In the first part of this review I indicated that I would review this in two parts because it was structured almost as 2 books. Well, I wish it were 2 books instead of one. Some time ago I wrote a post titled, I’ve Said Enough, So I’ll Stop Right Here. I sincerely wish Mrs. Pearl would have ended with that line at the close of part one of her book. While I gave part one a ‘B-’, I give part two a solid ‘D’.
As I ended part one of the book, even with the caveats I noted, I was satisfied because American women, even those who are Christians, have largely divorced ourselves from the Biblical marriage by reinterpreting Biblical commands that are clearly and repeatedly indicated in Scripture. It increasingly bothers me and was the main reason I was willing to overlook some of my problems with part one. It tilted much more in favor of Biblical marriage than most Christian women today would care to admit.
One thing I hate even more than the state of American womanhood however, is the male bashing that has become common in our culture, the media, and sadly, even in the church. And underneath all of the wisdom concerning loving our husbands was a strong undercurrent of misandry and painting of men as one-dimensional beings, only interested in sex and unable to handle being challenged. My antennae first went up during part one when she described Lucifer, an angel, as a “male being” in an attempt to explain some facets of masculine behavior. I’m not sure why in retrospect, but I let that gross error go, giving her the benefit of the doubt. I can see now that was a mistake, as at the time I recalled thinking, “Are we comparing men to devils? Since we know unequivocally that God our Father, and Jesus, His Son, our Messiah, are male beings, where then does that leave us?”
That should have been a clue that I would have more problems with the handling of Scripture in this book. As a mother of many, I have often offered consolation to mothers who have difficulty fitting systematic Bible study into their days on a regular basis. I have those seasons as well and I know that they are real. Still, I fight inwardly with my need to devote time to prayer and study of the word on a consistent basis. While I often have to fight off the guilt that attacks me when I honestly haven’t had time to sit with Bible, concordance and pen and paper at the ready, I was thankful while reading this book that I have never truly bought in to the notion that a mother doesn’t have time to study her Bible. It forces me to do so when I do have the time. Every believer needs to study so that we can rightly divide the word of Truth.
Although I was able to find a few gems of wisdom in this book, I have already settled in my heart that I cannot in good conscience give it a blanket recommendation. Not because I believe it is completely evil, having nothing good to offer, but because I know that far too many believers are not students of Scripture. And there is enough error here to make this book dangerous to the majority of believers. Particularly as more and more people look for a shortcut, a formula, or a method for building a successful ______(insert desired word here).
Before I get too far into my numerous problems with the second half of CTBHHM, I will, as is my custom, point out something that I did appreciate in the second half. It is important in light of some of the erroneous pictures of womanhood emerging as the church attempts to swing the pendulum away from the disastrous results that the culture of androgyny has wrought on marriages.
On page 217 was the story of a Vicky, whose husband didn’t lift a finger to fix anything around the house. While his own home fell apart, he was quick to rise and ride to the rescue of elderly women in the neighborhood who needed things around their homes fixed. While I believe Mrs. Pearl was wrong to give this husband a pass on his behavior because of his wife’s attitude, she was right about one thing. Women are perfectly capable of taking care of yard work, painting a room, or fixing a leaky faucet.
I rather abhor this trend I have seen becoming more prevalent among Christian women as we distance ourselves from a culture that treats men and women as interchangeable: that jobs around the house requiring a little sweat or strength are inherently “men’s work” or that the sphere of the wife is limited to the work that requires little sweat equity: cooking, sewing, cleaning, and caring for the children. In my opinion, a virtuous wife simply does what needs to be done if she can do it. There is no logical reason why the grass in our yard should remain overgrown until my husband is available on the weekends to cut it when I am at home everyday, presumably to manage the home. I can cut the grass. I think Mrs. Pearl was right on that note. Unfortunately, throughout my reading of the second portion of this book, I did not find anything more that I could embrace.
My problems with part two began almost immediately, with Mrs. Pearl’s repeated assertion that a mother could, by virtue of her perfectly watchful eye, keep harm from befalling her children. By way of disclosure, I admit that my own baggage came rushing to the forefront of my mind as Mrs. Pearl offered a scenario in which a young child might be molested if his or her mother turned her back for even a couple of minutes. She used this as a possible fallout of a mother not watching her children well. As one who experienced a violation and loss of innocence during my early years, I was insulted. Once again, a complex matter was being oversimplified. I mentioned recently that as an infant and young child, I was raised by my widowed father, who incidentally, is not commanded to be a keeper of his home and had several children to support. Life happens and sin rages despite our best efforts. While I understood perfectly the point she was attempting to make, I thought that her line of reasoning took it a bit too far, and furthermore, was wrought with inconsistency. Because of my inability to view the topic from a place of objectivity, however, I tried to give her a mental pass.
The inconsistency came to bear later when she advised, and I believed rightly so, that women whose husbands insist that they work should honor their wishes and do so. Does the wife in this position still bear guilt if some harm befalls her child while she is submitting to her husband? That was just one incidence of inconsistency that I noted as I continued to read through the book.
Another point of blatant inconsistency was the beginning of the chapter titled, “‘To Obey or Not To Obey?” The chapter began with the story of a woman who went to “extreme” measures to get the attention of her husband, who was addicted to pornography. Given the rest of the exceptions to unquestioned obedience outlined throughout the rest of the section, the reader is left to assume that the Pearls agree with the actions of this wronged wife, as do I. However, earlier in the book, there is the story of a woman whose husband frequented strip clubs and visited prostitutes, and the wife is hailed as a hero for honoring her husband as he committed acts that were certainly as bad, in fact worse, than the husband who was addicted to pornography. In the case of the former, the very life and health of this woman was at stake. Yet she is praised for turning a blind eye to her husband’s sin. If you are going to make an argument, it should be a consistent one.
Of all the objections I had to part two, however, none was so striking as Mrs. Pearl’s exploration of the Titus 2 command for wives “to love their husbands.” It was the only time throughout the book where I felt the need to double-check my understanding of a verse by grabbing my great big ol’ Strong’s concordance. Not the first time I disagreed with her handling of a verse, but the first time I felt like I needed to be sure. Astonishingly, she limited her very long explanation of the command to love our men strictly to the bedroom, going so far as calling lovemaking a husband’s “most consuming passion.” In the life of a godly man, sex should not be his most consuming passion. That honor should be held by his Savior. And certainly not on par with food. Whenever I hear sex held on par with food, it makes me shudder. This is the reasoning used by those forces who would encourage sexual activity by children at younger and younger ages.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. As married woman, I know how important the physical relationship between a husband and wife is in a marriage. I truly do. In fact, feel free to peruse my very bold thoughts on the subject. I believe this matter can and should be discussed, and my longtime readers can attest to it. Still, the word Paul used to describe what it means to love our husbands meant ‘to show affection [yes, I know sex is affectionate], to be fond of, to admire’. It was the Greek word philos, often used to describe loving friendships. My point here is this: if a wife gives herself to her husband whenever, however he wanted, never denying him, because she wants to be submissive, yet harbors ill feeling for him in her mind and heart, has she satisfied the Biblical command to love her husband? Mrs. Pearl implies that she has. This is a disservice to men, as it implies that they really don’t care whether or not their wives like them, so long as they have sex with them.
It is very sad that within the church this issue of marital intimacy is one we cannot seem to get a handle on. The pendulum always seems to be swinging in the wrong direction. There are people like Mrs. Pearl, who over emphasize the importance of sex, and then there are some who think all mention of sex should be uttered in hushed tones under the cover of darkness. As if Satan invented it. There is a balanced way to approach it, but sadly, this book doesn’t find it.
I was a bit saddened after reading part two of this book because part one held some promise. I cannot recommend this book in good conscience. At the beginning, it was a blessing to me as it relates to my own heart attitude, but that was about it. I am fortunate to be married to a man who simply says what he wants and what he thinks. If he doesn’t like me in a certain outfit, he tells me so. If he doesn’t like a certain recipe, he tells me. If I look particularly fetching (attractive) in a certain color or with my hair a certain way, he lets me know that, too. If he wants intimacy, he doesn’t beat around the bush. He is always respectful when he expresses himself. That wasn’t always the case, but God has done a great work in us both!
If there is one piece of advice that I could give any wife besides obeying Scripture with regards to your marriage, it would be this: Make it safe for your husband to tell you the truth. I have come full circle, viewing my husband’s blunt honesty as a gift.
Listen to your husbands talk when you get together to fellowship with other couples. You’ll be surprised what you hear. My husband has heard far too many men say that they could never tell their wives what they are really thinking because there would be heck to pay. Wives, however, usually feel perfectly at ease reciting a litany of complaints to their husband.
For those of you married to a passive, reserved Mr. Steady, to borrow the characterization from Mrs. Pearl, I can think of no other extrabiblical piece of advice I could offer. If we would be women enough to be willing to hear the truth, and godly enough to resolve in our hearts to submit, no marriage manuals beside the Bible would be necessary.
I have said more than enough, so I’ll stop right here.