“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.” ~Caroline Bingley
I tend to agree with Elizabeth Bennet in her reaction to Mr. Darcy’s definition of feminine accomplishment. “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
True enough, Darcy’s definition is a stodgy and prideful as he himself is; however, I much prefer it to the misconception that when I talk about stay-at-home daughters, I’m saying: “Now that you’re done with high school and that boring, bookish stuff, you can devote your time to the really important stuff like making doilies or hand-painting china for your hope chest!”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with making doilies (they’re very pretty, in their place) or hand-painting china, but I truly hope that daughters who want to become the wives and mothers who inspire and equip the next generation to impact the world for the cause of Christ have a vision much bigger than sitting around and learning as many arts and crafts as possible until Prince Charming comes along.
I wanted to take a bit of time to write down some practical steps that young women desiring to live at home until marriage can take that will keep them growing and productive as opposed to stagnating and despondent, and to keep them seeking education even without seeking traditional college experience. My list is a little different from Mr. Darcy’s, but I hope it will be helpful for young women seeking -as I am -to be accomplished in the ways that will please the Lord:
Knowing Your Family’s Vision
A truly accomplished young woman desiring to promote unity in her home cannot do so if she does not know the guiding focus of her home. Before you take any of my advice, seek the advice of your parents: what are some of the things they would like you to learn and do in order to bless them and to bless those around you?
It can be easy -especially with so few examples of stay-at-home daughters to inspire us -to set the most “visionary” families on pedestals. “I could serve the Lord so much better if my dad was so-and-so!” “I could do so many things for the Kingdom if I was in a more high-profile household!”
The Lord put you in your family for a reason. Seek to prize your family as a gift from Him.
Learning his Word
A godly young woman is, first and foremost, a young woman who fears the Lord. (Isaiah 50:10) We live in a generation of apathetic evangelicals: opponents of Christianity know more doctrine than we do, and we become easily confused even by straightforward doctrinal questions (how many of us stutter and stammer when proponents of gay marriage ask us why we condemn homosexual unions based on Levitical law, but eat shellfish?)
Start simple: read the Bible from cover-to-cover (90-day or 365-day programs are helpful when trying to get the bigger picture). Read a systematic theology book -a great place to start is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology -although no work is perfect, this simple resource will get your mind working and have you asking the right questions. Once you start asking those questions, seek other resources for answer, submitting to your parents’ oversight in your studies, of course, but also learning the value of independent assessments. Allow yourself to be stretched and challenged.
Embracing a Biblical Worldview
A keen knowledge and insight into the Word of God is worth very little to us if we do not apply that knowledge to our lives (John 14:15)
How does what you read in God’s Word and in the myriad of theological books you may have picked up impact the way that you behave? What does God’s Word have to say about the culture around you? Take ever thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) -analyze relentlessly, and check every presupposition.
Once you have a solid biblical foundation, challenge yourself by analyzing the philosophies around you. For instance, what is socialism? Is it wrong? If so, why so? Where did it start? Why did it start? Who were it’s forerunners? What did they write? Most importantly, what does the Bible have to say about it?
A godly woman embraces that the only way to fully understand where we are is to understand where we’ve been; she knows that history is the unfolding story of God’s sovereign plan in creation, and wants to understand how the puzzle-pieces fit together for his glory.
Pick up a Western Civilization curriculum and move through it slowly, from the dawn of time to present day -remember, there’s no rush here. One of the beauties of opting out of a four-year university is learning at your own pace. Take your time fully understanding the events and figures that have shaped history, reading as many primary resources as you possibly can to escape biases (but keeping that biblical bias at the forefront of your mind).
Proclaiming the Truth
A godly young woman also realizes the point of gathering this knowledge: it isn’t to be able to prove her mettle among her college counterparts (although she may be able to if she truly applies herself) -it isn’t to be able to raise children who are smarter than their public schooled counterparts (although it is of note that we who desire to be the educators of our future children should be pouring all of the time we can into becoming as well-educated as possible, Luke 6:40) -it isn’t so we can have something to do while we’re waiting on Prince Charming (although I am sure your future husband will enjoy having a wife who is his intellectual counterpart -so much more than a live-in maid and nanny!)…
We learn so that we can proclaim the gospel (Matthew 28:19ff). Learning how to articulate your beliefs graciously, unapologetically, and accurately takes a lot of practice! Pick up books on public speaking and writing, and strive to become proficient at both. Learn to express yourself well: you are an ambassador of a living King. Write reports for the books you are reading (the benefit here is two-fold: you will be able to keep a record of what you’re learning and getting valuable practice in sharing that knowledge).
Next, but certainly not least -in fact, most associated with staying home -a godly woman knows how to manage her home (Proverbs 31:10-31). Watch your mom carefully -what are some things you need to learn in order to run a home as smoothly as she does? What are some ideas you can implement that will help your family? How can you plan to run your future home efficiently? What are some ideas you have that will help you when you have your own family?
Home-keeping has so much more to do than simply learning to juggle laundry and meal planning: do you promote harmony in your home? Do you contribute to a joyful atmosphere? Is your attitude one that pleases the Lord and blesses your family? Rather than rushing ahead of ourselves (I can already scrub a toilet to my satisfaction), let’s constantly be on the lookout for more ways to serve in our homes.
A godly young woman isn’t only focused on herself; she can turn that vision outward: what are 5 ways you can impact your community? Bump hospitality to the top and get started by talking to your parents about beginning to have your unchurched neighbors in your home on a regular basis to minister to them and to serve them. Care to start a home-business? Be creative! All of my friends were beginning Etsy shops or teaching piano, but I decided to be an English tutor: what are your gifts? How will your current pursuits change once you’re married? Are you devoting your time now to sucking the industry out of these single years?
A godly young woman smiles at the future -she does not dread it (Proverbs 31:25). As our years in our father’s homes stretch ahead of us -whether they stretch for six months, six years, or sixteen years -our focus should always be to bring glory to the Lord in our current sphere, never doubting that he has a purpose for every season he ordains in our lives.
I want to see the next generation of young women turning their hearts towards their homes, applying their hands to good works, and applying their minds to knowledge and truth that will edify them and will, by extension, edify others as they proclaim it. I want to see young women capable of educating a generation of Christians who are passionate about cultural reformation. I want to see godly marriages taking place between couples who are equally equipped to engage culture in their respective spheres.
Maybe you thought staying at home was the easy choice, but I want to challenge you to be a little bit harder on yourself: bump up your expectations and buck the stereotypes. Serve God full-heartedly during your at-home years, realizing that every moment he has given you is a blessing not to be taken for granted, but used, to the utmost, for his glory.