The other day I was sitting in a Border’s Cafe in New Hampshire with my pastor’s son, Dave, waiting for his sister to get back from a school ski trip so we could head back to Boston. I’d visited their school’s Christian bookstore that day looking for a copy of DISCIPLINES OF A GODLY WOMAN by (I think) Barbara Hughes. I’ve heard good things about that book recently, and thought I’d give it a read. Unfortunately they didn’t have it; they did, however, have a large selection of similar books, and I bought three: A WOMAN’S HIGH CALLING, by Elizabeth George; CREATIVE COUNTERPART, by Linda Dillow; and WOMEN’S MINISTRY HANDBOOK, edited by Carol Porter and Mike Hamel. At the cafe, I started leafing through the books and checking out the chapter headings. I laughed at one point when I mistook a title about loving one’s husband for leaving one’s husband, and told Dave. He laughed too, but then raised his eyebrows and said, “Getting a little ahead of yourself there, aren’t you?”
Two out of the three books are not specifically written for wives, though some have content devoted to such women and their challenges. I bought the ministry book because it has a lot of practical and organizational suggestions for developing women’s ministries in the church, something our Boston church has recently begun to discuss in earnest as our congregation has grown. A WOMAN’S HIGH CALLING seemed general enough for any woman; at first glance, so did CREATIVE COUNTERPART, but it turns out that I was not quite right on that score. It’s mostly about women in relationship to God and their husbands and families. (For those of you wondering, I am incredibly single!) Oddly, though, that’s the one I keep picking up to read.
I guess part of me likes to think about how I should act, if I were blessed with a husband and family. I didn’t used to be attracted to family life; I’ve always been a bit on the independent side and, okay, maybe even scared to death of the idea of marriage in general – scared of the responsability and all of the contigencies that accompany a venture in which two separate people are equally responsible for its practical and spiritual success. I’ve never really minded being alone, and never minded the idea of being a “free agent,” so to speak, in the ministry or out of it. Single people do, however, have tremendous ministry opportunities, so I never thought I would feel incomplete as a Christian woman if I were to remain single. I confess, though, that as I develop relationships with more and more exemplary, genuinely and wholly Christ-centered couples and families, I see what a blessing family can be. Therefore, I’m not nearly so appalled at the idea of marriage and family on a personal level as I used to be; I could even say that I’ve grown to like the idea (gasp!).
But that’s not the point. Let’s get back to David’s coffee shop question: “Getting a little ahead of yourself there, aren’t you?”
Maybe, but maybe not. I’ve never had a problem gleaning general life principles of womanhood from Proverbs 31, though the woman described therein is clearly a wife and mother. Her basic qualities of trustworthiness, strength, industry, wisdom, kindness, and Lord-fearing are, I think, qualities that any woman, single or otherwise, would be glad to call her own, and are therefore noble pursuits for the single woman, as well as the married. The book I’m reading now describes the Proverbs 31 woman and then goes on to make some specific applications to wifery and motherhood, but in the author’s exhortations to quiet, industrious, humble, strong, wise, joyful, faithful, womanly living, I am well able to pick out exhortations that I can apply immediately to my present (single as the day is long) life circumstances.
I don’t for a minute think that Dave meant to imply that, unless I was a wife, I had nothing to learn about how to be a godly woman; he was just kidding around, anyway (I think; what does a 17-year-old boy know about women, anyway!? :o). But I do know that some feel – and have maybe even been taught – that a Christian woman isn’t REALLY a woman until she’s wed and bred, and thus feels excluded and ill-equipped to have a full life of ministry. Not so. I’m not advocating a career-driven, self-serving life philosophy for women any more than I’d advocate that for men. But for all my single sisters out there, I wish to exhort you to start becoming a virtuous woman now, and not put it off until you feel it would be “useful.” We all have the priviledge and opportunity in the Lord to be polished into sparkling rubies that can be put on display by our ultimate Lord and King. I would be the first person to admit that I need a LOT of polishing before that’s possible, but I don’t think marriage is the only means by which, nor the only purpose for which, God would accomplish that kind of sanctification in my life.
So, shine on.