Whenever we feel stuck in some place, the temptation is to think that we know and understand all the variables. We know that we are stuck, and we therefore assume we know why we are stuck.
You notice your birthdays are continuing to go by, and you had assumed when you were a little girl that you would be married by this point, but you aren’t, and so what’s the deal?
But when you ask yourself what’s the deal? the temptation is to think you necessarily see the full problem accurately. You don’t have the solution, but you think the nature of the problem is self-evident. The problem is that there are not enough guys, or the guys are not coming around because somebody needs to light a fire under them, or that you need to change what you are doing with your hair, and so on. And I do grant that those things that you see could easily be part of the problem.
You see the basic fact of the problem, and you likely have identified some of the factors that have created it.
But one of the things you should also want to do is run a spiritual inventory in your soul, in order to see whether there are any internal and invisible things that are getting in the way. Sometimes these internal things are hang-ups that you half-way know about, but don’t like thinking about, and other times you don’t know anything whatever about them, or you know about them but reckon them as being among your virtues. The question is how can you get at those things which you cannot see? Or better, how might you dislodge them so that you could see them?
With that said by way of tantalizing introduction, let me go straight to my suggestion, and then follow it up with some comments on how it might be related to you in your unmarried state.
My suggestion is that you should sit down and write your father what Nancy and I call “a respect letter.” We have seen this have a big impact in the lives of many young women. We also know that you have a good relationship with your dad, and so you are not trying to fix anything in your relationship, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t dislodge some things in your heart when you sit down to write it. And if you pick those things up and look at them closely, you might learn some things about your relationship to your future husband.
You don’t have a husband to relate to, and so what I am urging you to do is to practice on your dad. When you go through this process of respecting your dad, it gets at a number of things in a young woman’s soul. It is also going to do a different kind of number on your dad also, but it will not be negative at all. He will really appreciate it.
Let me flip this around so you can see more readily what I mean. Suppose you overheard me giving this same kind of counsel to Dawson. Before he had a girl, suppose I told him to practice on his mom. Giving attention, being thoughtful, sending flowers on appropriate occasions. If he set about doing that, you would think it wonderful, and sweet, and thoughtful.
But you will have noticed that I told him to write a different kind of letter than I am telling you to write. He should write a love letter to his mom, and you should write a respect letter to your dad. This is because men and women are different, and the scriptural emphasis on their assigned duties is correspondingly different.
Scripture tells husbands to love their wives, and Scripture tells wives to respect their husbands. Whenever I get into this, I always want to qualify it, because Scripture also teaches all Christians, regardless of their sex, to love their neighbor ( ), and it also tells all Christians, regardless of their sex, to respect their neighbor ( ).
But when the Bible is addressing men as men, and women as women, it tells the men to love, and it tells the women to respect. This tells us at least two things. First, it tells us what the other sex needs to be receiving from us. From the Lord’s command to Peter to “feed my sheep,” we may infer that the sheep need food. Women need love, and men need respect.
The second thing we can infer is that shepherds need to be reminded of their duties with regard to this feeding. Men need to be reminded that they must love, and women need to be reminded that they must respect. It is easy to drift into a state where we take life for granted, along with all the other people in our lives. And when we learn that we need to be reminded of a particular duty, we should assume that we have a propensity to drift away from that duty.
If I told Dawson to practice his love and affirmation on his mom, and he found the words sticking in his throat, and that he was overcome with a strange and unidentified reluctance, he should conclude that something was going wrong. His “love muscles” were atrophying. The same thing is true of you—your “respect muscles” were atrophying. The reminders came just in time.
When you sit down to write this respect letter, you should focus on his abilities and achievements. This is a different coinage system than women tend to use with one another, but it is what you should focus on. Or, to change the metaphor, men run on diesel and women run on regular. Do not put the wrong fuel in the wrong tank. Tell him how much you respect—and use that word respect—how hard he works. Tell him how smart he is. Tell him how you appreciate his military service. Tell him how much you admire his strength. You get the picture. Now, despite the fact that you already have a great relationship with your dad, he is going to appreciate this letter very much.
Now, on to what it might dislodge in you. Despite the fact that you have a good relationship with your dad, and despite the fact that you grew up in conservative Christian circles, and despite the fact that you are regular Bible reader, the chances are excellent to outstanding that you have been influenced by our surrounding feminist culture more than you thought you were. What this does is that it provides an excellent purging opportunity.
And also, I should mention in passing that this will help you sympathize with those friends of yours who have no dad, or a lousy relationship with their dad. They have a much greater challenge than do you—but it is a challenge you all must face. If you have friends in that category, it is doubly important that they write the same kind of letter. No lies, no flattery, but rather simple respect. What can you respect about him?
So what do I mean “purging opportunity”? You may notice a strange reluctance creeping in, or if something about this doesn’t sit right, or the whole thing might stirs up vague and nebulous resentments toward men generally, or indignation toward the entitlement of the masculine, then the exercise of writing this letter is doing its work in you. They work it does in your dad is simple gratitude. Men need respect; they run on it. But what it awakens in you is a realization of the degree to which feminism has taught you to wince at certain things, and how much it makes you want to overreact, and how down deep it makes you want to misrepresent the duty to yourself so that you don’t have to feel so bad about apparently being a closet feminist. “Oh, so am I supposed to run up to some guy, squeeze his bicep and say, ‘my hero!’”?
The bottom line is this. When women appreciate men generally, as a class, and when women admire and respect displays of biblical masculinity, and are not afraid to admire it openly, and they this have these sentiments all the way down, this demeanor is profoundly attractive.
But what Christian women do, halfway trained by the feminists, is this—they say, “Oh, so I am supposed to act like some silly little schoolgirl, in love with the quarterback because he’s so ‘dreamy’”? In short, they misrepresent—because nothing in the world is easier to misrepresent, especially in this climate.
What this letter to your father will do is that it will help you become a strong and biblically minded Christian woman, one who loathes feminism and all its works. Understanding feminism, and learning how to hate it rightly, is, when it comes to influencing the right kind of Christian man, a very arduous course of beauty treatments.