got me a college girl

in celebration of formal education in the life of the Christian girl

Monday, February 20, 2006

Earl of Lytton (Camille)

"It is a wonderful advantage to a man, in every pursuit or avocation, to
secure an adviser in a sensible woman. In woman there is at once a
subtile delicacy of tact & plain soundness of judgment which are rarely
combined to an equal degree in man. A woman, if she be really your
friend, will have a sensitive regard for your character, honor, repute.
She will seldom cousel you to do a shabby thing; for a woman friend
always desires to be proud of you."

The Earl of Lytton (1831-91)

I have had this framed on my office wall for some time, and then the
nail came loose, and it has fallen. Should I return it to my wall? Is it
something a college gal can promote? *think think* Are our proficiencies
best demonstrated as compliments to the masculine? Must we be only
passive advisors?

Christine de Pisan, placed in the Medieval courtly life with a widowed
mother and several young charges, was forced to find a way to support
her family. She wrote. She created manners manuals for her fellow
courtly women telling them, much like Lytton, that their best character
trait was diplomacy and that they can woo the men in their lives to
their better selves. She was an Esther in her time. I'd like to think
that she was a College Gal.

Does it matter that a man is expressing his gratitude for the Esthers
qua Esthers in his life versus a woman advising other women to be
Esther-like? When are we to be like Deborah? Could the Earl be as
thankful for a Deborah?


  • At 11:35 AM, Blogger michele said…

    If my husband were to compare me to someone from the Bible I want it to be Christ. Yes, we have these wonderful examples in the Scriptures of women who were strong in faith doing amazing things and we can learn from their examples but it is Christ that I'm being conformed to (Romans 8:29) and He is the one I'm trying to follow.

    I am not saying that Esther, Deborah and the Proverbs 31 aren't great examples of godly living and there are things they can teach us but I am not bound by their examples. I think that is at the heart of the problem that you have been articulating on your blog -- we have freedom in Christ to be unique, not like the women of the Bible and not like the Sally Homemaker type of Christian just about everyone seems to be advocating (now, when I say this I always feel the need to say that I have nothing against homemakers since I am one myself – I’m just not good at it and I don’t want to be :-). If we don’t like homemaking, if we want to go to college or if we want to go to seminary, it’s OK because Jesus loves us anyway :-). We each were created with skills and desires that are different and we don't have to conform to someone else’s idea of what a Christian woman is supposed to look like as long as she looks like Christ.

  • At 3:06 PM, Blogger greenemama said…

    Are our proficiencies
    best demonstrated as compliments to the masculine? Must we be only
    passive advisors?

    well, i'd say no, not necessarily. it seems that our better selves are best used as compliments to others in general, regardless of sex.

    i do agree with the earl in that any man is better off if he's got a good woman by his side. just as any woman is better if she's got a good man (and by good i mean, someone who will "seldom counsel you to do a shabby thing") on her side.

    as far as being "passive advisors" -- is that really possible? advising isn't passive. it's not getting up and getting the job done yourself, but it's not sitting by, waving your fan and eating cupcakes while counting on the man to make all decisions without your input.

    in esther's case, it wasn't her responsibility to actively, physically, take care of business. it was her husband's job. every husband has things that are his arena, no? it's not my responsibility to walk into my husband's workplace and start doing his job. i give advice, input, etc., but i don't do the job, kwim?

    and it works both ways -- there are areas in which advice and input are welcome from a man, but for the man to do the job is inappropriate.

    Does it matter that a man is expressing his gratitude for the Esthers
    qua Esthers in his life versus a woman advising other women to be

    i don't know that it matters. i suppose it would depend on his overall opinion of what a woman is "allowed" to do, kwim? i feel annoyed when i hear esther accolades from men who think that women are to be put in white dresses and placed on a pedestal and/or stick to domestic tasks. even as domestic as i tend to be, i don't find my identity in being a trophy and/or a doer of dishes.

    and, it's different to be appreciated as "a wonderful advantage to a man" than to have your only role in life be to make a man's life advantageous.

  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Camille said…

    But Michele, why have all those lovely examples -- often reflections of Christ -- if they, too, don't have something to emulate? And is saying that I choose Esther's strategy over Deborah's saying that I'm refusing Christ's? Is this an either-or? Is being like Esther mutually exclusive from being like Christ?

    Christ used human stories to communicate divine ideas. A shepherd example might work for one person, and a farmer example for another. Do we have to privilege one or the other?

    Christ sometimes was Esther-like. When He drew in the sand instead of accusing the adultress. When He told stories rather than outright correct. Sometimes He was Deborah-like. Rebuking the money-changers in the temple, for instance.

    So I'm not really clear about what you mean by the "problem" on this blog and how that connects to my example. In other words. . . . go on. . . .

  • At 4:02 AM, Blogger michele said…

    It's not a problem with the blog but the problem that you guys have been talking about in your last few posts. It's the problem of how should women view themselves in relation to what the word says. I know that the Bible itself uses examples from the OT and tells us that the OT is an example for us (Peter saying that women should emulate Sarah, Paul saying what happened to Israel was an example for us, the author of Hebrews saying that Israel is an example of disobedience) but what I'm saying is that in defining a woman's role, people usually stop at the OT examples and don't look to the women's role in Christ as our example. What does a women in Christ, filled with the Spirit do in this situation? Not what does a woman who lived under the OT dispensation without the benefit of the Holy Spirit (in the way that we have the Holy Spirit) do in this situation. What I'm saying (in a very confusing way, I know, I'm struggling) is that there is a difference between us and them (as Paul notes in 2 Cor. 4) and when we use them as examples we need to remember that. We have a greater freedom than they did because we are not bound by their societial norms. We are not bound by the roles of women in the OT -- we can enter the holy of holies in Christ, they could not. We don't have to stay in the women's section of the temple. We can go where only the OT high priest could go. How great is that?! We can wear the seal of the covenant ourselves, they could not.

    So, what you said about Esther and Christ was very good, but I don't see that type of thing at all in any of these discussions on the Internet in general.

    I'm sorry if you thought my post was critical because I didn't mean it to be. It just struck me when I read it that what I've been reading about women's roles over the last month have been devoid of Christ and the freedom that He brought to women. That he brought to us all and that we don't have to be bound by what the Proverbs 31 woman did (her role in society), we can go beyond what she did because we have been given that freedom in Christ to do so.

    I almost didn't post that comment and I almost don't want to post this because I'm afraid that you may think I'm being critical of you or this site. But it's not you I have in mind but the people out there who would bind the women's role so much that even our daughters can't go to college.

  • At 5:34 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…

    Camille, thanks for the great quote, a one that gives me lots to ponder.

    As I read Michele's observations, I couldn't help but think of how Jesus valued friendships with women, so much so that God chose women to first tell the resurrection story, the most glorious of theological truths. Here is a quote from C.H. Spurgeon that I loved the first time I read it:

    "They were the first to see their risen Lord, and we will try to learn something from them tonight. It should be an encouragement to those members of the church of Christ who are neither pastors nor teachers that, if they live very near to God, they may yet teach pastors and teachers. Get clear views of our Lord, as did these holy women, who had no office in the church and yet taught the officers, for they were sent to bear to the apostles the tidings that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. Not first to them who were the heads of the church, as it were, but first of all to lowly women did the Lord appear, and the apostles themselves had to go to school, to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to learn that great truth, "The Lord is risen indeed."

    I am not implying that Jesus needed counsel. But he certainly did value the lives of women and the call to be like Jesus applies to all women.

    When I think about what is expected of beleivers today, I always return to the one-anothers of God's love, admonish, exhort each other, to bear one another's burdens, to love one another, to submit to on another. These are gender neutral commands. They are also age and relationship neutral. In other words, they apply to husbands and wives, parents and children, elders and layman etc. Too often there is the idea that these things flow only one direction but it is not so.

    And, once again, when you mention the Proverbs 31 woman, I have to say that everything she did wasn't done at once time. I believe that the passage emcompasses many seasons of her life. Oh, and I might add, I wrote an entire blog entry about Lemuel's mother a few weeks ago. She is the one who gave the instructions to her son, admonishing him to look for the infamous Proverbs 31 woman. in essence, the Holy Spirit led a woman to write to her son and it became part of the Canon. Imagine that!

  • At 2:28 PM, Blogger Monica said…

    I'll think I'll cast my vote in with greenemama in that what the Earl said ought to be put in his entire frameword of what he thought and wrote about women. If he really valued his wife as herself and not as an accessory, then it's a beautiful compliment. If he saw his wife as existing to make his life more advantageous, then I've got an issue with it. A quick internet search didn't turn up any reference to his wife, so it may be most to the point to read some of the other things that he wrote to see a bigger picture.

    At face value, he sounds rather like he's admitting that he's deficient in particular areas, and is going to find someone who's good at what he's lacking. I think it might be time for you to find a new nail...

  • At 2:47 PM, Blogger Camille said…

    I think we're having a heated agreement, Michele. *think think* Yes, Christ liberates us all! *amen* Like PrairieGirl says, Christ's commands are gender-neutral. Both men and women must love, exhort, etc. I couldn't agree more!!

    And so, m'dear Monica, should I keep the little plaque? ;)

  • At 5:01 AM, Blogger Monica said…

    I think you should keep it. :-) It's beautifully phrased, and the presence of such a compliment to women in no way implies that that's all that they can do (especially in your office), or that men shouldn't also love and exhort and care for. His description of a woman who is your real friend sounds like the description of a real friend no matter what the gender, and I'll buy it. That's what my husband does for me, and even before I was married, I had friends of both genders who had "a sensitive regard for [my] character, honor, reput."

    Yep, I would hang it proudly.

  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Light said…

    Here is a wonderful quote from Carolyn Custis James' new book, "Lost Women of the Bible." In her introduction, she says,
    It is not often noted, but many stories of women in the Bible make no mention of a husband or children. Although singleness was exceedingly rare in the ancient Hebrew culture, no one knows if Miriam, Mary and Martha, or Mary Magdalene ever married. In a jarring break from the culture (and without diminishing the family), the New Testament anchors a woman's identity and purpose to her relationship with Jesus rather than her parentage, her marital status, or her children.
    The minute I read that last sentence, my heart burst with joy. Not because I don't love being a wife and mom, but because it is such a balm to my soul when I see the outright hatred of women so many have in today's church. Christ truly set women free, in ways that, frankly, I don't think men needed to be set free.

  • At 6:19 AM, Blogger prairie girl said…


    I had ordered this book and it came on Friday. I, too, thrilled at that quote. CCJ put into words what I have been realizing more and more as I have listened to so many Bible teachers today and have compared their mantras with what the Word says. Our standing before God is so much more about who we are in Christ than it is about what roles we have or what functions we perform.

    I am in chapter three now and can hardly put it down.

    Have you read the first book?

  • At 12:51 PM, Blogger Light said…

    Hi prairie girl - yes, I read the first book and loved it. It's highlighted to death. CCJ is coming to my area in late March and I'm going to try to clear my schedule to go hear her speak.


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