Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

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19 thoughts on “Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

  1. I’m going to be such a brat. “It’s a God thing”. Sorry. God’s making appointments for you. It is what it is.

    Would it be better if everyone had a godly more mature Christian to ring up IRL when they needed a reality check? YES. Is that the way our world is? Nope. Case in point was the paint people. NO ONE had ever said those things to that woman before… no one.

    But insofar as your endpoint, the purpose of this blog, I’m 110% behind you. That’s what I mostly want from my blogs too. “I’m interested in this, come talk to me”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The truth of the matter is that I am averse to the idea that I am worthy of use in that way. I am persuaded, and that fully, that my husband makes me look like an excellent wife.

    By that I mean that he doesn’t allow me to be content with a comfortable, go along to get along, “good enough is good enough” level of existence.

    How he manages to hold me to such a high standard and still love me so deeply eludes me but it calls me higher. I am completely unworthy to be the one to tell anyone else how to do this. I suppose the 45 years gives me street cred?

    But yeah. This is a conversation, not a bully pulpit. If I advocate any one here, it is Christ. Not me.

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  3. Oh, by the way, Since old habits do tend to die hard, I will own up to offering advice today on a blog when I probably shouldn’t have,

    I knew soon after I did so that I should have kept my big yap shut.

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  4. I woke up this morning thinking about my husband’s grandmother, who is still with us. She is 92 years old.

    Benevolent Dictator and I married very soon after his mother went home to be with the Lord. She died young, at 44, leaving behind two 13-year-old boys for whom my husband took on the lion’s share of the day to day oversight because my FIL was pretty stunned and hobbled by the grief of it all.

    Anyway, besides me, there was the elder SIL, married to my husband’s oldest brother. She was “eldest” in the sense that she has been in the family longest. She’s actually a year younger than me but married in at 18. She and my BIL are still married today. They had 4 very young children (two more came later), and very quickly, we had three young children (two more came later).

    My husband’s grandmother made a trip down here every spring for 8 or 9 years. She would spend a couple of weeks with SIL1 and then a couple of weeks with us. When one of the younger sons married and also quickly had a child, she stayed even longer. Six weeks, rotating between the homes of her three grandsons helping out their wives who -at the time- were all full-time homemakers managing young children mostly on our own.

    I was trying to remember, besides the practical things I picked up from her along the way, if she ever offered any kind of direct instruction on how I should be a good wife to her grandson. I even thought about it while I was out for an hour walk this morning. I don’t recall her doing that.

    She shared her highs and lows as a wife as we talked about life, love, and family. She talked about the things she wished she’s known when she was younger, that she’d wished she’d approached differently, and some of the adventures she and her husband shared (both good and bad). But she never said that I can recall, “Do this. Don’t do that.” Yet somehow, I still learned a lot from her. Not the least of which was how to make a good pound cake.

    It doesn’t really get any more Titus 2 than that, I think, and it is exactly what I aspire to as I grow older. Planting seeds of love and wisdom in the lives of the young women in my life. If the Lord has something more formal in mind than that, I’m probably going to need a sign from the heavens or a direct order from the Dictator.

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  5. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.”

    My husband and I had someone say this to us when we were furniture shopping. My husband laughed and said “well when it comes to decorating she usually is right. She’s got great taste.” I said “especially in men,” and we all moved on. I’ve had many versions of that lighthearted conversation, but none of them resulted in me or my husband needing to tell people who wears the pants in our relationship. It’s obvious.

    My husband is the head of his household and he assumes that other men are the heads of theirs. Despite what the manosphere types say, most men are naturally the more dominate ones in their marriages. Most people don’t respond to those joking comments the way that you all do because they recognize that it is a joke.

    Now obviously I wasn’t there when you were at the paint store, so maybe that man really was so henpecked that he would’ve said “yes, dear,” to painting their walls pepto pink with neon green trim, but chances are a joke was just a joke.

    Your husband’s grandmother sounds lovely. My grandmothers passed when I was young but I have been blessed to have my mother and mother in law and older sister in laws provide a lot of support throughout the years. That’s exactly what Titus 2 should look like.

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  6. Look, Nonya. I don’t understand your point. Firstly, my husband is a very personable, outgoing person. The word “charming” is regularly used but I don’t really like to use that because with him it’s genuine not contrived.

    It’s not as if he was belligerent or unpleasant in his response. Just the opposite in fact. He was fine, the wife in this scenario was fine. The only person who seemed to take exception to his answer was her husband. HE was the one with the hangup, not us, and had HE not persisted, there would have been no story to relate.

    I *get* that you are a better, more normal, more together person with a better, more normal, more together marriage and family. I will stipulate that for the record from here on out. I don’t even have a problem with doing so, really.

    I am actually happy for you that you just seem to *get it*, do it perfectly, haven’t had to endure hardship or trial in order to learn what we have had to learn through life bruises and scrapes. You are to be commended for that. It gives me hope that my own girls will be so fortunate.

    All I ask is that you also accept my stipulation that we are not walking around looking for fights to pick with people. Just the opposite in fact. It is actually far more common for people to comment on what a lovely couple we are/ family we have.

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  7. I just love that your husband’s grandmother would spend time with you, and that your families would make time and space for her.

    I don’t recall getting much advice, but I got plenty of examples. When my Dad’s mom was dying and had Alzheimer’s, my grandfather was with her every day, telling her stories of the kids and grandkids. When grandpa was old, his eldest daughter, a nurse, took care of him day in and out, until the day he died.

    When my maternal grandmother died, we were all there. I was close with her, from childhood on up. She lost her husband after forty years of marriage, and while she had suitors, never remarried. He was it for her, and she often expressed a desire to be reunited with him in heaven. I wish my grandpa could have known my husband. Men after each other’s hearts, they are. My grandmother didn’t care much for intimacy but she saw it as a wife’s duty. Her father was a hard man, abusive and drunk often. Her memories of her father were tainted, yet, he kept the family fed and together even if it meant running rum from time to time. We’re all still here, so I guess it’s ok.

    Titus 2 isn’t words so much as action, and example. Live it, expect it of your protégés, and it will bear fruit.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well let me make my point clearer.
    I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?”

    I don’t think that you live in the twilight zone and that people are actually coming up to you to get your point of view on the proper hierarchy in marriage. It is obviously a subject that you think about a lot, and spent a great deal of time writing about and discussing with manosphere types and so when someone makes this very common and casual comment you see it as an opportunity to tell someone (who may not even be a Christian) about submission.

    I’m not accusing your husband of being belligerent at all but he did respond to a common joking remark with a serious comment. It would be like if someone said “You sure have your hands full,” when I am out with the kids and I took that as a sign that I should offer basic parenting advice or criticism. They’ve probably got it, and are just making friendly comments as normal people tend to do. If they don’t have it, then my telling them probably isn’t going to help.

    I *get* that you are a better, more normal, more together person with a better, more normal, more together marriage and family. I will stipulate that for the record from here on out. I don’t even have a problem with doing so, really.

    I am actually happy for you that you just seem to *get it*, do it perfectly, haven’t had to endure hardship or trial in order to learn what we have had to learn through life bruises and scrapes. You are to be commended for that. It gives me hope that my own girls will be so fortunate.

    I’m not sure where all this is coming from as I’ve never claimed to a problem free life or to do anything perfectly. I do think that years of manosphere and submission blogger talk can warp a person’s views so every once and while I do say, “well that’s not normal.”

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  9. Ok, got it. No need to repeat it again. Ever. Thank you.

    Although I will point out that my husband is not a manosphere guy, thinks most of the red pill is stupid (his opinion is that *truly* masculine men actually *like* women), and isn’t motivated by anything other than the fact that he doesn’t see the point in pretending to agree with something he doesn’t agree with for the sake of niceness.

    That’s a large part of what’s wrong with the world. You can be kind, friendly, and all of those things without being dishonest. The jokes which persist and are part of the lexicon are so because they are tinged with truth.

    Yes, too much so-called *red pill* thinking is bad for the mind but I am nowhere near in lock step with even half of that tripe.

    Edited to add: The example about “having one’s hands full” with children isn’t good parallel because it’s actually TRUE. Many children (even if you have the most well behave children) ARE a hand full because children are a lot of work no matter who you are. It’s universal.

    I don’t want to do this with you anymore. I read bloggers with whom I disagree on certain issues, but I almost never comment because there is no point. Now that you have made yourself perfectly clear, I don’t see any benefit of you continuing to come along to tell me how strange, stupid, wrong, and out of step with the rest of humanity we are.

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  10. The cool think about GMIL, now that I think about it some, is that if ever there was someone who had cause coupled with the experience and track record to tell me what to do, it was her.

    Having just lost her firstborn daughter, a daughter who left a bunch of sons behind, she could have easily (especially since she’s a spunky, opinionated woman), went the route of telling us what to do but instead she just walked along side us and helped us figure some things out from her wealth of experience and example.

    She’s quite a woman.

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  11. I edited this comment and removed Nonya’s words because they were more insults.

    In case you missed it, my adult kids read here. I am done allowing you to insult their parents (“disordered marriage”) in my misguided attempt to encourage free speech. This is a blog. There are 1000’s of them to rant against submission bloggers, of which I am NOT one, for the record. Not sure why you chose me.

    Take your insults somewhere else.

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  12. Loved the story. My take–as someone who is blessed at times to have people share this kind of things as well–is that if you’re halfway approachable, people are going to share with you. Sometimes it will be dead serious, sometimes it will be humorous, but illustrating a reality in their lives. Sometimes it’ll be just a joke. You can tell, sometimes, how you’re responding by the faces of those you’re talking to.

    Really, I think that we’re all too often scared to talk with people when they really want to talk about something. Obviously I wasn’t at the paint store, but I dare suggest that something was being said, and someone needed that response. If there is such a thing as general revelation and common grace, people are aware to some degree of the truth, and sometimes all that is needed is for someone to graciously say it.

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  13. Thanks, Bike. I think I needed the encouragement but upon further reflection, I see what I really needed was to be confident in what I know is true.

    First, that for whatever reason, this woman’s husband was not in a good mood, and this exchange went where it went not because of my husband, but because of whatever was up with him. She should have been more in tune. Not our job.

    Secondly, I didn’t offer ANYONE any advice. I simply refused to go along with the polite lie. We’re not supposed to go along with the polite lie.

    Third, for most of my life, and certainly the majority of our married life, we have been considered out of the ordinary or abnormal, usually as a great compliment.

    My husband is far more open and generous with people than I am as a rule. His refusal to play along with the “if mama ain’t happy no one’s happy” joke doesn’t make him or us touchy, sensitive, humorless, or disordered. It’s just not in his nature to be dishonest, even in jest. It’s to his credit, this abnormal trait.

    “Normal” is relative to time, place and culture. “Normal” in 2017 America can just as easily be a horrid thing to aspire to as anything desirable. “Normal” is not always a compliment.

    The interesting thing abour all this is that it isn’t “submission” or “manosphere” stuff that was in my head. I have hashed out the wheat from the chaff in that and tossed the rubbish on the heap.

    Rather, it was the repeated subjecting of myself to the insult that my inability to buy into the notion that being a Christian shouldn’t make me radically different means I am living a disordered life.

    And so I am no longer going to subject myself to it.

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  14. (hugs Elspeth)

    I get why this gets under your skin. All you’re doing is using a serendipitous interaction as a moment to plant that mustard seed. That’s it. People do this all the time, and I have to smh wondering how people can see this as bad. No, you aren’t living a “disordered” life for goodness sakes. We don’t need to go into what makes a disordered life because people already know what that is.

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  15. I know that you are a very balanced thinking person with no use for a lot of extreme rhetoric from either side, so I appreciate your thoughts Maea.

    It occurs to me that so much of this whole deal has been contrived from the outset and I fell for it hook, line, sinker. In flesh, people of varying persuasions interact and get along despite disagreement all the time without dehumanizing one another and reducing others to the sum total of their perspective on one issue.

    The Internet, however, is a different animal and encourages this type of thing. Thankfully, summer school session A is starting today so I am being forced to mentally declutter (props to annasach), and that means more tightly controlling the conversations here, even though it’s not what I wanted to do.

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  16. At your service, gracious hostess. I’ve simply had too many opportunities given me to interact on things our “Victorian” forebears would have considered painfully private and gauche to talk about to believe that most people really are that secretive. Rather, I think what’s going on is that our culture significantly/mostly/largely assumes that everybody wants to keep things private, and inside a huge portion of our culture is carrying around something that they are just dying to let out.

    Ya learn to say it graciously, you’re going to get a lot of chances to do this. And by the way, I’m looking forward to meeting Secret Agent Man. Dunno if it’ll be this side of Jordan or the other, but I’m looking forward to it.

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