The Domestic Bride

I have met some lovely young brides over the years and been delighted by the heart-felt desire of each one to please her husband. The home and its domestic challenges is an area where many brides long to excel and through which they plan to bless their husband.

Yet the domestic role of a bride is also an area where some misunderstanding and unclear concepts can lead the couple into strife. So this post is for the domestic bride.

Beautiful Bride with a Beautiful Heart

I know that not all young brides are as wonderful as others, but I want to pause for a moment and commend the many amazing and sweet young ladies I have met over the years who earnestly long to delight their husband. Some of those lucky men have been ignorant of how blessed they are. Some of them have gone on to bruise the tender heart of their darling bride.

So, to you amazing and gorgeous young ladies, I commend you for your eager and delightful intention to bless your young man. Mankind is blessed to have the undeserved devotion that you give. I pray that God bless each of you with the rewards of His grace, even if your wonderfully blessed husband does not realise how privileged he is.

Tender Hearts Get Bruised

I am sorry that it is so, but tender hearts do get bruised. Insensitive young men and starry-eyed young brides end up with the pain of disappointment, hurts and misunderstanding. Sometimes the bruises are so sore that the marriage never regains the innocence and tenderness of its initial hopes and dreams.

With the progress of time many marriages completely lose their wonder and delight. Both bride and groom draw back from their innocent hopes and their willing abandonment. Many a cranky older couple started out as two tender hearts longing for things they could never find. I will look at this subject from another angle at some time, with reference to the ‘spirit of the marriage’.

Understand the Problems

Entering into marriage and this wonderful new level of relationship with some understanding may help you. So allow me to cover some points that should help you understand the problem.

In simple terms the main problem stems from the bride’s longing to serve and bless, and the husband’s ignorance of what he wants and how things should be administered. It is hard to effectively serve and bless someone when that service is ill defined.

The Dangerous Assumptions

In marriage, the easy assumptions to make include such things as the idea that you are both wonderfully compatible. Another assumption is that it will just work out fine, all by itself. Then there is the assumption by the man that the woman will somehow instinctively do what pleases him, and the assumption by the woman that the man will instinctively be delighted by what she gives him.

All of these assumptions are dangerous, because all of them are most likely not true. They set the couple up for surprises, disappointment, argument, misunderstanding and hurts.

It is unlikely that the husband has ever clearly catalogued what he likes and what he wants. He has most likely been a passenger in life’s journey, floating along with the things his mother did for him. What ever she did will be what he sees as ‘normal’, even if she is the only person on the planet who does things that way.

If a young husband was asked to explain the domestic management of a home very few would have much depth of understanding. Most husbands are happy to leave things up to their bride. However this creates several problems.

Integration Problems

Since two separate domestic worlds are brought together by the newly-weds they will have to work through the integration issues. If they have never done such a thing before then they will be surprised how many issues arise.

There are often no right and wrong ways to do things. But we each have a sense for what is familiar to us. That familiar process is the one that will “seem right” to us, even if it is the most inefficient process ever imagined. If the bride and groom have different ideas of what is ‘right’ they will end up stumbling over each other’s perceptions. It will be easy to use words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, bringing a sense of condemnation into the relationship. If emotions are aroused, then insults and hurtful words can spill into the situation.

Tender and fragile emotions can be damaged in such an unexpected exchange.

Many a young man has rebuked his wife for not being able to cook meals the way his mother cooked it. His tastes and expectations have been moulded by his family experience and he may not realise that there is such great diversity in food and its preparation.

The Wrong Response

When a person does not have a clear idea of what they want or how to communicate it they can leave the other person directionless. Most young husbands will tend to leave their bride to do her best, not quite sure what she is going to do and how well she is going to do it.

These husbands can’t give positive guidance in such situations so the only guidance they can give is to point out what they think to be wrong. This I call the ‘wrong’ response. And the ‘wrong’ response is the wrong response!

When a husband can only tell his bride what is wrong he is set up to bludgeon her tender hopes into a calloused heart that gives up the hope of pleasing him. Or that gives him what he wants, but without any delight on her part any more.

Negative responses produce negative responses. A husband who guides his bride by disapproval is wounding her heart.

Is There a Simple Solution?

In matters of relationship there is usually no simple solution. I will offer a few simple suggestions, but I doubt that many people will heed them. I fear that many more lovely and tender young brides are going to head down the road to hardened and hurt older wives, despite what I present here. But for the sake of the one or two who may be saved from pain by my thoughts I will venture my simple solution.

Brides should be taught to expect that everything they bring into the marriage will have to be modified. They should be encouraged to go on a two-year journey of discovery of what works best in their home. They should be told that they will face some difficult challenges in this process but that they can succeed and create the most amazing new domestic formula for them both to enjoy.

The reason I put this on the bride is because she is the one who will otherwise be hurt. Her insensitive hero is less likely to be damaged in the sort-out of domestic process than the wife is. So my simple solution aims at shielding the most vulnerable party – that beautiful young woman.

If brides enter marriage with an expectation of their need to change, and a long-term time-line for getting things sorted out, there will be less pain in finding that the couple are less compatible than she hoped. There is time for the two of them to talk and explore their options. There is no silly idealism about it working perfectly from day one.

All of that helps the tender one to be more resilient in the inevitable sorting out process.

Other Helpful Steps

Obviously it is valuable for the young husband to understand the situation and how easily he can and will offend his darling bride. Men should be challenged to expect a long season of exploration and discovery. They should expect food to taste different and things to be done differently, because they are a new family, with new horizons and new possibilities.

I recommend that the couple set up an expectation – possibly suggested to them in the pre-marriage preparation process – that the husband review the bride’s processes and program at regular intervals.

While that might sound very sexist and man-serving at first glance, allow me to show why that is valuable.

The bride is built to please her man. How can she do that if she does not become attentive to what he needs or wants? If she makes her own assumptions and assessments independently of him she may spend her whole life doing things he does not want her to do in ways he does not want her to employ. This undermines her whole design and motivation.

I have also observed that two heads are better than one. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the first to observe that fact. When any person acts for their whole life without the benefit of additional input and review they are in danger of doing the wrong things the wrong way for a long time. The most valuable and understanding contributor to the wife’s situation should be her husband. So having him give input in a regulated and consistent fashion is logical and appropriate.

And I also recommend that young men be given at least some understanding of how to protect the tender heart of their beloved. The pushing of the feminist notion that men and women are equal and almost identical has robbed men of appreciation for the woman’s needs and denied women the loving care that they are due.

Catherine Booth one of the Army’s Best Men!

This is the day that … Catherine Booth died, in 1890.

Catherine Booth (nee Mumford), was born to a coachbuilder in Derbyshire, in 1829. She read the Bible eight times by the age of twelve, but was converted at the age of 15, when the words of a hymn led her to assurance of salvation.

At fourteen she developed spinal curvature and four years later, incipient tuberculosis. While ill in bed she began writing magazine articles against alcohol.

Catherine met William Booth, a Methodist minister in 1852. Catherine was impressed with both the sermon and the young preacher.

William believed ministers should be “loosing the chains of injustice, freeing the captive and oppressed, sharing food and home, clothing the naked, and carrying out family responsibilities.” While keen on social reform, Catherine, an avowed feminist, disagreed with William’s views on women. She objected to William describing women as the “weaker sex” and she argued that women should preach, while William opposed the idea. Despite their disagreements about the role of women in the church, the couple married on 16th June 1855.

Catherine first preached in1860 when a strange compulsion seized her and she felt she must rise and speak. The sermon so impressed William that he changed his mind about women preachers. Catherine Booth soon developed a reputation as an outstanding speaker but many Christians were outraged by the idea. Lord Shaftesbury regarded William as the antichrist for his promotion of women preachers. Booth later wrote, “some of the best men in my Army are women”!

When William created the Salvation Army she took her place as the beloved mother of the movement. She particularly inspired young ladies to preach and evangelise, including her own daughters. She journeyed to Paris to help her daughter Catherine and a handful of other young ladies set up the Salvation Army there.

Some said that Catherine’s sermons were as good as her husband’s. Certainly many were converted under her ministry.

For 30 years she and her husband waged war on sin and reached out a loving hand to England’s poor and needy.

She also took social action including the Food For A Million Shops, where poor could buy an inexpensive three-course meal. She was angered by the sweated labour that many women were subjected to, working 14 hours a day for a pittance. Bryant and May matches also used yellow phosphorous that poisoned the women working with it. She began a campaign that her husband completed after her death, to end the use of yellow phosphorous.

Eventually she found herself on the banks of ‘chilly Jordan’. She writes from her deathbed – to the 20,000 gathered in the Crystal Palace:

“My dear Children and Friends, My place is empty but my heart is with you. You are my joy and my crown. Your battles, sufferings and victories have been the chief interest of my life these 25 years. They are still. Go forward … live holy lives … love and seek the lost; bring them to the blood … I am dying under the Army flag; it is yours to live and fight under. God is my salvation and refuge in the storm. I send you my love and blessing. Catherine Booth.”

On Saturday, 4 October, 1890, the old General and his family gathered around Catherine’s bed. They prayed. They sang. Such grand old hymns as:
Calvary’s stream is flowing so free,
Flowing for you and for me.

“Go on,” Catherine said … and they sang some more –
Jesus, my Saviour, has died on the tree,
Died on the tree for me! Hallelujah!

Eventually, unable to speak, Catherine Booth pointed to the text hanging upon the wall, which read, “My Grace is sufficient for thee”. “That”, writes her biographer, “was her last testimony to God’s faithfulness.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Lord Shaftesbury Stands Up for the Abused

This is the day that …Anthony Ashley-Cooper died in 1885 at the age of 84.

Better known as Lord Shaftesbury, he has been described as “the outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century.”

He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, the oldest son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury. With strong family connections and good academics at Oxford he was well set for a political career. He became Lord of the Admiralty in 1834, but he chose not to run for prominence in any party, in order to more effectively help people in need.

A committed Christian he was active in support of organizations which took the gospel and the Bible to ordinary people, such as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, YMCA and the London City Mission.

His first social cause was the plight of lunatics who were treated most inhumanely. He stuck with that cause and changed the relevant legislation through his life.

His next cause was to limit the working day in mills to 10 hours per day. This was vehemently opposed but he eventually won out. He was a man of action and he strengthened his case on many issues by first-hand investigation of the conditions. He visited hospitals and met many who were maimed and deformed through their working conditions.

He then campaigned against women and children being used in mines. Children as young as four spent 12 hours a day on all fours, pulling carts in the dark. He freed women and any child under 13 years from working in mines.

Then he took on the cause of boys apprenticed to chimney sweeps. Then came education of the neglected poor, leading to the setting up of “ragged schools” through which 10,000 children were assisted in his lifetime.

Then he turned his attention to providing quality housing for underprivileged, creating model villages and establishing thousands of well-equipped homes that were affordable to the working class.

Always the aristocrat he was keen to promote evangelical endeavour where he found it. However he objected to the Salvation Army due to its equal treatment of women in leadership, to which he disagreed. He labelled William Booth as the “antichrist”.

It was he who led the fight against child labour … five year-olds ankle deep in water working pumps in rat-infested mines … children forced to climb and clean chimneys by unscrupulous masters … and the cruelty often inflicted upon small children who worked 12 or 14 hours a day in the mills.

He was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union for 39 years … he supported the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society … and the Protestant Alliance … and the Church Missionary Society … and the Young Men’s Christian Association (which was Christian in those days!) And more!

On his deathbed he asked for Psalm 23 to be read to him each morning, and “frequently those present heard him murmur his favourite prayer, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’.”

Don Prout recommends: If you can get hold of a copy of John Pollock’s biography of this great man called Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl, read it! Or Grace Irwin’s The Seventh Earl is equally fascinating. Or, I Stand Alone by Jenny Robertson.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard Impacts America’s Women

This is the day that … Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard was born in New York State, in 1839.

She was the middle of three children born to Josiah and Mary Willard in Churchville.

Being a red-headed tomboy, she preferred to be called “Frank”, but the day came when she outgrew that stage. “Next to being an angel” she said, “the greatest bestowment of God is to make one a woman!” (Women to Remember, by N. Olsen, page 77).

She inherited spiritual qualities from her godly parents, was converted in a Methodist ‘revival’ meeting, and joined the Church six months later – 5 May, 1861. And five years later she experienced the “second blessing”, being challenged by a holiness preacher, Phoebe Palmer, to lay all on the altar. “I unconditionally yielded my petty little jewels and … a conscious emotional presence of Christ held me,” she writes.

There was a temporary association with D.L. Moody … who invited her to preach at a Sunday afternoon meeting. She also led Bible study groups and women’s meetings.

But her main claim to fame is her involvement in the war against the liquor industry!

In 1874, “as if by magic, armies of women – delicate, cultured, home women – filled the streets of the cities and towns of Ohio … going to the saloons, singing, praying, preaching with the rum-sellers with all the eloquence of their mother hearts” (The Beautiful Life of Frances E. Willard, by A.A. Gordon, page 93).

The movement spread to other states, and eventually worldwide.

The driving force behind this was Frances Willard, who became the second National president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.), in 1879, and continued to give a powerful impetus to the movement until her death nearly 20 years later.

In 1895 she was introduced to a US Senate Committee as a “general with an army of 250,000.”

She campaigned for political issues and women in the pulpit, for prison reform and labour conditions … but after her death the W.C.T.U. resorted to just the alcohol issue.

In later years Miss Willard (or “Aunty Frank” as some of her disciples knew her) “espoused Christian Socialism” (Dictionary of Christianity in America, page 1256).

Preaching on the evils of alcohol without proclaiming the message of the Cross is not the theme of Scripture. What the sinner needs is not reformation but regeneration.

Frances Willard died on 17 February, 1898, and 80,000 people filed past her coffin in Willard Hall, Chicago.

Among her dying words are these: “Let me go away, let me be in peace: I am so safe with Him. He has other worlds and I want to go. I have always believed in Christ: He is the incarnation of God”. (A.A. Gordon, page 291). She was also heard to say: “How beautiful it is to be with God.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Charlotte Elliott the Devotional Invalid

This is the day that … Charlotte Elliott died in 1871.

Born in Clapham, England (18 March, 1789), she achieved some fame as the writer of frivolous verse and a portrait artist. But by the age of 30 she was a bed-ridden invalid.

The visit of Swiss evangelist Cesar Malan led her to a knowledge of sins forgiven. And from that turning point in her life came the hymn, “Just as I am, without one plea” – although it was not written until 14 years after her conversion experience.

This account of her conversion explains her focus on the now famous words. One evening, as they sat conversing, the servant of God (Malan) turned the subject to our personal relation with God, and asked Charlotte if she knew herself to be really a Christian. She was in poor health and often harassed with severe pain, which tended to make her irritable. A severe illness had left her a permanent invalid.

She resented the question thus pointedly put, and petulantly answered that religion was a matter she did not wish to discuss. Dr. Malan replied in his usual kind manner, that he would not pursue a subject that displeased her, but would pray that she might give her heart to Christ, and employ in His service the talents with which He had gifted her.

It seems that the Holy Spirit used her abrupt and almost rude conduct towards God’s servant to show her what depths of pride and alienation from God were in her heart. After several days of spiritual misery, she apologised for her unbecoming conduct, and confessed that his question had troubled her greatly. “I am miserable” she said, “I want to be saved. I want to come to Jesus; but I don’t know how”. “Why not come just as you are?“, answered Malan. “You have only to come to Him just as you are”. Little did Malan think that his simple reply would be repeated in song by the whole Christian world!

Charlotte kept much of her writings for private use, expressing to the Lord her deep devotion to Him and not intending the texts to be used by others. At times people took her notes and spread them on her behalf, much to her displeasure.

In time, however, she became accustomed to others benefiting from her personal lines and in 1836 she became the editor of Yearly Remembrancer, in which she inserted some of her works, without identifying herself as the author.

One lady printed copies of “Just As I Am” as a leaflet and sent them out to towns and cities in England. A doctor took a copy and offered it to his aging patient saying it had been helpful to him and thought it might bless her. It did indeed, since it was Charlotte herself who was his patient.

Charlotte Elliott died at the age of 82 and is still regarded as “one of the finest of all English women hymn writers”. She wrote about 150 hymns. Her verse is characterised by tenderness of feeling, plaintive simplicity, deep devotion and perfect rhythm.

The testimony of Miss Elliott’s brother, (the Rev. H.V. Elliott, editor of Psalms and Hymns, 1835) to the great results arising from just one of his sister’s hymns (Just As I Am) is very touching. He says, “In the course of a long ministry I hope I have been permitted to see some fruit for my labours; but I feel far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s”.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.