“What’s that, Mum?” asked my son, pointing to a small plastic something-on-the- ground.
“That’s just a barrette,” I replied, off-handedly.
“What’s a barrette?” he asked — framing in one simple question the deeply entrenched boy-culture and the essence of the testosterone-laced air that I have breathed for the past two decades. With this as background, I approach Barbara Rainey’s Letters to My Daughters with a degree of awe and irony, for I am in the process of solving the other half of the marital equation by raising sons who will also bring to their marriages a high view of the sovereignty of God and a determination to make things work.
Mystery is a major theme in the Bible’s treatment of marriage, and this mystery is tied in with the image of Christ and His bride, the church. Barbara helps her readers to see through her written replies to questions from her daughters and daughter-in-law that marriage is NOT a mystery to be solved, but, rather, a mystery to be lived — through great faith and a steady flow of grace and forgiveness, which “keeps the windows clean and clear.”
Drawing on metaphors from art, music, gardening, and even cooking, the Rainey family dialogues on a wide range of subjects including the pros and cons of egalitarianism vs. complementarianism; intimacy and lack of desire; respecting a husband who is not acting respectable; and the gritty process of living a hard-scrabble life beside another sinner.
- Having logged forty years of marriage, mothered six children, and lived most of those years in the spotlight as a ministry wife, Barbara has earned the right to speak out against “fairy tale” theology in which God owes us a happy ending. She has learned the hard way that it is possible to offer helpful input to one’s husband without becoming his mum. Ending every disagreement in their marriage with a restatement of their promise to stay together has been glue that has held them in love, along with the truth that the wife is NOT her husband’s moral custodian. Husbands are responsible for their own hearts before God – and we wives have plenty of our own junk to take care of, anyway.
- Having endured through some wintry years in her married life, Barbara offers the encouragement that spring can come again. Without syrup or sentimentality, and with sensitivity toward those who truly are in unhealthy (or even dangerous) relationships, Letters to My Daughters comes alongside young wives with encouragement to believe in their husbands, to exercise verbal self-restraint when tempted to criticize or bad-mouth, and to understand that as dark shadows anchor the objects in a painting, so our shadowed experiences of struggle, and sacrifice anchor us to the God who is solid and unchanging. He does not send difficult circumstances to “see how much you can bear, but so that you can experience His sustaining strength holding you up.”
As I read this heartfelt exchange between a wise mum and her dear girls, I became even more thankful for the daughter-in-love who has become a precious part of our family. As daughters of Eve, each of us needs a daily recommitment to trust the Choreographer as we move in harmony with our partner, to embrace the glorious differences between men and women as we follow God’s recipe for reflecting His image so that our marriages can become “a statement of wonder to the watching world — statements of the goodness, the power and the beauty of God.”
This book was provided by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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