3.17.2010

As the guitar serenades...

Soothed by the strumming of serenity saturated strings, I sit in silence, seemingly sullen in my speculative state. Much is on my mind tonight, and it seems to be brimming over at the edges, full to capacity. Maybe someone should slap the "overweight" sticker on my forehead, because there is nothing more that could possibly be crammed into that tiny space.

This afternoon I spent in quiet solitude, reading a book my dear friend Ruth-Ann gave me for my birthday. The title and some of the content is highly disagreeable in many circles, to the point that I myself have shouted out loud at the page in hopes the auther will understand that life simply isn't like that. It is called Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski. Yet another reason I am frustrated. It is written by a man. How could he possibly know what it means to be a godly woman? However, he lays his arguments out strategically, analytically(his manly roots show), and yet biblically (although skewed in some parts, I find). Three chapters in, I disagreed so much I put the book away for two months. Last night, a rare inclination to read found me immersed in the pages once more, wading through thoughts about God's design for women, the lies we believe, examples from women in both the Old and New Testaments, and our roles as wives and mothers. Nine chapters later, I am stunned, surprised, and shall I say, speechless. I believe my worldview is changing. By jove, I think I've got it! I will have to think some more on these things. However, his basic premise is that women are not fulfilling their God-ordained mandate to be godly women, loving, engaged wives, and mothers of greatness. He unpacks Biblical scriptures that show how women need to step up to the plate and accept their roles as women of influence. One of his arguments I am struggling with is this: women cannot be full time mothers and work at an outside job. It simply cannot be done. He has made exceptions for women who are, unfortunately, single mothers being both the "breadwinner" and "helpmeet" (both his terms). It is not for lack of understanding that I struggle with this concept. It is this- I have always wanted to have some sort of career, some way of serving God with the talents he has given me. One of my professors at school has also stressed this many times, that I need to tap into those gifts. How I want to! And yet, I also want to be a wife and mother, a woman who can love and serve alongside my husband as we serve God together, and a mother who will train her children up in the ways of God and love them wholeheartedly. I see Chanski's point- how can I have a full time career and be a mother? I cannot. I will not be the best woman I can be to my husband-I will not be the best mother I can be to my children. They need someone who is present for them and someone who is keeping everything running smoothly. I will not be fulfilling my womanly mandate. And this is where I struggle. Whereas at the beginning I balked at some of his ideas, I am starting to understand his point.

There was a time, when I was in highschool, before I became mature, that I never wanted to get married. Well, I did (I mean, what young girl doesn't want to?!). Yet, I wanted to do things. I wanted to get out there. I wanted to do my career. My agenda. What I wanted to do. It was all about me. I was purely selfish.

Now, as I am dating a fabulous, God-fearing man who wants to serve my God just as I do, my thoughts are changing. I know that we will need to agree on what we do, where we go, and prayerfully consider where God is leading us in this journey. It's not all about me. It will be about us and God. I told him only a few months ago that I would die if I had to be a stay-at-home mom and not use the gifts God gave to me. I told him I wasn't like other girls out there, like my sister, whose goal has been all their lives to be a wife and mother.

And yet, after reading this book, my eyes have been opened up to the necessity of being a holistic wife and mother. Of being someone who is present in all activities, or, as Chanski refers to her as "the hub of the home". It makes perfect sense.

I'm not saying that I am throwing my ideals and goals out the window so I can become a perfectly happy "stay-at-home" wife and mom when it comes the time. I've got a long ways to go yet. However, my eyes have been opened to the realization that if God is leading me on this trajectory, with all his plans for my future laid out before Him, and if He was the one who gave me these gifts and talents, would He not incorporate them into my life somehow? Would He not allow me to, perhaps, teach ESL from my home, or allow me to minister to other mothers (from other cultures, ethnicities, languages) over a cup of tea as our children play together? Is He not the One who planned out my days and knows every hair on my head?

What reason have I to worry, to fret, and to let other people's expectations of me (including myself) dictate my life? God is the Author of my days, and I must continually strive to live a godly and holy life as a single woman now, and to be content with the lessons that He is teaching me now. If it is in His Will that I should get married, and one day have children, then I will need to learn how to be a godly wife and mother, and be content with whatever position He has in store for me.

I feel like I have been let in on a huge secret, one that could transform my very worldview. God is so good in His blessings to us. He teaches us things, and stretches us in ways we may never imagine or dream.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or would like to start a mini debate over this issue. I am ready for it. I know it is highly controversial in this society, and so I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Love,
Ashleigh

3 comments:

Kait said...

Hey Ash,

You're the first person I've met who has also read that book by Chanski! I read it soon after Phil and I got married. I can relate to your story completely. I am also still figuring all of this out - how my gifts and dreams are to work within my new marriage and a family someday. It certainly is a journey! Thankfully we have a loving God to guide us and who is patient with us - and men who love God by our side!

One thing I can say is that investing in my marriage as I would in any other job or ministry has so far been the most fulfilling experience of my life. I am still in ministry outside the home, but so far it is ministry to my husband - even in the so-called mundane things - that has brought the deepest fulfillment. I personally have found it humbling and beautiful work. Our culture preaches that achievement outside the home is something that women should aspire to and fight for, but while I don't throw that out the window, I definitely think we've lost sight of the awesome fulfillment of building a home - making our house a haven, building a marriage overflowing with biblical love, and a devotion of ourselves to the investment in our own children's lives. I've always known God has called me to ministry. I used to think that meant I'd be across the world, single, and teaching women or children; but I've come to see my ministry is now first and foremost (although not necessarily exclusively) my husband, and our kids if God chooses to bless us with them. He will likely bring me many other opportunities as well, but that is my focal point. All we can ever do is be obedient and faithful with what God leads us to be responsible for - with little or with much. To be content with His will for us.

This is super long - sorry! I am done now. My main point - I like your thoughts and I'm learning and working through some of this stuff too. :)

Ashleigh said...

Hey Kait,

Thank you so much for leaving a comment in response to this. It was good to hear from a married woman's experience. I like how you said that "all we can ever do is be obedient and faithful with what God leads us to be responsible for". It gives me a sense of freedom and ease to remember that it is God's will that I will be doing, not my own. I think you have a very holistic outlook in marriage, in terms of your ministry to Phil and making your home a "haven". You're right, people have lost sight of that, and I think Chanski could have stopped simply reminding us to remember to invest in family, rather than making it so legalistic. However, like you said, we're all working through it :)

Thanks again for your response!

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