Thursday, January 28, 2010

Me 'n' Titus, We's Buds

Apparently in taking the counterpoint in our discussion of homemaking, I defended my position a bit too vigorously. It seems I gave the impression that I actually promote career women and domesticated men, when in actuality nothing could be further from the truth.

You can read the entire discussion here:
Original post (dialogue begins in the comments).
My Response
Additional Comments

Although I believe that God did not create women to be floormats, the Bible does have a few key passages on what a Christian woman ought to do. The most well-known are probably Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5 and Titus 2.

Titus 2
3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

How do I reconcile these passages with what I wrote previously on women being strong, smart and capable? Am I really advocating women being the breadwinners and "wearing the pants in the family?" Absolutely not! In fact I never said anything of the sort!

As Christians we are to be servants first and foremost. Christ himself served those around him, setting an example by washing his disciples' feet. It is in this way we are to serve our husbands, to come under them and alongside them. Not because we are less than them but rather because we choose to follow Christ's example in laying down our lives.

When we choose to marry and have children as I have, it becomes our responsibility to care for our homes and families. Although some of us have the "nesting" instinct in greater measure than others, in general a wife is expected to organize the household and to nurture the children. Nowhere do I ever advocate a woman neglecting those responsibilities.

The difference I am talking about is much more subtle than that. I am talking about shifting our focus away from the details and looking at the heart. Jesus worked constantly to teach his followers to lift their eyes from earthly concerns to the Kingdom of God. In this manner, I would say that a biblical Christian woman certainly needs to keep her home well. She needs to care for her children well. She needs to uplift and respect her husband, following his lead in making decisions for the family. But that may look different from woman to woman, from family to family. To me the divorce rate, the breakup of the American family, the adolescent rebelliousness and other family crises we face in this country stem not from women working but from a deeper issue of the wholesale rejection of Christianity and Christian values. But that is a subject beyond the scope of this particular post.

If a woman needs to be a full-time career mom to care for her home well, then that is what she needs to do. Right now that is my own position. For a while I worked after my daughter was born. What I discovered was that being away from her all day broke my heart. The daycare I used did not care for her in the manner that was acceptable to me. (I also had a friend watch her, which worked out much better.) But my husband and I chose to take the financial hit to have me stay home. We've had to be extra frugal over the years but it has been worth it.

If it sounds like I am backpedaling on my position here, I'm not. I think we Christians are too quick to put God into a box, to make a nice tidy formula and say that this is the only way He will be pleased with us. From the beginning of this discussion, my attempt has been to point out that God looks at the heart. A woman might not be able to stay at home full-time. If that is the case, should she pine away because she is not pleasing God or not pleasing herself? Well, she might. Or she might be content where God has her and still be able to do an excellent job with her home responsibilities. It is possible. It's not where God has me. My struggle is the opposite: being content when God has asked me to do a job beyond my own preference. It's hard for me to stay home. Am I unfeminine or unbiblical? Nope. Because I choose to submit my own will to God, to still be patient when I feel like tearing my hair out. To be kind when I want to yell and scream. I try to be self-controlled and keep working when all I want to do is crawl in bed and eat chocolate. Do I do all this perfectly? Of course not. But I certainly try.

What I have been trying to say is to look beyond the cultural formula at the heart. Obeying God is so much more than simply going through a chore list. It can take many various forms and jobs and still be "right." In interpreting scripture we need to be careful not to take a phrase like "busy at home" and assume it means "do nothing BUT get married as quickly as you can and stay chained to the house for the rest of your life." Some women want that and some are called to it. That's not wrong, it's very, right. But some are not and shall we condemn them? Does God?

As far as debate goes, I have purposefully weakened my position, but my intention all along has not been to advocate for career women, feminism, or materialism. Quite the opposite. At heart I believe a Christian woman ought to strive to live biblically and so I wanted to make sure I stated that. I'm not as much interested in the debate as I am in clarifying my own position. The difference comes in the idea that I think living biblically is a matter of a woman's heart before God, a heart to serve, a gentle and quiet spirit. Those can take so many forms and a strong woman can still be submissive and gentle. An intelligent woman can still be kind. They are not mutually exclusive. A confident woman can still serve, in fact she is more likely to serve and not be threatened or feel less because she is choosing to serve.

To sum up then, should a Christian woman be a keeper of her home? Yes. Should she stay at home in order to do that? In some cases, yes. Should we teach our daughters that this is the highest calling for a woman and the only thing they ought to aspire to be? No. The highest calling for a woman is to love God, not to rush out and get married. And as soon as we love God, He takes our nice, tidy little boxful of ideas and shatters it with His enormity and His creativity. Then we're bound to obey Him, no matter how it looks to others. I think the greatest respect we can give to another Christian, woman or not, is to acknowledge that they can discern the will of God for their own lives according to the Bible, even if they don't do things quite the way we think they ought to be done.

Note: I am writing this to make clear my own position on this important and complex issue. I have the greatest respect for my fellow bloggers and moms and my intention is not to step on any toes. As usual I welcome respectful comments from all points of view.


  1. Amen. I love your heart. I think you mean very well, and I agree with everything you have said. I have chosen to stay home to do the best I can to care for my home, but not everyone is called to that, and I don't criticize them for it. Some may think my education was wasted, but I disagree. I think I learned much in college that has probably helped me in raising my children more than I will ever realize.

  2. Bravo! I wish that everyone could have such clarity and Christ-centered focus on this issue.

    I loved this quote in particular:

    As Christians we are to be servants first and foremost...Not because we are less than them but rather because we choose to follow Christ's example in laying down our lives.

    Exactly. As you said in your well-written post, it's not about box-checking or fitting a certain mold, but about serving as Christ served -- and that will look different for different people.

    I'm not sure how I stumbled across your blog this evening, but I'm glad I did. These thoughts were thought-provoking and inspiring. Thanks for a great post!

  3. I hear what you are saying.

    By the way, I'm glad to hear that putting Miss Curly with the friend was a better experience than the daycare. ;)