I had an epiphany today while cleaning out the bookshelf for our potential future move.
Laying all over the floor are books that essentially consist of twaddle. They are very good, very interesting books for the most part-- best sellers, and books that have formed my character in many ways. But the reason I'm classifying them as twaddle is that they are books ABOUT thoughts or ideas that others have had first and more clearly.
I decided, a while back, in an effort to simplify my life, to do things like get rid of my books ABOUT prayer, and just pray. To get rid of my books about pilgrimages and travel and just go. To get rid of my books about literature and philosophy and to just read literature and learn philosophy. Make sense?
One of the books I found in this purge is called Managers of their Homes: A practical guide to daily scheduling for Christian Homeschooling Families.
It's a book I've been meaning to send to a good friend of mine who is really wants to read it. It's been sitting there for months and keeps slipping my mind. I read it often when I was a new mom, and it's a book a lot of my friends swear by. Essentially, it helps women develop systems, step by step, to schedule their homeschool lives with lots of children. (Which, I admit, can be kind of crazy-making.... it's tough.)
The mother who wrote this book has a beautiful spirit. She wrote it to help other women where she had struggled so long.... and in it she encourages women to plan and schedule and step up to the challenge of life, but also to bring her schedules and plans before her husband and pray about them. Which I think we'll all agree are great ideas. But my epiphany was that they are also stifling.
Maybe it was the hour I spent posting hilarious pics of "women logic" on facebook yesterday (You know: "Wears a bikini in public, no problem. Someone sees her in her underwear. Screams.") or maybe it was my husband, who, upon seeing the book rolled his eyes and said so lovingly: "More protestant crap about running the house? No." but I had this image in my head when I saw that book lying on my table... this image of a married woman who thought herself submitted, helpmeet-ish and helpful, but still wasn't LISTENING in many ways. Now I'm not saying that's who the author of this book is-- I believe she is genuine and that she has some wonderful ideas for a certain type of family. But not my family. Let me explain.
You see, for Lent, I have made only one major resolution-- and that is to listen, in particular to my husband. My husband and I have had scheduling conflicts from day one of our marriage that continue today. Things that are obvious to me are stupid to him and vice versa. His major complaint-- whether it be in a restaurant or in a marriage, in school or at work-- is that people THINK they know what he wants and act accordingly, but they rarely listen. And quite honestly, it's true. I finish his sentences for him. And I'm always wrong. :D
In my house, I have spent the majority of my marriage trying to write and implement a schedule that works for me. Not doing so makes me edge closer to the white-coats. After all, as a mother of many, wife, sister, teacher and writer I have so much on my plate! But what I've learned is that no matter how organized I am and how ready to go I am, NONE OF IT works unless I am willing to stop and LISTEN to the man of the house.
Whenever I do, I realize his ideas are actually pretty darn good, and that they DO work, even though they aren't the way I would have initially done them. I also realize that if I plan and structure our day, and then get mad because he doesn't respect that structure and / or it drives him bananas, then I'm not really being a helper to him.... I'm just bossing him around and stomping my foot when I can't. Now that isn't to say that there isn't a healthy tension which is very necessary--- sometimes he needs the foot up his butt I'm happy to provide to remind him of what's important. But there's a difference between "healthy tension" and "nagging fishwife." Right?
Now there are several different types of husbands, and some women might have a husband who really says: "OK, honey, you figure out how to do x, y, z and let me know and I'll support you in that." I don't have that kind of husband. But I don't want one either. I'm grateful that God gave me a man's man-- a leader, a guy who actually HAS a vision for our family and actually knows what he wants. What I don't have is a submitted spirit... When I think about it, I am not actually humble in my marriage but proud. I go back over the list of "decisions" I've had to make over the years about running the house (And my husband is gone a lot-- or rather, he alternates periods where he is gone all the time to periods where he is home all the time) and I'm amazed. For example, he doesn't even LIKE Jumpers. Why did I ever ask myself if I should be wearing them, and think that that made me more godly/humble/etc? Why don't I listen to him?
Which is why books like Managers of their Homes is no good for someone like me.... because even though it tells me to stop and ask him once I've figured it all out, it doesn't actually encourage me to put down the planning tools and to stop and follow Him. And if my husband is to be Christ-figure to me in my marriage, then aside from all his "good" qualities, he's always going to be a little mysterious, pretty darn inconvenient, and a real and true agony to follow sometimes. That's the Christian Way.
So today I'm putting down ALL the twaddle-- including the stuff that externally promises to help me but doesn't really solve any of my problems-- like books about scheduling when what I really need is a cup of coffee with my husband, a list and some hard work. I don't need to schedule. I need to listen and work hard.
Sure, I'd have peace in my home and everything would run smoothly if I followed all the advice in this book, wrote our schedule, and handed it to my husband to approve. But I've been doing that for years, and I STILL do not have peace in this house. Why? Because the moment I hand it to my husband and say: "Here, this is how I think things would go more smoothly around here." (or however I word it) he is undermined in his authority. Yes, I'm bringing it to him. But have I listened to one thing he has said? In this house, it's false humility.
If I want to be a true helpmeet to the kind of husband I have, I can't be a "manager of my home." I need to be a helpmeet of my home. I need to do Latin with the kids when I think it's time for Nature Study, and I need to make Stew when I think we should be eating Gaspacho, and I need to read Plato when I think I should be reading Facebook, and I need to work hard to have the kids ready to go in the morning at a moment's notice, and I need to do these things because he has a plan, a vision, and an idea and I still, after all these years, have not made it mine.