Uncalled for?

Posted on September 11, 2010

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It’s honestly the terminology I hate—not the concept. Or maybe I hate both, but I just hate the terminology more.

It lacks equality for the sexes. It’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to be “called” to be a wife and mother—but a man to be “called” to be a husband and father? When exactly was the last time you heard that uttered?

When I first explained my frustration with this term “calling,” I wasn’t referring to a biblical calling. I was simply speaking out of life ambition. Is it more ambitious for a woman to go out and find something (other than family—in other words, get married and have children) to be passionate about than for a woman to “just” have a family? I guess it depends who you’re talking to. We’ve all known different people in our lives—the ambitious, the undetermined. In my particular experience, I have found myself surrounded in an environment that embellishes the life of a woman married with children. That which does not fit into that particular mold is deemed unacceptable.

When I sit and really think about life, about what I want to do with mine, it goes far beyond a household, my husband slaving away at the office while I take care of my three little children at home and clean house. Realize that I’m speaking for myself and no one else. No, if that is your dream, than I daresay, go live it! But for me? I guess that I can’t get words like “dream,” “passion,” “discovery,” and “ambition” out of my mind. I desire more beyond the kitchen table and nursery of a 2-bedroom home locked deep within the suburbs, my parents living three homes down. I imagine success and travel and excitement, fear and failure and learning and love in my future.

And I feel it necessary to offer a little more explanation—success, travel, excitement, fear, failure, learning, and love are all huge parts of being married and having kids. I understand that. My context is life that has/doesn’t have that, yet goes beyond that point.

I realize that the acceptable form in the past has been for the man to go away to work, provide for his family, etc. while the woman stays at home taking care of the home or caring for the children. Yes, this is based on a biblical set-up—but it begs the question—is this the only biblical set-up?

When I had this conversation earlier, I was told that in the Bible, the woman—the strong woman—only stood up and completed the task when the man had failed to do so. That only because of weak men must women be strong. Is this supposed to be the model for women today? Is this the only biblical picture Christ purposefully painted for as how women are to live today?

I can’t find anywhere in my Bible where that is the only option—where that is the one option, where that is the one and only acceptable option.* I think of Ruth. I think of Esther. Ruth wasn’t strong because of the failure of a man—but because of the death of a man. She was a strong woman who stayed by Naomi’s side. She traveled and lived in a place where she didn’t know anyone. She worked hard and found satisfaction in supporting her mother-in-law. She found love by taking a chance.

Esther wasn’t strong because of any man’s failure, either. She found herself in a position where she chose—not “had” to be—strong. Esther very easily could have watched as her people were condemned to death because one man didn’t like her cousin, Mordecai, or any other Jew much less.

God does not intend for women to be strong, to want something additional to their lives besides a husband and children because the failure of men their lives. God “know[s] the thoughts that I think toward you [every human being] . .  . thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you [every human being] an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Below is an excerpt from an article entitled “Christian Women and the Workplace Faith by Pete Hammond (yes, a man wrote this!). You can find the full article at http://www.urbana.org/whole-life-stewardship-reflections/christian-women-and-the-workplace-faith.

Within the Christian community these changes would lead some to new perceptions of working women in the Bible. The old ways and biases of a male dominated work force would begin to slowly change and bible interpretation began to see many women of ancient faith in a new light. These included new appreciation for Hagar serving as a domestic worker (Genesis 16); Jochebed engineering her endangered son Moses to be raised in wealth and power (Ex. 2 & 6); Deborah as Israel=s judge and leader of its military (Judges 4); The Hebrew prophet Huldah (2 Chron 34); Esther saving her threatened Hebrew people from genocide in the halls of power (Esther); the Woman of Proverbs as a multi-tasking business executive (Pro. 31:10-31); Philip=s daughters as prophets in the early church (Acts 21:9); Lydia as an entrepreneurial business owner in the clothing industry (Acts 16); and Priscilla as a leader in business, co-founder of several churches and mentor to a rising international evangelist (Acts 18). Many traditional biases began to be questioned even among religious leaders.

This could turn into many directions, including some people being “called” to singleness. But that’s not where I’m aiming.

There that word comes up again—“called.” This is what irks me. I realize that God DOES call people to be single, married, to be someone’s wife or someone’s husband, to work or not to work, to be a father or a mother or whatever station. But it’s the limitations that people place on the word “called” that destroys the meaning of the word.

God called people to certain positions, certain stations in life, certain relationships. So why exactly do we refer only to women as being called to being married—and THAT sums up her future—while we never come out and say that men have been called to being married, to being someone’s husband—and that sums up his future? Because it’s just expected that the man will be the one to go out and work all day, maybe live out his passion, become satisfied in his work, assured that he is doing what he was being “called” to do.

Really? Should the decisions for how a family is set up be based on Abraham and Sarah did it? On how Mary and Joseph did it? On how any other biblical couple’s arrangement was set?

I’m not denying that there wasn’t something purposeful in God having the men go out and work while the women stayed home. But I’m also not denying that we, as Christians today, read far too much into the exact set-ups of biblical models and assume that every inch and quarter must match that which was so in the Bible.

It’s not unbiblical to not apply the exact ways that couples in the Bible did things. If that were so, we would still be sacrificing animals to God in order to repent for our sins. Fathers would still be handing out birthrights to their firstborns, and mothers would have only their breasts to feed their children. Life has moved on since, and I believe that God knew that biblical concepts—not imitations to the times—should be modeled in Christians’ lives today.

Is it biblical for men to work and women to stay home? Based on biblical couples, Yes. Is it unbiblical for men and women both to work and still be joined together? No. God purposefully has given men and women talents that He expects them to use to their full capacity. And women today—Christian women—bear talents that men do not have. So if we have to use the word “called,” albeit, married and single Christian women are called to the workplace, side by side other Christian men and women.

*If you have a Scripture reference you believe supports your view one way or the other, feel free to share it. I’m definitely open to other people’s opinions and views!

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