Aimee Byrd. Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013. 240 pp. $12.99.
Byrd formerly owned a coffee shop, and her writing reflects this experience. It’s warm and conversational, like talking over a latte with a good friend about the issues of life. She relates personal anecdotes and thoughtful illustrations that draw the reader into her points of application. At the conclusion of each chapter, she includes a number of helpful “journaling questions,” with the hope that women will read Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary in “workshop groups” with discussion. This makes it a useful resource for a small group or book club. Additionally, it’s evident Byrd read widely in preparing to write this book, and she cites some others that I have added to my “must read” list.
In his oft-quoted opening sentence, A. W. Tozer tells us in The Knowledge of the Holy that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I am convinced Byrd would agree. She works hard at connecting our theological commitments and convictions to the everyday details of life. She believes God’s revealed Word affects how we submit to and help our husbands, how we manage our homes, and how we think through options for educating children. Most of all, she imparts a passion for knowing God, pursuing him, and making time with him our highest priority. Byrd expresses a desire to live life intentionally, carefully, and with biblical discernment. She commends us to be “jealous” to protect the truth of God’s Word, to seek to be wise regarding cultural pressures, and to guard against Satan’s distortions. Throughout the book, she provides a compelling call to love truth, and a sincere desire to grow in sanctification. For example, she writes, “I continually have to lay down who I think I am or who I want to be if it is anything different from God’s plan for me to be transformed into the image of his Son” (77).
Regarding topics more typically of concern to women, Byrd shows insight in dealing with roles of men and women, in upholding the value of homemaking and hospitality, and in distinguishing between feminism and biblical femininity. She encourages the reader to give careful thought to these things, for example: “How does your intimacy with your husband show forth in your behavior with others? How does your intimacy with God show forth in your behavior with others?” (92)
I also appreciate the ways Byrd interacts with cultural values. She does a good job of distinguishing between cultural standards of beauty and God’s values, calling us to embrace aging with grace. She points out ways in which the self-absorption and self-esteem that seem so prevalent inhibit a wholehearted pursuit of God where we seek to glorify him rather than self. She upholds a biblically informed view of sexuality, while being grieved by its widespread abuse. She encourages her readers to be careful about the influences they allow into their lives as they seek to influence others in ways that honor God and his Word. But Byrd is especially careful to get to the root of sin in each of our hearts, examining ways our own pride tempts us to comparison, manipulation, laziness, idol-manufacturing, and turning away from trusting and obeying God.
Of course, any book has its limitations. But given the size and scope, Housewife Theologian has relatively few. I did find the narrative a bit disjointed or rambling at times. But even here, given its more informal style, this was not a real distraction to following Byrd’s flow of thought.
I concur with Byrd’s commitment to theology affecting life. It is so apparent that what we allow to fill our minds, what takes root in our thoughts, profoundly affects what we feel, say, and do. All Christians should be engaged in filling our minds with “true truth,” that we might think rightly about God, his Word, and his ways. As our minds are transformed by truth, our lives will be correspondingly changed. We will grow in trust, in contentment, in joy, in grace.
I can attest to the transforming work of theological truth in my life. Early in our marriage, I was a world-class worrier, consumed with anxiety about many things. As the Lord has taught me of his character and ways, through his Word and other truth-filled writing and teaching, my mind has been renewed. I’m so deeply aware and convinced of God’s supreme sovereignty in all things that I experience a great deal of peace, rest, and acceptance in the ups and downs of life. As a housewife for 35 years, married to a theologian for equally as long, I’m deeply thankful that theology is so practical, so vital, so life-transforming.
Overall, I commend this book. It should provide fresh encouragement for housewives and other women to commit to pursuing the Lord in his Word, learning his ways, and living out the gospel in daily life.