Wednesday, December 3, 2008

balancing homemaking and ministry (2) some opening thoughts

Nowhere in the Bible will you find a verse saying, "Women should do exactly this much inside the home. Women should do exactly this much outside the home." And isn't that a relief? God doesn't give us a set of rules to obey in this area. This is an issue of wisdom, godly discernment, and freedom.

So the mix will look different for each of us. Our personalities, our husband's preferences, our particular situation, the needs of our children, the context we live in, the needs which surround us: all have an impact on how much, and what, ministry we do outside our home, or from our home.

Our health and energy levels, whether we're introverts or extroverts, our gifts and season of life: nothing exempts us from the responsibility to love those inside and outside our homes, but we shouldn't compare ourselves to other women and feel guilty, judgemental or envious because they are able to do more or less ministry than us.

Let's not forget what a privilege it is even to be asking these questions. How many women in the world are prosperous and unburdened enough to be considering the balance between work, ministry and homemaking? Very few women throughout history have had our smorgasbord of choices.

Women in countries torn by war, famine, or persecution, or those of us who are single mothers, caring for a disabled child, or struggling with a chronic illness, will have far less discretionary time and energy than many of us. Which doesn't mean these aren't good questions to ask: but let's remember what a privilege it is to be asking them.

Let's also remember that even our best-laid plans don't guarantee a perfectly balanced life. We don't know what joys or griefs God has in store for us. My friend was reminded of the temporary nature of our plans when she had a breast cancer scare, her father-in-law died, her son was seriously ill, and both her sons became engaged, within 12 months or so.

I make plans, but I make them knowing they depend on God's providence: next year may look completely different than I imagine (Jam. 4:13-17).

I'm assuming we're all godly women, who want to care for our families and homes, and who also have a heart for people outside our home, so that we long to help other women to grow, serve in our churches, share the gospel with our friends, and reach out to the needy. These are the last days, when there's an urgent need for people to know and grow in Christ.

It's right to want to serve our husbands and children faithfully, and to reach out to the world around us. No wonder we sometimes feel torn between the two! These are godly burdens and godly questions to have.

Tomorrow, I'd like to look more specifically at exactly how you and I might go about making decisions about balancing ministry inside and outside the home.

images are from stock.xchng


Liz said...

I've been pondering about this a lot recently... Sometimes this is the problem with reading books about how we SHOULD parent/minister/fulfil our duties... we end up comparing ourselves with the author of the book or "characters" in the book. The thing is, we will never know the full truth about what really happened. We don't know these people. We don't know if, even though their house was spotless and they were forever serving in ministries, that they were (more often than not) rude to their children and husband because they were so worn down.

The truth is, we will all have seasons when we have no energy to serve outside the home - when we need others to come and be of service to us. That's ok - as long as it's just a season!

I think the caution that home comes first is right. However, Nicole (in the other posts comments) has a point that there aren't many families going without food because mum is too busy ministering! There is also the love and attention little ones need, to take into consideration...

So much to say. SO many conflicting obligations calling me, even right now as I type!

Bec said...

I have been following this conversation with much interest, but have refrained from commenting as I might end up writing an essay instead, LOL! I am glad that you mention in this post how homemaking will look different for different women. What a relief!

I have a friend who is a 'brilliant' homemaker. Her home is always spotless and organised,she is great at interior decorating, her cooking and baking is wonderful and would you believe ALL her Chrismas presents are wrapped and under the tree(and been there for over a week)! All this with major health issues and 4 children under 6!

I love walking into her home, as mine is always full of clutter, and sometimes think "if only I was more like her, if only I had the right this/that, or bigger/better designed house I could be more like her, etc.", but then I always come back to reality. I am who God made me. I know that I had exactly the same living situation as my friend my house would still tend towards cloutter and disorder. Now, I don't want to excuse my bad housekeeping, because God is definitely working on me in this area :-), but I have a different personality, tastes, tolerence levels and husband that direct my home.

I could be discouraged by her home, but I choose to praise God for her home blessing and encouraging me with its order and peace, and then ask God what He wants my home to look like - and believe me, I have a lot of listening and learning to do. Why can't God just 'zap' me with self-discipline, it would be much easier, LOL!

mattnbec said...

I think the point you raise about what a privileged position we are in being able to ask these questions is a great one, Jean. I think I forget that.

Liz - I agree about the comparing ourselves to authors point. My mother-in-law noticed that I had some Edith Schaeffer books on my Christmas list. She observed that Edith Schaeffer was definitely an outstanding homemaker and incredibly creative in what she did. So she wisely suggested that her books are good for inspiration and not to compare myself, having already read them herself. Phew! So glad I know in advance!

Rachael said...

Hi Bec, Yes it was a relief, wasn't it? I grew up in a cluttered an disorderly house and believe it or not, I'm still a christian! And all my siblings. And my parents are still married. Disorder with things didn't lead to moral or spiritual disorder! But, it did make offering hospitality difficult. And so I work really hard to rein in my natural tendency to clutter and disorder in order to provide hospitality. And when I can't, I try to swallow my pride and let people see the clutter.

Bec said...

Hi Rachael! I had to let go of the idea years ago that you had to to have a perfectly clean house in order to invite people into your home - I would likely never have anyone over (especially now, homeschooling 5 kids under 7, the WHOLE house is never clean AT THE SAME TIME)! I came to the realisation that the offering of hospitality and friendship was more important than the unmopped floor, the baskets of clean washing waiting to be folded or the pile of papers to be sorted. Sometimes, I think, it is our pride in the appearance of our homes that drives us, not how our homes can bring blessings to others and glory to God. I'm so glad He can use me in spite of my messy house! :-)

Rachael said...

I guess that's exactly what we learn from Mary and Martha!