Two fabulous “roles”: Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley
What are a woman’s purpose, calling, and role? And why all the confusion?
Religion researcher, George Barna, startled the evangelical world last summer when he reported the latest findings on the changes in religious activity in the lives of women during the past twenty years. He found that church attendance had dropped 11%, meaning that for the first time in American history, the majority of women, 56%, no longer attend church services during any given week. He discovered that 10% less women read their Bibles during the week with just four out of ten now doing so. This comes as no surprise since the number of women who believe the Bible to be a reliable resource for life and practice has dropped to 42%. And though Barna says women “have traditionally been the backbone of volunteer activities in the church,” there has been a whopping 31% reduction in the non-paid female work force in churches!
Though the “whys” behind these facts might be endless, the questions many women are asking are common and confusion abounds. What is my purpose in life? How do I know if I am doing what God has called me to do? Is there really only one role for me because I am a woman? These are the questions I often hear and, unfortunately, the typical answers bring little satisfaction. On top of that, the words purpose, calling, and role are used interchangeably, causing frustration and disillusionment. Homeschooling moms, reflective and insightful women that they are, are often the ones asking these questions.
What is My Purpose in Life?
There are many moms who wake up every morning believing that their eternal purpose in life is to homeschool their children and I am here to tell you that this just is not true! In fact, God’s purpose for the Christian must be able to be applied to all peoples, men and women, in all times throughout history, and in all places: the United States, the deepest jungles of Papua, New Guinea, the offices of the Wall Street executive, the homeschooling mom who is grading math problems, peeling a carrot, or changing a diaper! 1 Peter 2:5-9 makes our purpose clear:
“You yourselves, like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Our purpose in life is to proclaim God’s excellencies and to give testimony of His salvation! Though homeschooling our children may be one way we do this, our purpose, our end goal, is to bring glory to God! Our own plans might fail, all the things that we thought should happen in our lives may never come to pass; all our own personal goals and dreams might slip through our fingers. Others might be wicked, they may fail us, or there may be horrible things that happen to us or those we love. But God’s purpose can never be thwarted. He will be glorified through us because we are promised that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:29)
What is My Calling?
When the World Trade Center towers were first built, 24 year old Frenchman, Philippe Petit, with the help of friends, stretched a 450 pound tight rope wire between their top stories and spent more than an hour walking, dancing, and bouncing back and forth nearly one quarter mile above the heads of stunned Manhattan spectators. As he finished, he was apprehended by policemen who asked him “Why did you do this?” His response took my breath away: “Why? You ask me why? There is no why! It is because when I see a beautiful place to put my wire, I cannot resist!”
How many people actually have such a sense of their calling in life that they would risk everything to do it, that their response to the “why” of their life is “because I cannot resist?” What inspires you to the point that you “cannot resist?”
Every single believer is given specific callings from the Lord and they are to be used to fulfill the purpose of bringing glory to God. Ask yourself the following questions: What are your specific gifts and talents? What are your spiritual gifts? What are the needs you see around you in your family, in the church, and in the culture? What life experiences has God given to you to prepare you for this moment? What distractions threaten to prevent you from fulfilling your calling? As you consider these, recognize which things you cannot NOT do, things you cannot resist! You will know your calling!
Thankfully, we have the assurance that we are not left alone to fulfill our callings! Scripture promises us that every single believer has both the everlasting covenant through the blood of Christ that “makes you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:20-21) and the Word of God to “equip us for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) so we are able to fulfill our unique callings!
What is My Role?
When I was in high school, I was cast in the role of Mrs. Mooney, Charly’s landlady, in the play Flowers for Algernon. I spent hours rehearsing my Irish accent and found a great costume in the back of my grandma’s closet. It was a fun role, but when the last scene came to a close and the stage floor was swept, I was, once again, an ordinary student.
The etymology of the word “role” is interesting. It originated as a form of the French word “rolle,” referring to a roll of parchment paper that served as an actor’s script. It was introduced into the English language in the early 1600’s as “role,” where the word continued to be associated with the stage. Very simply put, for a Christian, a role is a part that you have been given to play for some particular time in order to fulfill your unique calling so you can bring glory to God!
Women, because we experience so many seasons in our personal lives, have the joy of filling many roles. We may be daughters, sisters, roommates, wives, mothers, homeschooling moms, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers, but none of these define us. Some roles, like being a sister, might last most of a life time but the role of mother-of-the-groom, for example, lasts for a day! We must always keep in mind that our roles will change, that they have been given to us to minister to others, and that God uses our roles to make us who He wants us to be!
Interestingly, if we consider the same twenty year time span of Barna’s research, we also see an increase in the teachings that blur the distinctions between purpose, calling and role. One popular book marketed to homeschooling moms has perpetuated this error, making the case that the only God-ordained role for all women is to be wives and homemakers, telling us “Why is God’s role for women so important? Because when we reject it, we blaspheme His word.” An ever-increasing number of books and articles are now being written for homeschooling daughters, admonishing them that the only true role for women is found when they center their lives on the callings given to their fathers and brothers while they are single and then their husbands when they marry.
Is it any wonder that so many women, particularly those who are barren, past their child bearing years, or called to singleness are confused and discouraged? They are being told that if they don’t function within a particular paradigm they are “non-normative” and even “outside the revealed will of God.” This burden is doubly hard for a homeschooling mom who arrives on the other side of her teaching years, gifted, talented, and having grown in experience, knowledge and wisdom, ready for another season of life where a different role may await her.
Let us be faithful to our many possible roles that provide opportunities to be used of the Lord. Let us delight in our unique callings, which inspire us for Christian service. And let us examine our own lives in light of our true purpose, which is to glorify God.