Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney came about when several people heard her teach through Titus 2 and urged her to put her talks into book form.
In the first chapter she shares her early wife and mothering years of wishing she had someone to come alongside and teach, guide, ask questions of, etc., and then explains that’s exactly what Titus 2 calls us to do.
I appreciate that instead of pulling these verses out to stand on their own, she brings out them out in the context of the rest of the chapter. The purposes for godly women mentoring younger women goes beyond our individual homes and families: the larger purpose is that such teaching “becomes” (KJV) or “accords with” (ESV) “sound doctrine” (verse 1), “that the word of God be not blasphemed” (verse 5), “that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you”, (verse 8), and “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (verse 10). She explains that “To ‘adorn’ means to put something beautiful or attractive on display — like placing a flawless gemstone in a setting that uniquely shows off its brilliance” (p. 27). By our actions and conduct, even how we minster to our homes and families, we can display the gospel of Christ.
She then delineates the teaching of Titus 2:3-5 into seven virtues, giving each of them their own chapter:
- The Delight of Loving My Husband
- The Blessings of Loving My Children
- The Safety of Self-Control
- The Pleasure of Purity
- The Honor of Working at Home
- The Rewards of Kindness
- The Beauty of Submission
Though much of the book is directed to married women, Carolyn encourages single women to read along, too, both because much of this instruction is to all women, and because it will help prepare them if God does lead them to marriage, and it will help them as they mentor and encourage other women as well.
There was much that spoke to me in this book, but a few highlights particularly stood out. One was a reminder that “While the salvation of our children is our highest aim, our tender love is not sufficient for this task. Only the Holy Spirit is able to reveal the truth of the gospel. However, our tender love can be an instrument in God’s hands” (p. 61).
Another came from the chapter on self-control.
“Self-control doesn’t just happen. We can’t adopt the indifferent attitude ‘let go and let God’ and expect magically to become self-controlled. Self-control requires effort. However, development of this quality is not solely dependent on us. We cannot acquire this virtue by our own strength. It is only as we cooperate with the power of the Holy Spirit that we will achieve self-control, Our growth will take place as it did with Paul who said, ‘For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me’ (Col. 1:29). Notice that Paul did toil and struggle, but his effort was initiated and sustained by the Holy Spirit.”
I wrote recently about the struggle between grace and obedience, and this caps those thoughts off perfectly.
I hadn’t heard the word the KJV uses here, “sober,” interpreted as self-control before, but other versions use that word, and the original Greek word does convey that idea.
Another highlight was a quote from Dorothy Patterson’s book Where’s Mom?:
“Much of the world would agree that being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you are not caring for your own home; treating men with attentive devotion would also be right as long as the man is the boss in the office and not your husband; caring for children would even be deemed heroic service for which presidential awards could be given as long as the children are someone else’s and not your own” (p. 102).
Absurd, isn’t it? I was thinking recently that most everyone appreciates good marriages, well-behaved polite and kind children, and walking into a well-ordered home, yet how ironic that society devalues the efforts of those dedicated to them.
Another quote from the same book says:
Homemaking — being a full-time wife and mother — is not a destructive drought of uselessness but an overflowing oasis of opportunity; it is not a dreary cell to contain one’s talents and skills but a brilliant catalyst to channel creativity and energies into meaningful work” (p. 109).
After receiving many of the truths in this book multiple times over the years through godly teaching and preaching, good books, and my own studies, there wasn’t much that was new to me here, and perhaps anticipation of that is what kept this book on my nightstand for ages before I finally determined to include it in my Spring Reading Thing. But it’s good to remind ourselves from time to time of truths we already know. We can get discouraged in our duties or sway one way or another, pulled off-balance by differing opinions and philosophies. Reading such a book as this provides both encouragement and course correction.
Whether you need encouragement or reminding, or you’ve never received such instruction as this, or you need help knowing how to mentor others, I recommend this book to you.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)