Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Woman

This is edited from a talk I gave a few years ago about this book:
I cannot praise this book highly enough. I first read it two years ago, as part of a book group I am in and we were all very challenged by it.
Barbara’s starts by looking at 1 Tim 4:7 ‘Train yourselves to be godly’. Godliness is something we must work for. It doesn’t just happen. Our lives are spent training ourselves to be godly, like we would train for a marathon. Instead of making me feel overwhelmed by this task, I instead found it an encouragement - that is why it is hard to be godly, because we must work at it - it’s not meant to be easy!
She says if you are willing to eat properly to stay healthy and to exercise to keep your body fit, how much more should we be committed to training to be godly women.
This idea of discipline is then used as the structure from which to look at every aspect of our lives. She starts with submission, saying that as Christians we are called to submit to God in everything. Our entire lives should be lived in submission to Jesus as our Lord. I thought this was a great way to challenge women about their attitude to submission, that is, submitting to God's authority in everything. Too often these days the word submission is only used in regard to marriage relations, which either sends off alarm bells for some and puts others immediately into defensive mode again having to explain what it really means. However, putting everything in the framework of submission, really emphasises that it is a 'whole of life' idea.
Barbara then divides her book into chapters which deal with: the gospel, prayer, worship, our minds, contentment, propriety, perseverance, church, singleness, marriage, nurturing, good deeds, witness and giving and grace. What a list! I could not think of anything she had not covered!
Rather than go through all of these, I will share 5 things that really challenged me. These may not be your issues at the moment, but if you read this book, you will find something that is.
1. The Chapter on our minds. This really challenged me to think about what I spend my free time doing. I like turning on the TV at the end of the day to just chill out a bit. However, I have a bit of an addictive personality, so can watch a show once, and then always want to watch it. I can spend hours doing crosswords and Sudoku puzzles and lots more time quilting.
Instead it is now my personal challenge to put aside 1 hour after the kids have gone to bed, to read my bible, pray and then read from a Christian book. Even in the last week, I have read more than I have in ages. And for me, at this stage in life, 1 hour of uninterrupted silent time is precious!
(This has changed somewhat in recent years, I certainly watch much less TV, but spend much more time online!)
2. Chapter on Marriage. She talks about women and their role as helpers in the marriage. And after reading this chapter, I have decided that I like the term helper and I am happy that my role is to be a helper to Husband.
It also challenged me again to think about how to honour him, rather than joining in the standard ‘bag out your husband’ conversation. I want to work much harder at honouring him whether he is there or not and encouraging others to do the same.
3. Chapter on Singleness
The chapter on singleness is very good. She starts by talking about her granddaughters, saying that we might assume that her prayer is that they meet the right man to marry. But no, instead she prays that each of them will realize that perhaps singleness is a desirable option for their lives, especially in light of the gospel.
She clearly says that singleness is a good thing, and that God has purposely placed each one of us in the position we are in.
4. Chapter on Giving - I am always challenged by anything about giving and how we should share our resources. I have decided our house should be much more minimalist - not only should we give away what we do not use, but not buy it in the first place and give the money away instead. Obviously, this will take work, but we are thinking about it again.
5. Chapter on Nurturing. This is how she addressed our roles as mothers, but she expands it to be much wider than that. So it is applicable to all women. She says that nurturing life is uniquely female and we can use it in so many ways - being mothers ourselves, becoming adoptive or foster carers, looking after troubled kids and youth, and having a friendly and welcoming house that models care of children.
She says that if 1 of 4 Christian families made a decision to adopt or foster children who are in need, what an amazing witness we could have to the community at large. It’s a big challenge, but one which definitely got me thinking.
Overall, as you have probably picked up, I think this book is great.
Throughout, Barbara uses illustrations of her own life, her close family and her friends. Through it not only did I feel I got to know her a bit - but I felt that she was eminently qualified to be writing this book. She has been through a lot, and has come through it a godlier woman. (I have since met her briefly, and still have the same very high opinion!)
I also found this book a good counter to general feminist ideas in the world today. I am so programmed by the world, that I bristle sometimes with the notion that I am a helper, a nurturer and I am to submit. However, it made me stop and think again - what am I as a woman before God? I have again been glad to affirm that I am Husband’s helper and the nurturer of my children, but more than that that I am a child of God, loved by him and therefore willing to submit to Christ as my Lord.
Barbara and her husband Kent have written a number of other books, all of which I recommend. Kent has written a companion book, Disciplines of a Godly Man. In fact these books have become our standard gifts to many we minister to for their 21sts. They have also written Disciplines of a Godly Family, which I also found very helpful. But by far, this one has been the best for me.
Please read this book - you will only benefit!


Anna said...

One of the BEST Christian books for women I have ever read! So encouraging!

Lucy said...

I just read this book recently and I think it's great too! It really helped change the way I think about alot of things (in a good way :))