“God gave Adam the most precious gift a man will ever receive – a woman. … If you are a wife, you were created to fill a need, and in that capacity you are “a good thing,” a helper suited to the needs of a man. This is how God created you and it is your purpose for existing. You are, by nature, equipped in every way to be your man’s helper. You are inferior to none as long as you function within your created nature, for no man can do your job, and no man is complete without his wife. You were created to make him complete, not to seek personal fulfillment parallel to him.”
I closed the book, my right forefinger still resting on the page I just read. I dwelled on it and then reopened it and read it again, aloud. “You were created to make him complete.” I shut my eyes to keep my cheeks free from stain. It was the first time I fully perceived my destined inadequacy, because I was a woman. I was heartbroken. It was the realization that the inner strength I’d always been so secretly proud of was an error, was a power never to be wielded. I had been chasing a life of purpose my whole existence. I believed I could change the world, be a history-maker, and I just discovered I would never do those things but rather, assist someone else in doing them. The revelation struck me in the gut like a blade. My entire envisioned future unraveled before my eyes.
In the Exodus House whenever we felt pain or confusion, feelings of the devil, we were required to report it to our leaders immediately so they could help us find the light again; so, I climbed down the stairs to find my mother.
Mom had just started leading this new class for the women in our group. It was a rigorous study of what it means to be a woman and a good wife. Our textbook for the class was Debi Pearl’s, “Created to be His Helpmeet.” We’d have homework of reading certain chapters as part of our daily devotionals, and then we’d all assemble to study and discuss them. No one said it aloud but I knew the class was aimed specifically at me because of my impending voyage across the Atlantic to marry a Kenyan man of God. There were other women in the house who needed it as well, but we ordered the books for the class as soon as my departure had been confirmed. I had only a few short months to learn how to become the perfect helpmeet.
She was sitting in the living room with a deep purple crocheted blanket across her lap and her KJV Bible firmly planted in her right hand, the front cover of which was folder over. Her feet were spread wide and she was leaned over into the book as if she yearned to jump in. She held a yellow highlighter crayon in the other hand and signaled me to wait before interrupting her. When she finished the verse, she sat for a moment in the stillness before putting her Bible on the table next to her and looking up at me.
“I don’t understand, Mom. So, because I’m a woman, I’m not as important.” It was half question, half statement.
Her eyes glanced at the book in my hand and the corners of her mouth turned up in a knowing smile. “No Kayla, you are just as important,” she began, “Man is God’s helper and you are man’s helper. You are an important piece in man achieving God’s plan for him. You have a role, the same way your husband will, it’s just a different one.”
“It says I was created to make him complete… that’s my whole purpose.”
Mom directed me to take a seat and called an impromptu women’s meeting. My house sisters came in from the adjacent room and Mom beseeched our leader, my step-father Bill, to speak to us. It turned out I wasn’t the only one who was having qualms with this concept, this idea of being less than. The other ladies started speaking up and sharing their frustrations as well, even my ten-year-old sister contended. She was not an official part of the class but, at that age, Hope could not keep her hands off a book that was in her proximity. She thrust herself into the dialogue and discourse of the group. “We know we’re all just little peons in God’s plan, except we aren’t even good enough to be peons because we’re girls,” she added.
Bill scolded Mom with a glare for allowing Hope to be part of the discussion this time, as if he only noticed her presence at that moment when she challenged him. Mom pushed back a little but with a motherly softness, and he relented in their silent debate.
They spent nearly four hours educating us all on the difference between being subordinate and inferior. They did not stop until we demonstrated, honestly or not, our content and understanding of our helpmeet statuses.
The next week we learned about the three different types of men and how God created them strongly as themselves, to be planted in their type. Women, however, were made to be flexible, to adapt to be the best helper to whatever type God gave them as a husband.
For an example on this from our reading, “A Command Man,” one of the three types, “who has gone bad is likely to be abusive. It is important to remember that much of how a Command Man reacts depends on his wife’s reverence toward him. When a Command Man (lost or saved) is treated with honor and reverence, a good help meet will find that her man will be wonderfully protective and supportive. In most marriages, the strife is not because the man is cruel or evil; it is because he expects obedience, honor, and reverence, and is not getting it. Thus, he reacts badly. When a wife plays her part as a help meet, the Command Men will respond differently.”
In that lesson, we were taught that a man’s actions are the responsibility of the wife. (Present Day Kayla says – ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! VICTIM BLAMING MUCH?!)
Mom used anecdotes from her own life and marriage to help us understand. She believed God gave her a “Command Man” husband, so when she married him and learned his ways, she learned how to adapt her own habits and reactions and underwent adoring and worshipping him. This made him his best and therefore brought them both closer to each other and to God.
It was a lot to sort out. In just a few months I was going to be married and have this same weight of responsibility, for a man I’d never even met. I didn’t know which of the three types he was, so I studied each of them thoroughly and mentally practiced and prepared to be the perfect helpmeet to all three. I remember reading how it’s the wife’s responsibility to pray for her husband daily. The author told us about her way of remembering to keep him in her constant prayers. She said every time she sees a red light, she prays for her husband. For many years and in many churches and youth groups, as young as twelve years old, I’d been encouraged to start praying for my future husband, despite not knowing who he would be; I had never made it a regular part of my day though. Since I couldn’t drive yet, I decided to start praying for Jerry, my future husband, every time I brushed my teeth. I figured twice a day was a good place to start.
Staring at my blank face in the somewhat blurred and speckled mirror, I implored with my mind to think positive thoughts about him, but all I could hear was the sound of the water pouring from the faucet. I clutched my green toothbrush tighter and tried again. The thudding in my chest intensified as I raised my head towards the ceiling and cried out to God, “God, I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.” The fear leaked out of the corner of my eyes and down the length of my nose as I dropped my head towards the sink. “I don’t know him or what he needs, but I guess you do so, please, give him that.” It felt forced; I felt insincere.
Though I considered it several times more, I never prayed for him while brushing my teeth again. I did, however, pray that I would be a good wife when the time came. When trepidation tiptoed into the darkest corners of my mind late at night, I’d lie in bed and plead with God to change me, to turn me inside out, upside down, to make me malleable and brand new in his image. I asked him to turn me into the woman I needed to be, whomever that was, the woman who could be this stranger’s perfect wife.