This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week: One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.
In yesterday's post, I wrote about the book I am currently reading, How I Changed my Mind About Women in Leadership, edited by Alan F. Johnson. I quoted from a few of the authors, but today I want to concentrate on the story of one couple, Bill and Lynne Hybels. While I have enjoyed reading about these journeys, none of them touched me the way that Lynne Hybels' story did.
Lynne's story is that of reluctant leadership, as she said that she "had never wanted to lead or teach" and was "happy to give up a career in social work to become a pastor's wife" (page 110).
While I have always believed women can be leaders, I never really thought of myself as one. I am an oldest child so of course I am bossy, but in certain situations, I tend to sit back and not say what I thought so as not to cause dissent or controversy. The first time I taught a high school Sunday school class, I was terrified. But more and more opportunities came my way over the years, whether it was teaching Sunday school, leading Bible studies, or speaking in chapel, and I grew to love doing them--but I still never really considered myself a leader. Leadership was something my husband was interested in; he read books about it, he listened to and thought about what great sports leaders had to say, he put these things into practice in his career.
I thought it was boring. And when my pastor/boss had me attend a leadership conference via simulcast, I still thought it was boring--and not for me. Even though I was taking seminary classes, I still did not see myself as a leader. And when he gave me a book on leadership, I still thought it was boring...but not as much this time.
Then we moved, and I took a part-time secretarial type job at the same college where my husband was working. The woman I worked for was energetic and outgoing; she was the type of woman I could see as a leader. As an introvert, I didn't see myself being able to be the type of leader that she was. It was also during this time that I had my first opportunity to speak in a chapel service. I was terrified, but when I was done, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed it.
But then I had my first son and became a full-time stay-at-home-mom. This was what my husband and I had always decided that we would do (and, frankly, I was really tired of secretarial work!). We have moved multiple times for his career and I do not regret any of that, and some fantastic opportunities have come my way through this method of living life. I have always wanted to be a supportive wife, and even though I grumble at times, I love being home with my kids. I am not interested in paying anyone else to raise them (and please, let's not get any mommy wars going; I support women who choose to work full time as well; it is not up to me to tell anyone else how to run her life!) because I want to be the one who is there for them the majority of the time.
After a while, though, the mommy gig got to be kind of boring. As much as I loved being with my son, I felt a little stifled. Plus, I stink at housework and being home all the time just reminded me about that. I joined a local MOPS group to get to know other moms and the refrain I heard over and over again was that MOPS was the best time of the month for these women because they got have conversations with grown-ups (even if we were talking about our children!). I agreed that it was great to get out of the house and have my son in the nursery for a couple of hours. It still wasn't enough for me, though, and I then joined the Steering Team as Publicity Coordinator. I was able to use my writing skills and interest in publication design to create our monthly newsletters, and I loved it. I was doing something that I was good at outside of being a wife and a mother.
In Lynne Hybels' story, she wrote that her life "became focused on household chores, secretarial tasks, administrative details, and entertaining. For some women, that would have been a dream life. But I increasingly found myself hating life. And I really didn't know why. I concluded that I was just a selfish, demanding person who was not willing to do what God had asked me to do." (page 110).
I think Lynne read my mind.
She also wrote, "I gradually slid into believing that my life couldn't possibly matter as much as [Bill's] did. What was important was to keep Bill going, to make his life manageable, and to facilitate his ministry. Bill didn't ask for that, but it's what I perceived as right." (page 111)
Read my mind again, didn't you, Lynne?
She goes on to say "I want to clarify something here. It wasn't that I wanted a full-time career or ministry outside the home. I celebrate women who are able to do that, but with Bill's work and travel schedule, even in a best-case scenario, that wouldn't have been realistic for us--and that was truly okay with me. However, I couldn't shake the longing I had to discover and use my true gifts in some way." (page 111).
I think Lynne and I must be some sort of psychic twins.
When my son was around 2 years old, I was able to go back to work a few hours per week in a volunteer capacity at the same college where I'd previously worked, only this time, in the campus ministry department. Around this time, I also became pregnant with my second son and planned to stop volunteering shortly before he was due to be born. For reasons that would take too long to explain, when my second son was about 7 months old, I ended up back in my volunteer job, only this time it was a paid position. I was paid to work 10 hours per week, so I went in to the office 2-3 mornings per week to plan and lead chapel services (among other things) while my older son was at preschool and I had a babysitter for my younger son.
I loved this. I was discovering and using my gifts and I felt alive.
Even though I now have experience being in a leadership position, I still hesitate to call myself a leader (don't ask me why; maybe I need to see a psychiatrist or something) even though I obviously have been one! It is not because of my gender; I don't think being a woman means one cannot be a leader. Even moms who are content and happy staying at home are leaders in their homes.
But if you are not content with what you are doing--whatever it may be--understand what Lynne Hybels came to understand. There may be so much more out there for you to accomplish. Seek God and his calling upon your life to use the gifts that He has given you. Lynne writes that she "didn't value what [she] had to offer enough to actually offer it" (page 113). Don't let that be you. You are valuable. You are worthy. You are LOVED by your Creator. Be all that He has created you to be.
You can do all things through him who strengthens you. --Philippians 4:13 (slightly paraphrased)