Monday, March 21, 2011

Hope for Christian wives

I didn't really want to read another book about keeping a perfect Christian household, and the title wasn't the most convincing either: Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother. Yuck!

But this book by Carolyn Mahaney got very good reviews on Amazon at least (by both men AND women), so I decided to give it a try.

I would like to start by mentioning that one of the most compelling features of "Feminine Appeal" is its positive tone. This is no minor factor in a book about marriage relationships. Some books about marriage can be so heavy, or even downright cynical, that it's refreshing to read something uplifting. Mrs. Mahaney manages to cover fairly intense topics without taking all the joy out of the institution of marriage.

Thinking Positively

The chapter titles in this book ( "The Delight of Loving My Husband," "The Blessing of Loving My Children", etc.) are an example of the positive terminology employed by the author. But lest you think it sounds too fluffy, here's what Mrs. Mahaney herself says about the aim of her book:
"This book is about the transforming effect of the gospel-because that is what Titus 2 is all about...The seven feminine virtues we will consider in this book are not an end in themselves. They point to the transforming effect of the gospel in the lives of women."
That's a pretty solid mission statement. continue reading/-

Here's an example of her words of encouragement for struggling wives:

"If you are in an exceptionally trying situation with your husband, I encourage you to pour out your heart to the Lord of love. He knows, He sees, and He hears; and though your tears may be lost on your husband, they are not lost on your heavenly Father. He is the compassionate Lord who urges us to draw near to Him so 'that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the tie of need.' (Heb. 4:16). Although you may not understand, you can be sure that your marriage has God's loving inscription on it. God's unerring wisdom has ordained your relationship with your husband-for your good and for Christ's glory...God will renew your strength so that you will not grow weary in cultivating a tender love for your husband."

Simple Truths

Mahaney's writing style is not the most challenging intellectually, and there are some rather wordy passages that seem to serve no other purpose than amusing the reader. After a seemingly random illustration, she writes, "Now do I have your attention?" (How about just getting to the point?)

Nevertheless, Mahaney's points, though simple, are challenging to apply to one's life, in a good way. In a world of confused morals, it's good to that there are Christian writers unmasking the Truth.

 Here's what she says about how our behavior as Christian women (though it could apply to men, too) affects those around us:

"Our conduct has a direct influence on how people think about the gospel...I recall my sadness when I heard of a high-profile Christian woman who left her husband for another man. My heart aches when I thought of the pain that this caused her family. But the effect of her sin didn't end there. When she broke God's command and committed adultery, her behavior reviled God's Word-before every person she knew and more she didn't know...her sinful conduct gave opponents of the gospel the chance to speak evil about Christians."

Another example: in the chapter on loving your children, Mahaney includes a little survey she conducted, asking young people how they know their mothers love them. From making favorite foods to singing lullabies, the ideas are mostly predictable, but still reach to the heart.

The author also does a good job exploring where certain sinful actions come from and the cycle of hurt that they create. "We revel in the luxury of extra sleep, but we spend the rest of the day frantically trying to make up for lost time. We exult in the brief moment of victory over our husbands, but we later regret the rift we've created in our marriage..." This is obvious, but when we're actually in the moment, we tend to forget about the consequences of our actions or to explore the root of why we're feeling hurt. We dance around the topic of sin, and she exposes this tendency.

And of course the book has plenty to say about marriage that I can't very well comment on at the moment! But here are a few more items that I found interesting:

Things to ponder

Mahaney believes that men are exhorted towards sacrificial love because it's easier for them to be affectionate than to make sacrifices. And women are called to love their husbands because it's easier for them to make sacrifices than to be affectionate. The Bible does contain these exhortations, but I had never thought about how they relate to typical behavior. At first I thought it was a flawed observation, but she used a good example of a woman working tirelessly to "serve" her husband, with a not so gracious attitude! Yes, women are indeed good at staying busy and making it look like they're the innocent ones, while forgetting to smile, use kind words, etc. So maybe she has a point there. I can't really say whether or not the opposite is true of men.

And here is a quote by Martha Peace that Mahaney included (on another topic) that I found convicting.

I have heard of women who pride themselves on being 'night people.' That means they have trouble getting up in the mornings because they come alive at night. They may stay up to all hours reading, watching television, or pursuing some sort of interest. The next morning they are too tired to get up and care for their family...These women are not 'night people.' They are lazy and selfish. Who would not rather stay up late to do whatever they pleased and sleep late the next day? Once a young wife begins getting up earlier than her children and her husband, she will cease to be a 'night person.' She will be tired at night and go to bed at a reasonable hour so she will be there to serve her family the next morning.'

Read more book reviews at YLCF's March of Books!


  1. Sounds good! Um... that part about staying up late at night? Yeah...

  2. Yeah, I do think people have morning vs. night preferences, but I agree that you can train yourself to follow a different schedule.

  3. I think I agree....though I remember for for a number of years my mom stayed up "late" at night - maybe 11 or 12. She was up early and had our breakfast prepared, though, and always an organized, spotless house. I think she took a nap in the afternoon while we were at school!

    I felt guilty reading your blog since I gave up reading blogs in the daytime for Lent - but my priest just informed me that we mustn't fast today since it is the Feast of the Annunciation. I better make sure I don't read blogs to the point where I neglect anyone or anything else, however!

  4. Moms make a lot of sacrifices. :) What I got from the excerpt was that we shouldn't use our "personality" as an excuse for laziness. I definitely have habits that are just...bad habits.

  5. Great review! This may be another book to add to my reading list.


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