Last week, I stumbled across the Facebook page of a magazine I sometimes read when I was in my twenties. It was the typical borderline-Quiverfull fare that has a large following among homeschoolers, promoting big families, homegrown organic cooking, and rigid gender roles; dispensing advice about clothing choices, natural health, homemaking, and child discipline.
Scanning the page was bittersweet. I shook my head at the logical and theological fallacies (the very thing that drove me from that mindset in the first place), but oh, how I missed the certainly, the simplicity, the assurance that if you just follow the recipe, your life and family will turn out beautifully. It’s a hollow promise, of course, but I’m sure I’m not the only woman who occasionally pines for a simpler existence, one where the shape and form of your life is a forgone conclusion. (How else can you explain the popularity of Amish romance novels?)
So I decided to acknowledge the feeling, to share some of the things I miss about living out of a patriarchal worldview, and become better acquainted with the mysterious workings of my subconscious mind in the process. Maybe you can glean something from it, too.
Things I Miss:
I miss the simplicity that came with my vocation being a foregone conclusion. When you know that you are going to be a stay-at-home mom, both now and forever more, you don’t have to spend time obsessing about choices that impact your career–schooling, job choices, prioritizing projects, etc.. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s making choices. Visualize me, at age 35, standing in my kitchen with my mother, wringing my hands as I gaze anxiously into the pot of mashed potatoes. “I don’t know if they need more salt, Mom! YOU decide!” Oh, the pressure! The horrible pressure!
I miss believing that my husband was ultimately more responsible for the well-being of our family than I was. As Dana Carvey’s Church Lady would say, “How conveeeenient!” Nowadays, I believe that “responsibility” is directly tied to “ability”–our faithful response to the things God has given us the ability to impact. We are each responsible to use the talents God has given us, and they aren’t always allocated the way we think they should be, according to relationship and role. But that doesn’t mean that burying my talents, or throwing them at Aaron and shouting “Here, YOU do something with these!” doesn’t sound tempting at times.
I miss believing that my husband was ultimately responsible for ME! While I acknowledged, of course, that I was responsible for my day-to-day decisions, I didn’t feel the need to take responsibility for the overall direction of my life. I was just going along with my husband’s direction, supporting him, so my choices were all on him, right? No way for God (or anyone else) to find fault with me there.
I miss being considered “conservative.” About a year ago, Scot McKnight wrote an insightful article titled “Moving Right is Never Wrong,” pointing out that the more conservative you are, the more faithful evangelicals are likely to consider you to be, even if your fundamentalism pushes the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This resonated with me in a big way. Moral and theological conviction pushed me to become less conservative about gender roles, but I lived with the terror that maybe I WAS moving that direction for self-serving motives, maybe there WAS some deep-seated root of rebellion growing inside me, some part of me that just didn’t want to be under anyone else’s authority. I can’t tell you how much I agonized over this question, how many desperate prayers I lobbed at God while working through this issue. And no wonder. By moving away from legalistic tradition, instead of toward it, I was going the WRONG WAY by the evangelical standards McKnight describes, the standards I grew up with, and it frightened me.
And yet, here I stand. I can do no other.
I miss babies! Honestly? I could have happily gone on and on having babies. But I knew that would not be good for my health, or for our family. Four kids is a lot! Also, I want to adopt someday, and I want to leave physical, financial, and emotional room for them. But that doesn’t mean my uterus doesn’t get jumpy every time I spot a newborn. Tick tock.
What about you? Are there old mindsets or legalistic ideals that you have a hard time shaking? What do you think is behind that longing? Security? Tradition? Reputation? Something else? I dished mine–now it’s your turn!