Like many young women of the late ’80s, I swooned over Gilbert Blythe as portrayed by Jonathan Crombie in the CBC series Anne of Green Gables and Anne Of Green Gables – The Sequel. The news of Crombie’s passing last week broke my heart both because he was far too young to die and it also meant that the Gilbert I knew and loved was gone.
Part of what drew me to Gilbert was his love of the opinionated, strong and gifted Anne Shirley. Although I am not an imaginative dreamer like her, I did relate to her struggles as a smart and strong young woman, college student and then teacher. But what I loved about Gilbert is that he appreciated Anne’s spirit and mind. He was fascinated by her, delighted in her accomplishments, found her a worthy opponent, and enjoyed a good verbal exchange. He wasn’t intimidated in any way by her strengths, but reveled in them.
I am fortunate that after many years of prayer and waiting I ended up marrying my own Gilbert. He doesn’t look anything like Jonathan Crombie and he’s a graphic designer (not a doctor). But my David has the same fierce loyalty to me and my gifts. He delights in seeing me engage in an intellectual sparring match and knowing my satisfaction of being used by the Holy Spirit to encourage someone else. Like Gilbert, David has said many times he was drawn to my independence, my tenacity, my sense of humor, and, above all, my commitment to Christ. He wanted a strong woman who would challenge him and be his equal in life. David is not intimidated by my strengths but instead, like Gilbert, revels in them.
Compare this to the increasingly tragic stay at home daughters movement in Christian circles today.
Stay at Home Daughters
These are young women who think that in order to serve God and their future husband they must remain under their father’s protection and guidance until married – even if that never comes. They must focus on domestic arts, learn to be sweet and submissive, and parrot the opinions of their father on pretty much everything.
As Marty wrote in Those Young Keepers of the Home, there are so many increasingly older Christian women sitting at home, waiting for their knight in shining armor. Except that knight isn’t coming.
He isn’t coming partially because he doesn’t exist. Like Anne Shirley’s romantic ideal man who didn’t exist, these young women and their parents have created some paragon of a Christian young man who is primarily a figment of their imagination. They expect that some man will appear who is perfect in every way including his theology down to the minutest detail, what he eats, what he listens to, and how he speaks. He is basically expected to be a carbon copy of the girl’s father because I suspect most of these fathers would be loathe to give their daughter in marriage to any young man who didn’t emulate them in pretty much every way.
The knight also isn’t coming because Christian young men who have strength of character, faith and personality do not want a wife who views her role in life as primarily to acquiesce to his every thought, desire and belief. I am not overstating this when I say that this is what many (if not most) stay at home daughters are taught to do. They are taught that their views. opinions and beliefs are completely secondary to that of their father and then, subsequently, their husband.
What a Christian Husband Desires
Any Christian man worth his salt is going to want a strong woman who will confront him in love when he is wrong. In fact, I would counsel any young woman contemplating marriage to a man who doesn’t encourage this to run far, far away! Any Christian man should want his wife to be confident in her abilities and gifts. He should see himself as one who encourages her to be all she can be, even if that means she overshadows him in certain areas. If he is strong in Christ, this won’t be a problem for him.
In my opinion, the best Christian marriages consist of some mixture of friendship, respect, admiration, trust, humor and physical spark. Each marriage will have these characteristics in varying degrees based on their personalities and relationship. But both the husband and the wife should desire to bring the best of who they are to the marriage and should be eager to encourage the other to excel in every way possible.
What Stay at Home Daughters Need
It is my prayer that God will open the eyes of these stay at home daughters and their parents to the unnecessary burdens they have placed on themselves and the unrealistic expectations they are laboring under. There is still time for many of these young women to discover the joy of finding their Gilbert if they will allow themselves to experience their freedom in Christ.