ecently Lewis left this comment on Irony and a Broken Heart:
There is much I could say.
My former bride-to-be was heavily indoctrinated into the notion of "I don't give my heart away" and her father being her protector. She was/is in her mid 20s. The result was a woman morbidly afraid of her own shadow emotionally, a woman who was continually laden with guilt about expressions of affection for me.
Her father is a very troubled man. What's he done with her, and her siblings, hasn't been done to look out for their best interests (as I believe it is done, perhaps misguidedly, in the case of many Christian parents). It was done to make up for his own personal deficiencies by exercising power over them.
That's the problem with this type of formulaic belief. There are no contingencies for situations where no father is availed or the father is lacking as a man of moral character. As one commenter noted, when faced with this kind of formula flaw, most who follow these formulas turn to the people who teach them so heartily to find their answers and don't rely on a personal understanding of the scriptures as revealed by the Holy Spirit, making the formula and those teaching it into idols.
I write from what is still very deep pain, so I apologize if it comes across as raw. My encounter with this belief has been the most hurtful and bizarre experience of my life.
I've received many notes from those who love the daughters of patriarchy ~ hopeful young men, heartbroken new husbands, aunts, mothers-in-law, concerned friends.* "How can I help my wife heal and grow?" writes Jeff. "We've been married seven months and I am just beginning to see how deep are the roots of her upbringing." Barbara worries about her niece: "She loves the Lord but every time He speaks to her, her father overrules it. She feels called to work in an orphanage but her dad says she shouldn't "abandon" her family. She is 25. How can I encourage her?"
For those of you with loved ones entrenched within the Christian patriarchy movement, understand that this is particularly challenging because to God-fearing Christians, many elements of patriarchy look and sound biblically correct. And for those raised with these teachings, being "transformed by the renewing of your mind" is a difficult and lengthy process. So how can you help? Here are some practical suggestions for friends, family, husbands, and hopeful husbands-to-be of quivering daughters.
I know that you continue to pray faithfully for the one you love. Don't give up. It's important to remember that as much as you love her, your heavenly Father loves her infinitely more. Trust Him with her, and do not lose heart. You are not in her life by accident, and while I don't know His exact purposes, this is your ministry. This is true even if you are prevented from seeing her, talking to her, or sharing her life. Remember that "...if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God." (Acts 5)
There is a time to be silent.
Remember that your friend or beloved likely grew up, for all practical purposes, with her parents' voices louder in her life than God's. To heal, she needs to learn to hear the still small voice of the Lord. She needs to understand the Holy Spirit's guidance in her life. You can help. Every chance you get, point her to the Lord. He wants His voice known by her. Sometimes this might mean withholding your own, letting her hear from Him what is true. You are supporting her as she builds, or rebuilds, direct intimacy with her Maker. With love for Him and love for her, don't stand between her and Christ but be the one who hands her to Him, day after day.
Quivering daughters need at least one person in their life whom they can implicitly trust. Be a safe haven where she can finally, maybe for the first time in her life, figure out who she is, what she likes, what she needs. She needs to trust that you won't criticize her feelings, her thoughts, her ideas. Or blackmail her emotionally. Or love her only when she behaves, when she does what you want. She needs to know that even when she makes mistakes and sins against you, that you will love her and offer her the grace of Christ, all while helping her grow strong and become more like Him.
Don't be alarmed if your loved one questions her faith and what, if anything, she wants to do with Christianity. Some women feel as though God (or the Bible) is the bat used to beat them all their lives, and it can be very hard to trust Him after that ~ or to even like Him for that matter. Trust that God wants to be known by her. Healing takes time and patience. Let your wife or friend see your own faith, and don't push her towards religion. Let Him woo her in His timing, and in the meantime, be His hands, His heart.
Let her say no.
Many of our very first conversations revolve around no. Toddlers shriek "NO!" and parents sternly reply, "Don't tell me no!" But "no" is a necessary part of life. It helps establish limits that are healthy and this requires practice. Be a safe place to practice. Within patriarchy, most daughters learn that they are there for the psychological and emotional and physical use of others. Quiverfull daughters can feel like they are here only for religious reasons. When families abuse Jesus' teachings of service and run rampant with another's entire personhood, sometimes this requires us to go back to the basics. And this can mean a very firm, appropriate no. Let her have opinions, likes and dislikes, tastes, and preferences. Maybe she doesn't know what she likes. It might take trial and error to reach a healthy place, but if you are like our Rock, our Jesus who is steady, forgiving, and faithful, she will blossom.
If she needs to tell you the same story 150 times, listen patiently 150 times. Repetition is a vital part of healing. Respond to her with kindness. Let her know that she is valuable to you by being interested in what she says. This teaches her that she is important to you. It's likely that she has a lot of pain crammed away in her heart, and if she gives you a little peek, even the same one over and over, view this as an honor. In time she will give you more and more. If she comes from a family where her thoughts and feelings were discouraged or many people clamored for attention, she needs to feel important to you, because in this way she will begin to see how important she is to God. And you can do this by being there for her and listening ~ ear to ear, heart to heart.
There is a time to speak.
Just as listening and repetition are important, so is knowing what and when to speak. If she says "Can you believe we did that in my family!" two hundred times, then two hundred times shake your head in disbelief and give your version of, "Oh my goodness, sweetheart! That is terrible. I am so sorry that happened to you." This is validation which enables others take huge leaps in recovery.
Knowing when to speak "a word in season to him who is weary" helps breathe life to the soul. However, it's a delicate balance knowing what and when to share what is on your heart. Let the Spirit lead you. It can sometimes push others away to hear that what they believe is wrong. Let God stir in their hearts, and if they ask you, share what you believe. But to repeatedly tell a daughter that she is captive, that her family is wrong and that she needs to do _____ can sometimes backfire. Many are conditioned to defend their families at all costs and to expect "persecution" from those who aren't likeminded. This is why it's so important to be a safe person. Let the Holy Spirit do His work in her life, and reflect His work in your own.
Let her be free.
Cultivate a Christ-like environment, whether it is as a friend, as a relative, or in your own home as husband to her, your wife. Show her the freedom that Christ has shown to you by giving her room to breathe. Many don't understand what this means and object, thinking it gives license to sin. But Jesus came to set the captives free. What about those who are captive emotionally? Mentally? It's not just about shackles of steel but shackles of heart and mind and soul. Encourage her to discover, perhaps for the first time, who He made her to be.
Don't rush her.
Many factors go into the healing process. It can be a hard, long road, but you are privileged to walk on it with her in whatever capacity God has allowed. I can't promise that things will turn out the way you hope, but the love you have for your friend is given by God. Honor Him with your love by demonstrating the fruits of love. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Because of this love, don't tell her to "move on" or accuse her of not forgiving. She may be trying to sort through many things. Perhaps she has yet to forgive. Perhaps she needs to make things right. But be a safe person so that as she works through the pain, she can come to you for encouragement and for a shoulder to cry on.
Please pray for Lewis and others like him. This is a challenging journey of faith for all involved, and sometimes when we feel desperate on behalf of others we try to hurry the process the only ways we know how. But try to let God do what He came to do: to redeem, to heal, and to restore. Like the child's song says, "He's got the whole world in His hands." And this includes the heart of the one you love.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
If you are a quivering daughter, how have others in your life helped you? Or how have they hurt? You can be anonymous if you like.
*Identifying details have been changed for privacy.