Theoretically Speaking

7:30 AM

A very long while ago, at what I like to label the beginning of my philosophical ponderings, I stumbled across a catchphrase that I immediately latched on to: If you're not going to do anything about it, don't complain.

Whenever someone lamented about the downward political spiral and did nothing about it, I thought of my catchphrase. Whenever someone criticized a misguided teenager and did nothing about it, I thought of my catchphrase. Whenever someone harrumphed and philosophized over the pitiable state of Christianity and made no effort to reform his own life -- what do you know? I thought of my catchphrase.

Thus and so on. I found that it was far easier to settle comfortably into the critic's armchair, pointing out the faults of people in the thick of the fight, easily solving the world's problems in under an hour. And of course, perched on the arm of that chair, I never thought I could be a perpetrator of such hypocrisy.

But I did. Especially when it came to mothering and homemaking, I felt myself the expert (being as it were the child mothered, you know). I developed a silent hypercriticism towards my mother, making quiet and snide remarks here and there. All while moving not a single inch from my armchair.

In the long run, I found that I really had no idea how to be a mother, how to run a household, how to love a husband. Funny. Emotionally removed, everything seemed so simple. A mere step from A to B, if you will. But whenever I had to step up to the plate and get my hands dirty, I was the one fretting over dinner and pulling hairs over another dirty diaper.

Thus properly humbled, I learned two important things that has not only kept me on a diet of humble pie but also furthered my appreciation and love for womanhood's arts.

First, I found how important it was to be a student and not a critic, to sit silently at the feet of older women. That seems common sense, but it was also backed by the fact that whenever I criticized some mother's practices, I always ended up in the wrong. And that was embarrassing. Conversely, whenever I zipped my lips except to ask a question, I learned so much more. I was taught all sorts of things, from how to submit to a husband to how to keep children healthy, from the importance of prayer to the secret of keeping happy while serving. Blurting out my clinical, unexperienced opinion only delayed the learning process -- to my detriment.

Second, I learned that my way is not the high way and that failure is an opportunity for God to step in and let His plan rule. Watching other mothers and wives operate, I realized that these women had much in common -- yet they were all different. They all had different circumstances, differing numbers and ages of children, different temperaments and different interests. There was a principled base for each of them expressed in many different ways -- not at all stifling or cookie-cuttered. That truly encouraged me on to a pursuit of womanhood and homemaking apart from the stereotypes (mine or the world's), and really forced me to put aside judgment and just take a look at how God worked through differences to achieve His revealed purpose. Womanhood didn't have to look just like me to be glorifying to God and effective.

And I saw that it there was room for improvement -- that there was failure -- that there were faults. I have never yet met a perfect woman in the perfect circumstance. But I was able to see God working through that failure, upholding where women fell short, giving grace where grace was needed and blessing in spite of everything.

That was the death blow of ignorant bigotism for this very young sort of woman. And now, focused on learning instead of leading, I am the wiser for it.

(Theoretically speaking, of course.)

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