The Virtue of the Ordinary
(Here is the post I recently wrote for,"Not An Average Girl" blog which I thought to share here. I pray you're blessed.)
What do you want to be when you're grown up?
The Sunday school teacher posed the well-known question asked of all kids, looking down at our eager little faces in front of her with a smile of her own. I was no more than six or seven years old, and my family and I, one Sunday, were attending a new church. I glanced at my sister, Mary, who was sitting down next to me, a bit upset because we both wanted to join the grown ups in the Church Service, but we both listened as the teacher told us what we were all going to do. She told us to write out on a paper what we'd like to be and do when we grew up as well as draw a picture showing us in our grown-up occupation. All of the little kids started to talk, write and draw about what they wanted to be... a Doctor, Teacher, Artist, Writer, Dancer, Fireman, Musician, Nurse, Policeman, Secretary, Pilot, Superman... everything and anything that would come across the minds of little kids really :).
I believe the teacher turned to me and asked, What do you want to be, Joy?
I want to be a Mama!, I blurted without hesitation, fondly thinking how wonderful it would be to be just like my dear mother one day and have so many, many babies who would of course need to have their nappies changed and be fed, be taught their ABC's, and cook dinner for "Daddy and children", sew and knit, and dress up like a real lady :). Quite naive about life and being a mother, but sweet. Yes?
I can not remember the teacher's reaction, but looking back on it now, I just smile... and realize, that, despite the nine or ten years since the day I said this, my response would not be different. I'd say, "I really want to be a published author, I'd like to get better in my music, and I'd enjoy teaching. I long to do and be what God wants me to be... and do what He has in plan for my life, glorying Him (whatever it will be). And, if it is the Lord's will, I really, really hope that I can be a wife and mother one day!" Does that sound contradictory or wrong? Is being a wife and mother (one day if it be the Lord's will) a secondary calling or mission for us girls, or do we realize that maybe it IS the calling that God is planning for many of us in the future? And if so, do we underestimate this calling? Are we preparing for it?
Some years ago (not too far back), I used to think that I'd become a missionary like Amy Carmichael or Jim Elliot and bring many people to Christ in far-off distant lands in the Amazon Jungles, or go to places like Iraq or India and help the poor there, teaching the illiterate children about Jesus. I wanted to follow God's call in my life, and wondered if that was the best way. I really admired (and still do!) the sacrifical life and calling of those godly men and woman who gave up their all to spread the Gospel. In the last couple of years or so however, I've realized that you don't have to be a missionary, and you don't have to have special gifts of ministry to follow and do the mission and purpose that the Lord has for your life. It can simply mean being a wife, a mother or a daughter at home. Now, I realize that there are many women who are called to missionary life and/or singleness and you and I may be one of them. Despite the sacrifices for those called to a life of singleness and service, there is a true freedom in serving the Lord foremost, and not have to serve/be a help-meet to your husband, and care for a family.
But, I think, from what we see in God's Word, the majority of women, are called to be wives, mothers and/or homemakers (i.e. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Ruth, Esther, Abigail, Hannah, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Elizabeth...). Not to mention, many godly Christian woman of later History (i.e. Sarah Edwards). So with such a weighty list of great women of faith, I do not think we can lightly say that their roles as help-meets to their husbands, or mothers of men and women of God, was insignificant or not "God's Call" in their lives. In the beginning, God created male and female, each unique and equal of worth, but distinctly different. I came across a paragraph from a post Rachel wrote on her blog, Covenant Maiden that says, "From the beginning of the world, woman's place was clear: she was to be man's helper. Every woman is the help meet to her husband. That is the definition of a wife. One flesh. A husband and wife are to be joined together for life, both fulfilling their purpose in that life. Man is the provider and bread-winner of the home (1 Timothy 5:8); woman is the keeper of the home (1 Timothy 5:14). Each has their own individual responsibility and purpose ordained by God. (By the way, on this subject, Rachel Brown has a whole heap of thought-provoking posts which you may love to read!)
There is a verse that Sarah pointed out to me some time ago, while we were discussing this issue, in Titus 2:3-5, that really shows the Biblical plan and life mission God has for us women and girls, as daughters of the King, "...the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed." Titus 2: 3-5 NKJV .
Dear sisters, this is a wonderful call that has been given to women! Let us not despise it! The life of a Christian, no matter how small, is an extraordinary life. If we serve our Lord Jesus and glorify Him with our hearts and lives, it doesn't matter if it is simply raising a family (with all its struggles, sorrows and joys), it is a precious thing in the Lord's eyes. I am reminded of a scene in the Lord of the Rings film (I think this may be in the extended edition, but I cannot be certain), where Eyown tells Aragorn that she's been assigned to take care of the women and children in the siege of Helms Deep, and he tells her, "That is an honourable charge". Eowyn indigently says, "To mind the children, to find food and bedding when the men return. What renown is there in that?" Aragorn replies, "My Lady, there may come a time for valor without renown." How true this is! If you are called to be a wife, mother, a homemaker, you have a high calling.
The world has so wrongly made us believe that the family is not as important as a woman's career and interests. And sadly, a lot of us have bought that message. We consider ministry more important than family, when often, the ministry God has given us, is our families! We mustn't belittle a woman's calling to raise a godly family and be a help-meet to her husband as a small, insignificant role to be despised and to be considered un-spiritual. It is often the little, mundane, ordinary things of life that are big in the eyes of God, and if we are faithful in those little things, we will be faithful in the big things. If we succeed in BIG things (ministry, and reaching the world with the Gospel), but fail at home, in being a wife, or mother or godly daughter then we have failed. Being a help-meet to your (future) husband, helping him in his life's goals and calling is such an important thing. If you get married, your husband, and eventually your children will be your greatest earthly responsibility (above ministry, career, or personal interests). Your ministry will not necessarily be to preach the gospel to nations, but to minister the Gospel to your children, and train them in the fear of the Lord, and raise up a family for the kingdom. Your mission will be your husband's mission, in helping and supporting him the calling that God would have in his life. Such a mission will include dreary things as well as simple joys... washing/drying dishes, preparing meals, doing the laundry, running a home... but these things are not to be despised. Isn't there a verse that says, "For who hath despised the day of small things?" (Zachariah 4:10). And Christ said this: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." (Luke 16:10)
Often Dad would tell me, "What is wrong with just being a wife or a mother, Joy?", when I tell him (half-dejectedly) of some of my friends' plans to do big and great things one day. God made us capable as women, mentally, physically and emotionally, to be the help-meets for our husbands, the homemakers of a home, and mothers to children; and this isn't something bad. No, it is a lovely thing! In another post by Rachel, she says this about femininity and womanhood, "In a society where women are men and men are women, we don't see motherly and wifely zeal. Wives and mothers are no longer wives and mothers. Instead, they are smokers, drunk drivers, and workmen all rolled into one. They aren't submissive unto man, and especially not unto God. Most women don't even know what femininity is." (Rachel Brown in The Importance of Womanhood).
Here is a little video clip, from the film called "A Man Called Peter", where Catherine Marshall shares with a group of university students about femininity. It is quite a poignant little message in the movie about the theme of femininity and the equality/worth of a woman.
So, I soon realized that really, being a homemaker, a mother, a wife, or a daughter at home and serving God in what I am doing as it is His will (whatever it may be!), is as important as any great mission! Here are the beautiful words of a part of a hymn by Kittie J. Suffield, "Little is Much When God is in It".
"Does the place you're called to labour
Seem so small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He'll not forget His own.
"When the conflict here is ended,
And our race on earth is run,
He will say, if we are faithful,
"Welcome home, My child--well done.'
"Little is much, when God is in it!
Labour not for wealth or fame
There's a crown--and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus' name."
But you might say, "I am not a wife yet, or a mother! What is my call now?" Your mission is to serve and live for the Lord, wherever He has put you in this time. Your call now is to be loving, submitting to your parents, and help them in the mission of their lives. Not only are your parents the ones who help you on your journey of growth, but you also are there to help them. You are called to be a godly example to your siblings and help them in their growing and learning. The way you treat and live with your father and mother, you will affect your future life and relationship with your husband and family. You can start from now, by preparing for the time when you become a help-meet to your husband and mother of your children. There are so many things to learn about how to care for a home and raise a family! I have to be honest, that I often fail to give enough time to nurture all these necessary things. We all fail and struggle in those things, but the Lord gives us His grace and teaches us both the small and the great. Now is a time, not to be wasted in idle dreaming and impatient waiting for "Prince Charming", but to be really well-used, for God's glory. It is a time to hone your skills. But most of all, it is a time to grow in your Christian life, to really grow in devotion to the Lord Jesus, as our Heavenly Bridegroom. This is also a time to develop intellectual and practical skills that you might not be able to hone when you've got a family of your own and are really busy. Personally, going off to college is not an option for me, and neither is having a job or career outside of home. But there are ways of studying university from home, learning and getting the higher education that will help you in the future, in your married life, helping your husband in his work and teaching your children. It can be a great help to your family later on, so I really think it is quite important. When you get married and have a family of your own, you simply won't have that time.
But, the most important thing of all is be faithful with the gifts and callings God has placed in your life, be they great and challenging or simple and homely. He has a great plan for all His children, and for many of us girls, it will most probably involve one day being a wife, a mother and a homemaker. These may seem like very ordinary callings, but when we really look at it, there is great virtue in the ordinary when God is in it. It is indeed an "honourable charge".