When I was a teenager I was told by high school advisors to set a career goal for myself. I had always received fairly good grades with very little effort on my part. But I hated going to school and had zero desire to attend college. I had a serious boyfriend that I intended to marry. As long as he went to college I would probably be okay I reasoned.
I remember reporting my aversion to higher education and answering personality type questions on a career evaluation form. Those supposedly wise in the ways of counseling young aspiring students shared their findings and advice based on the evaluation results. My most exciting prospect among the proposed career paths? File clerk.
I went home and told my dad I was going to be a file clerk. He laughed.
“That’s what they told you to do? That’s what you want to do? Sit in a room and file papers all day?”
Despite not rising to the standard of the extraordinary high intelligence that runs in my family, I think my dad knew that I was capable of a more intellectually challenging job.
Now I don’t have a problem with doing any job, file clerk or otherwise. There is value in faithfully carrying out one’s duties regardless of what those duties are. One of my favorite jobs when I substituted as a para-educator was filing the returned library books back onto the shelves. In a world of disorder and chaos there is something so gratifying and so peaceful about the Dewey decimal system. A place for everything and everything in its place. Maybe file clerk wasn’t far off the mark. But I digress.
Back to high school. Having been ridiculed by my father for accepting the advised career, I set about discovering who I really wanted to be and what I really wanted to do. I decided on the most worthy thing I could think of at the time. I wanted to be a stay at home mom.
My mother worked outside of the home only occasionally when I was young and after the fourth child, ceased outside work altogether. She dedicated herself to raising her children and volunteered massive amounts of hours at our church. I admired her more that anyone else I knew. To this day, I can think of no one more loving and giving.
So my answer on the fill-in-the-blank career questionnaire? “After high school I plan to be a stay at home mom.” My counselors told me that was not a career. It was a foolish plan. “How do you know you’ll even get married? How do you know your husband will make enough to support you? What will you do if you end up divorcing?”
I found it infuriating that they would diminish the value of the noble job of motherhood. I still get red in the face when people say “just” a mom. Motherhood is indeed a high calling, just as fatherhood is.
Thirty years later, I now find myself in a different corner of the discussion. Recently there’s been a tweet going around that says:
“Raise your daughters from an early age that their highest and best calling is to be a wife and a mother!”
As one who once thought of this as my only calling, I want to now say of above tweet:
While we should never minimize the importance of parenthood, it is wrong to speak of it as the “highest” calling. Jesus never said that. In fact, when faced with the request to advise Mary to return to domestic duties in the book of Luke he responded as follows:
“but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
What was Mary doing? Sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening in the position of a disciple.
A disciple learns, follows and carries out the instructions of a master. This is our highest calling whether male or female.
The wife and motherhood promoting tweeter and others of like mind use the “call” to spousal duties to support their belief that young women need not attend college. (Ironically, something I would have used in my favor 30 years ago.) They generally find common ground among those who believe women’s roles in the church are to be restricted.
However, Christ has not come to restrict us but to set us free. The Holy Spirit was not poured out to limit our function but to empower and expand our effective witness to a world needing the gospel. To advocate for women to remain uneducated, inside their homes is antithetical to the great commission!
The sin fullness of telling women what they should or should not aspire to in life is that it puts the advisor in the place of God as the one who created us for his good purposes.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
We need women’s voices in the workplace and the pulpit. We need educated men and women engaging in intelligent discussion. We need them both in political positions and in our educational systems.
To circle back around to where I started, I do think being a wife and mom is important. I did marry that high school boyfriend. We raised four children together. I was a stay at home mom for part of the time and a working mom at other times. My high school counselors were wrong.
However, motherhood becomes a limited role as years progress and I did pursue higher education later in life when I knew what I wanted to do with it.
I became a licensed pastor fifteen years ago, initially serving as a children’s pastor. Seven years ago I planted a church that I now serve as senior pastor. And I find myself in an interesting reversal of roles in this current debate.
I used to find myself arguing with those outside of the church that would scoff at the value of a wife and mom. I now find myself at odds with those inside the church that scoff at any role other than that.
When will we learn to stop telling women what they should or should not do with their lives? My path is my path, uniquely designed and directed by my Lord. Your path is yours and yours alone. Only God has the authority to define and direct the call of his creation. He is the author of the soul. He knows the script he has written for his daughter. Everyone else, back off!