Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Thoughts on Ephesians 5



Jenna left a comment on my post “Podwig” that really caught my attention.  I’ve been meaning to come back to it.

She said:
Love the podvig and the podwig. As to the whole submission thing, I have been studying about the Hebrew language/letters. (If you've not studied even the alphabet – well, aleph-beit in Hebrew – you're so missing out!) One word for man/husband is ish – aleph, yod, shin – which imply the strong leader of God's power. Isha, for woman or wife, is aleph, shin, heh – the strong leader's power revealed. So I'm picturing the CEO who is the face and responsibility of the organization and the COO who makes it all happen. 

I have never studied Hebrew, but I do love to understand the linguistic roots of any word or idea, so I found that really fascinating.

I was also particularly interested because of the relationship of this model – CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and COO (Chief Operating Officer) – to my own understanding of gender roles.

Jenna describes the CEO/man/husband as “the face and responsibility of the organisation, and sees the COO/woman/wife as the director of operations, the one responsible for the daily running of operations.  There’s a good article about these two roles (CEO/COO) on Wikipedia.

When my children were little, I read as much as I could get my hands on of A.S. Neill’s writing – he who founded and ran the free school Summerhill in 1960s England.

In his school, children were free to be just whoever they were, and gender stereotypes were not imposed upon them – see something of the ethos of Summerhill in this excellent article.

In John Walmsley’s pictorial study Neill & Summerhill, A Man And His Work, he includes the following observation from Leila Berg:
What strikes you immediately, coming from the world outside and talking to the kids at Summerhill, is that you can’t tell the boys from the girls.  This is important.  It’s not just hair styles and jeans.  The girls are so self-reliant and the boys so concerned, the girls so calmly tough and the boys so gentle.  No boy’s voice has that conditioned flick of off-handedness that says, ‘I am male.’  They are interested voices, friendly and lightly generous, and their bodies are not tautly aggressive but trusting.  You are startled when you hear their names.  You begin to wonder how early children are warped in the world outside, dumped straight from the cradle on to one side of the line they must never step over, separated from one another and from their complete selves, permanently angered.  Neill once said, at a progressive school conference, listening to them talk about how to keep the boys from the girls and pressed for his opinion, ‘Why don’t you put up barbed wire?’

On one occasion when Neill was speaking about his pioneering work, he was asked what differences he noted between boys and girls (I think it is in his book Summerhill School that he describes this).  I no longer have the book in front of me to quote exactly, but I certainly remember what he said.  He referred to the summer camps on which all the children were taken each year – a chance to live out in the open under canvas – and he said that the girls tended to stay near the tents whereas the boys were inclined to roam further afield.

This coincides exactly with my own personal experience of life. In our family – my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, in-laws – there is a tradition of strong and capable women, working alongside their menfolk as equal partners.  Take for example my great-grandmother who was up at 4.30 to make the baked goods for the village shop she and her husband started and ran together.  She was its book-keeper, as was my grandmother for her husband’s farm (a successful enterprise started from one rented field of peas).  Those women were a force to be reckoned with.  You could not call them the weaker partner.  This was also true of my mother and father.  She stayed at home buying and selling property through the long boom, creating the wealth of the family, growing fruit and vegetable and keeping hens and sheep, while he travelled abroad and later within the UK on his own business affairs. 

The difference between the men and women was neither of strength nor ability, but of what you might call public and private face: the man was the Foreign Secretary and the woman the Home Secretary, to use UK parliamentary terms.  In my own marriage, the Badger and I see ourselves as adult equals.  There is no such thing between us as a ‘casting vote’ or ‘final say’.  Where we are in disagreement over any issue, we talk and wait, wait and talk, until we come to a common mind.  Neither of us is happy with something unless the other is happy with it too.  But he is definitely the public face of us as a couple.  He goes first into the room, he is the one you are more likely to know, he is the one who will make or take the phone call.

As to matters of submission, it’s all laid out in Ephesians 5, and my book The Breath of Peace that I have been trying for so long to get published is an in-depth study in fiction of this whole question. 

Here’s an excerpt from The Breath of Peace, ©Penelope Wilcock, all rights reserved.  In this passage, the abbot is in conversation with his sister.


“I’m thinking about the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians.  The bridge from our life here in community to your life at home with William is in the verse that tells us to humbly give way to one another – submit to one another – in the fear of Christ.  Subiecti invicem in timore Christi.  Sister, I’m sure you must realise, that doesn’t mean anything like ‘knuckle under because you’re frightened of Christ.’  It means that because we aspire to holiness and want to make our whole lives into a reverential space, cultivate a reverential mind, practicing recollection, we maintain an attitude of humility.  Are you with me?”


Madeleine understood him perfectly, but she wondered where in the passing of time the teasing urchin she had played with by the streams and on the moors had grown up into this. “Yes,” she said.  “Go on.”


He looked at her, his lips parted in uncertainty. “I’m listening, Adam,” she reassured him: “you don’t need to keep checking.”


He nodded, with a smile at the unintentional asperity.  “All right.  Then, this is where the apostle comes to teach about husbands and wives. He takes as the model for marriage the relationship between our Lord and the church – because we think of the church as the Bride of Christ.  Gazing on that relationship, he sees that our Lord has suffered and died for the church, stopped at nothing in the self-giving of his love.  And he sees that the church is the community of people who call him Lord, who give their lives in his service.  So the model is of a relationship in which neither party has held back anything; each has surrendered all they have to the other.  Each gives their whole life in order that they might be made one.  This is a picture of absolute trust and vulnerability; Christ pinned helpless to the cross in love of his Bride, and the church kneeling in submission to his lordship.  Do marriage like that, the apostle says.  Wives, love your husbands like the church loves Christ, offering your very lives in submission to your menfolk.  Husbands, love your wives like Christ loves the Church, holding back nothing, suffering everything, laying down all you have because you love her so much.


“Now then, this is a beautiful picture, we can all see that.  As a picture it works wonderfully.  Where it all comes unstuck is when real people really try to do it.  Then, without fail, the same old problem crops up: who’s going first?  Human beings are scared of being trampled.  When it comes to actual flesh-and-blood mortal beings, not one of us wants to put up our hand to take the risk of doing our part of the bargain until we’ve satisfied ourselves that the other half is on the table first.  So we never begin.  Do you see?


“Actually . . .  in your marriage to William – dear sister, don’t be hurt or take offence, bear with me – I can see him struggling to do his part, but I can’t see you doing yours as well as you might.  He’s a proud man, and used not only to absolute governance but also to admirable competence.  To set that aside and let himself look foolish and inept will be completely crucifying to a man like William de Bulmer; but he thinks you’re worth it.


“What he needs from you is what the brothers here in their charity and humility give me; obedience.  Not to him, I mean, but to Christ; just as in their vow of obedience to the abbot, the way the brothers here are taking is not obedience to me, John Hazell, but to Christ.  Sister, William needs you to trust him enough to submit to him, even when he isn’t doing all that well.  Even – indeed especially – when he’s said or done something stupid, he needs you to submit to him for the sake of divine order, out of reverence for Christ.”


John looked anxiously at his sister.  He could not imagine this going down well.  Madeleine could not have been described as meek in any imaginable circumstance.


“So… what does that mean in practical terms, in daily life?” She frowned.  Her tone of voice expressed the suspicious end of caution.  “It hasn’t got to be all ‘Yes, William’ and ‘No, William,’ ‘Of course, William’ and waiting on him hand and foot, has it?  Give me a few instances.”


John thought about that.


“Well…” he said slowly, “let’s say you were out at the market all day and when you got home it turned out he forgot to shut the hens in and as a result a fox had caused mayhem and you’d lost half the flock.  Might that happen?”


Astonished, his sister searched his face. “Has he spoken to you about that?”


John grinned.  “Oh.  I see.  It did happen.  No, he never told me so.  Still, it makes a good example, then!  Well, ‘in the flesh’ as the apostle would say, if a man did such a thing his wife would go beserk and think she had every good reason to do so.  She’d call him every name she could think of and pour indignation on his head until boiling pitch began to look like a merciful alternative.  She’d scold him until he felt completely humiliated, and he’d go to bed scowled at and unkissed and lie awake in the moonlight trying in vain to think of some way of making amends.


“But the apostle is saying, that’s not how we do it under Christ.  That’s because Christ really sees us, with the insight of love.  Christ is quick to compassion, and knows full well the man is more ashamed of himself than he can bear already.  In marriage as the apostle imagines it, the wife offers not a word or look of reproach.  She accepts that accidents happen.  Her love is magnanimous and generous.  She hooks up the dead birds quietly, out of sight.  As she spins at the fireside that night, maybe she seems a wee bit quieter than usual – that would be because through gritted teeth she is silently praying: ‘O Fountain of Wisdom, Thou hast saddled me with this dolt, this nincompoop, this addle-brain: right then, give me the grace not to kill him!’ But she takes it to God and she leaves it with God.  She offers her husband no reproach, because she is submitted to him.


“But then, let’s suppose this is all too much for the wife. She comes home, she finds the hens dead and dying, and she lets rips like thunder and lightning.  What’s her husband to do?  Well, ‘in the flesh’ as St Paul has it, he might go on the defensive.  Where was she all day anyway?  What did she mean by coming home so late? Aren’t they her dratted poultry in the first place?  How much is it going to cost to replace them?  This will be the last time she goes to market if that’s where it’s all going to end up.  He might even hit her, if her scolding winds him up past what he can bear.


“But the scripture teaching says no, don’t do it like that.  Submit to one another.  Love her like Christ loves the church.  If she wants to hammer nails in, lie there and take it.  If she’s minded to jam a cap of thorns on your head, bite your lip and wipe the blood out of your eyes.  Keep your eyes fixed on one thing and one thing only: letting nothing – but nothing – sour the sweetness of love.  Let it hurt you, let it shame you, let it lacerate you; but don’t let it stop you loving her.


“Have I exhausted your patience? Have I said enough for now?”


Madeleine was sitting very still, her face brooding.  “Go on,” she answered him.


“Well, then: this thing has to be mutual, it has to be reciprocal to work properly, to get the result it’s meant to achieve.  If in our community here, the brothers are humble and submissive and the abbot is arrogant and self-serving and demanding, it all starts to unravel.  If the abbot is gentle and humble but the monks are proud and lazy and insubordinate, the whole thing collapses in an instant.  Same in a marriage.  If the woman serves her husband humbly and he thinks ‘Oh, good!’ and sits back self-satisfied, ‘Wife, get me this, get me that!’ then it isn’t what the apostle envisaged. If the man is forbearing and gentle and the woman takes it as her opportunity to get away with being a nag and a shrew, then it’s just hell on earth.  It takes two.


“How do you keep your hens from roaming too far afield and roosting in the trees, Madeleine?”


“What?” surprised by the sudden question, she turned her face to him. “You know what I do.  I clip their wings.”


“Oh.  And how do you do that?”


“What are you talking about?  You know perfectly well how to clip a hen’s wings.”


“Pretend I don’t.  What do I have to do?” 


“You just trim the tips of the flight feathers on one wing.  It unbalances them, so they can’t fly.”


“Exactly so.  That’s why the apostle urges that in marriage a man and a woman be not unequally yoked, but be both submitted to Christ; because it takes two to make this work.  Unbalanced, it can’t take off, it can’t fly.  One of you can start the ball rolling maybe, but in the end the thing takes two. The man must be as humble and vulnerable as Christ stripped naked with his arms opened wide on the cross.  The woman must be as gentle and submissive as the faithful people of God kneeling in simple humility before their Lord.  Madeleine, am I describing your marriage?”


No sound followed this question but the settling of slow-burning logs on the hearth as the smoke drifted peacefully up the chimney above their red glow.


“What do you think?” she asked at last, her voice low.


“I think it’s a hard lesson to learn and it asks a lot of anyone.  I think even when we’ve practiced for years it takes more than most of us have, to get it right.  And again and again I have to ask my brothers’ forgiveness when I forget myself and say something cutting or contemptuous or intolerant.  And I imagine it must be exactly the same in a marriage.  Except, in the silence of the night you are blessed with one extra way to put things right.”


She said nothing.  Then she moved uneasily, her face contorted in puzzlement.  “This sounds all very attractive, but… well, in real life I can’t always be stopping to think about William.  There’s work to be done, and only the two of us to get through it all.  That’s mainly where we fall out – there’s so much to do, and I get exasperated with him when he forgets things and he’s clumsy and slow.  It’s all very well for you, there’s a veritable army of men here to work together; at home it’s only me and William.”


John nodded. “I know what you mean.  Not all our men are equally skilled of course – if you’d ever stood and watched Brother Thomas trying to work alongside Brother Germanus you might think twice about saying it’s all very well for us; but I do know what you mean.


“I understand that the work has to be accomplished – the beasts fed and the place maintained and the crops sown – of course it does, but… shaping a life as God meant it to be involves paying attention to the way we do things.  The thing is, the journey determines the destination, if you see what I mean.  The way we take is what settles the place we will arrive at.  If you spend the next ten years bickering with your man and belittling him, you will be sowing the seeds for a harvest of misery in your old age.  He won’t leave you.  William would never leave you, of that I am sure.  He’s no slouch – he has the most phenomenal application and tenacity. But you could lose him in other ways.  He could become very bitter and withdrawn, and he is capable of great coldness.  He was a ruthless man, once. 


“I think, if you are willing to let things go sometimes, not have to have everything done right, that will help.  So what if the fox steals a hen or two?  Is that more serious than letting the devil steal your marriage?  Do you really want William dancing like a puppet while you pull the strings, afraid to offend you, frightened of what you’ll say if he makes a mistake?”


He observed her quietly.  “Is that… am I being too harsh?” he asked her gently.


She shook her head.  “I think you’ve put your finger on it,” she replied, her voice dull and defeated. “I’m not a very good wife at all.”


John’s hand moved in a gesture of protest. “You’re the right wife for William. It’s hard, in middle life, to make adjustments, is the only thing.  It’s the same here when older men who have been widowed feel a vocation to monastic life.  But never mind that.  Could you do it, do you think?  Might you be able to make the choice to be kind a higher priority than being right? Could you keep your mind’s eye on the way you’ve chosen and trust it will arrive at somewhere worthwhile?”

If, on reading this, you think you would enjoy to have the opportunity to read the whole book, please do leave a comment here, as it will be under consideration at a publishers' meeting tomorrow.

Also in the comments please continue and develop this conversation about the roles of men and women, on which Jenna shed a wonderful ray of light.

47 comments:

Buzzfloyd said...

I think the recently published books have been an excellent and exciting continuation of the original trilogy, and I think they are doing something that not many fiction books are, so they stand out from the crowd.

On the subject of husbands and wives, I find this passage interesting and helpful, although I still struggle with the word 'submission'. Talking about Lords and submitting to people makes is very much language where one person is more elevated than the other, even if the intended practice is not so.

Beth said...

Oh, YES! I would buy the book. Oh, I do hope it gets published.

About Ephesians 5, I think you have hit the nail on the head in this exchange with Madeline and Adam. Headship and submission mean nothing outside of the context of unity in marriage. Headship becomes domineering and submission becomes cowering. Neither one is the biblical picture of Christ and the church. When my husband and I do pre-marital counseling with couples, we really emphasize figuring out how as a couple, they will uniquely live out in day to day, practical ways, the foundational unity that God creates when two people marry.

There is a wonderful passage in Anna Karenina that we always share with couples. It captures the same idea of suffering under the sometimes unfair accusations and sinful actions of our spouses, but doing so because to lash out and hurt our spouse would be to hurt ourselves. It's long-ish, but I'll copy it here.

"Levin had thought there could never be any relations between himself and Kitty other than those based on tenderness, self-respect, and love: But the first month of their marriage showed otherwise.
Their first quarrel arose because Levin had ridden over to inspect a new farm. He returned half an hour late because he had attempted a short cut and got lost. He rode home thinking only of her, of her love, of his own happiness, and the nearer he came to the house the warmer grew his tenderness for her. He rushed into the room with a feeling that was even stronger than the one with which he had gone to propose to her, yet was all of a sudden met with a grim expression he had never seen on her face before. He tried to kiss her, but she pushed him away.
"What's the matter?"
"You're having a nice time . . ." she began, trying to appear calm and venomous.
But the moment she opened her mouth, she burst into a flood of reproaches, senseless jealousy, and everything else that had been tormenting her during the half hour she had spent sitting motionless at the window. It was then that he clearly understood for the first time what he had failed to understand when he led her out of the church after the wedding. He understood that she was not only close to him, but that he could not now tell where she ended and he began. He realized it from the agonizing feeling of division into two parts which he experienced at the moment. He felt hurt, but he immediately realized that he could not be offended with her because she was himself. For a moment he felt like a man who, receiving a sudden blow from behind, turns round angrily with the desire to return the blow only to find that he had accidentally struck himself and that there was no one to be angry with and he had to endure and do his best to assuage the pain. . . .
It took him a long time to recover his senses. His first impulse was quite naturally to justify himself and explain that she was in the wrong; but to show her that she was in the wrong meant to exasperate her still more and to widen the breach which was the cause of all this trouble. One impulse quite naturally drew him to shift the blame from himself and lay it upon her; another much more powerful feeling drew him to smooth over the breach and prevent it from widening. To remain under so unjust an accusation was painful, but to hurt her by justifying himself would be still worse. Like a man half awake and suffering from pain, he wanted to tear off the aching part and cast it away, but on coming to his senses he realized that the aching part was himself. All he had to do was to try to help the aching part to bear it, and this he did."

And now I'm going to send your blog post link to my husband (he's out of town) who is officiating at a wedding this weekend and speaking on unity. I know he will love reading your thoughts.

Thanks again for all the ways you bless with your words.

Ember said...

Hi Buzz, hi Beth,

Buzz - yes indeed, about Lords and submission! It also has vaguely uncomfortable S&M undertones somehow. I think if one bears in mind that Paul is nudging us away from an adamantly hierarchical understanding of relationships towards a place of equality, then his proposition of mutual submission begins to make sense.

Beth - lovely to hear from you - brilliant Tolstoy passage; thanks!

Janette's Sage/Simply Your Decor said...

Well after 33 years of marriage and these past few months of extreme struggle, I can say tears flowed over the lines,"I think it’s a hard lesson to learn and it asks a lot of anyone. I think even when we’ve practiced for years it takes more than most of us have, to get it right."...I know this well...and I have to say, AMEN! I am glad it is not in my strength that I am still married, but in His strength alone



Julie B. said...

I would also buy multiple copies of the book to give as gifts, as I have with all the books you've written about my favorite monks.

I hope it's okay to say here that I've read all of The Breath of Peace and found it beautiful, uplifting, challenging, and wonderfully different from most Christian fiction.

You could write 15 books in the series and I would own and treasure each one. :) xo

Ember said...

:0) Thanks, friend xx

Susan said...

I do hope the book gets published. I bought all the rest of the series and read them over and over. They're in my list of favorite books.

Ember said...

:0) Thank you, Susan! x

tonia said...

YES! I would buy this book and YES! it should be published. You have a brilliance about making truth live through fiction and I have come to treasure your books. That said, I think this is a lovely description of mutual submission and I hope it will be published so I can share it with many people who believe in only one way submission. Thank you.

Ember said...

:0D Thanks, Tonia! x

Anonymous said...

Hello! I've been meaning to email you for some time - reading each book as they have come out over the years (loved Margery May's earlier cover illustration for one of them - knew her a little). I would love to read this new book (I always buy multiple copies of yr books......so that I can obey the Bible and not worry about one I've loaned never coming back!).

I've not the opportunity to email properly now (my 7 yr old is about to tell me about her day...again :-) Special time)but saw yr email and wanted to say I'd love to read this book and also to ask whether the sequel to "The clear light of day" mentioned a while ago is also going to be published?

I also meant to reply (oh for time....) re: retreats. If you ever do a weekend retreat I'd be very interested. I saw your blog about a weekday at Penhurst but wouldn't quite manage work and the school run!


Opps - have to go but at least have STARTED the email....
All blessings,

Catherine

Ember said...

:0D

The Clear Light of Day sequel never got written cos no one wants to publish it - but I am almost certain The Breath of Peace will fly.

Sadly I do only midweek retreats at Penhurst, because the Badger is home only at weekends so I keep that time for him.

Thank you so much for your cheerful thoughts, friend. x

Nearly Martha said...

Just to add my voice to all those really hoping the book is published. Really love them.

Ember said...

:0) Thanks, friend! x

AbiSomeone said...

Love this, Ember ... really hoping this book gets published!

Now is not the right time for me to comment at length, but it was exactly the right time for you to write this post so I could read it!

As Father Peregrine before him, Father John is an unusual man of blended humility and practicality. This is an example of the clear thinking that is so lacking in most discussions these days when it comes to people working together while not losing their individuality.

Your characters touch me so deeply because they are real in ways many characters aren't. They bring me back to my situation and whisper the love and grace and mercy of the Spirit -- rather than fostering an escape from reality. I think the setting of this series aids me ... but I do not find myself wishing to be in the story, as some stories evoke. I find myself hearing Father speak truth into my life in hard moments with tremendous tenderness.

Thanks for this today. Be blessed, sweet sister.

AbiSomeone said...

Love this, Ember ... really hoping this book gets published!

Now is not the right time for me to comment at length, but it was exactly the right time for you to write this post so I could read it!

As Father Peregrine before him, Father John is an unusual man of blended humility and practicality. This is an example of the clear thinking that is so lacking in most discussions these days when it comes to people working together while not losing their individuality.

Your characters touch me so deeply because they are real in ways many characters aren't. They bring me back to my situation and whisper the love and grace and mercy of the Spirit -- rather than fostering an escape from reality. I think the setting of this series aids me ... but I do not find myself wishing to be in the story, as some stories evoke. I find myself hearing Father speak truth into my life in hard moments with tremendous tenderness.

Thanks for this today. Be blessed, sweet sister.

Ember said...

:0) Thank you so much x

Pilgrim said...

Yes, I would definitely like to read the book. Hope this isn't too late. You're always ahead of us!

Ember said...

:0) Thank you, friend - no, it's still late on Wednesday night right now, and I'll as my advocate with the publisher to have a look at what folk have said here when he gets in to his office in the morning. x

kort said...

what a treasure to eavesdrop on this conversation, to pick up where book six left off.

i love hearing what has happened in this marriage. this is the real story, how the two become one.

the Hawk and the Dove books have meant so much in my life. i just re-read them all after my new little one was born. it would be wonderful to read more!

Ember said...

Thank you friend - so good to meet you.

Yes, I always think the question "What lies beyond the 'happy ever after'?" needs asking!

Anonymous said...

A lovely excerpt: I appreciate the concrete discussion between the characters. Looking forward to seeing the "preorder" page on Amazon. :-)

Adrienne

Amy said...

Yes, this piece of fiction is tangible and insightful. I am in your corner, hoping it gets published!

Rapunzel said...

Well your publishers meeting must be over as I write this, but I too would love to see it published~

Ember said...

Thanks so much, ladies! No, Rapunzel - all in well in time for the book's advocate at the publishing house to take a look. x

Thank you so much to old friends and new who have come along to wave a little flag for The Breath of Peace. Off I go now to The Servants With Jesus house for Thursday morning eucharist. May your day be happy and blessed xxx

Deborah said...

I NEED TO READ THIS THIS BOOK...and the next and the next and the next and the next and the next...

Pen they HAVE to publish it...I know at least 4 people waiting to buy it...

Ember said...

:0) Let's hope they say 'yes', then!!

Rapunzel said...


Post or don't post as you see fit:



Ember you've had me thinking about this submissive marriage thing all night.

I've been divorced much longer than I was married (20yrs /14yrs)but I still occasionally wonder how on earth I managed to Not have my parents and grandparents sort of lovely marriage. I certainly had the upbringing for it.
Submission was part of the problem. Not lack of me submitting, but lack of anything to submit to.

You are very right about marriage being a reciprocal arrangement. You can't successfully have a submissive relationship with a man who has no clue how to be the lord. It matters not that your heart is in the right place, or that you are gentle and cheerful,hardworking and obedient, and not one to fret or nag. If the husband does not know how to lead the marriage will still waft about in a wonky manner like a little ship with no rudder.

The Manimal and I have something more like an allegedly equal partners realtionship except that we're hardly equal. We live in the home he built and raised a family in, and he has a long-standing career while I just have an ordinary job. Since we had one vehicle die and another get stolen he has transportation and I don't, which is a Big Deal living in the country. It means that to have a job and money I had to find a job near his workplace with similar hours, which is how I became a custodian.

What had been a partnership of equals before I moved to the valley in 2008 is now more of an 80-20 split.

We trundle along ok, but we're not so much a team as two separate circles that overlap a bit. He travels the wide world, I stay here in his home tending the animals etc.

Odd maybe? Feels odd. Doesn't quite feel like I live here, like this is my real home. Feels more like I'm just visiting at my boyfriend's place for a reeeeeeally loooong weekend.

Part of me longs for an old-fashioned man at the head of the house and a clear devision of duties. Here in this house I often feel I'm neither fish nor fowl.
I'm not a 'housewife' as I work in town, he prefers to cook, and he has a cleaner come in on the weekend who has worked for him for 10 years and really needs the income.

I'm not in the role of the mum as all the kids are grown and gone.

I'm not a homemaker as the home was made and furnished 20 years before I arrived, and as I'm the minimalist type and he's a "collector" I can't make the place look or function in a way that satisfies me. IT's HIS.

And yet I'm not the independent woman I was when I lived on my own in town. I haven't the autonomy I had when I could easily step out my door to go to work, school, the shops, the park and library. Here it takes a big arrangement to get anywhere to do anything.

I wonder about all this masculine feminine business. What is it about our culture that has so
many modern post-feminism girls curled up with a cup of tea and Jane Austen going gaga over Mr. Darcy?

I know The Taming of the Shrew is a farce, and meant to be quite the opposite of relationship advice...but there's something about the ending, Kate's speech to the court, that makes my eyes well up with tears every time.
"Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper; Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee, and for thy maintanance: commits his body to painful labor both by sea and land......" etc etc

My experience over the years with an assortment of emoployers who were good benevolent leaders tells me I could be a dandy submissive wifey if only I had the sort of mate who was of a disposition to take the reins.

Alas and alak! They seem not to be making them like that anymore.

It is a puzzlement.

Deborah said...

If they don't I shall just ...DIE

(slumps dramatically into a chair and stares off into the mid distance for effect...)

Deborah said...

In all seriousness Pen (and I know this will sound syrupy as you're the author but I'm not flannling you...honest!) These books are my favourite books. I usually have 2 on the go at any given point, one is my bathroom reading (currently Remember Me) and the other is beside my bed for sleepless nights (currently The Hardest Thing To Do)plus if I sit down on the edge of my bed for 5 minutes the others are within arms reach and 5 minutes usually ends up being half an hour! The characters are Real...like The Velveteen Rabbit Real and they are fabulous :-D At the moment I am loving Brother Conradus the best :-D

Ember said...

:0) Deborah, you are a sweetie. Don't you worry; one way or another this book will come out. My preferred route by far is to have it published in the conventional manner, but if it's turned down, I'll publish it and sell it privately; and the next one, which I'm ready to write this summer.

Deborah said...

Big Yay...

:-D

Ember said...

Rapunzel - I think what you are describing may sound very familiar to many of us who have married again in mid-life, especially after a divorce.

It takes a long, long time to heal, and to build the new. And often, the first marriage happened in youth, when everything grew more casually together. It is less easy to bond in that way in later years. It doesn't help, I think, that the Mr Darcy rule book got torn up by feminism, and the resulting freedom most often feels more like having lost your way.
And then of course there are step-families, and sometimes ex-wives more persistently present than one might wish, and a lifetime of habits established down different tracks, and different assumptions about finance and household management and almost everything.
And sometimes one can feel very tired, as though the road is long and there are no lights of home to look forward to; it is all alien country from here on out. If I ever find a way to fix this, I'll let you know. xxx

Ember said...

Deborah - it'll happen. :0)

SuzyQ said...


"Well, then: this thing has to be mutual, it has to be reciprocal to work properly, to get the result it’s meant to achieve. If in our community here, the brothers are humble and submissive and the abbot is arrogant and self-serving and demanding, it all starts to unravel. If the abbot is gentle and humble but the monks are proud and lazy and insubordinate, the whole thing collapses in an instant. Same in a marriage. If the woman serves her husband humbly and he thinks ‘Oh, good!’ and sits back self-satisfied, ‘Wife, get me this, get me that!’ then it isn’t what the apostle envisaged. If the man is forbearing and gentle and the woman takes it as her opportunity to get away with being a nag and a shrew, then it’s just hell on earth. It takes two."

This is perfect! I love the clarity here.
One of the best posts I've seen on the subject ( a subject I usually try to stay away from :)
Thank you so much.
Tweeting :)

Ember said...

:0) I'm a bit antsy about keeping the copyright carefully until it's properly published - careful what you tweet. x

Ember said...

Sigh. Tired and frustrated. One more 'maybe' to add to two years of 'maybe's. We plod on.

Rapunzel said...

Somehow your "it is all alien country from here on out" helps. I have no idea why. Perhaps the idea that many of us are sort of relationship pioneers, and as the post-first-marriage/post-forwn family territory isn't properly mapped we're probably wandering but not truly lost. Or something like that.

Ember said...

It's the same journey Abraham made.

First he was in Ur of the Chaldees, that he knew, familiar territory.

Then the Lord called him out of there and he went with all his retinue - Sarai his wife, his animals, his servants, his family - travelling along the borders of the Euphrates river, which gave life and pasture and water for all the people and the animals; as far as Haran.

And the Lord had been in Ur, and was in Haran, with Abraham, but in those days they did not know how local God might be - they had no way of knowing if He would be in other places too.

Then the Lord called Abraham to go on again, out in to the unknown territory of the desert.

As he travelled, Abraham built altars at placed where he stopped - at Bethel and Shechem - because he found that the Lord was in those places too. And the Lord took him out of his tent and showed him the starry sky, the Lord's own tabernacle, and spoke to him through that. And so it was that Abraham discovered that the Lord was in every place, even the desert and the sky.

These alien, scary, impossible 21st century safaris into the wilderness of marriage and family are like that journey. We leave home, all that we knew and felt comfortable with and sure about, and strike out across terrain that feels unfamiliar and alarming. We don't know the herbs or recognise the creatures, and the stars are different in this sky. But though the family we came from assured us it would not be so, we discover that the Lord is in this place as well, it was just that we did not know it. The Lord is in every place and every circumstance, and even though we have swapped the fields and wells and oxen of our homestead for gourds and a tent and a refractory camel, even so He goes ahead of us, and when evening comes down it is into His lap we crawl to rest our heads. There are no guarantees and no security any more; but He is with us; and that will always be so.

Deborah said...

(Sharpening of pitchforks can be heard....)


OK...where are the publishers based??????

Ember said...

:0D

Well, that's the exact difficulty - straddling between two publishers. Because the publisher for the series so far has declined to take it further, it means seeking a new publisher for the entire series. That means working out how best to do it, as it involves large financial outlay for books already past their initial sales surge. Then there's the question of when and how to bring Bk 7 on stream if the whole series is coming across. And nothing is firmed up, no definite agreements or commitments anywhere. And even once we have something settled, the book will have to take its place in the publishing schedule queue, which means even more delays . . . and so it goes on.

Deborah said...

(Throws herself on the ground dramatically and sobs into her folded arms...)

They are RUINING my LIFE!!!


hehehe

Rapunzel said...

Complicated business this publishing thing. I had no idea!

Penny said...

Sorry to hear about your 'maybe' and the waiting and unmet hopes in the in between times.
Will be praying from here for your books.

Ember said...

Thanks, friends

Rapunzel - yes, this one is especially complicated!

Penny - thank you so much - I am most grateful for that xx

Pilgrim said...

I noticed that the prices of the used copies of your Hawk and Dove series has gone up quite a bit since I bought them, which is a good sign. (I think I got the trilogy used, and the others new. I need another copy now, gave it away, so have to decide between Kindle and hard copy. A Kindle copy might go with me to the nursing home. Have to plan ahead! :-)

Ember said...

:0D xx