Stepping up to the Plate…

…is a baseball metaphor, but for traditional women, it probably is the dinner plate, and it is dirty.

Drawing on the answer I just gave to one of Sarah’s comments, I’d say that a lot of modern women are opposed to the traditional way of life. It’s messy, it’s boring, it’s even humiliating to them. They fear becoming drudges. Modern television advertising seems to reinforce this view. We’ve got better things to do than mop the floor, clean the tub, or cook meals. As for that horror called “doing the dishes,” that’s something close to torture.

Are we really stigmatized by housework? Or is it just a status signal if we don’t have to do it ourselves? Hiring a maid or a cleaning service says, “I can afford leisure,” or “I’m too important to care for my house.”  As for having the husband and children do the housework so Mom doesn’t have to – isn’t it stigmatizing them? What it is, really, is a signal that the woman has control of the family, that the others do her bidding, that’s she’s nobody’s fool or servant.

Well, if that makes everyone happy, I guess it’s fine. But it doesn’t.

Don’t think I’m opposed to women working at jobs outside the house, or that men should never do housework, or that the kids should get off scot-free. Women sometimes must work to keep the family together, or they have jobs that contribute a lot to the community. I like that women have careers that matter. I’ve known many older women who were kept home from school to work in the house because their families did not think girls needed education. (I’ve known a few men in traditional farm families who were pulled out of school at a young age because they were big enough to plow!) I believe that everyone has a right to education, whether it is in a community school or at home.

But I also believe that the traditional family works. We see it time after time in the traditional communities, where the family is  a unit within the larger group related by blood and faith. It’s far from perfect; children still go astray, married couples still fight, there may be alcoholism, mental illness, hearts broken by innumerable causes. Yet the whole community is there to support people in trouble, loss and grief. The members of the community know what is expected of them in a time of travail. Yes, in those times women tend to gather in the kitchen, making sandwiches and coffee, while the men stand on the porch after the chores, talking seriously. But each gender group gets some work done in their own way, with peer support.

Out here in the larger world we don’t have that traditional framework of support. We can’t even rely on our own families to help us when we are in dire need. They are often overextended financially and chronically – that is, they don’t have the money or time to help. How did we ever get here from the early church, where Christians took in other Christians, even strangers? Two thousand years ago, Christians sold their property, jewellry, and household goods to provide for the poor and sick. They shared everything as necessary – see the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, verses 42-47. There weren’t just a few who did this; the apostles had just baptized some three thousand people!

This was not a revolution turning over all the old ways, for Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law, not destroy it. The old ways of the Jewish culture still worked for early Christians, following the changes concerning kosher and circumcision. The Law was fulfilled; the old family structure kept intact and the old community ways preserved.

In a world where everything happens in a mad rush, where patience is not a virtue but commonly seen as laziness, where respect and dignity are for the weak, and where family life is nothing but internal competition, the traditional way looks outrageous. The mad are calling the sane crazy. No matter how many self-help books we read, Christian or otherwise, advising us to slow down, take thought, be careful, we continue to drive around like we are being chased. We make frantic numbers of phone calls; we spend hours surfing the internet for information, all for some elusive proverbial gain we never realize. We ask for world peace but because we have no peace of heart we try to get that peace by force.

It may seem like a huge leap of logic to go from washing dishes to world peace, but it isn’t really. If we take our God-given place, if we accept the true gifts of God while rejecting the false gifts of the world, if we are concerned for our neighbours as well as ourselves, we will find peace. We find it in the love of God, and in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

7 thoughts on “Stepping up to the Plate…

  1. I’ve got a comment. I rushed quickly through the “Who is doing the housework?” part. If a woman works outside the home, as she might if she chooses or finances dictate, then she shouldn’t have to work the “second shift” alone. Call a family meeting and divide the chores, simplify the house (i.e. get rid of the clutter!) and stick to a clean-up schedule. Period. Don’t let it become a struggle. There are lots of websites out there to help you get organized.

  2. Well said. Sometimes the simple things are the most important. However, it is selfish culture we live in (sadly and unfortunately) which degrades the simple, traditional virtues. How are we to teach a good work ethic without hypocrisy to the next generation unless we model it ourselves? It may not be the most glamorous, but it is the most important.

    • A lot of people are much too influenced by television and advertising. They think they all need to live that glamorous life. Well, that doesn’t get the work done, does it?

  3. Magdelaina,

    Your latest article chimes right in with what we’re looking at in Christian theological Ethics. society idolizes the ‘lifestyle’ (I cannot bear that word) to the detrement of community harmony, dignity and stability. it is this addiction to the glamourous lifestyle that has landed us in the financial messs this old world is still reeling from. it also contributes to poor stewardship of god’s creation. how are we using resources? how is the hectic life so many are caught up in utilizing what our Heavenly Father has given to us? What of fractured relationships within families, society and between the created and the Creator? One in five Australians will deal with the effects of mental illness during the course of their lives… We need to slow down and value the peace found in the ‘little things’, all doing our bit and not shirking our responsibilities as you’ve so articulately expressed within this entry. My husband works, i study and together we put our hand to the plough and do what needs doing… finding satisfaction in a job well done. Just a few thoughts; I truly appreciate your message in the midst of mid-semester crunch!! (just fired off a paper on Christianity and its influences upon our moral choices…

    May you be wonderfully blessed, and thank you for your incredible ministry!!


    • The increase in mental illnesses may well be from our societal pressure to achieve worldly success and the associated anxieties. I know how tough it is to face that pressure! When I was first ordained, there was a lot of “encouragement” to become successful in the church, to have a power career. I never saw myself as that kind of “professional” though. Ny view of ministry is to be with the people, of the people. I’m very down to earth, hands-on, not from some sense of “service,” but just because that’s what Christians do. Maybe I’m just too meddlesome to spend much time alone in the office or taking notes in a meeting!

      I’ve been shocked to find that ministers, both male and female, are not at all concerned about the physical state of their homes, many of which are owned by their parishes. It is an example of good stewardship to keep a good house!

  4. I chuckled a little, because dishes are my waterloo. I grew up as THE dishwasher (fancy a modern family with no automatic washer!) for six. I asked when we got married if that was something he could do for me, the dishes. He lovingly said yes.

    But on a more serious note, having a clean home is an amazing help to the family. Be it just two ( such as my husband and I) or a larger family. I currently am the one who does the most work outside of the home, because God has blessed me with a job that supports us, and Matthew does more housework since I can’t. Coming home and not being overwhelmed by mess is a blessing. I hope I do as well a job as him when it’s my turn.

    • I completely agree with you. It is a sign of respect for his wife that a man will do a share of the household management. Some of it is his stuff, anyway. It was wise and bold of you to ask about the division of chores early on; it’s the best way to handle that. I don’t mind doing dishes, and I simply can’t stand a dirty kitchen or bathroom, so I’m willing to clean them myself.

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