An 18-year-old sat in my freshman orientation class. She had wavy, light brown hair, stood about 5 feet tall, and wore her clothing in a pretty, but not flashy, conservative style. Her classmates were taking turns with introductions, talking about where they were from, why they came to Bible college, and where they saw God leading them in the future.
Stephanie was agitated. I noticed she kept staring down at her desk, and that her socially-responsible Tom’s clad foot was wiggling back and forth. When it was her turn to speak, she looked up but cast her eyes down.
“I’m not really called to anything,” she said quietly, shrugging her shoulders. “I just want to be a mom and a wife. Nothing else.”
The group responded positively encouraging Stephanie that her vocation as wife and mother were appropriate and God-honoring. A few of the guys cast her admiring and speculative glances, wondering if perhaps they had just found the perfect wife to complement their pastoral calling.
But, as a wife and mother myself, I was troubled by her answer.
It is true. In one sense, I feel "called" to be a wife. I believe God was instrumental in my decision to marry my husband. Many of our early dates were filled with long, sometimes angsty talks about what we believed and whether or not our views of God and faith were compatible. I feel that God keeps me married. My commitment to Him and to my husband are deeply intertwined. With both, I am called to give of myself, to be more compassionate, to love more fully.
I also feel that motherhood is a deeply holy, God-honoring job. My daughter is one of the best gifts God has ever given me. I feel deeply and sacrificially nurturing to her. Each day she teaches me. I want to model Jesus to her in my conversations and actions, and help her grow to become a woman of God.
Saying I do not feel “called” to my wifely duties probably sounds like a betrayal of my womanhood and an insult to stay-at-home moms. But I don’t mean it that way. I don’t want to send that message. I completely understand how exhausting and also fulfilling full-time mothering (and wife-ing) can be.
Yet, if our entire personal ambition is centered around these relationships (potential or actual), where does it leave us when those relationships no longer exist?
My mom was and is a dedicated and godly wife. Yet, when my dad died and left her alone at age 60, did that mean her calling had ended since she was no longer his“wife”? One of my friends focused her entire life on mothering her children. So when her children moved away, she felt discouraged and even betrayed. What would she do with herself now that her identity as a “mother” was stripped away? Who was she?
I believe God has gifted us to be wives and mothers. Yet, it is not our identity and it should never be seen as the full description of our self worth.
I also do not think we should relegate our sense of worth to our job or vocation. Say you feel “called” to be a lawyer, and then end up being fired or disbarred. Did you misplace your “calling”? Did God misinform you? What about if you train for missionary service and then find no sending agency or fail to raise support? Did you betray your true calling?
Deep within this issue is a misunderstanding of the ideas of calling and identity, ambition and self-worth.
For women, where you are led to serve God may vary dramatically throughout your life time. For many women, their lives are comprised of distinctly different stages. For a time, we are all single. Then, for some, we shift our focus to marriage and perhaps to creating a home. Others may invest themselves wholeheartedly into furthering their career. Still others are absorbed in caring for babies or for an elderly parent. Each time of a woman’s life can look dramatically different. Yet, during each stage, your identity in Christ is not negated, your ambition is not lost. Through each various stage of life, we can keep developing and growing in our God-granted giftedness.
To the 18-year-old who sat in my class, I wanted to shake her shoulders, stare deeply into her eyes and say, “It is wonderful if God blesses you as a wife and mom, but you are so much more.”
Who has God called you to be? What are your gifts that extend beyond the labels of “wife” and “mother”? Are you a giver? A nurturer? A communicator? A visionary? Do you love deeply? Heal wounds? Care for the wounded? Ask hard questions?
God has indeed called each of us and gifted us in unique ways. Our purpose as women surpasses our sometimes temporal roles as mother, daughter, wife, teacher, lawyer, or chef.
We are women of unfathomable riches –daughters of the King who is gifted beyond measure and has much to give.
Refuse to settle for anything less, for finding your value in Christ alone will add meaning and satisfaction to every other role.
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For further reading - As I was completing my blog, I read this other excellent article on a very similar topic in Christianity Today's Hermeneutics! Enjoy: My Kid Is Not My Calling by Sharon Hodde Miller.