For so long I had felt incredibly confident in my stance on women in the home and workplace. I know, I know. You’re probably ready to bounce off this page as who hasn’t heard every argument in the book when it comes to the Mommy wars. I totally get it. You know what though? The other day I had a bit of an epiphany on this front: What if all the debate on the topic of work and domesticity is actually healthy? Sure, we can go down rabbit trails that are unhelpful. Yet lets be fair to ourselves…we’re talking about the meat of life here. Our callings to the people we love and the world outside of our households. Shouldn’t we allow ourselves a bit of debate on such important topics? Yes, I believe we should.
The funny thing is that it didn’t take long after I hit the fork in the road that suggested that I would need to contend with this debate on a personal level that I felt my confidence slipping away. You see, for some time now, I’ve felt pretty certain that there are multiple ways to build an admirable life. I have friends and family members who are full time working moms. I know others who stay at home full time with their kids from the start. I know people who mix it up in various seasons. I also know people who have chosen not to marry and/or have children at all. So many of these people are building lives and families that I admire and I glean bits and pieces from each of them as they live out their lives in front of me.
That being said, I won’t quickly forget where I was when I heard the voice in my head that said “Really? You’re changing life lanes? Are you really allowed to do that?” I was driving on Harborside Drive in Galveston in my last week at work before we packed up and moved to Atlanta. Already in my third trimester with Ellie, we had decided that I would stay home to start if only by necessity at first. We moved six weeks before she was born and there was clearly no point in finding a job only to take maternity leave almost as soon as we hit the ground. I didn’t know how I would take to staying at home full time so I reasoned that if I wasn’t built for it then I could consider getting back out there once we found our rhythm. (which by the way…do we ever really find the rhythm? No, of course we don’t. OK, just checking)
I was thinking about these issues recently as I was reading Paul’s freedom manifesto that is Galatians. There’s this verse which, again, Eugene Peterson translates so beautifully in the Message:
“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. So live creatively friends…Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 5:25-6:1, 4-5
Isn’t that just lovely to read? I love that a passage in the Bible is calling us to live creatively. This book is so much more than a book of rules to live by. Its a story of the Spirit igniting fires in the hearts of men and women to live beyond the categories we all want to put ourselves and each other into. Its saying that the mother who works a full time job and snuggles with her children on Saturday mornings, is just as valuable as the woman who encourages her neighbors at the playground down the street on a Monday afternoon. When you’re following the spirit’s leading (a key point), there can be any number of ways to live out any aspect of our lives. Its also saying that the couples without children are just as gorgeous in their spirit led careers and callings in the world as the single man or woman is in her willingness to mentor or paint or cook or account or whatever it is she does that culls out her gifting for the world to experience with her.
All this makes me want to do two things:
- Encourage, Encourage, Encourage. Can we be honest with each other? Does anyone really know what their doing with themselves? No, none of us do. We are all stumbling forward through our days and as a friend told me before Ellie was born “Whatever you decide. Its hard.” Work is hard, raising children is hard, singleness is hard, married life is hard. With all of it being so difficult in its varying ways I think we could do with a lot more encouragement and a lot less judgement of ourselves first and then other people. (A rabbit trail here but I really think our judgments of other people simply stem from our lack of confidence in our own selves. But that’s for another day). I’m so grateful that God has at least freed me up enough to be over the top proud of my friends and family members. Rest assured next time we get together for coffee…I am probably resisting the urge to bust out my pom poms and say “Get it, girl.” I really do stand amazed by the women and men in my life and I was not always that way. That is a straight up gift from God.
- Lean into the Spirit of God. The more I get to know the Lord, the more I realize that being in his presence is a lot more like taking a deep calming breath. Following his lead is lot more like watching a field of wildflowers bloom than it is striving to be or do something with all of my own might. I want to know where the spaces are that let me breathe deeply. This doesn’t mean I’m sitting in a corner all day mediating. It does mean that at some point in the day I am spending time getting quiet with God and then carrying that soul quiet into the work that I’ve been called to do.
Lets face it. Women in particular have an edge in the creativity game. We get to nurture loved ones and neighbors AND we also get to participate in the stewardship of our culture in a way that men simply don’t. This is a blessing. Yet as many before me have pointed out, if our theology or world view doesn’t work for ALL women, it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work for the woman in the African slum AND the woman in an American suburb than its never going to be open enough to include any of our paths and the myriad directions those paths can meander. My greatest prayer on behalf of the women in my life is that I might be among their greatest fans and cheerleaders. May I get quiet enough, even if its just for this moment, to hear God say the same thing back to me.
“He has brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”