is “you” for the next 90 minutes. And what is she learning along with you? That our parents are wrong about everything. That all will turn out well if we just follow our hearts. That no man is so bad he wouldn’t “turn it all around” just for us. Through you, we tangibly feel the temptation to reject our parents’ instruction, keep secrets from them, and defy them – and then, through you, we give in to temptation. Through you, we feel pangs of guilt, shame, and fear of hurting people we love – and then, through you, we learn to stuff those feelings down and ignore them. Through you, we learn: What I want is more important than what I believe is right.
And at the end of your story, everything turns out beautifully to prove that when you chose to follow your heart rather than your conscience, you made the right moral decision.
Some might still point out that, in order for your story to work out, you had to. True, but next time any of us want to “pull a Rapunzel,” and do something we know is wrong to make things right, let’s remember that our stories are not Disney movies; that our world is not populated with Disney characters; that we are not Disney heroines whose universes revolve around us; and that our Creator has rigged things to work differently. We’ve had to watch girl after girl after girl make the same decisions you did, give in to temptation the way you did, sear her conscience the way you did, and run off with scoundrels like the one you did. Unlike you, they discovered that the real world revolves around a God Who isn’t them, and that He has built into His world rewards for sin that don’t generally include “Happily Ever After.”
We admit, we don’t typically write emails to CG models representing imaginary people. The reason we’re writing to you is because for many girls, you’re much more than that. Though you’re just a figment of someone’s imagination, a mere idea – ideas are real. And that’s why “Tangled” matters. After all, girls don’t really love “Tangled” because it’s “just a movie.” The reason we love it isn’t because we just can’t, practically or morally, put ourselves in Rapunzel’s shoes. We don’t love it because it’s a totally un-relatable fantasy that has no connection to our lives. If we love it, it’s because it does strike a chord with our lives. We laugh and cry along with Rapunzel’s joys and woes because we can relate to her. And when we passionately, emotionally tell critics to leave it alone because “It’s just a movie!” we are proving that down inside our hearts, it’s much more than that.
You may be just an idea, an imagination, a thought – but thoughts (not people) are exactly what we’re commanded to take captive (2 Cor. 10:5). “Arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” are exactly what we are supposed to destroy (v. 5). Strongholds are exactly what we are supposed to tear down (v. 4).
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, we’re not condemning you.
We’re just trying to take you captive.
Anna Sofia and Elizabeth
“Trapped in a Tower” Asks for Advice
Posted April 7, 2012
Dear Botkin sisters,
I just turned 18 years old and I have a question for you. My name is Rapunzel and I’m in the middle of a very challenging situation. I’ll give you some backstory.
I’ve spent my whole life living at home in a tower with my mother, who told me that the tower is the only place that I could be safe from people who want to steal my hair. I’d always been happy at home, and felt like my mother and I had a fairly good relationship, until recently. A few days ago, I mentioned that I wanted to leave the tower for my birthday. You see, I really wanted to go see some mysterious lights that always appear in the sky on my birthday – ON MY BIRTHDAY – which of course has always made me think that they were somehow for me! Mother said it was a bad idea, that there were ruffians and thugs out there, that I couldn’t handle myself, etc. I tried to convince her otherwise, but then she exploded and said that I could never leave the tower.
Does that seem fair to you? It didn’t to me! I was still just as determined to see the lights! So I came up with an excuse to get her to go on a trip for a few days, and then I carried out a brilliant plan. Right before the fight with Mother, I had knocked out a thief who climbed in my window, and trapped him in my closet. (Can’t handle myself out there? Tell that to my frying pan!) After Mother left, I made a bargain with him: that he take me to see the floating lights and bring me back safely, and I would return to him a tiara that I had taken out of his satchel. He basically agreed. We’d be back before Mother returned and she would never even have to know.
I admit that I had a lot of conflicting emotions before jumping out the window. I just had to do it. I admitted that I shouldn’t. And then I did!
Being completely free for the first time was AMAZING!!! I consoled myself that what Mother didn’t know wouldn’t kill her. Then I realized this would kill her. I was having so much fun! And yet I felt like a horrible daughter. I decided I was going back. I decided I was NEVER going back! I felt like a despicable human being. I felt like it was the Best. Day. Ever! I was alternately laughing hysterically and sobbing uncontrollably. My guide, Flynn Rider, tried to play on my feelings of guilt, to get me to give up and go back, but that’s when I really strengthened my resolve to just put those feelings behind me and stick to my dream, and I didn’t have any qualms after that.
I got my first taste of what people in the world are really like when Flynn took me into a pub. The men there seemed worse than the kind of ruffians and thugs my mother had always warned me about! As they were in the middle of trying to kill Flynn, I begged them to FIND THEIR HUMANITY and asked if any of them had ever had a dream. Guess what? They all had! It turned out that beneath their scary exteriors, they were just people, with feelings and hobbies and dreams, like me! I guess they just needed a nice young girl to draw it out of them. That’s when I first started to wonder if my mom had always been wrong about the world.
After several more scrapes, I was starting to feel really bonded with Flynn. To be honest, I was starting to really like him, and he seemed to really like me. At that point, you’ll never guess who showed up to end my adventure but Mother! She tried to get me to come back home. She called Flynn a wanted thief. I told her that he liked me. She laughed at me. She said a man like that would just leave me as soon as he got what he wanted (the tiara). For the first time in my life, I openly defied her! I refused to listen, or to go back with her, and so she went off without me.
The next day was my Big Day! Flynn and I went into the kingdom together, we saw the townsfolk, we danced and drew, and at sunset… we got to see the floating lights! I found out they were lanterns sent out every year to commemorate the birth of the Lost Princess. It was magical, and extremely romantic, and I knew then that I had to be with Flynn.
But then my dream began to turn into a nightmare. Though I had felt it was wrong to run away, everything had seemed to be turning out so well as a result. Suddenly things started to become awful! Flynn seemed to have abandoned me, some truly bad thugs tried to kidnap me (well, maybe they have dreams on the inside too, I forgot to ask), and then Mother showed up just at the right moment. Now it seemed like Mother was right about Flynn, right about the world, right about everything! There was nothing left for me in the kingdom. So I went back to Mother. And I felt terrible about how everything had worked out.
So I sat on my bed back in my tower to think over everything that had happened. I was looking at a little flag Flynn gave me that had the kingdom’s ensign of the sun on it – and I suddenly realized that I’ve been drawing shapes like that my whole life without even knowing it. !!! Then I had a flashback to a mosaic I had seen in the kingdom, of the Lost Princess as a baby with green eyes and blonde hair, and I realized I have green eyes and blonde hair. !!! And then I had a flashback to when I had tried on the tiara that I found in Flynn’s satchel and it looked amazing on me. !!! What are the odds? Couldn’t this only mean one thing?! I’m starting to get a very strong feeling that I’ve always been more special than I thought. And I don’t actually remember being born to my mother. What if… she’s been lying to me my whole life? What if she’s not really my mom? What if she kidnapped me at birth? What if I’m actually the Lost Princess?
So, I was feeling very tempted to go tell Mother that I’m on to her, and then I stumbled across your website, Visionary Daughters.
Now I’m confused about what a girl in my situation should do. Should I trick my mom and run away secretly again? Or should I be more upfront in my defiance this time? Wouldn’t you agree that I was justified in running away the first time, since she wasn’t actually my mom, even though I thought she was at the time? Should I go try to find Flynn again? Should I present myself to the king and queen and say I’m pretty sure I’m their daughter?
On your website, you don’t appear to give any advice to anyone in my particular situation, which makes it seem like you don’t realize that there are people out there with different circumstances from yours. I like the principles that you lay out, but I don’t think it’s possible to obey any of them because I don’t think that God has given me the ideal situation. And I seriously doubt that God has given biblical guidelines for girls in situations like mine. What do you think?
What would you say to Rapunzel? Check back in a few days for our response.
Have You Ever Wondered…
Posted November 3, 2011
“My biggest concerns are how should I even treat boys period? I have
no idea how to act around them…I know I should be myself but, besides
“I’m not around a lot of young men, so when I am in a group with one,
it gives me the jitters. How do I act natural?”
“Is it a good idea to be good or close friends with a guy? And if you
do sense yourself beginning to be interested in someone, is it an
option to try to get to know them better, or should you keep things
the same and wait for the guy to make the first move?”
“If I say ‘hi’ and strike up a conversation is he going to think that I
am too forward, shouldn’t my kind of man be the first to speak, and
what will others think of what I do?”
“Where do you draw the line between being friendly, which is okay, and
being flirty, which is (presumably) not okay?”
“…can you encourage a potential suitor to pursue you without being
flirty, forward, or inappropriate? …can you let them know you are
available in a God-honoring way without becoming the initiator?”
“What takes a girl from someone a man likes to be around, to someone
he wants to spend his life with? I see a lot of lists by girls about
‘my husband must be such and such.’ But it seems all I ever hear from
guys is ‘a godly lady.’ What does that mean to them?”
“If there is a particular guy that I have noticed, what is the best
way to deal with these feelings? And what should I watch out for when
I am around him/do to guard my heart?”
It’s (Not That) Complicated will explore all of these questions sent
in by our readers and many, many more. (And will, hopefully, make them
all seem a lot less complicated.)
For more information and to order a copy, visit NotComplicatedBook.com.
Is It My Fault That I’m Not Married?
Posted July 28, 2010
Our last article, “Why Am I Not Married?!?” has brought in our most diverse range of feedback yet. We’ve received some of the most grateful, convicted, excited letters ever (with the strongest support and thanks coming from young men, interestingly, though we didn’t write it for them). We’ve also had a couple of angry or tearful reactions. Mostly, though, we’ve been sent a wide range of questions, from how to become more eligible, practically, to how to deal with unrequited love, to how to react, emotionally, to the engagements and marriages of friends, while we remain unmarried. We hope to address each of these on Visionary Daughters soon. Today, however, we would like to answer this one.
Are you saying that if I’m not married yet, it’s my fault?
This is called a loaded question. There is much more to this question than the question on the surface, which would be impossible to answer accurately on its face. (Where would you start? “Yes, No, Maybe, It Depends, All of the Above…”)
To unload this question and answer it properly, we need to see that there are five faulty presuppositions behind it.
1. We can “earn” or deserve marriage by our own good deeds. — (Wrong)
God’s plan for our lives began before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and cannot be thwarted or altered by us. God is not a cosmic vending machine to be manipulated by our good deed coins. We pointed out in our article that there is a correlation between God’s sovereignty and our duty to action; “good deeds” are always our duty, and we should be striving to be worthy of marriage; but at the end of the day, He may still have other plans for us.
2. Marriage is a reward, singleness is a punishment. — (Wrong)
This is a warped view of both marriage and singleness. Marriage is an instrument God uses for His glory — but so is singleness, whether for a season or for a lifetime (1 Corinthians 7). We believe Scripture teaches that marriage is the normative calling for most believers, and that God created marriage to be a beautiful picture of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:23-32); a means of creating a godly seed (Malachi 2:15); and a more effective tool for dominion, forging the strengths of two people into a more powerful weapon for His glory (Genesis 2:18).
Marriage is a glorious opportunity, and we believe girls should be working towards marriage as much as is in their power. However, we should be motivated chiefly by one reason. Our interest in marriage should be a hope that we can serve God more effectively married than single. But God is the One who will decide that — if God still has us unmarried, obviously He has determined otherwise, at least for a season.
This means we can be encouraged in our singleness. The single state is not a penalty box, and we are not second-class citizens, and God is not dooming us to a purgatory of ineffectual puttering. He wants us, and has big plans for us, right where we are. We can be used mightily, right now. Our fruit can be significant, today.
On the other hand, if our days now are introspectively focused on our own personal issues and needs and interests, what makes us think we will suddenly become outward-focused and kingdom-focused when we marry?
3. We can reach a level of eligible perfection. — (Wrong)
To ask, in effect, “Are you saying there’s something wrong with me?” presupposes that we could get to a point where there isn’t anything wrong with us. We’ll never reach a point where we’re “fine just the way we are.” That said, a girl can certainly “buffet her body” (and mind, and heart, and character) to a point of being ready for marriage. She just shouldn’t stop there.
We’ve been privileged to know many exemplary young women who were ready for marriage in every way anyone could see, but yet remained unmarried until their late twenties or early thirties. (God’s ways are not our ways… see point 1.) Though each of these girls was already very eligible, none of them waited out her remaining term of singleness in impatience, or stagnation, or bitterness. None of them thought, “I can’t think of any ways to improve on myself, so I must be one of those girls who’s ready already. I’ll just sit here and fold my hands until I get what’s coming to me.” Each one continued to grow, blossom, and bear fruit. Each one remained humble about where she was, and about how much further she could go. They inspired everyone around them, and were a wonderful testimony to the community — to see the humility and growth of these stellar young women, and to see how seriously they took the opportunity of the single season. To the watching outside world, unfamiliar with the picture of an adult daughter serving her family, they were radiant lights and powerful ambassadors of biblical femininity (and God may have partly extended that season for this very reason).
4. Our own eligibility is the sole issue, regardless of the young man’s state. — (Wrong)
One of the big mistakes we often make is to look only at our side of the picture, forgetting that there is another person involved with his own set of situations and issues. A God-ordained marriage involves the preparation of two people, not just one. Remember the girls we mentioned who had been extremely ready and eligible for years before the Lord brought them their husbands? In each case, the Lord was also bringing the young man along on a journey. In one case, the young lady was 31 when her 23-year-old suitor came onto the scene — she laughs to think that, when she became “ready,” he would have been only ten.
In every story, once He brought the pieces together, everyone could see why it was His plan for her to remain unmarried for so long — as they say, hindsight is 20/20. We would be a lot happier in the interim if we would recognize His sovereignty before we see His plan revealed, not just after. And let’s remember that we’re not the only person in this.
5. Something is somebody’s fault. — (Well, that depends…)
This is always likely, in a fallen world — but not necessarily the case in your situation. Sometimes there are other factors involved in God’s timing. See points 1 through 4.
We can reasonably expect everyone involved to have failings — the fathers, mothers, young men, pastors, leaders, etc. — but it’s simply not our place as young women to make them shape up. When we step outside our feminine jurisdiction by trying to tell the men how to do their job, we make the problem worse. Helpful hint: henpecking and scolding men doesn’t help them grow up (and, interestingly, doesn’t make them want to marry us either). In these articles, we’re focusing on our faults as young ladies because they’re the only ones we can fix. They’re also the only ones we authors, as fellow young women, have the authority to address. Sorry, girls, but on Visionary Daughters… everything is your fault.
Why Am I Not Married?!?
Posted July 1, 2010
Responding to “The Marriage Crisis”
We were recently sent the link to a very humorous satirical website: No Girl Left Behind (The Solution to the Marriage Crisis). Though the website is a farce, it plays on a very real panic we have encountered: an anxiety that not enough homeschooled young people are getting married these days.
The panic is summed up in the words of the site, “There are young people of both genders who wish to be married and are not.”
This is a True Statement. However, true observations can get blown out of proportion and trigger false alarm; fed with fear, emotionalism, bitterness, gossip and rumors, they can easily become a monster. Perspective is lost, objectivity destroyed, and it becomes hard for us to detach ourselves from our own personal concerns.
Looking realistically at the big picture, the existence of young people wishing to be married and having a hard time going about it is hardly a new phenomenon. Many of civilization’s most familiar literary classics revolve around this theme (Shakespeare or Austen, anyone?)
Nor is this “problem” a product of the courtship movement. Our whole generation is seeing an unusually prolonged season of singleness, from the secular crowd that intentionally puts off marriage, to the Christian singles-group dating scene that has created a minefield of thirty-something singles. Inside the courtship camp, marriage rates are in fact higher than for those outside. However, we’re still inhaling the fumes of the culture that has caused the general marriage delay, and some of this second-hand smoke is affecting our own matrimonial condition. In this article, we would like to examine three questions:
Is there a problem?
If so, who is to blame?
How can we fix it?
Is There a Problem?
If there is a problem, we believe it’s not that so many young people are not married – it’s that so many young people are not ready to be married. The capper is that we have such low standards for ourselves that we don’t even realize it.
Let’s be honest with ourselves about the ways we’ve been compromised by our society, usually without knowing it. We are still swaying to the beat of our culture’s drum, in many of our attitudes, our affections, our expectations, and our actions. Many of us have picked up Hollywood ideas about what men should be like, and what makes a good match. We’re often double-minded, with our convictions and our affections running in two different directions, looking for a man that will somehow gratify both. Many of us claim to be preparing for godly wifehood, but actually are doing so with a narcissistic and feministic self-focus. We often have lofty demands for suitors (well, not that lofty – just that they be Jonathan Edwards in Edward Cullen’s body), but love ourselves just the way we are. So the men we want to marry often don’t really exist – and if they did… well… why would they want to marry us?
Now that we’ve drunk from our culture’s well, we shouldn’t be surprised to be feeling some of the same symptoms. Thanks to cultural confusion, personal baggage, or pendulum swings, guys and girls are can have a hard time knowing how to have relationships with each other. Some of us girls still have weak relationships and poor communication with our fathers, which makes everything surrounding courtship difficult. Some of us still have traces of our feminist culture or our Barbie culture in our personalities and character, which make us unappealing to young men who share our convictions on biblical femininity. Fear of responsibility, confusion about love and attraction, selfish attitudes towards relationships, entitlement syndrome – we’re as likely to pick these up from Hollywood as the girl next door… and they’re just as likely to affect our matrimonial futures.
There are, by the way, plenty of people who have maturely avoided these mistakes, or repented of them. Among our friends, they are getting married. (If panicky singles would start looking outside of their own situations, they might notice all of the wonderful marriages taking place.)
But insofar as a problem exists, it should be identified as a maturity crisis – not a marriage crisis.
Who is to Blame?
The easiest and most common response is to point our fingers – at the young men, for not getting their act together, or for not being proactive about asking; at our fathers, for being too intimidating or too picky; or at leadership, for not doing something.
Whether or not the young men, fathers, and leadership involved have behaved infallibly is not our place to say; we are here to point out that we girls have no business fixating on anyone’s faults but our own. This is partly a point of Christian charity and proper jurisdiction. It’s also a point of having to be honest with ourselves. After all, in any one of our individual cases, the problem just might be: Us.
Our aspirations to be married to fine husbands are good; but then, that’s an aspiration that the Cinderellas and the ugly stepsisters of the world have always had in common. We need to step outside of our imaginary roles as the heroines of our own personal fairy tales, and ask ourselves: which one am I? Why would the prince choose me?
One of the hallmark verses of waiting daughters is “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is above rubies.” We all love to claim the “above rubies” appellation and the idea that we’re a great prize for a young man to find – but Proverbs 31 places that price tag on a very specific description of a woman, and we all know that it doesn’t describe us. So why do we demand to be treated, and eventually chosen, as though we were that Proverbs 31 woman?
For every girl we know asking why so few young men are “ready,” we know a young man asking where the ready and eligible girls are. Our brothers and their friends have told us that many of the qualities girls have cultivated to make themselves “eligible” are things that won’t come up on young men’s radar screens, and the qualities the young men are most looking for have been neglected.
For example, though many may have mastered skills like sewing and music, they often seem to be living in a hobby world, removed from the concerns of the real world, and lacking a basic understanding of what’s going on. Some may have learned to be “content,” but haven’t learned to be joyful. Some may be sweet girls, but they often communicate stiffness, timidity, aloofness, or coldness in public. Others may be popular and socially active, but haven’t built real relationships with their own family. Some may feel ready to be loved and romanced, but not ready to love sacrificially. Others may be very accomplished in “feminine arts” (cake decorating, flower arranging, scrapbooking), but lacking in practical skills that will recommend them as capable helpers (the kind of skills that would be required to start a business, manage finances, help run a ministry, etc.)
There are many girls who look prepared to be good mothers and good housekeepers, but not to be capable helpmeets. Our brothers and their friends have told us that they’re not looking for mere live-in maids and nannies; they want wives who would be capable of coming alongside them in the rigors of their lives; being engaging, iron-sharpening companions; and assisting them in business, ministry, adventure, risk, conquest, and uncertainty. The young men we know are asking, “Where are those girls?”
What is the Solution?
There is no quick fix for a problem that has taken generations of cultural immaturity and compromise to create. For starters, let’s stop looking at external problems and external solutions; we’re not going to fix a maturity crisis by calling in other people to make getting married easy for us.
As we’re sure our readers already understand, God is in complete control of who gets married when. There is nothing people can do to make the right marriages happen before God intends them to, and there is no use crusading or going on witch-hunts when it’s God’s sovereign plan we’re up against. This should be a great relief to us: “Seeing that a Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.” (John Calvin)
But resting in God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean resigning from action, expecting Him to reward our laziness. Whatever He has in store for us, we still bear our responsibility to do our duty – to, in the words of the hymn, trust and obey. He tells us to “be faithful with little” before He will entrust us with much. He also promises, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)
We cannot, by good behavior (or bad), will ourselves into the right marriages, or manipulate Him into making them happen faster. However, there is plenty we can and must be doing to make ourselves more ready and worthy for marriage. We would like to offer four suggestions:
Correct your thinking
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; our attitudes betray themselves in our actions.
There are several damaging streams of thought polluting our perceptions and eventually our actions. We need to sort through and evaluate all of our presuppositions about marriage, and correct the false ones. A few examples:
The idea that we are entitled to marriage – wrong.
The idea that every marriage-eager person over age 20 is ready – wrong.
The idea that we can blame “the problem” on a system or a demographic – wrong.
The idea that things need to be “fair” and leveled – wrong.
The idea that getting married should be easy – wrong.
The idea that life won’t start until marriage – wrong.
Each of these ideas has dangerous implications – try carrying out any of them to their logical conclusions, and you end up with…well… the No Girl Left Behind website.
Become a girl that a godly man will want to marry.
The bad news is, none of us is naturally likeable, desirable or eligible. Because of sin, we all start out as ugly stepsisters; and we don’t naturally become Cinderella upon turning 18. Put yourself in a young man’s shoes, and ask yourself what he might want and need. You might be surprised by how you measure up. If all the good young men you know aren’t interested in you, who are you going to blame?
View your single years as a time to prepare, not wait.
The good news is, most of us were given several single years to prepare and become truly eligible. As long as we don’t spend those years feeling like we’ve arrived, and like there’s something wrong with all the guys that haven’t noticed us yet, becoming more bitter with every wasted year, there’s a lot of progress that can be made, and much that could be accomplished. Make the most of your time!
Some of the girls most frantic to get married admit to us that they’re listless and unengaged at home, and that their relationships with their siblings are a mess. They don’t know it, but what they’re desperate for is a new home to be bored in, a new relationship to neglect, a new person to be crabby to, new circumstances to complain about, and a new life to make the least of.
Girls, if we’re failing where we are now, our propensity for failure will follow us wherever we go. Our bad character, bad attitudes and bad habits will blight our future lives as much as they are our current ones. Ask yourself: How well are you doing with the life you’re in the middle of right now? How well are you doing with the relationships God has put into your family right now? How well are you using your time? How well are you fighting the fight of faith?
“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the last is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
God is in control of your future, and His plan is being worked out day by day. The marriages that He has ordained to happen right now are happening, despite the fears of a “marriage crisis.”
In reality, dying an old maid is not the fate most to be feared. The consequences of acting in panic, desperation and fear, or of being poisoned by bitterness, can much more effectively ruin a woman’s life. We have seen this marriage-panic drive young women to destroy their most important relationships, marry recklessly, launch accusation-campaigns and witch-hunts that destroy communities and split churches, devastate their families, create miserable homes for their future children, and poison everyone they know.
Let’s look at the big picture again. Our chief end is not marriage. If attracting a nice Christian guy is the motivating force of your life, you might need to seriously examine the integrity of your faith. If the nonappearance of Prince Charming is making you question God, you may be facing a more serious fate than dying an old maid. Being in this for the husband is just riding to hell in a hopechest.
People sometimes ask why we, at the ages of 22 and 24, are not yet married. The only answer we can give is that God has not ordained for us to be married yet, and that is, like all His other works, “very good”; we are enjoying the extra time to labor with our family, to prepare ourselves more fully, and to “occupy until ‘he’ comes.” As much as we pray for godly marriages, there is much to rejoice about in the calling of visionary daughterhood.
So smile at the future. Think about something other than marriage. And don’t forget to write to your congressman.
What About Me?
Posted February 6, 2010
Biblical Principles for Girls in Difficult Situations
When we were in our mid teens, we befriended several high school and college girls of diverse backgrounds – some from Christian families, most not. As we got to know them better, it became more than just our friendship they sought: they couldn’t stay away from our home.
At our home, they were able to be part of something they did not have. Some of them had never even seen it before. We had an intact, happy family. We had an involved, loving father who protected and provided for us. We had a mother who was an example of godliness and femininity. We had a family that worked together toward an important goal that involved us. While our friends struggled to know where they were going, who they were supposed to be, and where they fit into an egalitarian, dog-eat-dog society, we were discovering a world of stimulation, fruitfulness and purpose within God’s family economy. These girls felt the difference.
One of them, a previous valedictorian, U.N. honors student, and R.A., told us after one of her meals at our family farm, “I would learn more if I lived with your family and dug holes in the ground all day than I learn at university.”
We realized God had given us something most girls did not have – something we did nothing to deserve.
We also realized that happy families don’t happen by accident, and that ours was built from scratch by two people who started out like these college kids, but were willing to pick up the pieces of a broken model and build a different kind of family on biblical principles. We knew that it was possible to build God’s order out of today’s disorder because we had seen it done – through faith that His ways are perfect. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” (Deut. 32:4)
It was girls like these whom we wanted to help when we started writing our book, by showing them there was hope – even in tough situations, even in dysfunctional families, even in a broken society. There are answers. There is a better way. There is so much more.
We knew our message wouldn’t be an easy fix for their problems, however. When a girl embraces biblical principles, her problems don’t automatically disappear. In fact, when biblical principles come head to head with the ugly reality of a society ravaged by feminism and socialism, it can mean war. It can bring, not peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:34).
Many girls are left with nothing to do but try to hold their families together, and are confused about how the “visionary daughters” vision applies to them. We often get emails from girls with abusive fathers, girls with fathers who leave, girls with hateful mothers, girls who have been orphaned, and almost every other painful situation, asking, “What about me? How do you practice biblical principles in a compromised world? In compromised situations?”
Making the Most of 2010
What we would like to do in this post is offer hope and encouragement to girls in difficult situations. As much as we would like to be able to offer specific suggestions, we recognize that every situation is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all girls. This is why in the past we have mainly focused on casting a vision for the ideal, recognizing that every girl’s journey to the ideal will look different. Whether the ideal is attainable soon or only years into the future, it is a goal we all should have always before us. As we stated in our book, girls should have hope for something better than mere survival.
Scripture, wisdom, resourcefulness, wise counsel, motivation, and faith are not out of any girl’s reach, and they are the key to bringing the best out of our circumstances. The truth is that no girls start out with perfect situations. Even the ones who seem to have “ideal” circumstances have had to work for them. In our experience, these girls are the ones who:
- Stop focusing on themselves
- Look to the big picture
- Stay focused on the goal
- View their situation as an opportunity, not an excuse
- Are grateful for what the Lord has given them
- Embrace hardship, trials and hard work
But there is more than that. To make the most of a challenging situation, you must master the three big temptations crouching at your door.
1. Don’t Become Bitter and Compromise
The temptation is to believe “God has failed me, so I guess that clears me of any obligation to Him.” Sometimes it manifests itself as “I did everything right and God didn’t come through so obviously it doesn’t work”; sometimes as “God clearly hasn’t given me what I need to be able to do everything right.” But God is not an equal with Whom we can make deals and haggle over moral standards.
There is also the false presupposition that circumstances have anything to do with personal righteousness (or that circumstances themselves impute righteousness). Because God is the One who gives circumstances, there is no “more holy” circumstance (e.g. having an intact family, though a blessing, does not make you a better person than the girl whose parents are divorced.) We may not be responsible for our circumstances, but we are responsible for how we use them, and we are responsible for our attitudes. We all have to do right with what God has given us.
But we may need to reevaluate our idea of “doing what’s right,” when it comes to moral dilemmas and quandaries, remembering that our standard is Sola Scriptura – not what popular speakers teach, not what our friends are doing ,and not what makes us “feel feminine.” Girls can make things frustrating for themselves when they set up a bunch of external measurements of “rightness” that have nothing to do with biblical principles.
There are principles in Scripture that suggest that we should be distinctively feminine, honoring parents and authorities, trying to serve God within a home-and-family context, preparing for wifehood and motherhood, praying for a God-honoring marriage and a godly husband with whom to build a better future for your daughters, building up men, and seeking after a useful education. Simply living with your biological parents or doing homemakey things, however, doth not a biblical daughter make. You can discourage your family, dishonor your parents, serve no one but yourself, run men down, waste time, neglect the needy, cultivate personal uselessness, and prepare yourself for a wretched marriage, while living self-righteously at home baking muffins in a feminine apron you made all by yourself.
People compromise when they decide that being principled is not going to work; they will have to “be practical.” In other words, when they lose faith. We need to stay strong in the faith that His precepts/instructions/directions are right, and that He “preserveth the faithful.” (Psalm 31:23)
“But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children; to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them. (Psalm 103:17,18)
2. Don’t Judge Others and Assume that They are Judging You
Girls have a tendency to size one another up. When confronted with a girl who makes us feel our own inadequacies, either by her own merits or by her perceived advantages, the temptation is to seethe with resentment, and to cultivate scorn by filling our minds with imagined deficiencies. It’s an easy way to justify our shortcomings, nurse our egos, and absolve ourselves of any need to try harder.
Worse, girls can tend to size up one another’s parents, siblings, homes, bank accounts, opportunities and lifestyles. This is good fuel for discontentment and excuse-making. When we measure, say, our fathers, against what we imagine other girls have, they’re always going to come up short. Comparisons are often based on presumptions, which are usually wrong. Girls in what may look like the “ideal” situation still deal with the effects of the fall and a broken society in a big way – we may just not know what those ways are because they don’t complain about it. Nobody actually has the ideal situation, but it’s easy to assume things when you don’t know the details, and that makes it easier to dismiss an example that would have been good to follow.
The biggest fault we often want to level at those “privileged” girls is that they’re hoity-toity snoots looking down on us for not being them – for (gasp) JUDGING US.
There may truly be girls who lack understanding and compassion towards girls in situations they don’t understand, but they’re not the ones whose opinion you should care about. Ultimately, God is the only One we should be trying to please, and whose displeasure we should fear. He will not judge us for the situations He gave us (though He well may be angry with the way some of us are responding). If you have been given a challenging situation, and are using it in faith, perseverance and integrity, you will be pleasing to God, and have the respect of His saints.
3. Don’t Break the 10th Commandment
The 10th commandment is one of the most interesting – and under-rated – of the commandments.
“Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
We may fail to take it seriously because it doesn’t seem that bad, next to murdering or stealing, or it may be because we think we’re doing fine on this one (we’ve never really wanted our neighbors’ livestock.) But try replacing “your neighbor’s ox” with “your neighbor’s perfect hair,” “your neighbor’s designer clothes,” “your neighbor’s visionary father,” “your neighbor’s like-minded friends,” “your neighbor’s perfect, non-aggravating family,” “your neighbor’s engagement ring,” or anything else you resented another girl’s having that you didn’t.
Coveting is, in fact, a sin which God often lists alongside murder, adultery, blasphemy, sodomy, idolatry and more (Mark 7:22, Rom. 1:29, 1 Cor. 5:10,11, 1 Cor. 6:10, Eph. 5:3,5, Col. 3:5, 2 Tim. 3:2, 2 Pet. 2:14). The Bible even mentions entire nations being judged for covetousness (Jer. 6:13, Jer. 8:10, Jer. 51:13) – presumably because it’s one of those sins that can become part of the national consciousness.
In our nation today, it’s PC to covet. Our society encourages us to venerate fairness, to want to see everything leveled so that nobody has what other people don’t have. This may be why we don’t take it very seriously as a sin. However, in his economic treatise Eat the Rich, P.J. O’Rourke writes, “A liking for fairness is not that noble a sentiment. Fairness doesn’t rank with charity, love, duty, or self-sacrifice. And there’s always a tinge of self-seeking in making sure that things are fair.” (Further, he tells his daughter, “You had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.”) A fixation with making sure everything is fair is not just petty – it can be deadly. It was the chief idolatry that created the bloodiest century in history.
Here’s the other lesson the 10th commandment teaches. The tenth commandment is not about squelching desires and aspirations for a better life. It’s not telling us that it’s wrong to desire houses, livestock, wives, husbands, beauty, success, skills, gifts, or any of the other things that the Bible tells us are good things. It’s not advocating Gnostic or self-righteous pietism (“I’m too spiritual to desire such paltry things”). The message of the 10th commandment is this: Don’t begrudge others the fruits of God’s blessing and their hard work – get out there and work towards those for yourself.
Coveting can consume our thoughts and eventually our life. If we give in to it, it will:
- Kill our gratitude
- Kill our incentive to work for what we desire
- Kill our ability to rejoice in other people’s good
- Kill our love for God, who clearly is ‘not fair’
“Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:2,3)
In the same way that God designed all of creation in its undeniable perfection and beauty, He handcrafted each girl’s situation with exquisite precision. He chose the exact parents, position, and opportunities that would best fulfill His purposes for her life and bring Him glory.
This does not mean that there won’t be trials and tests, not even for the seemingly “more fortunate.” We are all tested. “The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The LORD trieth the righteous…” (Psalm 11:4,5) The very trials He gives us are signs of His love for us in the advantages they ultimately produce.
After all, we’re not the only girls struggling. All over the world girls are being thrown out (and worse), wives are being abandoned, widows are being neglected, and another generation of daughters is being raised by women who married in desperation to escape an unhappy situation – perpetuating the cycle. Those who have had more personal experience with these kinds of problems will know better how to help. They will know better how to raise their sons to be responsible leaders and protectors. They will know better how to raise their daughters to be strong and full of faith. As girls face their situations by re-hauling their attitudes and actions, in faith, they prepare themselves to be warriors in the work of re-hauling a broken nation.
It’s because it’s so hard to live out biblical principles in a crooked and perverse generation that we have to persevere and “make it work.” The future of our children and other young women to come may depend on it.
We can’t promise anything – but God does promise some things to girls in difficult situations. In His loving mercy, He promises that He will be “a Father to the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows” (Psalm 68:5). He promises that He makes “all things work together for good to them that love God, and to them who are the are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He promises that if we “seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness… all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33). And He promises that if we “do not be weary in well doing,” “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal. 6:9)
But What If…?
Posted July 31, 2009
Hello Anna and Elizabeth,
…I have one question concerning your book and the mindset my father has raised me and my siblings on. My father believes that it is right to send me and my sister to college to develop skills in our area of interest (like, for me, it is music) so that we have a degree and real-world skills to fall back on just in case something may happen in the future and we need to work. …My father is extremely practical and wants to prepare us for the real world well enough because he knows he won’t be around forever. He wants to prepare us for every circumstance and that means even the thought of 1. never getting married or 2. perhaps our father might die early or, if we marry, our husbands might die early. Is it right to dwell on the worse case scenario and prepare for it?
This world isn’t stable and with the new president in office, times are going to get tough. Life as we know it might change forever and many of the luxuries and ease we’ve experienced may not always be here. So, how does one go about this? I don’t know how to reconcile your writings on preparing at home now and my dad’s wish that we get “real-world” skills to equip ourselves for the future to be able to get a stable job if need be. Our dad would certainly love for us to get married and have families and homes of our own. But he does not believe life will be easy and allow for many of the comforts that many of us once enjoyed. While he is all for preparing ourselves as women at home now, he is also pushing us towards college and being able to fall back on a real job in case everything fails.
Just In Case…
This letter represents most of the “what if” questions nagging at girls who choose to live at home, or are considering doing so. Is living at home and forgoing college and workplace a realistic and sensible decision in our economy? Will we be prepared for “real-world” scenarios and crises, “just in case”?
These are responsible questions to ask, and we commend this young woman for being practical about the vicissitudes of real life and the economy. We believe the Proverbs 31 woman was able to smile at the future (v. 25) not only because she trusted in the sovereignty of God, but also because she made herself ready for it. A sensible education for a girl should prepare her for the most likely scenarios she may face. Of course, if we spend more of our time and money preparing for worst-case scenario than working toward best-case scenario, we may not be ready for God’s best. So how should a girl prepare to be ready for anything, while working toward the ideal? Let’s start by remembering this: The best defense is a good offense.
Strengthening Our Arms… For Work.
Widowhood, never marrying, being orphaned, etc. are very real possibilities. But even in a happy and stable marriage, economic hard times, lay-offs, pay-cuts, etc. are even more real possibilities. Is there a point where a girl may have to set aside her aspirations of being at home “to be practical” — to give up “luxury and ease” to work for money?
Here’s the forgotten principle that made home-working womanhood economically viable once, in good times and bad. Industry is a fundamental feminine virtue. Biblical womanhood has never been about luxury and ease. Biblical womanhood is diligent, resourceful and fruitful, and its axiom is “no lack of gain.”
Work — even paid work — is not something a biblical woman resorts to just when times get tough. Let’s go back to our Proverbs 31 woman. By all measures today, her situation was perfect — successful husband (v23), disposable income (v16) — even maidservants! (v15). Yet what do we see her doing from the darkness of the early morning through the night? Laboring. Producing. Earning. Increasing. Even in her comfortable circumstances, she embraced the privilege of productive work, the holy dignity in labor that the Lord first demonstrated Himself. Of all her virtues (generosity, kindness, wisdom, etc.), this chapter spotlights one virtue more than any other: her industry.
Regardless of our times or circumstances, Christians need to labor; not just to earn money, to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads, but to take dominion of the world under Christ — to increase, to spread civilization, to make disciples of all the nations. The goal isn’t only to sustain ourselves, or to pay for our play, but to increase and multiply. R.J. Rushdoony observes, “In any society where work is seen simply as an economic necessity and fact, there will be a decline in productivity towards the subsistence level. If men only work to eat (or to play) the meaning and the goal of work soon fades away.” (R.J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology)
But we must define our terms. “Working” does not necessarily mean holding down a steady, paying job in the workforce. Though working is, we believe, a duty for all Christians, men and women alike, we also see in Scripture that God assigns different arenas of work for both. As the “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” summarizes it:
13. Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, the bearer of children, and a “keeper at home,” the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home, although her domestic calling, as a representative of and helper to her husband, may well involve activity in the marketplace and larger community. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Prov. 31:10-31; Tit. 2:4-5)
14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Josh. 1:14; Jdg. 4; Acts 16:14)
In the Garden of Eden, the curse God gave to the man was that he would have difficulty in providing, while for the woman it was difficulty in bearing children. Man’s duty to provide for his family was affirmed in 1 Timothy 5:8, while the Bible’s instruction to women never indicates that they are to go out to support themselves. Scripture goes into detail about how women without fathers or husbands are to be provided for, and both Old and New Testaments are filled with exhortations to protect and provide for the widows and fatherless. In other words: no matter how strained the circumstances, women should not have to become the vocational helpers of men other than their husbands and fathers for a paycheck.
But this does not mean that women can’t look for creative ways to augment the family income through entrepreneurial endeavors from home.  Though it is a man’s duty to provide, providing doesn’t mean creating a luxurious atmosphere where his wife and daughters don’t have to labor or do anything hard. Though we can safely assume the well-respected Mr. Proverbs 31 was a good provider, his wife nonetheless worked with her hands to enrich the lives of others, and increased their income at the same time — from home.
This used to be a mainstay of biblical economics. In times when women used to turn to their spindles and looms rather than to novels and soap operas, they didn’t have to feel financially helpless or useless. Production, rather than consumption and entertainment, was their way of life, and thus their way of life was never in jeopardy. Nor were “real-world skills” something they kept stored away “to fall back on” — “just in case” they lost their life of luxury and ease — they were developing and using them every day.
We believe it would be wise for every young lady to amass a number of skills that could be used to generate income. Business, in its most basic sense, involves exchanging goods or services for money. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who figure out what services are in demand, or needed. They develop marketable skills. We see that the Proverbs 31 woman had multiple marketable skills, and there was a demand for her services: her fine linen sold, and merchants bought her belts (v24). People will always have needs, and any smart girl should be able to spot one and find a way to meet it.
The tricky thing about marketable skills, though, is that they have to be actually marketable. Demands change: what was needed a hundred years ago may be useless to people now, and hand-crocheted doilies cannot compete with web-design today. When considering mastering any skill, we should ask, do people really need this? Our own hobbies, interests and fancies should come in second-place to what people around us need. Girls who learn to think outside of themselves and take responsibility for others will be well-armed to navigate the real world, not only as adults, but as leaders.
Some question that girls who have only lived at home will really be prepared for the “real world.” A real woman should already be living in the real world, whether orphaned, abandoned, widowed, or part of a loving family. Those of us blessed with happy families and comfortable homes shouldn’t use them as a buffer zone from the concerns of the real world, any more than as an excuse to be lazy and incompetent. It would be great if every girl knew how to manage a schedule, plan meetings, buy groceries, pay the bills, defend her faith to antagonists, balance the check-book, take a plane, start a business, give a presentation, change a tire, buy a house, make clothes, deal with emergencies, butcher a chicken, write a book, and learn any new thing as she needs to know it. Living in the real world is actually a great way to learn these real-world skills. Families do these kinds of things all the time, and girls who are very involved in their families’ affairs should get a lot of experience navigating the world the way real people do — even more than those who pay an exorbitant sum of money to learn so-called real-world skills in the artificial, insulated environment of a college campus.
But Don’t I Need a Degree?
That depends on what you want it for. You don’t need a degree to make money, as Bill Gates has sufficiently demonstrated for us. You don’t need a degree to handle or use money, to start a business, to buy low and sell high, to exchange goods and services, to prove that you have a skill, or to produce things people need.
If you want to impress a bureaucratic hiring agency and get a job in the workplace, a degree will likely help; but then, if you are a good businesswoman, you must consider whether this privilege is worth the $100,000+ it generally costs (not counting the time involved) and whether your earnings would equal your investment. One thing that will not help your husband is bringing a mountain of school debt into your marriage. This has happened to many of our friends — some even felt they had to put their dream of motherhood and homemaking on the shelf, even after marriage, so they could work long enough to pay off their degrees.
But even a degree will not guarantee security, any more than not owning a degree will guarantee poverty.
Appealing To Fathers
One thing we appreciated about the letter above is the way the writer demonstrated a respect for her father’s wishes, as a daughter should. We also have a lot of respect for fathers who want their daughters to be well-prepared and capable, ready to take on the world. (We have a father like this ourselves.) If your father loves you enough to care about your future, be especially grateful for him, and do not despair if his methods seem different than yours. A father who has his daughter’s best interests at heart is generally open to sensible, rational and humble suggestions from her — especially if his daughter has established a good rapport with him, and he knows he can trust her to be working with him and not against him. If a daughter thinks she may have discovered a better way, she should be able to appeal to him respectfully from Scripture, and able to suggest solid alternatives. Moreover, she must be able to diligently follow through with those alternatives. Often fathers send their daughters off to college because they know their daughters are not diligent or motivated enough to educate themselves or be productive at home.
The times certainly are uncertain, and more may be required of us as things become more unstable. Three things, however, remain certain:
1. We cannot rely on earthly promises of security (degrees, “stable” jobs) — only on biblical promises of security (the blessings of God upon obedience and diligence). In these unstable times, we will need to rely less on those things that will change and more on the things that will never change. The benefits of government accreditation, paychecks, personal peace and affluence, and the illusion of stability could pass away; the value of hard work, ingenuity, and faith will not.
2. Faithfulness is blessed; compromise is not. We will not deserve the blessing of God if we we respond to calamity by compromising our principles, disregarding gender roles, or acting out of desperation instead of faith.
3. Work is noble, and required of every person — “Not having to work,” or eating the bread of idleness, are not for Christian women. Every girl in every situation should strive after the example of the fruitful Proverbs 31 woman.
Both those who put their trust in a comfortable, easy lifestyle and those who put their trust in worldly pragmatism have reason to fear “what ifs”; but a productive, creative woman full of faith will have no lack of gain. Let us then strengthen our arms, work willingly with our hands, and smile at the future.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33
1. When we use the word “home,” we are referring to the borders of the family estate and endeavors. The Proverbs 31 woman’s family was clearly her first priority, and her work was in the context of her family, though it sometimes took her outside her “house.” We believe the principle here is that a woman works with and for her family, within the jurisdiction of her father/husband — whether her family works at home, on the road, in an office, in a family store, or in the fields.
2. This was more true in cultures where the society and economy were established according to biblical principles, such as colonial and pioneer America. In countries where work was despised, and woman’s function and value was primarily a decorative one, women were in a very vulnerable position. In feudal Europe, for example, a young gentlewoman without a wealthy father or large dowry often had to resort to either a mercenary marriage, becoming a spinster governess, relying on the charity of unpleasant wealthy relatives, or “falling into ruin.”
Am I wasting my life?
Posted March 17, 2009
Question: Can you give me some advice on how to use my time wisely? I’m doing lots of things, but I’m not feeling very satisfied with any of them. I feel awfully random and that I would like to do more with my life, but there seem to be no opportunities. How do you both determine how to best spend your time, and prioritize?
You have well summarized the feelings of many young people of our generation. We have seen this malaise strike many young people reaching the threshold of adulthood — an increasing sense of the passing of time, the brevity of life, and a growing realization that we could be doing more with our lives. College girls and daughters at home alike fret about “spinning their wheels” — being always busy and accomplishing nothing. The truth is that we could all be doing more with our time… but we will continue to waste it until we recover the biblical understanding of time: Whose the time is and what it is for.
Part of the problem of our generation, sometimes referred to as the “entitlement generation,” is that we think our time is ours. What do we want to do? What do we want to see accomplished?
We must begin by recognizing that the time is God’s, and should be devoted to doing what He would want done. What are His priorities? Do we understand His mind well enough to know? He is the King and we are the servants, and time is one of many assets He has entrusted to His stewards to invest in His interests (Matt. 25:14-29).
Another problem is how we perceive our responsibility relating to time. Some live as though time is to be passed. The more diligent live as though time is to be filled. But Christians should know that time must be redeemed.
Twiddling our thumbs patiently as we wait for events to come and go is unacceptable; puttering around “keeping busy” while we wait for things to happen is only a little better. Paul commanded the church at Ephesus, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming [literally, "buying back"] the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15, 16)
This attitude was once a mainstay of our American heritage, as noted in Rushdoony’s Systematic Theology: “The great Puritan compliment was to speak of a man as a redeemer of time, one who used time wisely. Charles Chauncey told Ezra Stiles that Cotton Mather was such a man: ‘He was the greatest redeemer of time I ever knew.’ Cotton Mather could, by the age of twelve, read Virgil in Latin, Homer in classical Greek, and the New Testament in Koine Greek. By fourteen, he was writing in Hebrew and mastering sciences. He could write in seven languages, and his works include one each in Spanish, French, and Iroquois. He published 300 volumes and has two large and still unpublished works.”
Back in Europe, the attitude was expressed thus by John Calvin in a letter to Monsieur de Falais in 1546: ” ‘Apart from the sermons and the lectures, there is a month gone by in which I have scarce done anything, in such wise I am almost ashamed to live thus useless.’ It should be noted that Calvin had preached a mere twenty sermons that month and given only twelve lectures.” (Steven J. Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin)
But how do we discern which pursuits will buy back the time, and which will only fill it? How do we know which endeavors are worthwhile, and which will distract us?
We (the authors) each have mile-long lists of interests and dreams we know we will never have time to pursue in our brief lifetimes. We’ve had to learn to prioritize carefully, and give up the things of lesser importance to make room for the things of eternal significance. As Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient [profitable]: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Cor. 6:12)
To be qualified as a priority, an activity must “engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that [we] will not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14, emphasis added). That the activity be wholesome, or “feminine,” (or “lawful”) is not enough; it must be inspired by an understanding of the pressing needs of the hour, and designed to wisely meet that need. We always loved how John Adams summed up this principle of recognizing what the times require:
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
Before we make a decision about how to invest our time, we should think about the needs of the hour. What do the people around us need? (Rather than asking, What do I want to do? What are my interests? What are my hobbies? What are my dreams? Even, “What are my current skills?” doesn’t need to be a determining question — in our own case, every worthwhile endeavor we’ve taken up, including our book and documentary, required learning completely new skills.)
Our criteria for judging every project or pursuit is basically this:
Does it meet a pressing need? (Titus 3:14)
Will it shepherd His sheep? (John 21:16)
Is it crucial to discipling all the nations, teaching them to observe all that He commanded? (Matthew 28:20)
Will it build on the foundation with gold, silver and precious stones, or with wood, hay and straw? Will it withstand the test of fire? (1 Corinthians 3:12-14)
On a more practical level, we ask:
First, will it help our family?
Will it help the church? (local and worldwide)
Will it equip us to be more effective servants of Christ?
Is there anything more effective we could be doing with that time?
In the past, when we found ourselves dissatisfied with sundry endeavors, it was usually because we could see they were not doing enough to help others. A Christian doesn’t want to do something just for the personal enjoyment she gets out of it — she wants to serve others. Thus our endeavors, whether entrepreneurial or ministry, should be driven by the needs of others, rather than by our own interests. When we find ourselves feeling aimless and purposeless, it’s time to move our focus back to His kingdom interests, and lay our personal desires and dreams and hobbies on the altar.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
Visionary Daughters Interviewed – Final Installment
Posted January 20, 2009
Here is part three of a recent interview a journalist conducted with us.
Interviewer: Tell me about your book: whose idea was it? What are you hoping to accomplish with it? How has it been received?
A&E: We got the idea for writing our book when we were aged 15 and 17. We were nearing adulthood, and faced with the question of “What next?” Who did we want to become? What did we want to live and die for? Our friends seemed to be living on auto-pilot, defaulting to the same decisions all the other girls were making about college, career, relationships and the rest. Our father had always taught us not to passively follow the crowd, but to carefully and deliberately think through every decision, using Scripture as our guide. So we began a rigorous study of the biblical role of women (daughters in particular), and made discoveries so fascinating, counter-cultural and life-transforming that we wanted to share them with every other girl.
We knew there was a need for this book. The young women of our generation have so many questions, and often feel so lost and conflicted. They struggle to understand who they are as women, while surrounded by destructive and confusing stereotypes of women from past and present. They suffer from bad relationships with their family members, and the consequences of that. They don’t understand how they as women should relate to men. They fear they will never marry; they feel guilty about wanting to marry; they’re confused about what to do in the meantime; they’re realizing too late that they may have driven away their chances of marriage by pursuing feminist dreams of their own; and if they eventually marry, they agonize over how to balance their families with their careers and feel guilty about whichever one ends up short-changed. What we found is that the Bible does give the answers to each of these problems. God is not silent on the issues that face young women — He has a place and a purpose for us, if we will only study to find it.
Interviewer: Have you heard of the “modesty movement”? Are you connected to that? What does that entail for you, personally?
A&E: The Bible specifically commands women to dress modestly (1 Tim. 2:9), and we do try to model that. It’s interesting to us that, as a reaction against the damaging effects of the sexual revolution, even many “non-religious” women are returning to modesty and abstinence, and discovering the many benefits that accompany them (a reminder of the wisdom of God’s commands to us). However, we see modesty as a defining characteristic of Christian behavior, not simply as a solution to a cultural problem.
We are not advocates of frumpy flour-sack “modesty” — modesty is only one aspect of what Christian women need to communicate in their dress, radiant femininity being another. Our goal in dress is to communicate that we rejoice in being women, and to encourage the men around us to respect women rather than objectify them.
Visionary Daughters Interviewed: 2nd Installment
Posted December 19, 2008
Interviewer: In your opinion and through your study and experience, what is a woman’s role in life?
A&E: A woman’s role is to honor and serve God, in the sphere He created her for. The Bible tells us that woman was created from the man and for the man (1 Cor. 11:9) to be a helper to him in his mission (Gen. 2:18). (Note: not to be his slave or property.) This is what God created woman for, and is the true essence of femininity: to complement and complete man, to be at his side in taking dominion of the earth. Men and women were created to be different — and those undeniable differences are glorious — but their distinct, complementary roles should work together to achieve one common goal. We believe a woman’s value and importance is in every way equal to a man’s, though her role is different.
Through the whole panorama of Scripture (and through most of history), we see the home and family as woman’s context. Home was not woman’s prison — it was her base of operations, from which she engaged in commerce, ministry, charity, medicine, the arts, and more. The family, though, was always her priority.
Interviewer: What are your views on women and education? Why?
A&E: We believe women should be highly, highly educated, in the right ways and for the right reasons. We encourage girls to strive for a broader, higher and more intellectually honest education than is available at most colleges today. When researching the higher-education options before us a few years ago, Anna Sofia and I studied college syllabi, interviewed students and teachers alike, spent time on several campuses, and then studied the way the best-educated men and women in history have become so. We concluded that colleges do not have the monopoly on higher learning, higher qualifications, and proper training. The historic fact is that the best-educated men and women of history have always been autodidacts: people who took responsibility for their own educations and were self-motivated. Brick-and-mortar institutions and pedagogues have never cornered the market on education, and we would love to see more young women think outside that box, taking the initiative to pursue real education rather than “schooling.”
Interviewer: Do you feel your lifestyle is supported by other Christians, Evangelical Christians, people in general?
A&E: Response to our lifestyle is very mixed, as we would expect. There are those who embrace it wholeheartedly, those who look at it wistfully, those who feel “judged” by it, those who try to misunderstand and misinterpret us, and the few who send hate-mail. However, we’ve never needed the affirmation of others in how we live — the affirmation of God is what we seek.
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