I recently read an article by a woman who wouldn't allow anyone to call her 'wife' for the first few years of marriage. She says, "A wife for me meant a woman who cooked and cleaned for her man -- A wife was a secondary complement to the man. A wife had no other identity. I mean what happened to my name... now I am just wife. I don't think so." I don't know how cooking and cleaning have become such a set of degrading tasks. Certainly, they aren't always fun. They take work and effort. But I see them as a service both to my husband who works crazy hours during the growing season, and to my children, to ensure their bodies have a healthy start in life. What I suspect the author of the article was getting at was the idea that a woman shouldn't be forced into certain roles in marriage. I hope we can come to a point in our churches, communities and societies when wives and husbands can feel okay about dividing the labor according to their gifts rather than by what is expected of them.
But even if the routines and work of our lives are mostly divided up evenly, those of us who are living truly adult lives know that we are often required to do tasks we don't particularly enjoy. I don't always love cooking. I don't like getting up early in the morning. I hate doing dishes and don't get me started on the seven loads of laundry I do every week.
But I don't feel forced into them and I don't find them degrading (I know some women are in dire situations without the luxury of choice). Instead, in my best moments, I find them to be gifts I try to give to not only my family, but to the kingdom of God. I recently read a post from Art House Blog in which the author of the book Real Love for Real Life, Andi Ashworth, was interviewed (incidentally, Andi and her husband Charlie Peacock are the driving force behind Art House America). In the article, she talks about a time when she began recognize the gifts God had given her to serve and love others. She realized that she could leave other gifts and tasks to other people. In other words, she didn't have to force herself to be something she wasn't because God had made her who she was. She talks about caregiving and how it is a wide term that encompasses caring for your family, providing hospitality and caring for the sick (among other things). She said in reference to this caregiving that, "You’re creating all the time — creating a mood, creating a meal, making a sick person comfortable, creating a celebration, nurturing compassion, creating a welcome — you’re always making. When our imaginations are captured by the idea of creating good stories in the lives of the people we’ve been given to love, a world of possibility opens up."
I often look at my friends who seem to be giving so much to the kingdom (and they are) and I feel my own lack. This interview gives me such hope as I struggle to find the ways in which God has equipped and prepared me to give to the church and his kingdom.
And I also hope that instead of maligning wives who cook and clean or judging those who don't stay home with their children, we, in the church, can be examples of people who are able rejoice in our differences. That the church can be a place where we encourage women who are single, women who are wives or mothers in their gifts and talents and that our churches can be places where we bond over essential tasks that we all find unpleasant...because that's part of being grown-up.