I read this recently, and it resonated with me:
You can read an infinite amount of material on the web today telling you what you should or should not do with your kids. I realize my blogging is even contributing to this by being just another voice in the noise of how to do “traditionalism” right.
We broke the machine by making everyone an expert, and now no one is. I have no clue what is next.
As a recovering self-proclaimed expert, I actually think I know what comes next: Either a reversion to true community, or a further unraveling until we descend into utter chaos. All these competing experts mean you can always find one to support your version of the truth. The Internet has produced confirmation bias on steroids with a booster shot of amphetamines.
Without trusted flesh relationships to help us navigate the increasingly confusing culture we live in, we are in trouble. People can tell when something is the real thing, and when it’s not. They can tell when you’re living what you preach, and when you’re not. Your life (even if it’s a hard life) speaks for itself, without many words being spoken.
A couple of weeks ago, after church a woman came up to my husband and me and complimented us. She said she had seen us several times over the years and admired us. She said we seemed happy, were a lovely couple, and asked how long we’d been married. I recognized her, but we don’t really know her. Ours is a big church where you generally know best the people you serve with in certain ministries.
Yesterday, a well meaning man made a similar remark in a conversation with my husband about how he keeps the peace in his marriage, assuming that the reason we looked so happy is because my husband’s strategy matched his. It didn’t, but the fact that he rightly assumed we were happy was the point.
Several times a year, we have people come to us -out of the blue- and remark that there is *something* about the way we are with each other that gets their attention. In a good way. We even had a couple we didn’t really know at church ask us to be their new born son’s godparents because they sensed something about our family. Yes, we did get to know the couple and were sad when they eventually moved away.
It was repeated incidents such as that one, over the past two decades, which gave me the mistaken notion that I could somehow translate what I had done in our unique, individual relationship into something usable I could teach to other women. Because I was 40 and the Bible said I was supposed to teach younger women, I assumed that meant I was to be an official teacher on the strength of nothing more than my age and a Bible verse.
It didn’t take me long to realize (although I resisted it at first), that despite our brave new technological age, the way this dynamic works best is the old fashioned way. We model and teach our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, goddaughters. We impart our had earned wisdom such as it is, into the lives of the young women who cross our thresholds; our children’s friends, the children of our friends and other people who trust that we have the best interests of their children at heart.
The impact is more immediate and lasting because such intimacy forces us to measure our words, check our attitudes, and stay humble. The young woman who hears your admonition has also likely seen you, at least once, when you were at less than your best. Balance and affection fills in gaps.
There is an innate flaw in the design of a mentoring/teaching relationship set up as a virtual cathedral with oneself as the expert making proclamations from high without the insight and knowledge required to extend grace and compassion to people in less than ideal circumstances. Pat answers and Scripture quoting will only go so far without the corresponding community required to support one another as we walk through difficult circumstances.
One of the reasons why we come off as the ideal couple is because we -truly- haven’t had a serious internal struggle in our relationship since at least year five. What have I to say to a woman whose husband is unloving and uncaring? What does my husband have to offer to a husband whose wife is a ball busting shrew, or is the primary breadwinner through circumstances of life beyond their control?
What we do now is pretty straightforward: We answer questions asked of us in the most direct and honest way possible, and pray for the people who are moved to ask in the first place. We save advice for rare instances and rare people who we know can 1) handle what we have to say without taking offense, and 2) are relatively close friends and family.
We have a big family, and my husband has a lot of friends, so that is more than enough without either of us needing to hang out a sign.