Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Virtuous, by Nancy Wilson

Every now and again I pull up the Canon Press online catalog and see what's new. It had been awhile since I had done so and I noted two new titles by Nancy Wilson, wife of Douglas. One was on the subject of being a grandmother and the other was entitled Virtuous: A Study for Ladies of Every Age. While I'm certainly curious about what she has to say about being a grandmother, I figured Virtuous was likely a more suitable read for me now so I picked up a copy.

It arrived just about a week or so ago and I got to it rather promptly. On the heels of The Pursuit of Holiness (linked to review) I kinda wanted to just stay in the word and keep learning. I dove on into Virtuous and quickly discovered that Mrs. Wilson wrote this book with the idea of it being used in a small group study setting. Thus the chapters are very, very short and each is followed with a series of questions for contemplation and discussion. There is absolutely not a thing wrong with this format, but my friends and regular blog readers will know that this sort of book is typically "not for me." I tend to avoid devotional type books, or short studies. I couldn't really tell you why except that I just tend not to like them. When I pick up a book, I want to read a good chunk of the author's thoughts and arguments and devotional/study books feel short and stumpy to me. Again, it's a personal preference thing and no reflection on the author.

Personal preferences aside, I figured since I purchased the book I better go on and read it. As it is meant to be tasted in chunks, it made for an easy, breezy read. I split the book up into two "sittings" and it took me about 40 minutes each day to read through it. It's very brief but, nevertheless, it packs a punch.

Virtuous is a quick look at character traits which scriptures spell out as relating to the virtuous woman. For those who want to complain that the Bible isn't written just for women and that men aren't called to any lesser Biblical standard I say to you: peace, be still. At several points in the book Wilson likens some of the traits she is discussing with traits which are also to be exemplified in our male counterparts. However, this book wasn't written for a couple's study but for a women's study so go with the flow already please. Thank you.

Mrs. Wilson first begins by defining what she means in using the word 'virtuous'. "A virtuous woman," says she, "is a woman who exhibits godly character traits." She further explains that "virtue is about ethical behavior, and it's about our character." She by no means presents an exhaustive list of ethical considerations and biblical character traits and she freely admits this fact. Her goal is only to get the ball rolling to help women begin to think through what it means to be virtuous. Some of the topics she hits on include, but are not limited to: diligence, cheerfulness, wisdom, courage, kindness, loyalty, modesty and gratitude. Each chapter is roughly 4-5 pages long and there are about 5-6 questions to use as thought provoking follow-up.

Admittedly I read through this with a bare amount of interest because I was hoping for a deeper look at the topics and I just felt like I was bouncing around. I have to clarify yet again though that this was my fault for not checking into the format of the book and realizing it was meant to be used as a study. I think as a study it would probably produce some interesting conversation because Wilson doesn't mince or waste the words she chooses to use. She gets straight to the point with her readers and, in true Wilson fashion, (if you are familiar with the Wilson family), this can make people squirm. (I, on the other hand, tend to love it.)

I paid most attention to the chapter on kindness because that's a topic of huge interest to me these days. Why? 'Cause Life. So much unkindness surrounds us all of our days and it's frequently hard to know how to be kind to others who just don't seem to want to be kind back! Following on the heels of my Bridges read, and thinking about the fact that I am not more righteous than God and therefore should not hold myself out as being more worthy of being offended when someone sins against me, (or I against them!), the chapter on kindness was a useful tool. It especially is helpful if you've come to realize and understand that all throughout your whole life you will go around being unkind to others and having them treat you unkindly in return! We're sinners all and it takes a great deal of effort to be kind. (I used to envy people to whom kindness seemed to come naturally. Then I got to know those people better and realized that, no, they weren't anything exceptionally special. They struggle with it just as much as I did and do....just in different ways! Pedestals smashed for the good of all!)

I made a few notes, including scriptures that Mrs. Wilson quoted from (Romans 5:8; Luke 6:35-36; and Matthew 5:45b). It's good to have verses in your "back pocket" sometimes for helping you to steady on. I appreciated the fact that she reminds us that it is only by and through the love of God that we have been transformed into people that He has made so that we might extend kindness to others. God doesn't leave us high and dry, demanding things of us that He will not help us to do. We must do and He will be there to give us the strength to do. Even when we don't want to be kind and/or it's not coming naturally. Mrs. Wilson also reminds the reader that we are to "put on" kindness by faith. (Colossians 3:12). Sometimes being kind takes deliberate effort and that's ok. We should not shy away from the challenge for challenges produces growth and life and holiness in Christ. Chances to grow in this area should not be avoided. (All of the time?!)  Again, it is through God's power working in us, with the help of His Holy Spirit, that He has made us to be people who are meant to show kindness. This is a good calling, although harder than it appears on its face.

Her musings on the topic of kindness - as well as the other areas of focus - weren't earth shattering but basic truth doesn't have to shatter earth all of the time. (At least, it shouldn't!) Sometimes simple reminders are exactly what you need and simple reminders are what I got out of this book. It was a good encouraging talk from an older woman to keep my eyes on the goal of knowing Christ and press on in the pursuit of holiness. Virtuous was encouragement for the journey and we all need a little of that from time to time, don't we?

Other Nancy Wilson books of note:

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