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The Lord bids each of us in all life’s actions to look to his calling. For he knows with what great restlessness human nature flames, with what fickleness it is borne hither and thither, how its ambition longs to embrace various things at once. Therefore, lest through our stupidity and rashness everything be turned topsy-turvy, he has appointed duties for every man in his particular way of life. And that no one may thoughtlessly transgress his limits, he has named these various kinds of living “callings.” Therefore each individual has his own kind of living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life. …
It is enough if we know that the Lord’s calling is in everything the beginning and foundation of well-doing. And if there is anyone who will not direct himself to it, he will never hold to the straight path in his duties. Perhaps, sometimes, he could contrive something laudable in appearance; but whatever it may be in the eyes of men, it will be rejected before God’s throne. … From this will arise also a singular consolation: that no task will be so sordid and base, provided you obey your calling in it, that it will not shine and be reckoned very precious in God’s sight.

— from Calvin’s Institutes Book III Chap. X

I feel like I can always use further insight, even particular directions, as to what my calling as a married woman entails. I hope that is not an unhealthy “law-thirstiness”: a desire to “discover” and adhere to man-made laws that go beyond Scripture, in order to build a case before God and man that I am especially righteous. I’ve never been guilty of that before, but there’s a first time for everything. *ahem* Of course, this question, which essentially boils down to, “How do I use my time and gifts as a married woman in the 21st century?”, arises much more readily for a woman without children, whose constant demands pretty well answer the question before it can be asked (assuming there is time and energy to ask it). But I am not the only childless married woman here or in the potential (hypothetical?) audience, and perhaps my questions and musings will help you too. I simply want to know better what it looks like for a married woman to “keep to her sentry post,” and what it looks like to stray—not to judge others but myself. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that this seems to be yet another matter of wisdom rather than law—“yet another” expressing my natural aversion to doing the work of praying for and getting wisdom. Reading a book or an article would be much easier.

From my limited historical studies (more like occasional observations; I do always invite correction), I gather that even into the 1950s, when it was not absolutely necessary that someone—whether the mistress of the home or a trusted servant—be at home ensuring that the family had food and clean clothes (and had clothes, for that matter), the average young woman was either active in her family’s home and community, in a school of some kind, or busy with some outside occupation (such as teaching) up to the point of marriage. At this point, she regarded herself as fully employed in homemaking. She typically quit her job if she had one and took up the very happy duties of managing a home for her best friend. Of course the feminists in the 60s called all this into question, arguing that this supposedly noble aspect of womanhood was rather demeaning; it imprisoned a woman in her house and her life revolved far too much around the man, the domineering, self-serving, pig of a man who perpetuated this unthinkable inequality. Why shouldn’t the woman have the recognized, fulfilling career, while the man stays home to keep house and watch the children (if they must exist)? Well, why not?

Do we not as Christians have to deal with the fact that Eve was created as a “helper suitable to the man”—that “the woman was made for the man, not the man for the woman”? That this suggests at the very least a certain orientation towards serving her husband that her husband is not obligated to reciprocate? Is not the married woman called by God, in the very sense in which Calvin speaks, to manage the home and serve her husband and children with all the gifts and strength she has been given (Titus 2, Proverbs 31)? A thousand qualifications come to mind: chiefly that a Christian woman is also to be of real assistance to the church (Romans 16, etc.), to her parents and older relatives (1 Timothy 5, etc.), and to non-church friends or neighbors in need (simply part of being a Christian, besides the many “proof-texts”). She is still a church member, daughter, friend, neighbor. But she does all this as a married woman, very often drawing from the resources that her husband has earned, serving such people on behalf of him. She does it with his blessing, and with his guidance and oversight as to the time and effort committed to these abundant opportunities.

With that much clear, then, one of the more practical questions I have is about the role of domesticity in my calling as a Christian wife and homemaker. There are the inevitable chores involved in managing any home, like laundry, paying bills, and cleaning the tub. Then, thanks to technology, there is the “discretionary time,” when chores have been done. (I am sorry, homeschooling moms or any moms of young children; it probably feels like they are never done for you, and as an aside I think that unmarried or even married childless women in the church should be ready and willing to offer themselves as help when that is overwhelmingly the case.) So if you don’t have children to watch and/or teach, you could either get a job to fill up your time, or find other ways to invest in the home beyond the necessary chores. Those are the only two options that I can see, other than idleness, which we will consider an invalid option for obvious reasons.

On the one hand, you have the ideal of domesticity a la Martha Stewart. You put effort into and learn skills pertaining to all manner of domestic comforts, for the enjoyment of family and friends. Martha Stewart herself is no paragon of biblical femininity, yet I think this sort of domesticity, in its place, is worthwhile and commendable. I love that it values domestic happiness and peace, at least in a superficial way. I love that it affirms, contra feministas, the inherent value of housework or homemaking done to this end. One of my favorite excerpts from an old housekeeping manual echoes this: “A bedroom, in a way, represents the girl or woman who occupies it and cares for it. If it has an atmosphere of order and simplicity and repose, it is beautiful and tells of a personality that dominates worldly things and is not confused by them. … Everyone has seen a bedroom so full of charm that she longs to know the person who is responsible for it.” Surely we do well to appropriate the spirit of this domesticity even if we have no natural gift or even inclination for crafting paper lanterns and painting intricate designs on them, after filling each with the scented soy votives that we made last week. On the patio overlooking our 3-acre garden and arboretum out back. Etc.

Yet in defense of women who are less than attracted even to a toned-down version of such domesticity, a wife is only called to obey God and please her husband as she manages the home. Period. If God hasn’t prescribed craft-making, hobby gardening, or the cultivation of mad pastry skills, and the woman’s husband has not expressed an earnest desire for any of these (can you imagine a husband with a fever for more crafts? sorry, strikes me as hilarious), then it is up to the woman to decide whether or not these would be profitable for her family. So what I am sure of is that changing and sometimes arbitrary standards of domestic skills are not to be equated with good homemaking. “Order and simplicity and repose” can be preserved in a home without a Martha Stewart at its head. (Certainly the simplicity bit might exclude a Martha Stewart from even applying. End of MS jokes.) But it does require someone in the home, with a clear sense of her responsibility to preserve that order.

I have too many thoughts on this subject to corral, and many of them are way too uncertain and ill-formed for public blog material. As was hinted earlier, I am finding that much more of the Christian life consists of matters of wisdom—as opposed to hard and fast rules—than my lazy and legalistic flesh would like. I want my life—my daily work—to reflect biblical principles and priorities, but I do not want to endorse or even hold myself to a certain standard of domesticity or “home-centeredness” as if it were divine law. Surely biblical femininity is much more complex: both more elastic and more rigid, more liberating and more difficult, than the world and our tricky hearts would have us think. Discuss amongst yourselves, if you even have time to read this rambling essay.

When we think of a group of women under one roof, most of us go “uh-oh”. However, I think for adult single women who are no longer in their parents’ home, the opportunity to live with other single women can be a unique and rewarding experience.

For the first year and a half of my time in college, I lived with a total of three single women – of which none were Christians. From that experience I learned that it is far better, for the atmosphere of the home and your own well being, that you and the women you share a home with have the same foundational doctrines. So I’d like to share some practical advice in the next few articles to help you survive and enjoy living with other women as well as show you how these skills will help you when it is time for you to marry.

Find Christians!

If you are a Christian woman, I must belabor the importance of having other Christian women as roommates. It’s great to experience and talk with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, learning their heritage, how they grew up, etc., but having diverse religious opinions under one roof can lead to a not so great result.

Everyone has a context and presupposition that affects the way they think and behave in this world. People’s morals are developed from their presuppositions and if yours are in conflict with theirs it can lead to a frustrating household and your misery. Amos 3:3 asks the rhetorical question “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (KJV), the obvious answer is no. So when considering your Christian values, it is wise to chose someone who agrees upon the same.

Now, I do not believe it is necessary that every doctrinal point you believe must be agreed upon by your roommates, there is certainly room for disagreement and this could open up a door for denominational dialogue. But if you treasure the essential, orthodox, and biblical foundations of the Christian faith, then above all else those things should be agreed upon, and not only agreed but shown in the fruits of your roommates’ walk. Sometimes this isn’t always apparent, especially if you haven’t known someone for a sufficient period of time, but when browsing for a roommate, get to know their lifestyle and how they describe their walk with Christ; for this is how you will know if they really are follows of Christ (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV).

What this has to do with marriage

I now want to bring this into focus in terms of how this will apply to those of you who desire to be married. The bible commands Christians not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV). Why? Because they are filthy sinners? No, since that is precisely what you are except that you are a sinner who by grace was called to faith in repentance in Christ. It is because you, whose life now belongs to Christ, cannot be partnered with those who practice lawless disobedience towards God (Ephesians 4:17-24, Ephesians 5:5-9 ESV). The very same principle applied to finding a roommate also applies to finding a husband. Your roommates may only be with you for as long as the lease contract is in effect, but you and your future husband will take part in a life long contract (or covenant as God calls it) to which you must honor as God calls you to honor. In this it is absolutely essential! imperative! crucial! vital! (is that enough adjectives for you?) to choose a man whose foundation is in Christ.

I know that in my freshman year of college, the option was not available to choose a specific roommate (perhaps I will write about how to survive this situation), but if it is at all possible to have some say in who you are paired with make sure she is a CHRISTIAN.

August 2017
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