5.19.2013

The Sunday Review: The Excellent Wife


A few months ago I read and discussed The Excellent Wife with a small group of women. I was the only non-wife there...go figure. But I was told that despite my not being married, I'd take away a lot of good things from the book applicable to my life now and in the future should I ever get married. I definitely did, but it's a challenging book, and the reasons are twofold.

1) Martha is not a natural writer. And neither is her editor if she has one. The book is not a heartstring-tugging, engaging read. If you are anything like me you'll be annoyed with her writing, layout, font choices and lack of proper punctuation. And repetitiveness. She also sometimes seems a little condescending or patronizing, but I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that what she's trying to communicate she's doing so in love. I'm guessing that as a counselor, she's used to dialoguing with women, but her thoughts translate differently in writing.

2) The Bible says that wives are to submit to their husbands. But what does the Bible mean by that? How does it look in a marriage today? Martha takes a more-or-less traditional view (but not uber-traditional, she affirms that wives should not be doormats) and that's sometimes a hard pill to swallow. While she uses scripture to back up her views on the aspects of being a submissive wife, this is still a book of her thoughts and not God-breathed Truth. So, it's important to read with an open mind and a discerning heart. This book made me uncomfortable, and it opened my eyes to a lot of what the world considers acceptable that God perhaps did not intend. I still don't know how I feel about some things she says, and feel I disagree with some things, too.

That being said, I really liked this book for its practical guidance on how to be a better communicator, conflict resolver and overall a God-honoring, loving and selfless person - whether married or unmarried. She offers helpful, Biblical advice like, "when your husband is acting like this, you do this." Or "when you are feeling like this, this is why and this is how you should change your thoughts." Martha doesn't give an inch - it's up to you to be The Excellent Wife because you want to be obedient to God, it's not up to your husband or circumstances to make you feel like being so. But she constantly reiterates that you need God's grace and help to do this and that He is faithful to provide it.

I was certainly blessed by reading and discussing this book, by being inspired to become more Christ-like, and by having my eyes opened to a lot of lies the world wants me to believe about marriage and love. And I've been convicted of how selfish I am, how much more quickly I need to forgive and how much I need the Lord's grace to do it all.

Four stars - because all the great discussion and the examination of my heart outweighed my personal preferences for beautifully written prose. (This time.)

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