This is the second of two book discussions on Feminine Threads–the Book Club’s February reading assignment. To view the first discussion post, just click here.
What an incredible read this book has been! I don’t know about you, but my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of church history! At times the shear quantity of stories and history recorded in the pages of Feminine Threads was overwhelming, but with each new account my soul was encouraged by the way the Lord used women of the past to further his kingdom!
I said in my last discussion post that this book has created a greater desire in me to dig into church history–this is definitely still the case. At times I found it frustrating that I was unfamiliar with the surrounding context of these women’s lives or that I didn’t have a firm grasp on the theological debates they were surrounded by. Though I don’t know how Mrs. Severance could have fit it in, I would have appreciated a little more explanation of the various church ages as well as the prevailing doctrines of the times.
This leads me to another critique of the book. In the introduction Mrs. Severance says that she makes every effort to let the women in Feminine Threads speak for themselves. On the one hand I very much appreciated this approach because it means that she tried not to give any particular slant to the history she recorded. On the other hand, I felt myself uncertain at times if some of these women should have be described in such rosy terms. Surely some of them erred in their beliefs and should be called out as doing so. Some of them were even parts of movements within the church that were detrimental. My suspicions were confirmed when I began listening to some online church history classes made available through RTS Virtual. Through these seminary lectures I learned more about the specific doctrinal errors several of these women fell prey to. Presenting their beliefs in such a matter-of-fact way, as Severance does, left me wondering wether someone reading this book without a firm grasp on theology would spot the errors in these women’s belief systems. So, while I admire the pursuit of accurately recording history, I do think that a book written for the encouragement and edification of the church would have benefited from also including a little more commentary from the author. I certainly would have.
Those two critiques aside, I am very thankful for this tremendous work. It was a blessing to get a glimpse of my sisters in the faith from ages past–warts and all! Several (ok, many) of the women stood as saints whose love and passion for the Lord as well as bravery in the face of adversity deserve to be emulated. I am thankful to have had this opportunity to get to know them a *little* bit better through the pages of this book.
There are several things I have been struck by as I read through Feminine Threads. First is the great hardships that women have had to face throughout history. I am not just referring to the way they were treated by society or by the church, but by the trials that they walked through as a result of their very nature of their gender. Many of the women described in this book felt the extreme sorrow of being widowed early on or the anguish of being married (through arranged marriages) to men they hardly knew. Most of the women who were given the blessing of children also experienced the horrific deaths of their babies either in the womb or shortly after. Though these facts were mere blips on the pages of Feminine Threads, and for that matter history, such sorrows can be easily understood and empathized with today. I was particularly struck by the way women’s reproductive pains were used against them. A woman who was unable to conceive or who lost her children (either through miscarriage or early death) was thought to have been judged by the Lord for some sin or doctrinal error by society. How horrific to not only feel the anguish of such losses, but to have the world around you judge your faith by them! I can only imagine the pain these women must have gone through as well as the courage it would take to hold firm to your beliefs in the face of such criticism.
On a similar note, I was very encouraged by many of these women’s personal devotion to the Lord. While women of the past are often portrayed as blindly following their husbands and not having a mind of their own, these women clearly had the conviction and passion necessary to flourish, even under the authority of men whom they may have respectfully disagreed with. I found Marguirete (the Queen of Navarre who was eventually married to an unbeliever through an arranged political marriage) to be a beautiful picture of devotion to the Savior. I loved this poem she wrote to express her love for the Lord and desire to be with him:
Would that the day were come, O Lord,
So much desired by me,
When by the cords of heavenly love
I shall be drawn to Thee,
United in eternal life
The husband Thou and I the wife.
That Wedding day, O Lord,
My heart so longs to see,
That neither fame nor wealth nor rank
Can give to me;
To me the world no more
Can yield delight;
Unless Thou, Lord, be with me here,
Lo! All is dark as night.
What I have taken away from this book is both encouragement from the women who have gone before me as well as encouragement from the Lord to make the most of the age I have been place in, the family I am a part of, and the influence I have on those around me. We each are given the opportunity to be a witness for the Lord’s glory and to benefit the lives of those we come into contact with. As I leave Feminine Threads I have to ask myself, who are those whom I can benefit and what more can I be doing to make the most of the time I have in this life for the glory of God?
I look forward to hearing your final thoughts on this book! Please take the time to share what you have learned, how you have been challenged, and what you are taking away from this reading selection in the comments below. Let’s take this opportunity to encourage one and other to apply the lessons learned!