Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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How to Build a Peaceful Home

Leslie Basham: Author Carolyn McCulley says that the mad pursuit of material things is like running on a hamster wheel. When you get off, you’ll experience great peace.

Carolyn McCulley: I think the more stuff we have and the more money we chase, the less grateful we are and the more stress we have. I think in a way the Lord wants His people not to be caught in that hamster wheel.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, September 3.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our guest this week on Revive Our Hearts is my friend, Carolyn McCulley, and it’s always good to be with her. Carolyn, we are known for our late night conversations. I’ll call you just to check up on something and we’ll say we’re not going to talk all night tonight because we both have things to do tomorrow, and we’re incorrigible.

Carolyn: Yes.

Nancy: I love your heart. I’ve learned so much from you, and you challenge my thinking. This book that you’ve just written has really challenged my thinking. Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World. I am so glad that you’ve spent much of the last year writing this book, pouring your heart and effort into this. God has helped you do this. I think it’s going to make a huge contribution to the mission and message of Revive Our Hearts, calling women to experience freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

So thank you so much. Thanks for joining us here on Revive Our Hearts today.

Carolyn: Your encouragement is very meaningful to me, so thank you.

Nancy: And Carolyn, you, like me, are single and never married and have learned and continue learning to trust God with a hope deferred. I think that’ll be encouraging to some of our listeners to know that God does give grace. I’ve watched you go to Him for grace. I’ve watched you exhibit and practice and be intentional about practicing the qualities of radical womanhood, biblical womanhood, from Proverbs 31 and other passages.

As a single woman, you’ve been an encouragement to me in that realm as well. Speaking of Proverbs 31, so much of that chapter centers around a woman’s home. So we want to explore today some of the history of home. Home did not always look to people the way that it does today. We want to just see how things have evolved and how we got to where we are.

As I said yesterday, I want our listeners to know that this is an important book for all women, Christian women particularly, who want to understand where we are today in our culture. This whole issue of biblical womanhood, why does it seem so strange in today’s world? I think it’s an especially important book for some of the younger women who have never known anything but to grow up in a feminist world.

Carolyn, it was not really until you were age 30 and came to faith in Christ that God began to shape your own thinking to run counter to that of the world. So we want to really promote what I know has been your burden and that is for the younger women to see that the way it is today is not the way it always has been or the way that biblically it really should be.

Carolyn: When I received my certificate in women’s studies back at the University of Maryland, I was not a believer and I assumed that I was well-versed in feminist ideology and feminist history. In fact, I was woefully ignorant of what had been happening for the 150 years prior to my existence as well.

I think nowhere was I more fascinated by my research than in this particular chapter about the home. I had no idea that the culture we live in now, which is either ignoring the home or making a little Martha Stewart-like cult out of the home and its decorations, was so foreign to the way most people had lived for century upon century.

It really wasn’t until the 19th century that the home began to be profoundly changed. But prior to that our ancestors lived in a very simple dwelling and they worked together. Husbands and wives and families worked together.

The home for most of the Bible was a simple little four-room structure built around a courtyard and people went into the home with their animals at night. Tthen they would leave and they would sometimes cook outside or in the interior courtyard and work together with their animals and pottery and with the food that they were raising and the children that they were rearing.

There were differentiated roles, but they were done in context with each other and partnering. Men would raise the animals and women would be looking over the children. Men would shear the sheep and women would comb out the wool and make it into cloth for the family. So they would partner together on these tasks, but there were different roles. They were not so differentiated that they inhabited completely different universes.

Nancy: Unlike today where we really do have that private and public sector—the home compared to the workplace outside the home.

Carolyn: Right, and that began when the industrial revolution hit our nation. Initially, there actually was a positive outcome of the industrial revolution. As capitalism hit and men were called out of the home to work in factories, they were not producing their own livelihood, but they were wage earners for the first time in their lives.

It felt very disorienting and to come home felt like a refuge, a haven. Women latched onto that and really began to promote the value, the refining value of the home. So for this short time period before the civil war, it was actually known as the golden age of domesticity because . . .

Nancy: Domesticity meaning love for home, that which is domestic.

Carolyn: And the home arts and what can be accomplished in the relationships that are in this home. Women saw that they were called by the culture to promote these virtues and these refining elements into a culture that had grown increasingly coarse.

But actually, that brief shining moment where the home and all the people who were in it was celebrated actually set the stage for feminism because what happened was that all the moral virtues that used to be assigned to both men and women were now being assigned just to women and men were the ones who needed to be tamed and refined.

Unlike their Puritan forebears who would charge men to have noble character, to oversee their children’s instruction, to be involved in their lives, to take responsibility for character development, now it was pitting women against men. It didn’t take too long for the men to really resent that.

Nancy: So are you saying then that this golden age of domesticity was . . . was this a bad thing?

Carolyn: It was only a bad thing in the sense that it made women in charge of cultivating men, of the ones to domesticate men, to bring good virtues to men, unlike the way Scripture calls us to be a good influence. But Scripture calls men to lead and to take responsibility for the direction of their families and their communities and their churches.

These were the tensions that were in our society prior to the civil war and there were many changes that came about in the civil war, but none more radical actually than the publication of Charles Darwin’s book on the Origin of the Species.

Nancy: I know many of us are familiar with the fact that that book was a seminal book that’s had huge repercussions in our whole world and in our whole culture. But what impact did that have on the whole women’s role and home issues?

Carolyn: I know, I was fascinated to find this out too because I really thought that had just affected our concept of science and evolution. But what came out of it was the social theory called social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was about the betterment of the human species. There were proponents who said that because men had been out there struggling and competing against each other in this capitalist world they had evolved to a higher level, and women who were at home had not evolved.

In fact, one feminist of the time said it would take women thousands of years and several generations to catch up with men, which is hilarious given the actual development of feminism. She was so wrong. The idea came about, it was promoted very subtly, but it had such severe repercussions on the culture because the idea that women had not evolved because they had been at home meant the home was a place of limitation.

Nancy: And then the culture’s answer to that was . . .

Carolyn: Get everybody out in the workplace and/or change the home. So there was this tension for a little while where first-wave feminism could have actually managed to have promoted the home and its values but instead fell down and ended up asking women to emulate men and get everybody out in the workplace.

One leading feminist of her time thought that women needed to be helped with having the home professionalized. So she proposed this idea of home economics, which was to bring all the latest of scientific theory to the home. The idea was not to help the housewife, but to make a commune-style way of living where no single woman was in charge of her home, but there would be a whole series of people who were professionalized for laundry and childcare and home management, etc., so that you professionalized the home but in a way that affected the original intact family in such a way that everybody got spread out into society and the home functions were professionalized.

Nancy: Is this at the fountainhead of the Home Ec. courses we took in junior high school?

Carolyn: Yes, strangely enough it is because she really thought that the latest scientific theory in terms of germs and cleanliness and home management and time management and all these things needed to be applied, that women themselves who had been running their homes for millennia were incapable of doing it and that they needed to be taught, retrained, and have a professional class come in, and essentially wanted families to live like bees in a beehive.

Nancy: What was wrong with the idea of having advanced theory and helps and tools and appliances to make the home a safer and more productive place?

Carolyn: Her ideas were based largely on socialist and communist ideas of the time and she had a worldview which was leading to this sort of classless society and leading to what we later saw evolve in the Soviet Union and other nations in the 20th century. So she had that worldview. Plus she had the idea that until the home had been professionalized, women were underdeveloped and so the idea of serving your family and the idea of being at home were limitations were actually more dangerous than any of the particular theories that she had.

Certainly, we were making a lot of medical advances at the time and discovering things about germs and hygiene that our culture needed to learn and that aspect of home economics and her efforts there we would welcome and appreciate. But underlying that is the idea that the home—the private sphere—is a limiting place and that you’re only really an adult and you’re a full functioning member of society when you’re in the public sphere.

And to make a contribution, your contribution to society must be in the public eye somehow or another. Raising a child is not a contribution, which is funny because it was less than a hundred years earlier that our culture actually celebrated what women could do. As our nation was being founded in 1776, there was a grand experiment for the next 50 or so years that the entire world was watching. There had not been a republic of that scale anywhere else in the world and there was an intense realization that we needed to raise children to be good public citizens.

So there was a time period in which women’s literacy rate went up, their education rates went up for the benefit of rearing well-educated citizens. Well, less than a hundred years later it wasn’t valued. The idea of human capital in the next generation had been abandoned, but it hadn’t been abandoned in the eyes of Scripture. Raising children up for the glory of God, to know the works of the Lord, to commend His works and to praise the Lord and to carry the gospel into the next generation is highly esteemed in Scripture.

That’s really where the ball was fumbled by feminists because the goal was not to raise the next generation for the glory of God. That wasn’t even on the radar map. The goal was to better yourself.

Nancy: Did that play into this whole movement toward consumerism?

Carolyn: Yes, business has a good way of finding a little niche and moving right on in. So as industry was making more and better appliances—we had refrigeration, we had electricity, we had all these things that actually made being at home a little easier—it became a place of sales.

So actually in the 1915 to 1920 range, there was a woman who set herself up as being an expert in these new appliance and in these new ideas of efficiency. She started to advise women on how to run their homes with these new scientific and business principles and very quickly figured out that she could make a lot of money telling advertisers how to reach women.

So from a very early time period in the 20th century the home then became a place that you marketed to. Women were seen as the gatekeepers. There was actually a book written, Marketing to Mrs. Consumer. And it wasn’t in the 50s and it wasn’t in the 60s, which in our mind is kind of the heyday of patronizing advertising to women, like wow, you’re going to be really fulfilled by this oven. That actually went back another 30 years and the home became a place of consumption rather than production by the early 20th century.

Nancy: So the marketplace was saying the value of the home is really just for what goods can be purchased for it?

Carolyn: Right. And not what you can do in it. Not the relationships that you develop. Not the children that you’re rearing for the next generation. So everything had changed. Remember a hundred years earlier, republican, motherhood, the golden age of domesticity, the refining element of the home was all out the window in large measure because of this social Darwinism idea and because we are all bent toward a love of money and a love of ease and wanting to have things that make our lives easier. So we just bought this consumerism hook, line, and sinker as a culture.

Nancy: Now we’re talking about some things that can kind of make your head spin when you go back in all this historical and sociological study here. But here’s the bottom line for us as women and that is that the Scripture is clear that wisdom or folly is demonstrated by how we as women treat our homes. I think of that verse that we often use on Revive Our Hearts. Proverbs 14, verse 1, says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (NIV).

So why is the home so important in God’s eyes and what is the purpose from God’s perspective? If were going to think biblically, what is the purpose of our homes? You’re saying it’s not just to be consumerists, to consume products. What is the purpose? How are we to think about the home from God’s perspective?

Carolyn: Well, I don’t think that God ever intended for our lives to be so bifurcated that we would go in different directions, that the home would be the place where you just crash, sleep, and you bolt and you go out and you do something else. The home is the place where you care for others.

What we’re experiencing in our culture right now is the fact that so many people are stressed. They are trying to handle all their vendors for their home—the lawn cutting service and the housekeeper and the child care and the dog walker and all these things while they’re gone. By saying this, I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be educated or have some level of training or a career that they can sequence through their lives.

But what feminists have told us is that any time that you spend in the home is a loss to you as a full-fledged human being. The arguments that began in the 19th century and proceeded on through the second wave are still with us today. Just a few years ago one leading feminist made a huge wave out of saying that women who are going back to being at home are making awful decisions and they needed to get back to work. Her reasoning is that a full-fledged human being needs to be a productive member of society and that if you’re at home you’re a parasite, you’re a dependent.

God would look at what women do in the home and esteem that because these things are of eternal value. They’re rearing children for the glory of God. They are bringing people in who need to be cared for. It’s a place where the home is a mission field to be able to share the gospel, to draw people out, to care for them, to ask questions.

So there are many women today who find themselves sandwiched in their lives between caring for elderly people and caring for their parents and caring for ill children and young children and wondering how in the world can I do this with the one model that’s been handed to me, that I must emulate a man’s career. But we try to be just like men and work in the same time periods as they are, so nobody’s home in those critical years when the home makes such a difference.

Nancy: I think practically a lot of people are going to say—and you have to understand some of this—that our whole economic system has become dependent upon the two-wage earner system in the home. So listeners say, “Yes, I’d love to be in my home, but it doesn’t even seem possible today to not be working outside the home.” Do we just cater to that? Do we just give into that way of thinking? Do we have an option?

Carolyn: It’s tough. It’s tough to consider. I mean in my research about the home in 1950, the average size of the home was 980-some square feet (I think it was). And by 2005 it was over 2200 square feet.

Nancy: And the families are smaller.

Carolyn: And the families are smaller. We like our stuff. I’m no different than the next person. I like my creature comforts too. But we have to step back and say at the end of your life, what is God going to commend you for? I’m not trying to heap guilt on any woman who’s listening to us now who is a working mother and trying to do these juggles and knows very well the stress that I’m mentioning.

In my book I was careful to include many testimonies of the women I know who are wives and mothers who have lived out things that I have not lived out but whose stories I have loved and told to other women to encourage them over the years. They allowed me to include their stories and what this looks like in real life.

So while there’s a lot of history and there’s Bible teaching, there are also these testimonies to encourage women that you can step back. You can look at what God calls important and God will provide for you. Will you be able to live at the normal level of American consumption? Possibly. Possibly not. But what is God going to reward you for at the end of your life?

Nancy: You tell the story of a woman named Megan. She was led to make some radical changes in her life as a result of a crisis moment.

Carolyn: Yes, this is a friend of mine who wanted to be a good wife and wanted to be a good mother to her young children but felt pressured that she had to work. And all the stress of trying to manage a home and the things that inevitably break down, just the practical matters, were really building up. They were both at a place in their career where they needed to give their all, according to the model that they currently have. They were in their 30s and that’s when you just pour your life into your career.

The stress of the juggle was really getting to her. Long story short, they ended up making some changes in their family income and lifestyle. She ended up coming home and being with her children. She said, “I thought at first how would I fill my hours?”

She said there is so much going on. She cares for her elderly mother who’s sick. She cares for her two children. She cares for her neighbors. She leads all sorts of outreaches in the church—women’s groups and Bible studies and things like that. Her life is so full and the stress level has gone down but the rewards have really increased because of the way she feels God’s pleasure in doing what she is doing to serve her family and to serve those in her church.

But the Lord really honored this. I think it was only in a year or two that her husband began to do very well in his profession and was more than able to support the family after a while. That won’t always be the case for everyone.

In all my travels internationally, when I come back I realize the amount of stuff we have makes us a very ungrateful people. You don’t hear the complaining in other nations like you do here. So I think the more stuff we have and the more money we chase, the less grateful we are and the more stress we have. I think in a way the Lord wants His people not to be caught in that hamster wheel.

Nancy: Ultimately, this is about creating here on earth little pictures through our homes of our eternal home.

Carolyn: Yes.

Nancy: It’s about pointing people to that place Christ is preparing for us. So they see our homes, they see the contentment. They see the joy. They see the self-control. They see the love, and we give them a glimpse, a picture of what heaven is all about.

Carolyn: Yes, heaven where Jesus went to prepare a place and a home for us. I’m so grateful He’s not going to prepare another cubicle for us. We get to have a home, a place of rest and refreshment and enjoyment with the Lord. So I think that when Scripture challenges women to be wise about whether or not they’re building up their home, it’s not about whether or not they are making a beautifully decorated home. The physical space can be a nice blessing to people, but it’s really about the relationships and that’s what my friend Megan learned was that the relationships were what mattered.

Leslie: My family just moved not too long ago and I find it very easy to look around and say, “If only I could buy this, if only I could buy that, then my home would be just like I want it.” Well, Nancy Leigh DeMoss and author Carolyn McCulley have been giving us a refreshing way to think about what really matters when you’re building a home of joy and peace.

Carolyn writes about creating spaces for God’s glory in the book Radical Womanhood. She describes her own journey as a feminist on a college campus who became a follower of Christ and now makes biblical womanhood a priority.

Nancy, it sounds like you were watching and cheering Carolyn on as she wrote this book.

Nancy: I did encourage Carolyn to write this book because I knew how helpful it would be to women who have a heart to serve the Lord but whose thinking has been influenced by the culture around them. Carolyn talks about the pain and consequences that many women have experienced as a result of buying into the feminist worldview. Then she addresses some important subjects like biblical roles, the gift of children, modesty, and purity.

I love the way that Carolyn shares personally her own journey into and away from feminist thinking. I’d like to send this book out to as many people as possible because it addresses so many of the core issues that are important to us here at Revive Our Hearts. It’s our way of saying thank you when you give to help the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, a ministry that God is using to help birth a counter-revolution in the hearts of women all across this country.

So when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts today, just ask us to send you a copy of Carolyn’s book called Radical Womanhood.

Leslie: You can donate and take us up on this offer by calling 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

How much influence does feminism have on you? Carolyn McCulley will be back tomorrow to show that you encounter feminist ideas more than you realize. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.