Eight years ago, I jumped into the workforce as a brand new mama. New city, new baby, new career and new master’s degree hot off the press. As a bright eyed, idealistic nurse practitioner out to save the world, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I just wanted to help kids. (Also, I wanted our family to have food and shelter while my husband went to seminary. That was also kind of vital.)
It took approximately zero time for my bright eyes to become glazed over as I realized that working + being a mom + being a wife + being all of the other things was no walk in the park. It was hard. And I felt alone.
So, for years, I whined about it. I complained. I became fixated on all of the stay-at-home moms at church who did it all- who had playdates in the mornings while I worked and who hung out in the evenings when I could hardly function- and I became bitter. My thoughts arced inward, solely focusing on my own sorry self. How I felt. How I was drowning. I felt isolated. Self-centeredness seems to do that to you. Every single time.
Had I been willing to look out rather than constantly gazing within, I would have seen reality. I would have noticed the tribe of women surrounding me navigating careers and motherhood with a whole heck of a lot more grace than I was. I could have listened to their stories, their wisdom.
Or, you know, maybe I would have seen the women drowning right next to me. Flailing their arms. Gasping for a breath. Maybe I could have pointed them to shore on those rare days I could actually catch a glimpse of it. Or at least given them the head nod of solidarity. The look of “Girrrrl, I KNOW. I’m right there with you.”
A few weeks ago, I attended an event at my church that my friend, April, had spent months planning and promoting. They called the event “Women in the Workplace”, and the discussion that followed centered on just that. How do we, as women, navigate careers, families, and church well? What do we do when it feels hard? Is “doing it all” even a thing, or is it some mythical creation of our minds? How does the gospel intersect with our work?
Y’all, it was phenomenal. The wisdom shared from the panel discussion was so rich, and the connections I made that morning were God-appointed. However, you know what was the absolute best? Looking around the room and seeing heads nod. Because, finally, there was a community gathered to acknowledge that, “Man, this is really flippin hard some days. But this is what we’ve learned.”
I came home encouraged. Really encouraged. But I also came home convicted. Really seriously convicted.
Do you know why there were 50+ women at church early on a Saturday morning? Why I was able to be the recipient of such wisdom and experience? Why dozens of women, desperate to live out their faith in their workplaces, nodded their heads in unison as they finally felt heard and understood?
Why? Because my friend felt many of the same things when she jumped into the workforce as a mom and wife. Like me, she thought it was really hard to balance it all. Like me, she felt alone. But UNLIKE me, she did something about it. I moped and complained. She gathered people. I looked within. She looked to others.
This happens all the time, right? We see holes, gaps, and areas of need, and we wait for the fixers and doers to show up.
We hope for a more vibrant women’s ministry.
We wish our kid’s ministry would just offer x, y, and z.
We just don’t understand why our church doesn’t seem to do this or care about that.
But the truth is, while we’re standing around sighing about the problems we see and the change we desire, we don’t even pause to think that WE may very well be the fixer we’re anxiously awaiting. We tap our impatient little feet waiting for someone to hear us out, grab ahold of our passions, and get ‘er done while we refuse to put our own feet to the pavement and start doing it ourselves.
Am I just preaching at myself here?
Whatev. While I’m getting all preachy, I have one final word to all of you church people out there. Heeeey. K, listen. Pastors are great. And they do a lot. I’m married to one- I KNOW. But you wanna know a little secret? They can’t do everything. And for many of them, it’s hard to come to terms with this. So when you approach them with an idea that gets you all fired up with excitement, don’t leave their office in a tizzy if their response is, “That’s awesome! You do it, and we’ll help!” No. Because often, the best leaders are those who empower and equip others to go out and lead well. Be grateful you have such a leader.
So, dear friends, I end with this sage piece of advice: don’t be like me. Don’t be a grump and sit around wishing for things to change. Do something about it. Put in the hard work. The blood, sweat, and tears. Because that’s precisely when the exciting things happen. And it’s where the beauty of the body of Christ, with all of its different pieces and parts and giftings and talents and passions, becomes most evident.
(Plus, no one likes whiners. There’s that, too.)
photo cred: Ashley Gormon