I’ve started and stopped writing my response about 17 times now.
I have gathered all of my points, all of my ammunition, all of my proof-texts and interpretations.
I was ready to lay it down, friends.
Now, my heart isn’t there, no longer feeling up to a position paper on women and working and homes.
So to finish this off, I’ll just say what I think. And let you say what you think. And hope that there’s grace enough for all of us to just let each other go, to give each other love and support no matter what our decisions.
I am a keeper of my home.
I live in a growing relationship with Abba, deeply committed to Jesus and the life that I have found in Him. I also wildly love my husband and our two still-small tinies. I am also me which means that I need to have time to myself, time to write, time to read.
Those things are not at odds. As I’ve prayed and contemplated about how to wind up this discussion, this is where I’ve wound up. It’s not that deep or profound. Nor is it educated. But here’s how I look at it.
I believe in the authority of Scripture. But from Scripture, I don’t think that you can make the case stick that women are supposed to stay home exclusively to look after the cleaning and cooking and educating and raising of children. Whether you point to Proverbs 31 or Titus 2, being keeper of the home seems to encompass a lot of seasons in a woman’s life. The concept of family was different and the context for our times needs to be taken into account. There are seasons in a woman’s life and in a family’s life and there is also a lot of room for interpretation based on context, culture and circumstances. As Ed Cyzewski pointed out in his comment, we run the risk of making the Bible a dead law book when we treat it as nothing but rules.
I believe that when people espouse the values of a mother or wife exclusively being a homemaker, they are longing for a perceived simpler and easier time as opposed to truth, elevating a nostalgic look at motherhood from the standpoint of the post-war American dream of the white, upper-middle-class rather than Scripture.
Work is a gift from God. I think there is a true theology of work, of joining with our God to bring beauty and order, food and life to the world around us. There is vocation, there is work and, when you’re truly blessed, it’s a ministry to do both.
Even beyond the financial need of work, there are many women who simply love their work. To them, it is not a job, it is a calling, a vocation, worthy of as much honour as any, in my opinion. Some women view their family as their primary vocation even while working. Others are home full time but don’t feel passionate or connected to it. There are so many different experiences, different backgrounds, different circumstances that it is impossible – and misses the point – to lay down a one-size-fits-all order.
Personally, I did choose to leave full time work when I had my second child. It was hard for me to go back to work after Anne was born even with a full year of maternity leave. I longed to be home with her. Since Joseph was born, Brian and I have made sacrifices to ensure that I am primarily home with them.There have been seasons when Brian has been full-time at home with the tinies while I worked and vice versa. Now he works full-time, I work part time (2 days a week) and it works for us – all of us. We share household chores and responsibilities.
I believe we have the heart of a servant for each other but not one of us treats each other like we are a servant or has that expectation.
The continual doing of household chores does not a keeper of the home make.
Even when lucrative jobs loom, we choose to live on less, to be home more, to not vacation, to not have the latest gadgets or a flat-screen TV or a new car with windows that work (sore point in the summer, you see). Our needs are met but there is no extra for savings. And that’s stressful. If I’m being honest, I’ll tell you it sucks sometimes because I know that I could go back to work full time and a lot of our financial stress would be resolved.
But I don’t. Not because I’m super-spiritual. Not because my husband has some macho need to be the “bread winner.” Not because I don’t have dreams and goals for myself. Not even because I believe it’s mandated in Scripture for me to be home. I do it because this is what’s right for us all. It’s not just me anymore, it’s not just Brian anymore, it’s not even just me and Brian anymore. It’s also Anne and Joseph. And I see how my tinies crave routine and stability, being home, being attached and a quieter life.
Someday, that might not be the case. I might go back to work full time. I might take more time to write (maybe someday finish that book I’ve been working on for years now). We might move, we might travel, we might do a lot of things.
I believe in a simpler way of life. I do think it’s important for kids to be home with a parent. I do think it’s important to be present, to reconnect our families, to have supper together, to play outside, to find joy in our homes, even to rediscover working with our hands and finding joy in creating.
But just because I think that, just because I have chosen to live my life this way doesn’t mean that it applies to everyone as a rule from God. I am incredibly thankful for the women that work full time in careers as varied as librarians, medical doctors, teachers, engineers, writers, and so on. And the truth is, that those women? They are also keepers of their home. The way that is accomplished might look different but she keeps her home.
I believe in freedom. True, real, tangible freedom. In some ways, the law, black-and-white thinking are easier. It’s easy to put each other in a box or make a little rule book for ourselves about what Good Christian Women Do and Look Like and then even sub boxes below that about Schooling and Discipline and Food and so on. We pile baggage and guilt and expectations on each other that God does not.
Are we afraid of freedom? Are we afraid of bearing the responsibility of living a life loved, living a life connected to the vine, seeking him first rather than our rules or our expectations?
As I wrote before, so then it does come down to this: are you open to Jesus? Are you open, in your heart of hearts, to having him speak into your life? That is not something to be lightly or playfully dismissed in my opinion. Either you know him and his voice or not. For some people that might mean working. For others, it might mean being home full time.
But ultimately, if we believe that Christianity is about a relationship, not a religion, than we have to give credence to people hearing the voice of God and following it for themselves.
Do you believe that God speaks to hearts today? Do you believe that you can be actively lead? If so, then encourage women to seek God on these things for themselves. And don’t assume that because you’ve heard from God for your own life that it means it’s a Rule for All Women to Follow.
To me, being a keeper of the home means that we hold our family’s hearts. It means that we love each other, deeply. We care for each other, body and soul. It’s everything from the practical to the spiritual (which are sometimes quite close together, as I’ve discovered). It’s in the sacred and the mundane. The work we do at home – mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles – matters.
It is gracious and true to give dignity to each other, to love each other through the mundane details of a life. This is not exclusive to mothers or to women. But it is vital to the kingdom of God.
I keep my home. Not because my washrooms sparkle so incredibly well. But because I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and then, out of that overflow of love that He has first given me, I am able to love well, to serve well, to seek their best. It’s not about hours logged. It’s not about chores. It’s not about roles.
It’s about love.
Oh, the love.
Now there is some freedom.