cleaning house, cooking meals and a greater cause

I came to know Christ personally in college and like many young single ladies, I started hearing immediately how to catch the man of my dreams be the submissive, supportive, spiritually attractive woman who would cause some dreamy man to pursue me. For those of you who know me, that was no easy task!

If you had asked me years ago about my marriage, I would have obligingly regurgitated many of the cliché Christian lingo regarding men’s and women’s roles that I had read in books and learned in seminars… woman is the “helpmeet” while man “works” and makes the decisions; woman’s job is to keep a clean home, fix nutritious meals, keep the kids under control, and be a great lover so the man is always content. If the woman is more gifted in an area than the man, she should limit herself and focus on making him look good. Somehow what the man does is always slightly more important because he is the “head”. (Disclaimer: I’m not sure that is always exactly what was actually said, but it is what I heard.)

I have been married now for almost 30 years – most of them quite happily – to my dream man (dreams can vary depending on the evening snack!). We have four amazing children. I was talking with one of them when he was home for Christmas, and we somehow arrived to the topic of marriage. As we talked, I realized my husband and I never really lived out that marriage cliché.

Instead, in our marriage, we were partners, co-workers and friends – both with equal value as God’s image bearers and part of His body. We made decisions together. We both cleaned house if needed – or even hired someone (a perk of being an international missionary) so that I could invest more time in homeschooling our children. I’ve cooked; we’ve had help cooking, and my husband does most of the cooking these days. We were both very involved with our children. We mutually submitted to each other’s needs. The truth is… we both saw home and family as a priority and a joy, but there were no specific rules about who should do what, and it often changed depending on the need.

We were also both involved in ministry. I realize now that was in perfect alignment with God’s Word… and the correct and complete understanding of that word “helpmeet”. The word translated “helpmeet” in Genesis 2:18 comes from the Hebrew words ezer kenegdoezer means help, and the word kenegdo implies a counterpart. The word is found in a military context and is used 19 additional times in the Old Testament – three times for country allies and sixteen times for God Himself when Israel needed help in battle. Since the same word that we use for women is used for God, I believe it implies incredible value and strength. God meant for women to be full-partner, strong warriors with men in the spiritual battles we fight against evil in this world.

Many of the decisions my husband and I made through the years were to enable me to participate as a full partner in the battle for God’s kingdom. I have hobbies, but much more importantly, I have a calling from God. Different life stages mean different daily tasks, but what I choose to do is important. Rather than limit my gifting, it is crucial for me to continually grow and develop, so that I can serve the Lord better at home and in ministry.

If you are a woman reading this blog, I encourage you to further study your calling as a co-warrior in God’s kingdom battle. I learned a lot from Carolyn Custis James’ book Half the Church. Your partnership strengthens God’s army. No matter your marital status, your stage of life, or your lifestyle… you have been called to be all you can be for Him! Never see yourself as less important. We all have daily tasks to do, but we should do them within the context of our primary calling. Never put limits on what you can do for Him.

If you are a man reading this, please consider being an active advocate for the women in your life. Encourage them in their worth and development, and facilitate in any way possible their full involvement in God’s Kingdom purposes.

_____

**I dedicate this blog to my incredible husband, Steve: my greatest fan, my most enthusiastic encourager, and my strongest advocate. You should follow him on twitter at @stickymex and read his blog: LeaderImpact or EquipoVida

I also want to thank my professor, Dr. Ray Wheeler, (Azusa Pacific – M.A. Global Leadership) for believing in me and helping me to believe more in myself.

14 thoughts on “cleaning house, cooking meals and a greater cause

  1. As the other whole of Dr Ray Wheeler to whom I have been married for 38 years…. a few comments.
    Over the years we have both had all the traditional ‘evangelical wife’ roles. He cooks cleans and does laundry and I ‘work’ or I cook clean and do laundry while he ‘works’. Right now we both ‘work’ and do laundry and someone else does the rest. The tasks are really immaterial…what we both want is the nuture and support of the other. This, we have learned, is easiest with one of us home at least part time. Hardest when we both are away from the home for 45 hours a week. So stuff slides while we focus on the core relationship that has delighted, sustained, frustrated, and made us happy crazy for all these years.
    Looking back I wish I had accepted much earlier in our marriage that Jesus loves me and the church culture doesn’t. Had I taken the christian cultural straightjacket off sooner I would have enjoyed this tender miracle called family without the stress of trying to keep my God-given leadership personality buttoned down. It took a lot of rejection to finally give up and be myself elsewhere. (The feeling of thriving in those gifts has been intoxicating.)
    I still walk out the love of Jesus in my circumstances…beloved by clients and co-workers….making a lifelong difference in people’s lives….trying to live up the terrifiying potential God gave me……(Wait, this sounds like that orginal calling 🙂
    Peace

    • Janice – what a privilege to have you visit my page! I can’t wait for us to meet in person. You are a wise woman, a likely soul-mate, and I look forward to learning more from you.

  2. This is great mom! 🙂 I remember talking about this over Christmas! It has definitely changed my thinking. I used to have the idea that the man is the “head” of the house, but its true that when I thought about it and looked at your relationship with dad, everything was all was a team effort. Both you and dad supported each other as a team. This was one of my favorite talks over Christmas!!

  3. Terry, great post. You capture the reality of what I hear many women talk about RE: their relationship to the church and ministry. Keep writing. Your graciousness and your clarity are much needed.

  4. Hello to two of my favorite people. I’m still digesting your latest musings on roles, etc. Interesting thoughts. Not sure I’m completely in agreement with all of it… I probably am, but have some questions about a couple of the phrases. I will probably erase this and never send it. It’d be much better to have a real visit–any visits to Niger planned? It’s hot here and I don’t always think clearly in the heat!!!

    I do know that as a help meet (meaning that I help Tom do/be someone that he couldn’t be by himself, without me; which is how it seems to be used of God in the Psalms as well). There have been stages in our lives that I’ve been the one behind the scenes helping him succeed and very happy to do that. Mostly, because with 4 kids and living in Africa, we couldn’t both be doing everything we dreamed of doing all the time and at times I gladly put aside my hobbies, my involvement in ministry to take care of the kids and have meals on the table and a clean house so he could minister full-time. That was my calling as his help-meet at that time. There have been a few times that he has done the same for me. I guess sometimes I miss the whole idea of sacrifice in parenting and marriage. You said ” We all have daily tasks to do, but we should do them within the context of our primary calling. Never put limits on what you can do for Him.” I am not sure where you are going with this phrase. My primary calling?

    I’m rambling… I’ll quit there, not having said a whole lot but just to let you know that I read it and am thinking about it. Much love from Niger.

    • I’m SO glad you did send it! I love you and am honored that you are “musing” my thoughts! 🙂 …and I would SO love to discuss this with you in person – maybe someday!

      We’ve been blessed with wonderful God-loving husbands.

      I think my heart is mostly concerned with humanly created “roles” – basically rules – that limit women (and men too) in ways God never intended.

      Primary calling? …to be God’s image bearer, involved in His Kingdom mission (Gen 1:26-28). So my idea is whatever you are doing, reflect Him, serve Him…

      I’d love to hear anything more you come up with as you think and process… Loving you right back! Thanks again for reading and “rambling”!

      • Ready for me to ramble again? I was going to go on campus this morning but I have the 4th cold–sneezing, coughing, dripping, in 5 months…I usually get one a year! I know that the constant dust in the air carries all kinds of “lovely” creatures and there is also the spiritual battle. So I’m home instead of infecting all those dear college women.

        I assume that we are basically on the same page with your writing. Having said that, I think the divergence comes in differences in personalities and defining roles. Your phrase: “Humanly created roles that limit women in ways God never intended” causes me to wonder if there could be “roles” that DO limit us but we are unwilling to go there because of our strong gifted-ness and determination to use it the way we want to or else!
        I talked about this in the earlier rambling…there were times when we were both very engaged in ministry(which can easily be all consuming as you well know). When the family begins to suffer and there are no meals on the table and the house- helper has a death in the family and is gone for 3 weeks–who picks up the slack? Do we do 50-50–I did it last time so it’s your turn? In our case, it was me. And I never felt like it was “limiting” or that I was 2nd in line. I always felt like my primary calling was, yes, to serve God, be His image bearer and that manifested itself, first of all, and most importantly, to my family. (The ramifications of that spilled over into those college students watching us,) I was willing to put aside outside ministry opp. for a time to focus on what was a greater ministry at the time, namely my husband and children. Even now, when it is just the two of us, I am very willing to do what I need to do to make sure Tom is equipped, fully able to do ministry because of what I do for him at home. Second class woman? Limiting myself or my ministry? Maybe in some people’s terms but that has always been the best way for us. He is and will always be my first priority after God.

        I remember being at my parent’s house one time shortly after we were married. My mom and I were canning in the kitchen in their basement and we heard my dad’s footsteps coming in from working outside and his commanding voice, “Honey, get me a cup of coffee!” I watched in astonishment as my mom turned off the burners and ran upstairs to microwave a cup of water for instant coffee for her “dear”. I fumed inside and when she came back down, I said” Why did you do that? Can’t he fix himself a cup of coffee? Does he think his work is more important that yours?” I’ll never forget what she said, ” Marcy, I know that he LOVES it when I join him for a cup of coffee when he comes in. Sure, he could fix it himself, but I know that he loves having me there, even if we don’t say a whole lot. It’s my way of showing him that I love him.” Wow! My mom was a picture of incredible love and support to her husband all of her days. It worked for them. Tom fixes his own coffee at our house, but I think the point is that sometimes we think of ministry as always out there when the ministry I hold dearest is for my husband and children. Hence the beauty of the meaning of “Help meet” or “aide” in French meaning ” helping him to be what he couldn’t be without me.”

        You said “we are both involved in ministry”. Yes, but that sure can differ as to what you define ministry as. I have never had the drive to be “as important” as he is. My desire is that HE succeed and I will do all in my power to make that happen. That means that I am willing to step back at times. I’m okay with that.
        Yes, he HAS done the same for me at times. He has recognized my gifted-ness and encouraged me to run for the school-board and pour my heart and soul into the women at the church or whatever. I appreciate that immensely. But that has all come in it’s time and place and in the right perspective and balance.

        What fun to ramble! I don’t even want to re-read what I’ve written for fear I will be horrified with the no-sense of it all. I certainly don’t have all the answers, nor is my perspective the only right one. I don’t know if you should consider yourself blessed or cursed by the fact that I’ve NEVER replied with such a treatise as this to anyone, anywhere! May God grant you much discernment and delight as you continue studying. Much love. Need to go walk my plank and go to the market!

      • My dear Marcy

        I definitely consider it a blessing that you have rambled your treatise to me! I feel very honored! 🙂 I am thrilled that as friends we can study, consider, and process together. It is a great encouragement to me.

        I think you have hit on two key points (at least!). Although I don’t think that women (or men) should allow human-made rules to limit them, and I don’t find in the Bible where God clearly states, “These are the women’s roles. And these are the men’s roles. Don’t mix them!”, I do think that gifting is how God has designed us to focus our priorities. The gift lists are not limited by gender either, so there is incredible variety and freedom there. When someone is operating out of their gifted-ness, they experience both great power (as reflected in fruitfulness) and great joy.

        The problems come when we begin to compare our gifts with others and desire gifts that are not our own or “grade” them with different values. Then we often criticize and judge others… or struggle with feelings of inferiority or less value. I want to encourage women to know their unique gifting (and personality, experience, stage of life, etc) and then apply that self wholeheartedly to reflecting God’s image to a lost world.

        Being involved in “ministry” can be misconstrued. Again, I believe we sometimes limit ourselves with incomplete human-made definitions (share your faith on campus, be an overseas missionary, lead Bible study…) – rather than considering God’s amazing gift variety. Powerful involvement comes through prayer, service, mercy, teaching, exhortation, evangelism, leadership, discernment, etc. My heart is to see women empowered and encouraged to use their gift(s) as fully as possible wherever they are.

        One last thought (for now)… any of the gifts/abilities/passions can be voluntarily and joyfully laid down for a season – moment, day, …years even, in order to care for or serve another – spouse, children… even ourselves because of illness, etc. Jesus “emptied Himself” for a time for us. (It could look like making a cup of coffee, nursing sick children, helping a husband or a friend.) However, that “submission” should not be imposed by clichés, culture, comparison or coercion… and it should not ever erase our value as image bears or our calling to be involved in God’s purposes.

        (I might use some of this for my next blog! 🙂 Looking forward to hear what you think!)
        Much love to you, friend!

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