Friday, December 7, 2007

Giving and receiving advice

The discussions surrounding my honeymoon lovin’ posts made me think about the topic of advice. Women tend to think that their experience is an appropriate measure of what other women’s experience will be. They then give advice based upon this. This is what I did. My friend Christine Jolly also did so on her blog, when she advised women to go to the doctor. Since experience is not a necessarily a reliable guide to what others should or shouldn’t do, we need to give experience based advice with plenty of disclaimers. Even though I did not need to go to the doctor or read books, some women may benefit from these things. Even though some women benefit from going to the doctor, others are fine without doing so.

What kind of advice can we give wholeheartedly, then? God’s advice applies to everyone, regardless of circumstances. The best thing we can do is to point people to the Bible. This is true with regard to problems that can arise on honeymoons, as it is in other areas of life. Many of the problems women shared with me arose partly from a lack of biblical understanding. They had false ideas about what was sinful. A thorough understanding of God’s word would have created a healthy anticipation of God’s plan, rather than serious fear or inhibitions. Therefore, I can wholeheartedly advise any woman to consider the Bible’s teaching on sexuality in the months prior to marriage.

The Bible is also the first place to turn when we are given advice. Often we receive snippets of advice in the course of conversation. The person may not intend to “advise” us, they’re just sharing experience or ideas and giving recommendations on the basis of that. Sometimes this advice is excellent, with a wonderful biblical basis. At other times it is based only on human ideas or experiences. One piece of advice Dave and I received from several godly people was “wait a while before having babies”! We had already decided not to deliberately wait. Yet we took these comments seriously.

Clarity was given when we thought about whether or not the advice was biblically based. We quickly realised that no one had given us any biblical reasons for waiting. We’d been told that it was easier not to have babies, it gave you freedom to travel, you could “get to know each other”, and you could establish yourselves financially. These comments came from a well-meaning desire to help us avoid hardship, but they were not based upon any biblical ideas. Since we’d tried hard to develop a biblical perspective on child bearing, we felt free to continue to plan according to this rather than according to human experiences or ideas. We didn’t need to fear.

On the Internet there are many people giving their “two cents worth” about a host of topics. Some want to warn us away from evangelical feminists, others from advocates of biblical patriarchy. Women share their experiences and opinions in regard to everything from submission to motherhood, end times theology to university education. As we read these opinions, it is always worth asking the question “where does this idea come from”. Does it have its origin in the Bible, or is it a product of human opinion and experience? We can learn a lot from the experiences of others, but ultimately we will answer to God.

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