I have been looking for a book to read (or rather, to add to the collection of books I read all at once).
As a young woman, I believe it is imperative not only to surround myself with like-minded, strong women of God but with these women to intentionally direct the conversations that I have. Even strong women can talk about weak things! One way to do this is to do a book study to keep the conversation on track. With my love for a story (I’d like to credit the newspaper experience with this fascination) conversations can quickly spiral away from intentional and upbuilding topics to the he-said-she-said of gossip.
So one of my best friends suggested a book when I asked her if we could do a study together: Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney.
Carolyn’s book is focused on seven virtues of a godly wife and mother. For many girls the age of myself and my friend, the idea of pursuing virtues of a godly wife and mother – when we fill neither role – may seem preemptive. Our view is this: if a woman does not make a concentrated effort to pursue these virtues now, how can they suddenly appear within marriage and motherhood? And could we possibly sustain, maintain, and ascertain a joyful marriage for ourselves by practicing these concepts before we are put to the test? We would think so.
The first two chapters of the book have already been very challenging to my own character and thought patterns. I won’t give away the content since I highly recommend the book and can’t do it justice in my own words – but a few excerpts are below that you might be encouraging to you. I know they were to me:
“Our conduct has a direct influence on how people think about the gospel. The world doesn’t judge us by our theology; the world judges us by our behavior. People don’t necessarily want to know what we believe about the Bible. They want to see if what we believe makes a difference in our lives… our lifestyle speaks loudly to those around us. How sobering it is to realize that our behavior has the potential to discredit the gospel.” (pg. 27)
In Chapter Two, “The Delight of Loving My Husband”, Carolyn talks about what it means to phileo love your husband (or anyone, for that matter!) even when emotions are a deterrant. This chapter is very convicting:
“…this command to phileo does not include a contingency clause. This verse does not say, “Have the older women teach the young women how to love their husbands — if they have godly character or if they are deserving of this kind of love or if they change.” We are to love our husbands with a tender, affectionate love regardless of their response.” (pg. 35)
“The more we understand the sin in our hearts, the more we appreciate the patience and mercy of God; and this, in turn, produces and attitude of humility and mercy toward our husbands. My husband’s historical hero Charles Spurgeon once said:
‘He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.'” (pg. 39)
Whether or not we have husbands as young women, it is our responsibility to remember that God’s grace toward us, in our sinful state, is so great that we should always show the same grace to others. Just as she who is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47) she who is secure in her relationship with God, understanding of how much God overlooks and pardons in her life, will show the same grace and pardon toward anyone who trespasses against her.
Rather than placing expectations on people and continually being disappointed, our expectation should be on God. When he has satisfied us emotionally and we can rest knowing that He will care for us in every way, we do not demand of others what we already have in Him. We can be emotionally stable and secure, allowing us to pour into others rather than demand that they pour into us. Whether this be husband, boyfriend, parents, or girl friends, our dependence on the Lord will free us to love them as Christ loves us, not require them to fulfill the unspoken expectations of our empty hearts.