Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Challenge That Made Me Feel Alive

There's a group of women with whom I'm reading and discussing A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  Last week's chapter was "Domesticity", and in it, Rachel Held Evans included this:
"Dorothy Patterson, in chapter 22 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, concludes...that 'keeping the home is God's assignment to the wife--even down to changing the sheets, doing the laundry, and scrubbing the floor.'  Ambitions that might lead a woman to work outside the home, says Patterson, constitute the kind of 'evil desires' that lead directly to sin.  Debi Pearl, author of Created to Be His Help Meet, wrote, 'A young mother's place is in the home, keeping it, guarding it, watching over those entrusted to her. To do otherwise will surely cause the Word of God to be blasphemed.  Even if you could disobey God and it not produce visible ill consequences, it would only prove that God is long-suffering...but the judgment will assuredly come." (pp 23-24).
I love to cook, and I enjoy having the flexibility that comes with staying home with my children, but I also really, really dislike housework (especially vacuuming).  I get frustrated when something gets messed up right after I've cleaned it, and I do not understand why little boys are not better with aim in the bathroom.  Is it really that hard?

But I do my best to straighten up and clean and do laundry (but not vacuum) on a regular basis, even though I find it tedious and somewhat life-sucking.  It's the same monotonous activity that gets done over and over and over.

It does not make me feel alive.  And I wonder, do these authors and those who are proponents of this, also feel alive when they follow these rules?  What would they recommend to women who need something else, who hear God calling them to do something different?  Is there anything that they would encourage women to do that is not housekeeping, even if it is on a part-time or every-once-in-a-while basis?  Are women allowed to explore new interests?  

A behind-the-scenes photo from the shoot.
I ask this, because I know that I am more than "just a homemaker".  I write, I lead discussion groups, I volunteer, I teach Sunday School classes, and then this weekend I did something else.  I spent Saturday feeling exhausted and slightly sore, because, the day before, I had been gone from home for ten straight hours and had done some light running and weight-lifting (neither of which I EVER do on a regular basis) as part of participating in The Prairie Grass Film Challenge (a 48-hour challenge).  A friend's husband had asked me a couple of days prior if I was interested, and I thought, "sure, I'll give it a shot".  I had a blast.  It was fun to brainstorm ideas on Thursday after we received the requirements for the film, and as tiring as Friday was, it was fun to act and get to know the others working on the film too, as well as seeing how it all comes together in the end.

I felt alive.

Later in the "Domesticity" chapter, Rachel wrote about Brother Lawrence, saying that for him, "God's presence permeated everything--from the pots and pans in the kitchen sink to the water and soap that washed them.  Every act of faithfulness in these small tasks communicated his love for God and desire to live in perpetual worship" (page 29).

Maybe I'm just not spiritually mature enough, but I don't experience this and I never have.  I need outside opportunities to breathe life into me and let me know that I do have other interests and abilities.  And maybe there are women who are perfectly happy and always feel alive taking care of their home and children.  But I don't.  And when the homemaking is broken up by being able to do these other activities that make me feel alive, I often end up feeling more energetic and less resentful about the homemaking stuff that I am obligated to do.  

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he writes:  

"I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:1).

He doesn't explain that men and women are supposed to do this differently, with women only leading a life worthy of a calling in the home, but rather, that we all are to do this "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" because, as he says, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,   one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:2-7).  

We are all called in different ways, we all have different ways of coming alive.  Perhaps, then we can all offer each other a little bit of grace and understanding when someone else comes alive in a different way.

And I encourage you all to find those ways that make you come alive.

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