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.
But My Father Isn’t Like Your Father!
Posted March 16, 2010
We recently received a very long email from a very intelligent and industrious young woman. We thought her question was an important one, and are posting a short portion of her email (edited for brevity and discretion) and our answer.
Dear Anna Sofia and Elizabeth,
…My father is someone who I love very much, but he does not know how to utilize my energies and although he tries to do what your dad does (even listens to the tapes, watches the movies, etc) he does not breath life and vision into our family! I am naturally a very vision-oriented and goal-setter type of person, and this is very difficult for me. I love being at home more than any other place, but my father has not showed much of an interest in utilizing my talents, or really caring if I am part of his vision or not.
…my father failed to breath life into what I was doing and make it important. Sure he would thank me, but …by the time I finished, I was disgusted deep down with all the time I had apparently wasted. …I must admit I put my foot down and angrily retreated from helping him.
…I am someone who MUST be continually challenged by what I do, or my life becomes so meaningless and worthless that I scarcely can get out of bed in the morning. And my father, I feel, has failed in bringing this into our home. I have tried countless times to own what he does…but I end up getting frustrated with his lack of organization and when I try and fix it, he and I are both perfectionists and leaders, so we clash. Then I try and do things his way, but his way makes absolutely NO SENSE to anyone but himself (I am sure you have heard of people like this). My mom and I are often at a loss. After many of these episodes he just started cutting me out of what he does, instead of trying to find a way to make it work. Also, what he was having me do was in NO WAY challenging…I still enjoyed it and was happy to do it, but like I said, I feel my mind getting dull and sleepy when I am not challenged, so I need challenge at some point in my life, and my father does not provide it.
…I do think generationally and largely! And I know my father does too, but he allows life’s cares to choke what his dreams and visions are, and along with them, my hope fades…. Until I wake it again with things that I make happen! But not my dad.
…I guess my question is this: If my father is not providing the vision and structure that I need, and I begin providing it myself, is that wrong? I cannot MAKE my father do what your father does for you all! So what then? As I said before, I have no great ambition to just GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! By no means. I just have a need to be always be challenged in my daily life, and my home oftentimes does not provide that for me. No one in my home knows how to do excellent bookkeeping, prepare taxes, or find a good real estate deal. …I must say that in my heart of hearts I wish my home provided me with so much challenging and visionary work, that I had no time for anything else. Sometimes my soul longs for it exceedingly and I am angry at my father for not providing it for me, as yours has for you.
…Please God, I will marry a man who will give my daughters something to live for every morning! I say this with no anger or bitterness at my father (at least, not right now) but with firm resolve: I don’t want any other young woman to have to go through the heart-ache I have gone through, and still go through.
Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing back from you sometime. Please pray for me in the meantime, that I would treat my father with respect, no matter how little I respect him in so many issues these days… Thank you.
… After talking and praying at length about the best advice to give you, we will cut straight to the action. You are clearly a strong-minded young woman, and we believe you’d prefer hearing straightforward, hard counsel to sugar-coated reassurance that won’t help with the problem. We will be responding to many of your very honest, frank concerns in similar honesty and frankness — so please read on with an open mind and heart.
After reading your email many times, we have a number of concerns about problems that will affect more than your relationship with your father; we’re concerned about the kind of relationship you’re preparing to have with your future husband. You have a wonderfully enthusiastic, visionary attitude about your future marriage and children — but we are concerned that you are allowing habits and attitudes to creep into your life that will damage your ability to respect and help your husband.
Our first concern is that, for all your attempts to help your father, your focus appears to be more on yourself – what will stimulate you, what will challenge you, what will teach you new skills, what will use your gifts — rather than on what will fulfill his dreams and use his gifts. The latter is what being a helper is all about. It sounds, though, almost like you want him to be your helper in a sense — someone who will give you encouragement and a feeling of accomplishment and help you meet your goals by providing you the work you want to do. There are a lot of daughters out there that desperately want to help their fathers …but only on the condition that they provide for them the kind of work that they wanted to do anyway. This is why so many daughters are frustrated with their fathers. It’s not that their fathers don’t have ideas for things to do; it’s that the daughters aren’t satisfied with those things. What is really your goal here? Your success or your father’s? And are you planning to change your focus when you get married?
We understand (and share) your desire for challenge and stimulation. It’s a good desire. But you need to use this strength to be an asset to your father and not a demanding, high-maintenance burden. By all means use this strength and desire to “do excellent bookkeeping, prepare taxes, or find a good real estate deal” and come up with all kinds of ways to be fruitful at home, as long as you have your father’s blessing in doing it and he doesn’t have something he’d rather you do instead — or better yet, in figuring out ways to help him out where he’s lacking. If your family has no expertise in a certain area, by all means be the one to develop that expertise to better serve your family! This is something we Botkin siblings have to do all the time, and it’s the way our family expands our bases.
Which brings us to our second concern: that you are relying on your father to provide you with things you are supposed to provide for yourself:
A reason to get up in the morning and something to live for every day
Daily challenge and stimulation
Incentive and motivation
“Breathing life into what you’re doing and making it important,” and “keeping your excitement up about what you’re doing”
Your relationship with the Lord, and your own character, perseverance and faith, should be the source of all these things. You can’t rely on another person to provide these things, and you will only make yourself frustrated by doing so.
Part of what may be fueling these expectations is our Third Concern: that you are comparing your father with other fathers.
Comparing what God gave you with what God has given other people is a way of judging God and what He has done. It breeds bitterness; it was the sin of Cain, which made God say to him, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7)
When we measure 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. You say, “I cannot MAKE my father do what your father does for you all!”/”I am angry at my father for not providing it for me, as yours has for you,” but this is based on a presumption of what our father does. It sounds like your father is a big-idea visionary, as is ours. Your description of his personality, his eccentric organization habits, and especially the fact that he doesn’t have time to give specific, daily instructions or follow-up encouragement, sound all too familiar to us. Our father does tell us the projects he wants to work on, but he has to rely on us to figure out what to do each day, how to help him in his goals, how to teach ourselves the skills we need for that, and to keep ourselves motivated.
Because we (us, our mother and our brothers) want to help him, we figure out how to make his objectives a reality, we give him encouragement, we try to take up slack where he is stretched too thin, and we try to free him up to think about bigger things than the burden of meeting all of our needs. We do this because we share his vision and have made it our own, even when we don’t fully understand it. This is only possible for girls when they:
1. Trust God to lead through fathers, not daughters; and
2. Know they are commanded to honor their father’s leadership.
Which brings us to our fourth concern: that you are not trying to honor your father.
You close by saying that you desire to “treat my father with respect, no matter how little I respect him in so many issues these days…” and perhaps you believe this will fulfill your obligation to honor him. But the Bible is clear that mere lip-service doesn’t count as honor: “…not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” (Colossians 3:22)
We are going to be most blunt on this fourth point, as this is the most serious of all our concerns. Throughout your email you betrayed the state of your heart in statements like these: “…he does not know how to utilize my energies…he does not breath life and vision into our family!”,”he failed to breath life into what I was doing,” “he repeatedly hurt me by seeming to discount my efforts for him,” “he failed in bringing this into our home,” “he allows life’s cares to choke what his dreams and visions are,” “he is not providing the vision and structure that I need,” “my father does not provide it,” “his way makes absolutely NO SENSE,” “I cannot MAKE my father do what your father does for you all!” “I am angry at my father for not providing it for me, as yours has for you.” etc.
We fear for you, that you have been desensitized and seared your conscience to the point that you think this derision is acceptable. When Scripture commands that we honor and obey our parents, it doesn’t give any conditions and provisos in case our fathers don’t seem respectable to us. It’s not an option. To make the statements above, you clearly do not honor him in thought, and you did not honor him in deed (your object was not to cover for your father’s supposed weaknesses, like Shem and Japheth did for Noah, but to expose them.) You say you love him, but you talk as though you despise him. Don’t let anyone make you think that that is normal or acceptable – Scripture calls this attitude accursed. “Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Deu 27:16)
Consider that the same God Who made that statement specifically chose your father for you.
Please, please repent and apologize to your father for each of these four things, and anything else you have done in the past to dishonor or grieve him. You still have time to correct these wrongs and mend your relationship with your father. For your sake, your father’s sake, your family’s sake, and your future husband and children’s sake, you must — so that they don’t have to “go through the heart-ache I have gone through, and still go through.”
It’s good that you love to be challenged, because being the daughter of a man like your father or ours is a huge and stimulating challenge — one that will require a lot of self-motivation and talent for making things happen and getting things done. Here is a big challenge for you: Firstly, you must love and honor and cultivate respect for your father. Second, you must seek your father’s heart and vision. Third, you must be able to come up with ways to use your gifts to make your father’s vision a reality, without him telling you what to do.
We know our advice has been tough, but it should give you more real hope than a “you’re doing fine, just pray and hang in there” message. We actually believe a lot of the difference between a frustrating, grievous situation and a joyful, fruitful one is in your hands — if you are willing to do what it takes. It will call for dramatic changes to your attitude and approach; but a dramatic change is the only thing that will yield a dramatic improvement to the situation. You said, “I really do want your advice and I so want to do the right thing!” and we believe that. We will certainly be praying for you, that God will give you the grace and the strength to do the right thing.
Thank you for reading and considering what the Lord put on our hearts to tell you, though it has not been easy to write this. Do write if you have any further questions!
Love in Christ,
Anna Sofia and Elizabeth
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)