Wednesday, February 27, 2008

When a Trailer Park is Just Right: On Manhood and the Duty to Provide

"A man who really gets Ephesians 5 is the kind of man who will be willing to work two jobs and live in a trailer to enable his wife to be the primary caregiver of his children."

This line comes from a recent blog post and CBMW journal contribution by Dr. Russ Moore. I appreciated Dr. Moore's post, entitled "Pastoral Leadership and the Gender Issue: What Does Courage Look Like?" Moore raised a number of good points in the brief post, but none affected me more than that made in the line quoted above. In our milieu, I would imagine that this comment would sound strange to many ears. Why on earth would anyone live in a trailer park if they don't (absolutely) have to? In a materialistic society (and a materialistic church, maybe?), there is perhaps no sharper ideological razor to be applied in making familial decisions than that of economic concerns. Ockham would (not) be proud.

What do I mean here? Simply this: many of us in American evangelicalism so prize material comfort that we will allow almost nothing to impede our pursuit of it. So, for example, when it comes down to determining such basic questions like where we will live and how we will live, we are often quite ready to sacrifice things like family time, home life, and discipleship with things like a nicer home, more cars, better accouterments. I am not against these things or a nice standard of living on their own terms, but I am against them when they compromise the quality of our family life. Somehow, we have allowed the culture to whisper into our ear and convince us that it is better to be wealthy--on whatever scale and by whatever measurement--than it is to be together. We don't realize in making this exchange that we have taken the culture and its ideals as our guide. Accordingly, we have left the Word and its wisdom behind. The Scripture teaches us that the things that truly matter cannot be measured in dollars and cents, even though many--the Proverbs famously groups the materialistic masses under the moniker "fool"--believe the opposite. They think, in their fallen condition, that it is actually better to have cars than laughs, toys than time, renovated bathrooms than healthy marriages. The result? Husbands and wives alike work themselves into the ground, and the children suffer and grow angry, and the family slowly falls apart, the cycle to be damningly repeated again a generation later.

It is in the backdrop of such tragedy that Dr. Moore makes his point, and that I concur. If we could accept a little less luxury, many of our families would know far more health than they do. If we would accept a lower standard of living, more of our mothers could mother, more of our children could flourish, and more of our churches could know a fresh level of quality by the investment of older women in the lives of young women. If we could reject the American "dream" of material prosperity and see a trailer-park or an apartment complex through gospel lenses, we would see that it is no horrible thing to live as poor people when we have a joyful, gospel-centered, God-glorifying family that pulses with love and hope. Nowhere do the biblical authors instruct us to see such circumstances as a curse. No, if God is the Lord of the home, and the husband and wife fill their roles, and the children obey their parents, then the family is rich, rich beyond the wildest dreams of the wealthy secularists up the street who has great wealth in the bank but tragically little in the heart.

Again, this is not to say that wealth is wrong. It is not, and some Christians have a great deal of it and do not allow it to compromise a healthy home. Sadly, though, many do allow earthly values to drive their decision-making and home life. This problem--and its solution--begins with the husband. If he will commit to taking on the burden of the family's finances, to providing for his home though it may cost him much, then he sets his family up to flourish. If he gives them a vision of life together that is not driven and dictated by the culture and its ideals, but a biblical vision that prizes the principles of God's Word as they relate to the home, then he charts for them a course of great blessing. With his family, he may know times of great hardship and trial. He will have difficult nights, and sleepless days. He will see others entertaining themselves more and exhausting themselves less, and he may even question the wisdom of his path. But he will turn over and over to God's Word and its vision for masculine leadership and provision, and he will know, if only by the mustard seed of faith, that if it must be, a trailer park is not only enough--it is just right.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Owen,

I really appreciate your blog, and read it regularly.

I have to take issue with this post though, because it's assuming a definition of provision that is very narrowly focussed. I don't think the man's role is just to provide financially. From a woman's perspective, I wouldn't care if we lived in a trailer, but I would feel very poor for the lack of my husband's time and energy at home if he was pouring himself into 2 jobs.

I know provision is a big drive for men, but for women emotional security is more important than financial security. I don't care HOW we live, as long as it is together and the quality of our time together is real. When the focus becomes work for whatever reason, then the marriage relationship can so easily become a case of two ships passing in the night.

I think the definition of provision needs to include spiritual and emotional provision, and centre less around money.

"Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." Proverbs 15:17

God bless.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Reid S. Monaghan said...

Very needed discussion...and the commenter above brings another good dimension to it. Great post.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Kyle E. said...


Thanks for the post. How do you pursue your Ph.D. studies and uphold providing at the same time? I experience the tension between study and work right now too--I'm a 2nd year M.Div. at Trinity. Thanks!


6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked two full time jobs and lived in an apartment in an old building so that my wife could be a full time caregiver. If only she had considered me and her son to be more important than television and drugs, it might have been worth it.

6:09 AM  

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