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In which I am the keeper of my home

After my initial post about The Nines being demonstrative of the lack of respect female leaders receive in the evangelical church and then the working mother discussion, I asked you how you interpreted being “keeper of the home” as written in Scripture. Your comments are incredible – such wisdom, such grace, such interesting discussion.  I feel like you’ve said it all, so well.

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.

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journey, scripture, women, work

13 Responses to In which I am the keeper of my home

  1. Adelle July 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    Where I live, MOST moms work outside the home. It's actually rare to find moms that stay home full time anymore. It has never been part of God's plan for me or my family to stay home full time. Part time, at times, yes. I have dealt with such censure, such guilt, that i can't even describe the angst I carry over the issue. But God has provided for my family in wondrous ways – with a private school that loves and nurtures as well as educates my kids. A job that enables me to send them there. And tons of support and encouragement from a specatcular church family.

    I spend a lot of time on this topic on my blog – I hope you'll stop by and see what I wrote about YOU tomorrow! xo

  2. Jill July 12, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    Sarah, Thank you for your lovely post. Not only in this discussion, but in so many places in our lives, I long for us to extend to one another the grace you speak of. There are so many topics upon which I find myself saying, "What if we could find it in ourselves to allow each to listen to God and to follow?" Thank you.

  3. Andrea July 12, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    This post is so graceful, so gracious, so all-encompassingly loving. The feeling of safe welcome you have generated with this piece is something that, sadly, one doesn't see a lot of in many quarters when this topic is raised; thank you.

  4. Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) July 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    I don't work outside of the home anymore because it doesn't feel right for me to do so in my heart. I left a very well-paying job and it has been incredibly difficult to manage the day-to-day on one income. And still I don't return to work. I do it for my kids, for their well-being, and not based on a book or anyone else's thoughts. I respect that everyone has to make their own decision in regards to working in or out of the home and to me, that decision doesn't diminish whether they "keep their home" or not. You're right. It's about love.

  5. Erin July 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    This is really well put, Sarah. Freedom is such a big point. We feel uncomfortable, thinking that someone might make a very wrong decision, so we give extra rules, so they stay "on target". But, without the heart of love for Jesus & family, it's not going to really matter "how many hours you log", as you say. That's not the crux of the issue.
    Thanks for writing this!
    (Have you read Leslie Leyland Fields "Parenting is your Highest Calling & 8 other myths that trap us in guilt & worry"? My favorite recent read.)

  6. suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter July 12, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    i love your point about a theology of work. we are made in God's image to be creative, and that will not mean crafts for every mom.

    grace and peace

  7. pippasmum July 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    I love this post. I have struggled a bit with what it means to be a wife and mother in terms of the fact that I do work outside the home (I do have times when I do feel very guilty and somehow lesser than others). For our family, at this point, my working outside the home is what is best for all of us. I don't believe that it makes me less of a mother or that I don't have my family as my largest priority, it's just what works best for us right now (well, not exactly, I am on mat leave right now and will be off until next April – hooray) and it also takes some pressure off my husband, who would find it really hard to make enough to support the entire family AND follow the path he feels that God has planned for him. I find that opinions are so polarized on this issue and you have managed to treat it with such sensitivity. It's nice to read a position that shows respect for my talents and contributions and that doesn't immediately dictate what I should be doing, regardless of what my family needs right now. Thank you!

  8. Anne July 13, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    Wow. Thank you. New to reading your blog and thoroughly enjoying it.

    I went back to work recently after mat leave was up and it was heart-wrenching. It wasn't just hard to leave my tiny, it was also hard not to feel I was the true keeper of our home. Funny how God placed that desire in my heart – not to clean the bathroom but to make our home a place of peace for our family.

  9. TheMaskedSparrow July 13, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    Thanks, I have whizzed through this post and will come back and read in more detail later.

    I used to believe it was the women's place at home and working women were wrong. I have changed my position. I firmly believe that whatever a women does it must be for the best of the family as a whole. Lets face it lots of 'home-making' stuff can mean a mum is distracted from her children. I have worked and gave it up because it wasn't the right balance. I have recently gone through our finances and I will probably have to look for a job in order to help them out. I will pray that a job comes that will enhance my family in terms of finance but not deplete it in terms of my time and energy.

    Thanks.

  10. Walking to China July 13, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    Amen and amen!
    Our children become who they are in part because of who we are. A rich family life, two parents committed to Christ, family, ministry, work, art, books, music…what a rich heritage to pass on to our children.

  11. Jan July 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    You said it well! It is about the love!

  12. jill rosalie July 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    Ah, you said it so perfectly! I echo the Amens!

  13. Karen Johnson July 14, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    another well written post, Sarah. You always speak with such love.

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