So Much More: Out-of-the-Box Womanhood1:03 AM
I am perfectly convinced that husbands are the heads of their wives and that, when called, women should focus primarily on husband, home and children. I understand that the best way to do so is often to quit a job and come home full-time. I am acquainted with the reality that most women marry and bear children. And it's beautiful -- it's good -- it's natural. I get that. But after sitting in on viral blog threads, reading books on passionate homemaking and dizzying from the back and forth on stay-at-home motherhood, I finally threw in the towel. "I'm seventeen," I fumed at nobody. "I don't have a husband, won't have any children for a long time and really, the only job option is McDonald's. How on earth am I to be a woman?"
Rarely is womanhood separated from motherhood and marriage -- and I suppose I can extend charity there. The majority of women are married with children, and all the books for singles are on Contentment Before Marriage: How to Snag a Husband on the Way. Still, I see a difference between being a woman and being a mother -- one is a permanent status of gender, the other is a calling. I disagree with those who say the primary purpose of women is to marry, bear children and be homemakers: that it is, indeed, the essence of womanhood. To say a woman is anything less than a woman because she isn't a wife and mother is a slap in the face to all the pining singles, barren wives and seventeen-year-olds longing for purpose, too.
I tried the stay-at-home daughter paradigm, and I see great good in girls helping in family ministries, cultivating practical skills, desiring protection and guidance and valuing the home. But my family is busy in the business of family: my mother has enough on her hands raising nine children and whipping up lasagna; my daddy commutes to provide for his family; and needless to say, we don't have a grand ministry or a side income to fill in the 24/7 existence. It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't a homemaker just by washing dishes and making my bed, that I wasn't a mother though I loved my siblings to death, that I wasn't a helpmeet even by trying to honor my daddy and serve in the home. I don't have the skill, opportunity or attention level to do the things good stay-at-home daughters are supposed to do -- crochet doilies, film documentaries, cook gourmet and start an Etsy shop. I laugh when I hear the clueless curiosity toward mothers: "What do you do all day?" But my duty as daughter is finite: there comes a point where big sistering and cleaning bathrooms ends.
What sealed for me my decision to look elsewhere was that there was so much to be done for Jesus -- so much. So many homes and families to build up, yes, but so many other things too -- so many children starving in Africa, so many persecuted Christians in China, so many women raped and battered and trafficked in the land of the free -- and homemaking isn't the answer to all of them. I can't live with myself having the time, passion and youth to make a big difference in this world crying for Jesus and yet beating myself back into the role of second-class homemaker. If I marry and have a child pattering in my footsteps, then will I turn toward home and pour on them all the Jesus-love and mother-care I can, for at that moment, I will be assured of the beautiful, glorious calling of wife and mother.
But I'm me. And I'm here. I'm seventeen. It's not guaranteed that I will marry and that if I do, I will be blessed with children. What I do know is that I am gifted, I am revved up and I am called to serve the Lord full-hearted and single-minded.
The Bible speaks of women and men, gender roles, the home and the family, and where it does, I embrace it, knowing it to be true and good. But the Bible speaks so much more often of Jesus Christ, His Gospel and the call to minister to the weak and love the brethren. I don't see the answer as an either/or: either embrace womanhood and home or serve Jesus Christ. I grew up in a home, among stay-at-home homeschooling moms, sewing lessons and cookie exchanges. I know the power of the home. Nor do I see the answer as one and the same: serving Jesus Christ = homemaking.
Looking at the whole of Scripture, I see it as both/and -- both the beauty of womanhood and the power of the Gospel. I see the natural inclinations of women coming under the transformative power of the Gospel and reaping great spiritual fruit. Women loving husbands and children well. Women working alongside their husbands. Women following in the actual footsteps of Jesus. Women prophesying, women exhorting, women reaching out. This is womanhood: a woman surrendered to the will of Christ.
And this is in no way a feminist declaration, an individualistic attempt to wiggle out of doing the dishes. Indeed, I do not see myself as an individual at all. I see myself as part of the family of Christ as well as my immediate family. I see myself as part of a union with Christ, as well as anticipating a day where I am one with another man. I see myself as a daughter of my Heavenly Father, first and foremost, and then my earthly father.
This is the Gospel paradigm -- one of freedom, one of passionate purpose that uses the circumstance, gifts and gender of the individual to impact the world at large. I believe this is why the Lord gave no command to the unmarried (1 Cor. 7:25) and why Paul urged everyone to remain as he came -- circumcised, single, slave, uncircumcised, married, free (1 Cor. 7:17-24). Everything about us must come under this all-consuming goal: the Gospel.
What then is a single woman to do? Leave home? Get a job? In short, the answer is this: to serve the Lord. Nebulous sounding, yes, especially to those of us who aren't used to leaning on the Spirit's guidance. But it will be clear. His call will prevail. It will be fulfilling and probably not anything we ever dreamed. Perhaps in the home, working alongside one's parents. Perhaps at a job. Perhaps in paid ministry. Perhaps in the creative, never-before-heard-of way the Lord leads you to. The ways to serve Jesus are as myriad and worthy as the needs out there.
This I know: I am a woman, He is God and the call is to follow Him. It isn't safe or comfortable or even, at times, traditional. But it's right where I know I ought to be.