Escape From Pharisee Mountain (Is It Even Possible?)
I came across an old picture of me. We were living in an old farmhouse that we were renovating. It had no dry wall on the walls yet (just insulation) and I was butchering a deer while the children watched. There was an open text book on the counter (I study while I cook.) and the typical chaos that comes with seven kids in the background. I was happy.
Fast-forward ten years. We now live in a really nice house in another state. The kids are growing up and moving out, and life has settled down. Things should be even more wonderful- right? Not so much. Within 5 minutes of waking up I already felt like a failure. I had made some mess I needed to clean up, the ‘bug-guy’ was coming and our pool room (yes, I have an indoor pool) was a mess, and the boys (who do not care what my house looks like) were coming over for chemistry lab (We home school.).
First, there is nothing wrong with my house. It is cleaner and in better shape than anything we have ever owned. The problem: I have moved firmly into ‘Pharisee’ world and don’t know how to fully get out! I have spent the last ten years going to women’s conferences that have (wrongly) twisted verses in the Bible into ‘Thou shalt have a perfect house,’ and have been hanging out with women who know how to subtly look down on you without saying anything. Yesterday my daughter asked to go out with friends. She told me the other mothers were going to be there so we could sit and talk. I groaned. She looked at me. (I am normally very social and love talking with people.) My first response was, ‘I am not like your friends’ mothers. I don’t fit in.’ I then amended that and told her, ‘No, your friends’ mothers lie, and pretend to be whoever they think the person they are talking to wants them to be and I can’t take it anymore.’ She looked at me funny. (The Pharisees would hate me for being that honest with my daughter. I know. How could I tell her- the truth!?) She knows she will still get to go, and I will suffer through it for her. But I worry. Her friends are destined to become just like their mothers. Superficial and constantly worried about what other people think. These are not bad women. They are ‘good Christian’ women who raise good Christian girls. But it is not ‘good.’ It is a recipe for depression. It is a life where no one truly knows anyone. Where you cannot visit with friends and have a cup of coffee without ‘cleaning up’ first. My husband and I have actually discussed not having anyone over to our home, and leaving it as a place where we can just be ‘us.’ We can afford to be ‘social’ at restaurants etc instead and leave our home for ‘us.’ But we love having people over. We are the ones who stay up until midnight talking and laughing- at least we used to be.
I know I am not alone. In moving around the last few years I have noticed that this is the norm for the woman’s side of the Christian and non-Christian world. The question is: How do we change it? How do we ‘get real’ so that we can have real relationships, real friends and really act like the family we are supposed to be? Do we, as women, really want to be running around making sure there is never a dirty dish in the sink, or muddy dog prints on the floor? (Actually, our wonderful mastiff puppy, whom I dearly love, has taken to dragging small trees through the doggy door and mulching them, leaving half masticated wood wherever he last laid down… I am guessing proper Christian wives don’t own big drooling dogs either.)
By the way: The proper ‘Pharisee’ answer to the mastiff problem is, ‘You really should just lock the doggy door until he learns you know.’ The problem: ‘I really should do a lot of things, and when I am perfect maybe I will. But I am not glad that you have all the answers to ‘fix’ my life. I find mulch in the living room amusing and like snuggling with a puppy that thinks he is a lap dog but really should not be. It’s my house, now wipe off a chair, sit down and drink your coffee before I throw it at you.’ (Oh wait, that was not a ‘Christian’ thing to say, was it?)