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Friday, July 25, 2008

"The Unwasted Life" a book review of Carolyn McCulley's book "Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred" (published by Crossway)

In our efforts to untangle ourselves from a culture that disparages the Biblical standard of femininity, so often we women in the church tragically trade in our “worldly” idols of self sufficiency and independence for new “Christian” idols of the perfect husband, children, and home. In doing so, we not only audaciously tell God that He is not quite good enough for us, but we also often cause our single sisters in Christ to stumble as they lament being the “less than” female image bearers of Christ. In her excellent book, “Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred,” Carolyn McCulley urges single Christian women to rejoice in the goodness and sovereignty of God while stewarding their singleness as a God-given gift intended for fruitfulness. While acknowledging the loneliness and hardships that come with living with the deferred hope of one day being married with children, McCulley, a single woman in her forties, addresses her fellow unmarried sisters with dignity, humility, honesty, and loving firmness, often drawing upon illustrations from her own struggles. Rather than relegating female singleness to a pre-Proverbs 31 holding pattern, McCulley urges single women to cultivate Biblical feminine virtues to the glory of God in their current season of life. Using Scripture as her guide, McCulley explores the Proverbs 31 qualities that should increasingly characterize any female follower of Christ, irrespective of her marital status. Accordingly, her book is a treasure to both married and unmarried women who desire to submit to the Biblical standard of femininity. McCulley premises her book with the concept of treasuring and trusting God above all. Recognizing that our Heavenly Father works in and through all of our circumstances for our good, she asks the wise question, “What is God doing with and through my singleness?” (Indeed, similar questions can be asked of married women as well: “What is God doing with and through my marriage? What is God doing with and through my motherhood? What is God doing with and through my infertility?”) Viewing her singleness as a “gracious endowment” for the good of those around her, McCulley goes on to describe how the Proverbs 31 picture of femininity applies to the single woman in a way that blesses others. She discusses how a woman can be trustworthy and begin to do her potential future husband good and not harm all the days of her life by guarding her heart and seeking purity now. She calls single woman to submit to what scripture says of marriage, the roles of husbands and wives, and the characteristics to seek out in a godly husband. McCulley gives practical examples of how single women can practice homemaking and hospitality in ways that bless others in their lives now. She directs single women to be wise stewards of their finances and make career decisions that are congruent with their Biblical femininity, taking into account both their current seasons of life and their future. McCulley shows single women how they can seek to be a blessing to children, even if they have none of their own. She urges single women to cultivate inward and outward beauty while guarding against the deception and vanity of charm and outward beauty. She discusses the ways that single woman should be wise and kind in their speech, guarding against disrespect, sinful judgment, and gossip. She offers examples of how a single woman can extend her arms to the needy in her community and in the world. Finally, she concludes with how a single woman can laugh at the days to come, knowing that there is joy in what is to come with or without the blessing of marriage and children. Although I am a married woman, I was deeply convicted and edified by McCulley’s teaching on Biblical femininity. She states what is obvious in scripture- we derive our worth and true joy from God himself, not the gifts He chooses to give us (like marriage and children, for example). We must steward the season of life in which we are. Rather than yielding to what our culture or own desires dictate, we must let scripture guide us in our femininity regardless of our circumstances. The reward is fruitfulness to the glory to God and joy for us in each stage of our lives as daughters of the King.

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