I’d rather be packing school lunches.
A 38-year old, single, Christian friend of mine recently told me that she got a promotion. The only problem, she said, is that she’d rather be a stay-at-home mom, “packing school lunches.”
This isn’t someone who’s simply dreaming about the greener grass on the other side of the hill. This is a gal who has sought to steward her talents for God’s glory, no matter her marital situation. In her mid-30s, she earned a graduate degree and is now in a job leveraging her strengths and bringing about great flourishing around her – both in and outside of work.
But the natural longing for family within many Christian women like her is there – it’s God-given. This is why stewarding your vocation as a Christian, single woman can often be very confusing. As you apply yourself on the job and advance in your career, it can feel like you’re getting further and further away from marriage and family. I’ve heard women say:
- “I’m afraid that if I pursue my work with vigor that it will signal to God that I’m less interested in marriage and family” or,
- “I’m afraid that my Ph.D. scares men away.”
As someone within this Christian, single female demographic, I wanted to share a few thoughts for my Christian sisters (and their supportive friends) from what I’ve learned along the way.
1. Choose to be fully alive.
In a sermon on Christian singleness, my pastor said Christian singles have a choice to make as we wait for what we hope. We could either keep our hearts alive to the Lord, or turn away from him and subdue or “kill” our hearts.
It’s comforting that Scripture recognizes the sometimes hard reality of life this side of heaven – that there is longing and disappointment: “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Prov. 13:12). What do women long for? While women do value significance and meaning in their work, they also long for relational intimacy.
Seeking intimacy with the Lord has sustained me in the “now, but not yet” aspect of life and God’s Kingdom. We are to be honest and pour out our hearts to the Lord (Ps. 62:8). This way we keep our heart alive and its longings close to the surface, though painful. As we open our hearts to God and his will, he can pour out his love and give us both a vision and a desire for what he is calling us to do today.
Choosing to be fully alive has a ripple effect on your relationships, family, and even your work. My friend who wants to make school lunches also happens to love what she does in the workplace. As she has kept her heart alive to God, he is using her in mighty ways and giving her satisfaction in her work, as she applies her talents and passions.
2. Be fully female.
If you’re a single, Christian, working woman, you may feel like there’s not much that differentiates you from men. I’ve often put on one of those boring, unfeminine suits, jumped in the car, looked around and seen mostly men in cars around me, fighting their way to work. I know what this feels like.
But God has made us uniquely male and female, in his image (Genesis 1:27). The fact that he has you in the office and not at home nurturing children right now is not a mistake. Not only are you designed with specific talents and skills unique to you, your perspective as a woman adds value and richness to a work product that otherwise would only have a male perspective.
While women have different strengths, being fully feminine may mean letting your empathetic, nurturing side show through as you interact with colleagues and add your input to projects. God has also designed many women, like him, to be strong protectors of the weak and vulnerable.
Author Carolyn Custis James writes that the Hebrew word for “helper” (ezer), used to describe women in Genesis 2:18, can be defined as “strong helper,” even like a warrior. Without the work of women, our society would be a much different place.
3. Know God.
When years pass and marriage still isn’t happening, some single women begin to lose enthusiasm about growing their skills on the job. They start to lose faith in God’s loving character. Jesus’ Parable of the Talents provides a poignant illustration that applies to those of us who have similarly struggled.
In this parable, we learn how important it is to put your faith in who God really is. Many people learn from this parable we are to invest and grow our talents for God, not “bury” them. This is true. But few understand how it also teaches that trusting in the true character of God compels us to serve him well. The servant who buried his talent said,
‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. (Matt. 25:24-25)
The wicked servant buried his talent because he didn’t trust in the character of God. If we serve a God of love, who gave his one and only son on our behalf, then can’t we trust him with our hearts in our vocation?
The topic of Christian singleness and vocation, like life’s most pressing and difficult questions, deserves a rich theology. Whether we’re packing lunches or sitting at an office computer, we owe it to ourselves to wrestle with the Lord and Scripture to think theologically deep and soundly about our vocations.
Question: How are Christian single women to faithfully wrestle with competing desires in their vocation? Leave your comments here.