Have We Swung Too Far? A Commentary on the “Empowerment of Women”

As I lay in intensive care after lengthy brain surgery last May, two things spontaneously flowed out of my spirit. First came words of praise and adoration, thanking God over and over again for the gift of life. Second came a greater and greater burden for the message He has called me to carry: the blessing of children and the great worth of motherhood and homemaking.

That burden resurfaces every time I encounter the “empowerment of women” message. Don’t get me wrong! I am not for the oppression of women that occurred in the past (and that currently exists in many cultures of the world.) Women should have the freedom to vote, get an education, utilize their gifts, handle their finances, and escape abusive husbands. The absence of those things is wrong. However, while early feminists rightly diagnosed the problems, I believe they came up with some wrong solutions—solutions that affect our thinking today.

If you do a little research, you discover that many of the movers and shakers of the feminist movement were blatantly anti-God. The famous Susan B. Anthony (the face on the dollar coin) was a vocal proponent of the idea that women should be able to remain single and completely independent of men. Betty Friedan, author of the wildly popular book The Feminine Mystique, claimed that two things are necessary if women are to take their rightful place in the world: abortion and childcare. In other words, they totally eschewed marriage and motherhood, viewing them as roadblocks to women’s fulfillment.

That’s what concerns me about the women’s empowerment movement. Women are encouraged to fulfill their dreams, but nowhere in the midst of that do I hear an affirmation of motherhood and homemaking. It’s like we’ve let the pendulum swing from one extreme to the other—from the abuse of women on one end to the empowerment of women on the other end—and missed the sweet place of the God-ordained design of a woman that, I believe, belongs right in the middle. In our rush to gain equality with men, we’ve run right past our God-given assignment as keepers of the home and had to step around our God-designed ability to bear and nurture children.

Maybe that’s why Titus reminded the older women to encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children and be workers at home. Maybe that message needed to be emphasized in a world that tells young women to follow their dreams and callings, often at the expense of husband and children.

A study note in the ESV Study Bible helps me understand a confusing verse related to this topic. In the context of the fall, when God pronounced curses on Adam, Eve, and the serpent, God told the woman this: Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16b). The ESV commentary says this: “The ongoing result of Adam and Eve’s original sin of rebellion against God will have disastrous consequences for their relationship: 1) Eve will have the sinful desire to oppose Adam and to assert leadership over him, reversing God’s plan for Adam’s leadership in marriage. But (2) Adam will also abandon his God-given, pre-fall role of leading, guarding, and caring for his wife, replacing this with his own sinful, distorted desire to ‘rule’ over Eve. Thus one of the most tragic results of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is an ongoing, damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behavior of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage.”

Maybe instead of preaching the empowerment of women, we need to go back to the basics and teach a two-pronged message: 1) Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. 2) Wives, love and serve your husbands and children. Maybe we’ve got our message all wrong. It’s possible that women have sought a place of power because the men in their lives have not cherished and loved them as God intended. Maybe we need to run from the pendulum swing and call everyone back to the place of balance and original God-given design right in the middle.

I don’t have all the answers to this very complex topic and can’t begin to deal with all the related issues (What about single women? What about divorced women? etc) but I felt a need to get my thoughts out there before I take a break for the summer.

May you be blessed as you seek that “sweet spot” of God-ordained life in the middle.

See you in September!

Lisa

P.S. Featured today are Patrick and Hope Farmer and one of their foster sons. In the midst of contending in faith for an open womb, they have taken in three precious sons. I am always touched by her online posts about her challenging journey in caring for them, such as the one posted after a day at the fair: “My favorite days are the ones when we can give the boys moments of pure joy. They walk with such heavy hearts because they have seen too much, been through too many horrible things, and taken responsibility for people who should have been caring for them. Today they had windows of time with no thoughts of anything but how exhilarating the ride was! The smiles and giggles on the bumper cars, the cotton-candy grins, the pure exhaustion on the car ride home…I hope they hold those moments in their hearts forever and that these memories push some of the yucky ones straight out of their heads! Sweet dreams, little ones.” We bless you, Patrick and Hope, pray for an outpouring of God’s grace to be upon you as you care for these boys,and stand in faith with you for an open womb!

 

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Holiness or Happiness?

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The Hardebeck Family

I’m reading a great book by Gary Thomas entitled Sacred Marriage: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? Some people have fairly blissful marriages with little conflict. That has not been the case for us. Jim and I are as different as night and day. And I didn’t even know I was selfish until we got married. Because my parents never dealt with my strong will, Jim got the lovely job of dealing with it. That made the first years of our marriage challenging. Despite our differences, though, God called us together for His kingdom purposes, and He has used our marriage to refine and purify us over these past 37 years.

Bearing and raising children have accomplished the same goal in my life. They have dealt with my selfishness and self-centeredness in a way nothing else could have done. As hard as that has been, I can say it has been the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I always say that my younger children have a much more Jesus-like mother than my older children did when they were younger. Not that I am perfect, but I bear the image of Jesus more now than I did 34 years ago when I started mothering. That has happened through learning to sacrifice my time, energy, sleep, priorities, and desires. All those things have brought death to my flesh, but life to my spirit. Scripture tells us that Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered. Suffering (loss, sacrifice, sickness, etc.) has worked the purposes of God in my life. Difficult as it has been, I am thankful for it now.

Women shall be saved through the bearing of children (1 Timothy 2:15). One commentary I read said that saved here means sanctified. Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus. That process is never easy. But it is so good. Scripture also tells us that the pain of childbirth is quickly forgotten when the joy of the child arrives. I can honestly tell you that all the hardships of early motherhood are just a vague memory now in light of the joy I have over my grown children. All the sleeplessness, exhaustion, feelings of being over-whelmed, and being stretched to the limit were worth it. Nothing compares to the end-fruit of my years of labor.

Whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it (Matthew 16:25). By losing my life in the raising of my children, I have found it. I have discovered what is truly important in life. One side benefit is that because I learned to lay down my life for my children, I am now more easily able to lay it down for my elderly parents. I admit that the first six months they lived in our in-law apartment were challenging as I had to take on a whole new set of responsibilities. But once again, in laying down my life to care for someone else, I have discovered what is truly important in life.

Dear moms, all the hardships you are experiencing in the raising of your children are worth it—in your life and in theirs. You are doing what is truly important. May you know new grace each day to die to self and allow His life to grow within you.

Much love,

Lisa

PS—The above photo is of Galadriel Hardebeck, her husband Ben, and their beautiful children. She commented on my last blog-post with these words: Lisa, I loved this post! I recently went to Minnesota for a few days and my oldest (8) was crying, saying she was going to miss me. She said, “I just like knowing you’re in the kitchen.” I had to laugh because that’s what I needed a vacation from! But it meant a lot to know that as she’s getting more independent and doesn’t constantly “need” me, she just likes knowing I’m there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Choose Quantity Time Any Day: The Power of Your Presence, Part 2

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Carrie & Family

“I’ve just been home with the kids all day. What good is that?” These are frequent thoughts of a stay-at-home mom. Let me share some stories that give value to the importance of our presence with our children. I will start by sharing Jana’s story in greater detail:

I was a stay-at-home wife before I was ever a stay-at-home mom. Homemaking was always appealing to me. Cooking, making gifts, volunteering—they were things my heart longed for.  Maybe that’s because my mom had always been a stay-at-home mom for me.

When my kids were in 5th and 9th grade, I got the opportunity to make my hobby into a career, and I took it. For the first time ever, I was working full-time outside my home. My hours were from noon to 10pm six days a week. Initially, it was exciting to have a new identity and a highly visible job.

After a little less than a year, however, I started noticing the toll on my family. My peace and joy were compromised, my husband and kids were lonely, my son’s grades were slipping, and my daughter stopped playing. I never wanted my day-off to end. Unfortunately, my boss wanted even more and more of my time.

After a year-and-a-half, I resigned and came back home to my better job. The change in my kids was astounding: my son’s grades climbed back to A’s; my daughter started singing while she played and began reading again; my husband relaxed and was able to spend dad-time with the kids; my daughter started to understand her math; and my son started making friends at school. At one point, Garett said to me, “I just like knowing you’re here. It’s not that I need you to do stuff for me, I just like that you’re home.”  Jana

I love that testimony! We so underestimate the power of our presence in our children’s lives even as they grow older. One of my favorite parts of being a stay-at-home mom is being present for special spontaneous moments with my children. I’m dedicated to being as fully present for my last child (James is 17) as I was for my older children. I love when he says, “Mom, come see this new video I just made.” I’m so glad I am here to share his world. I also loved my special moment with Maggie (20) last week as she shared with me the joy of her new job at church and some relational challenges she was experiencing. Those moments probably wouldn’t happen if I was gone all day and depended on “quality time” to connect with my children. I’ll choose “quantity time” any day.

I’ll close with a testimony from Carrie, pictured above with her husband Art and their six children. She shares two priceless moments—she calls them “Jesus-moments”— experienced in their first two weeks of homeschooling:

This morning everyone woke up early and was fighting. Even I was grouchy and short-tempered. As I begrudgingly did everyone’s hair, Katelynn began singing, “Bless the Lord, oh, my soul…” We all joined in. Within minutes our moods changed, and our day has been great. Another precious moment: Hannah literally had a panic attack while starting her math. She started crying about how she hated math. I first prayed for her and then had her stand up and shake off all the hurts and fears she had felt in pubic school. I communicated to her that we are going to learn together at her pace and that she will have time to finish her work. We laughed, and I told her my goal was for her to like math. It has only been a few days since that incident, but it is like I have a different child. She is now soaring!

Enjoy those precious “Jesus-moments” with your children, knowing that your presence makes a huge difference in their lives.

Lisa