I’ve sat around the table and been told – on more than one occasion and on both sides of the ocean – that what I’m doing is not Enough. That I am not working Hard Enough. That what I’m doing with my children is Too Small. That I’m not Properly Serving the needs around me. And all the while, I’d been following, to the best of my ability, what I thought God had for me in that season of my life.
There have been times I’ve been beyond frustrated at the state of church culture. A culture that seems to honor and esteem men above women. A culture that grants men more options in where and how to serve God than it grants women. A culture that judges women for the few options they do have, no matter which ones they choose. You stay at home with your children? You should be working all day. You work all day? You should be staying at home with your children.
Sometimes I wonder why men are privileged to choose their ministry emphasis, but wives are pigeon-holed into their husband’s jobs. Is there no difference between the way God fashioned the two parts of a couple, that they might possibly be able to serve in different capacities?
I have cried so many tears over this.
I’d love to see a Christian culture that places fewer unattainable expectations on women. I’d love to see a Christian culture that ties up fewer heavy burdens on women’s shoulders. I’d love to see a Christian culture that lifts a finger — or five — to ease those unbearable demands.
The reality is, we may not be able to bring cultural change across all of Christendom. We may not be able to exert organization- or church-wide influence. But we can attend to the one thing we do have influence over: our relationship with God.
When we tune our hearts to the heart of God, when we commune with Him, when we feel His pleasure, the displeasure of people feels much less intimidating and much less invalidating. This I know: the deeper I go into God’s love, and the more consistently I spend time with Him, the less the voices of Inadequacy clamor for my attention. It might sound cliché, but it’s been my experience.
Spending time with God won’t magically make stressful relationships disappear. It won’t miraculously change people’s expectations of us. And it won’t change a church culture that seemingly judges women more harshly than men. It will, however, modulate some of the disapproving looks and comments.
The time we spend soaking up God’s love and grace will inoculate us against some of the disapproval of men and women. The confidence we have in being His daughter that comes through spending time with Him makes the criticisms of how we’re not correctly filling our “role” pack a smaller punch. And when God’s love and affirmation burn in our hearts, that fire spreads to other women.
I’m not saying it isn’t important to discern our roles. It’s very important to humbly determine our giftings and prayerfully decide how we’re going to serve God, practically and whole-heartedly, in this season of our life. I’m not saying we won’t ever need to have discussions with our husbands, teammates, and organizations about our roles in our marriages, teams, and host cultures. And I’m most certainly not saying that a daily devotional time will immunize us against ever receiving criticism (warranted or not), or feeling its sting.
What I am saying is that the shackles of expectations we feel both externally from others and internally from ourselves are too Heavy. What I am saying is that Jesus wants to free us from the burdensome expectations of people and that the yoke He offers us is Light, much lighter than the yoke others would place upon us. What I am saying is. . .
I believe we are children of the King first and foremost.
I believe our various roles in the Kingdom have got to flow out of that.
I believe it is for freedom that Christ set us free.
I believe that if the Son sets us free, we will be free indeed.
I believe that freed people free people.
I believe that healed people heal people.
I believe if all we ever do is bring our freed selves to the Table, then that is worth it.
Have you wrestled with heavy shackles of expectations placed on you? How are you learning to find freedom?