Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 09/25/2007 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. A short, helpful and amusing introduction to leading and loving your wife biblically.
I married wonder woman. I really did, in my opinion. So naturally, when I came across this title I wanted to see what constituted a Proverbs 31 wonder woman, according to the author. Jess McCallum, it goes without saying, deems his wife Anne an exemplar Proverbs 31 wife, whom he affectionately refers to as Wonder Woman 31 (MacCallum has parlayed his lifelong love of comics into an extended metaphor in his book). In my male competitiveness, I wanted to know where my wife ranked on the scale of wonder womanism. Pretty high, I imagined (there, I’ve covered Chapter 12: ‘Brag about her in public’). But on a more serious note…
Far more important is to establish this book’s stance on biblical manhood and womanhood. I am happy to report that it is solidly, if not robustly, biblical – and by biblical I mean complementarian (men and women are equal in status before God but different in roles). The reason I say it is not robust in its treatment is twofold: a) weighing in at 123 double-spaced pages, it cannot treat robustly that which it does not treat at length, and b) its jocular tone preempts any doctrinaire foray into the matter. Nonetheless, MacCallum reveals clearly in the course of the book that the subtitle’s allusion to leading and loving does in fact reflect a biblical understanding of the husband’s role: “Leadership in the home always falls to the husband to initiate” and “The abandonment of your own leadership role because your wife is a force of nature is not a healthy response.”
Returning to Utility Belt [Chapter] 12, I can publicly attest to the sanctifying effect of the biblical womanhood teaching in Proverbs 31 on my wife. As she read through Elizabeth George’s Beautiful In God’s Eyes (Harvest House) for the first time, she began to change before my eyes. This passage, I realized then, wasn’t a guilt trip for women who would never measure up, it was an inspiring and transformational outline of God’s design for womanhood in the home.
Theological foundations established, here are some comments on the subject matter. The keenest insight of the book shows up early on in the Introduction, when MacCallum points out that there is a Proverbs 31 husband as well as a Proverbs 31 wife. Call me Captain Obvious (the author’s superhero enthusiasm must be rubbing off), but I tend to compartmentalize far too many of the Bible’s teachings, and obviously the passage about the Proverbs 31 wife is exclusively concerned with wives – or so I assumed. The passage heading tells me so, never mind that the passage headings aren’t actually canonical. Just as it has done for Jess MacCallum, seeing the husband behind the wife has encouraged me to excel in becoming a Proverbs 31 husband, though I fail at it far more often than my Proverbs 31 wife! Thank God the Proverbs 31:12 perspective (“she does him good and not evil all the days of his life”) is one that looks back over a lifetime, is all I can say.
I Married Wonder Woman is ideally suited for the Christian (or newly Christian) husband (or husband-to-be) lacking a reference point for how to humbly lead and biblically love his wife (or wife-to-be). Again, the fullness of the biblical revelation in gender relations isn’t worked out in detail, but that isn’t the purpose of this book. As the chapter headings – excuse me, Utility Belt Items – attest, biblical gender roles are high callings indeed: “Be Unselfish Like Her and With Her”; “Provide For the Family With More Than Money”; and my favorite, “Praise Her and Teach Your Children to Praise Her,” something I assuredly need to continue to grow in. MacCallum doesn’t dedicate much type to male humility, but demonstrates it often. Following his own counsel to “give up the greatest woman on earth” to philanthropic tasks isn’t easy for him, and he readily admits to a Hyde/Jekyll attitude towards his wife taking initiative: “I don’t want another responsibility but I could have done it better.” He claims that if he were forced to switch places with his wife, he’d be tempted to “close the household down about the time the news came on, and wouldn’t reopen it until the automatic coffeemaker had produced its magic elixir the next morning.” I can relate; I routinely feel like the world’s worst husband/father until that first dose of coffee in the morning.
I have a few complaints, but they are minor. At certain points I was lost regarding cinematic allusions. Don’t get me wrong: MacCallum is nowhere is near as culpable as John Eldredge, who references movies out of all proportion, but still. I was also concerned that Chapter 4 would overreach in its discussion of women as corporate businesspeople, and the concern proved justified. I don’t believe the interpretation of Proverbs 31:15 & 24 is as exclusive to the business world as MacCallum has painted it. For Scripture references, MacCallum has used the New Living Translation, whose quotations are helpfully bolded. But I’m not sure the NLT translators and stylists were out to do complementarian justice to the passages on gender roles (I may be wrong). These are minor points. Personally, I could have done with a few less superhero allusions, but if all this book accomplishes in the end is to impel one reader to look up ‘soliloquizing’ in the dictionary, I will be a happy English teacher.