Welcome back to Part 3 of our series on Flourish, the heart-warming story about how a struggling woman overcame difficulties and obstacles and entered into a fruitful marriage by following the timeless truths of God's Word. Either that, or it's a story about a woman being broken down emotionally and mentally, bit by bit, until she becomes a veritable Stepford Wife. It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.
In our last post, we had just discussed how the HFKAP (that's his name now, as far as I'm concerned, because a) he's not a Prince, and b) the joke amuses me Every. Single. Time, and if you want the dopamine to keep flowing, then you have to let me amuse myself) asked her to delete her Facebook account, but totally left it up to her. Since she wanted to please him, she shut it down, obviously. Even though that was going to leave her isolated at home and cut off from her support systems. It's interesting to point out that she asked the HFKAP to back off from Warring Maiden, and presumably left it up to him, but he didn't want to please her enough to actually do it. So, that's kinda lame I would say.
Anyhow, back to the story. And here, I want to offer a disclaimer, because I believe God does meet people where they are, and I believe He can work through dark circumstances, so I don't want to denigrate genuine workings that He works in people's lives, but I think there's a difference between saying, "Hey, I was in a crazy place, and God met me there on my terms, because I needed Him to," and saying, "Hey, this crazy place I was in is actually a GOOD place to be, and how God worked with me is the normative way that God works, so here's some instructions about it." And I think this book is the second case, and that's the perspective that I'm taking in my criticism.
One day a friend, knowing about Maiden's struggles with Prince working so hard and how overwhelmed she felt, gave Maiden a book to encourage her in her marriage.
Maiden was not even a page into the book when she realized her friend had given her one of the greatest gifts she could have given. Also, Maiden had not even read a page until her heart was convicted that she had failed to honor her husband in spite of her long-ago decision to respect him always.
Maiden did not tell Prince about the book for a long time. But little by little as she read the book, her eyes were opened to the fact that even though Prince might be wrong at times, she had been oh, so wrong too.
Whoa, camel! Whoa!
Yes, ladies, I want you to listen very carefully now. When your husband is being emotionally unfaithful to you, and physically and emotionally unavailable, and that makes you feel bad, and you respond in less than ideal ways, you need to realize how Oh So Wrong you are.
She never identifies the book as far as I know, but I would bet a significant sum that it was something like Created to Be His Doormat, by What's-her-Face Pearl. (I can't be bothered to look it up right now.) Debby or Diane or Deborah. I think it's a D-name, anyhow.
And this is so typical of the whole schtick. When your husband is wrong, don't focus on that, focus on YOU. Because YOU could always do better, because you are a fallible human, and fallible humans are fallible, so you can never say anything, because you need to do better, mmkay?
Meanwhile, the husband is out cavorting around with Warring Maidens, Conflicting Lassies, Pugnacious Damsels, and Belligerent Senoritas, without so much as a "Wrong on You" and you have to keep schtum, because otherwise, you're making the marriage worse by not showing him the respect due to his reverend name.
And it's really gross.
As Maiden read the book, she started to slowly change and to also read her Bible more faithfully. When Warring Maiden tried making war in Paradise, Maiden refused to cry and instead practiced unfailing kindness to her husband. Although she made many mistakes, she began to see progress in her heart and in her actions.
Instead of hiding her armor in the closet, ready to pull out when Warring Maiden appeared, Maiden sought to make herself more and more lovely every day and night for Prince. She let gentleness soften her face as she looked at him, and gave him special smiles. Often --- very often --- she prayed. Her tears still fell, but God was the One who saw them most, not Prince, because God tenderly wipes tears and replaces them with His peace. She realized that her tears in the presence of her husband had only compelled him to add more layers to his armor.
Now, I think it would be a super garbage argument to make here, but if this book were making the argument that the HFKAP had a bunch of emotional and mental baggage, and didn't know how to handle tears, and so she was trying not to let that be a barrier to increasing their closeness or whatever, I would at least say that this makes a bit of sense. But instead, this is stated as a fact, that women should cry before the Lord, not their husbands, because only unmarried men are attracted by tears.
The problem is that in Ephesians 5, the husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and gave himself for it. So if GOD is wiping away her tears, so ought the HUSBAND to also wipe away her tears. "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies," the Apostle says, "for he that loves his wife loves himself."
So this teaching contradicts the very framework that it purports to be based on. Wives should be able to share their tears and sorrows with their husbands, especially when he's the cause of them, and if it isn't safe to do that, and if it creates distance, than he's a very insecure little man, and it's not a safe marriage, and hiding the tears just makes it worse.
A long time afterward, Prince told Maiden that God had showed him the wrongness of allowing Warring Maiden to interfere in this marriage.
The cynical part of me wants to suggest that this revelation came at about the same time that Warring Maiden started dating someone, or decided that the HFKAP wasn't all that and a bag of chips, and broke it off herself, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I'm not going to make that suggestion here.
Because of pride and the thickness of his armor, he did not immediately admit this to Maiden. But as his own Maiden became more and more lovely in spite of her occasional tears, he ran far away from Warring Maiden.
The unspoken lesson here is that if your husband is being unfaithful to you, then it's your fault, because if you are lovely enough, if you can be sweet enough, then you will draw him back, and, like Loretta Lynn, tell the Warring Maidens in your life that "you ain't woman enough to take my man."
I could go on typing quotes from the fairy tale here, but frankly, it's more of the same.
A few patterns keep repeating themselves. Here's an example.
Step 1: The HFKAP does whatever the heck he wants.
Step 2: Maiden smiles and agrees.
Seriously, they live in six houses in six years, which isn't wrong in and of itself. I've come close to that at times. But the decisions are all depicted as unilateral.
Examples of actual quotes:
"Prince decided they should move again."
"One fall day, Prince announced that they would build a new house."
The inescapable message of this whole story is this: If you have no expectations, if you are willing to have no boundaries, if you are willing to let your husband do what he wants without a peep, even being involved with other women, and using you as a living breathing sex doll, then you can one day smile and say that you have a happy marriage.
The author, at one point, says that she loves being married, but honestly, having read what it took her to get there, I can't help but feel like it's akin to Winston's declaration at the end of 1984 that he loves Big Brother.
Until next time.