Tabletalk: What led you to write Housewife Theologian?
Aimee Byrd: The idea for my book came from a need that I perceived in my own community. When my children started attending school, I realized that although many families went to church, their faith was based more on good, Christian morals than actual theological knowledge about who God is. With all the cultural issues that we discussed concerning our children and ourselves, I sensed a difficulty moving beyond a general understanding of how a good Christian behaves to the meaning behind our behavior. I was discovering even in my friendships that women struggle with many of the same issues, but we needed a tool to help us encourage one another in the gospel. I wrote my book to raise awareness of how our theology shapes our everyday living.
TT: What does the subtitle of Housewife Theologian—"The Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary"—mean?
AB: We know that the gospel is the good news of salvation. We often return to it in our deepest trials and struggles. But the gospel message is also needed in ordinary, everyday life. What does my faith have to do with my daily mundane tasks? Our default mode is to think that we are running the show. The gospel actually interrupts our busyness. I need to be continuously reminded that my worth and my value are not in what I contribute, but in what I have received. We need to hear what Christ has done for us, and how He is interceding for us even now as we are running our kids to practice, mopping the floors, feeding the dog, and meeting our friends for lunch. God uses the repetition of ordinary life and service to shape us into the likeness of His Son. The gospel gives us an eternal perspective on our daily matters and bids us to contemplate how they fit in to the drama God has cast us in.
TT: How are housewives to be theologians?
AB: Every person is a theologian. Theology is the study of God. In John 17:3, we see Jesus praying, "And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (emphasis mine). Notice that our knowledge of God is an eternal matter. Our gracious God has condescended to communicate with us so that we may know Him. With the revelation that He has given about Himself in His Word, don't you think that we will be held responsible for what we don't know, as well as what we do? Housewives are to be good theologians by learning about God from His Word, the Bible. God has given us the covenantal context of the church to sit under the preached Word, receive the sacraments, pray together, and fellowship with one another. What a blessing that is for His people.
TT: In your book, you say you want to reclaim the words housewife and theologian. What do you mean by that?
AB: Women are bombarded with so many mixed messages about their purpose and their value in both the home and in the community. Every married woman is a housewife, and every person is a theologian. A housewife isn't a desperate woman who is trapped in the confines of her home. She is a man's partner in marriage. Women who work outside of the home and stay-at-home moms both share in their common vocational responsibility to the culture of their home. And while housewife is a vocation that we can choose, theologian is not. I certainly appreciate professional theologians, but we are all responsible to know God. It isn't just a specialized form of knowledge for a select few. How well do we know God according to His Word? The question isn't whether we are theologians, but whether we are good theologians or poor ones.
TT: What are some struggles that housewives face, and how can they work through those struggles faithfully?
AB: Somewhere amid the June Cleavers, Hillary Clintons, the Desperate Housewives, and the so-called "Real Housewives" are the actual women trying to make sense of it all and glorify God in the process. We all struggle with serving the Lord faithfully in our role as women and with properly understanding that role along with our femininity and sexuality in the climate of our culture. We struggle with beauty, identity, our influence on others, and practical issues like hospitality and witnessing to our neighbors. I believe that these are issues that we should not tackle in isolation, but within the covenantal context of the local church. Housewife Theologian can be used as a book to help women's small groups and workshops in the church. My hope is that it will facilitate growth in mentoring and discipleship, and provide an opportunity to share both our successes and failures with one another as we discover how the gospel interrupts the ordinary.
TT: What are some of our culture's ungodly expectations of women? How can women defy them in a godly manner?
AB: It seems that on one hand, women are expected to be no different from men. While our distinctions as men and women have been blurred, women are simultaneously getting a very different message that our value is in our ability to be sexually desirable. Neither of these messages is godly, of course. In order to respond properly, we need to understand God's design for women. When we see the true beauty of His creative design, and the stories that our sexuality tells about Christ and His church, we will not want to settle for anything less.
TT: Some women bristle at the idea of "submitting" to their husbands. What does a biblical model of submission look like?
AB: Unfortunately, submission is another word that has been mistreated and misunderstood. Submissiveness does not equal inactivity or disengagement of your mind. It is a recognition of our husbands' heavy responsibility before the Lord to lead and love their wives as Christ loves the church. In Ephesians 5:25, we learn that our husbands are to love us as Christ loves the church. This is how our husbands will be held accountable to lead. Do we want to function as the helpers that we were created to be to facilitate this serious responsibility, or do we want to sabotage his efforts? Wives are told to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22), and this helps encourage us that ultimately we submit to Jesus Christ. It will not look the same in every marriage, but the fruit is recognizable. I go into some detail about this in chapter one of my book.
TT: In your book, you refer to the myth that single women are supposed to be selfish while they still can. What do you mean by that?
AB: In Luke 14:25–33, Jesus tells us that in order to be His disciples, we must be willing to renounce all of our own desires. In this passage, we see the consequences of our profession of faith. Marriage is a good illustration of the kind of sacrifices that come with changing one's status. Unfortunately, singles are often encouraged to sow their wild oats while they can, to live for themselves, and to follow their dreams before they get tied down in marriage. But our selfishness is the whole problem. How will this philosophy prepare anyone for marriage? Worse than that, our lives aren't on hold before matrimony. It doesn't become easier to serve God when married, and this horrible advice contradicts the life of discipleship that we are all responsible to live. Selfishness as a single woman or as a married woman is the pursuit of our own desires in our own chosen path to righteousness.
Aimee Byrd is a wife, mom, author, and blogger. She is author of Housewife Theologian and Theological Fitness_, and she is cohost of the Mortification of Spin podcast. She blogs at Housewife Theologian. In addition, she is a frequent guest speaker at events, and she teaches women's Bible studies and serves as the librarian at her local church, Pilgrim Presbyterian (PCA) in Martinsburg, W.Va._