Marriage & Parenthood: Your Greatest Joy & Highest Calling?

A few years ago I was not sure that I wanted to have kids (gasp), and I made the mistake of saying this out loud to a new friend in a seminary class. She very directly and emphatically told me, “You’re missing out on the highest calling God has on your life.” Her words pierced me. I wonder if the flinch I felt inside showed. 

She was well intentioned but wrong. 

To set the record straight, my highest calling in life is to love God and love others. My Caleb is 3 years old now and look at this kid. I mean, LOOK AT THIS KID. He kills me with his cuteness. I love being his mom.

Being his mom is a high calling. But not the highest. That's reserved for God. Furthermore, being married to Aaron is a great joy. But not the greatest joy of my life. That's reserved for God. 

My seminary friend got me thinking. What am I doing with my life? Is this seminary education and passion to build a career a waste? Was I missing out on the highest calling of my life? What if I never wanted to have children? What if I wanted to have kids and would experience infertility? It's demoralizing to feel like you are in a holding pattern in life waiting for the next something, but ever more defeating to think that we could miss our highest calling in life if we don't get to be parents. 

Her sentiments seem to reflect a widely held belief that...

Marriage is the greatest joy of Christian womanhood & motherhood is the highest calling of Christian womanhood.

THIS IS OBVIOUS IDOLATRY. The highest calling of any Christian is loving God and loving others. The greatest joy of any Christian is loving God and loving others. Period. 

I've developed a theory about millennial women based on a few interrelated messages they have received from the church. We may not even intend for these messages to be received, but they are loud and clear to the newest U.S mission field: women.

My theory: young women are intentionally choosing not to love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength because the messages they've received from the church have made loving God with their all a short-lived pursuit at best and a futile pursuit at worst. 

Here's what happens when we consistently elevate marriage and parenthood in church (besides idolatry): We create holding patterns for Christ followers. If the ultimate joy and highest calling of your life is not an option for you right now, it creates impatience, dissatisfaction, discontentment, and what I see most in the young professional women I minister to through Polished is a resignation of effort to love God and others with our all. Let me give you some examples.

All The Single Ladies

One semester I was recruiting friends to participate in a bible study and a young woman told me she was "meh" about joining our study. I didn't need any further explanation. But she offered up the reason. She said she was having a hard time connecting with God because she so badly wanted to be married and have kids. She ended up crying talking about how hard it is to be single and attend church and pursue God. She was 27 and from my viewpoint she had everything going for her. But she said she felt like she was in a holding pattern and that studying the bible felt futile because it seemed like every application of the scriptures in church for women was about marriage or parenthood.

A few years ago I had a young woman ask me to pray that God would hurry up and bring her husband to her so that "her life of purpose could begin."

My husband was a singles pastor for four years, and do you know the most common request of my time as the pastor's wife? Counseling young single women through grief that the Christian ideal for their life was still future and they didn't know how long they could "wait on God" for their "life to begin" or that they were anxious to "get to the next phase of life" or that they knew, just knew that after they had a family all their dissatisfaction in work and life would be alleviated. 

We had a retreat one year and I set aside time in my schedule for one-on-ones with our young single women. Three women signed up. Guess what all three conversations included?? Tears. Lots and lots and lots of tears. Tears of anger toward God's timing as they were waiting for marriage. Tears of frustration because they feel like they have all this "potential" to be an amazing wife and mother but no opportunity yet to activate those talents and passions. Tears of confusion because they feel like they are in a holding pattern.

Married Ladies

No exaggeration, I probably hear from at least one married woman per week that wants to confide in me that marriage and parenthood are beautiful and wonderful and a high calling and a great joy, but they still haven't found what they are looking for. (Cue Bono.) Do you know any unhappily married women? Any women who are not enjoying parenthood the way they envisioned? Yup. Me too. So, this holding pattern issue is not just a single lady problem. It has serious consequences about how Christian women understand their purpose for their whole life. We've set up two idols to be the end all be all for women: marriage and parenthood. Is it any wonder that those man-made gods don't live up to the hype even in the best of marriages and the most glorious of parenting adventures? 

Can I remind you of these stats please...

Church culture is training Christ followers to believe that life will matter most when we get to the next step in life. If you are single, that means marriage. If you are married, that means kids. And then your potential and fulfillment will be realized. 

This holding pattern, in my opinion, is one of the most effective tools for Satan to distract Christ followers from loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength...right now. Especially women.

Every time I'm on deck for bedtime duty, I snuggle up to Caleb and we talk about how much I love being his mom. I cry every time. I tell him, "Caleb, I love being your mommy. It's one of my most favorite things in life. But do you know everybody's greatest joy?" Caleb has this high pitched toddler voice and says, "Loving God and loving others." And I tell him, "That's right, buddy. Loving God and loving others." 

You've just read Part 2 of a series of posts for further reading...